Gene’s Tennis Tips: Practice Pressure Makes Perfect

Many people practice their serves (hopefully) to make the stroke better, and that works.  As I said earlier in the year, if you can practice your serve 2-3 times per week, then you can see improvement over time.  However, the other problem I frequently hear is, “My serve has been great in practice, I’m nailing it!  But, whenever I go to play a match, I tighten up and it’s good-bye good serve, hello pusher serve.”  I makes me sad to hear that people cannot enjoy their new toy, a better serve, because they get so tensed up in a match.  There is a way to duplicate the pressure of a match when practicing your serve by yourself.  It’s a game you play against an amazing player named Mr. Nobody.

Mr. Nobody is tough, but fair.  When you play Mr. Nobody, you serve every point.  If you get your first serve in, you win the point and Mr. Nobody loses the point, every time.  If you miss your first serve, but get your second serve in, Mr. Nobody wins the point and you lose the point.  If you miss both serves, you lose the game.  Play sets.  First try to win a set (regular scoring) against Mr. Nobody.

If you do that, then make the game a little more difficult by requiring that you hit your first serve harder.  You can do this by saying, that the second bounce must be past the baseline or it does not qualify as a first serve, so I either do it over or it’s a fault and I’m on to the second serve.  If you want to make both serves stronger, then put requirements on your second serve as well:  It must also go over the baseline before the second bounce or it must have slice on it.  Each time, you can add things to make the game harder, while under the pressure of trying to beat Mr. Nobody in a set or three.  There are other ways to modify the basic format if the harshness of losing games for double faults is too much at first, but eventually, you should make every effort to play the game as laid out here to create the pressure of a real match.

If you are able to conquer Mr. Nobody 6-0,  6-0, week after week, then you should be on your way to having a match ready serve that is immune, or at least less susceptible to the whims of match nerves!

Federer / Djokovic Wimbledon Final 2014 Prediction

Grigor was shaky and so was Djok. Djok will have to take more gluten to win. Grigor double faulted 3 times in a row to get broken then broke back and still made a set of it. Djok was falling too much, gonna need better movement / balance to take out the 7-time champ. Finally, Novak has NEVER won a slam final over Fed, he usually gets him in semis, so that does not bode well for him, he also looks like pressing too hard and coming up short because of self-imposed pressure. My prediction: Fed in 5 (7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 8-6).

Mcc Bring-a-Ringer 2014

The Ringer tournament was a great success!!! Thanks for coming out and supporting our players as they worked very hard to entertain you and win this prestigious event.  Below are some action shots from our photographer extraordinaire Dennis Liss.  If you didn’t make it out for the matches and bbq, this is a taste of our wonderful day.

Special thanks to the players: Steve, Joan, Georgie, Mike, Jacek, Nancy, Karen, Ziga, Lucy, Robert, Barb, Stu, Karen, Renard, Madonna, Don, Tomoko, Chris, Brandon, & Diane, who all had to guts to mix it up on the courts with fellow big-hitters.

Thanks to Don Mantarro for barbequing and to the members who came out and supported our event.  It means nothing without the people of Mcc to share these exciting moments with.  If you haven’t stopped by the tennis desk, please walk by and take a look at the competitive matches that took place all over one grueling Saturday.  If you played, you lost weight and dealt with the nerves of tournament tennis.  If you watched, you saw some fantastic points and nail-biting shots, as well as wonderful sportsmanship by all the players.

In the end, Jacek & Nancy triumphed over Karen & Ziga 6-1, 6-0, however, the match was closer than the score implies.  Many games went to deuce, but Jacek and Nancy were very steady and resolute on the big points.  Ziga & Karen had to come through the back draw of our double elimination event, so were also understandably tired after playing five tight sets of tennis to arrive in the final.  For their part, Jacek suffered a slight ankle sprain, but adjusted his movement accordingly and played very solid tennis with only three errors in the final.  Nancy handled Ziga’s big serve with solid returns that kept the big man bending for low volleys.  Karen hit some hard, flat winners, but in the end, Nancy and Jacek just got too many balls in play to be denied the trophy.

Mcc Tennis Players in Ringer 2014

Mcc Tennis Players in Ringer 2014

RingerChamps&Runnersup 2014

All the matches were fun and played in the best of sporting spirits.  Thanks again for another wonderful Bring-a-Ringer Tournament and please have your ringer for 2015 picked out in advance so you too can participate next season!

Gene’s Tip of the Month July 2014

Don’t have a partner?  Don’t despair!  Use the ball machine or find a wall to hit on to improve your game.  Here at Mcc we have a ball machine you can rent for $10 / hour at the fitness center.  It has simple controls that adjust elevation, speed, spin, interval, and oscillation.  The ball machine is on court 4, so first call the fitness center (ext. 224) and reserve court 4 at an available time, then request the ball machine.  When you arrive to play, go to the fitness center, pick up the keys and the remote control.  Then head over to court 4 by the oval pool.

You can use the ball machine for several purposes.  The most common is having the ball come to one or two spots on the court so you can groove your strokes.  What does this mean?  Well, tennis requires some rhythm before a player can be fluid in his / her strokes.  By having the ball machine feed you a steady and even paced ball, you can get your stroke into a repeatable pattern which leads to more consistency, the most important quality a tennis player can possess.

Another great use of the ball machine is to work on placement from different positions on a tennis court.  For example, if you want to counter your opponents deep, down-the-line approach shots, set the machine to feed a slice ball deep into your forehand corner, then practice moving from the middle of the court and slamming low, forehands crosscourt.  Set the interval to give you ample time to recover to the middle after each shot so you also develop good footwork habits.  After you make 10 shots in a row, switch to another pattern that mirrors a match situation you encounter frequently.

Of course you may also have the machine feed various balls and you count how many in a row you can get in, this is the ultimate test of consistency.  When you get over 50 in a row, call me, I want to play!

Wimbledon 2014 GOAT Discussion

Rafa is the clay king, no debate.  Even Borg would have had trouble with Rafa.  However, no other player is nearly as complete as Roger Federer.  As a tennis purist, you cannot overlook the quality and efficiency of Fed’s movement and his level of proficiency on every stroke from every part of a tennis court.  None of his shots, save his forehand, is the best in it’s class, but all of his shots are in the top 5 ever.  His forehand is the single greatest weapon in the history of tennis, consistency, placement, and power all rolled into one.

Rafa has the clay thing solved, but benefited from other things like the slow down of the courts that happened in 2000 or thereabouts and continues to this day…as far as having the most impressive career grand slam, Agassi holds that distinction since when he won his slams, they were the most varied surfaces in the history of tennis (Laver had the same benefit as Nadal since 3 of the 4 majors were on grass during his tenure) so everyone was better at offense then just like everyone who’s successful now is good at defense (except Fed, who had to adapt his game and alter it to become more defensive at the start of his career–not easy to change your whole game and mentality after training that way your whole life).  Nadal is the best defensive player, so he wins the most titles among those guys.  Djokovic is second and Murray third.  Fed’s offense is so good, he overcomes most defense, except Nadal’s and when they play on a truly fast surface (as fast as Roland Garros is slow), then Federer usually dominates.  There are few courts like this left on the ATP Tour. 

Winning Wimbledon is less amazing because the difference from the French is not as stark and the offensive players do not get much time to develop those skills since there are so few grass court events. There is not a single 1000 level grass court tournament, which is just plain ridiculous.  Most of the season, even the offensive players like Tsonga have to play defensively because that’s what wins or you wind up having a career with somewhere around 6-12 titles (Tsonga has ten atp titles). 

Mcc versus Santa Monica Tennis Club Interclub

On Friday, May 30th, Mcc mixed it up with our good friends at the Santa Monica Tennis Club as we do once or twice per year.  After playing men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles from 6-8pm, we head up to the Mcc Restaurant for food, wine, and dance.  This past interclub match was no exception.  We have a full slate of matches, with 24 players turning out and filling our six lighted courts with smiling faces and fun tennis.

We had players of all levels from both clubs mixing it up in a unique format where we timed the matches, like a basketball game, rather than playing to a certain number of games.  Most of the contests were close with Santa Monica edging Mcc out in the Men’s & Women’s doubles matches 4-2.

Then we rotated courts and mixed up the men and women, which again produced some quality tennis and good sportsmanship all around.  In the mixed doubles round, Santa Monica again prevailed with four wins to Mcc’s 1 win and one match ended in a tie.

After the tennis, 20 of the 24 players ventured up to the hallowed Mcc Restaurant for roasted chicken, salad, Stella Artois, and other goodies while dancing to good music by Summerwind.  Thanks to the players, Candace, and Chef Jesus for making this another memorable evening at Mcc!