Thursday, September 08, 2005

Great Professional Tennis Blog

FYI for those looking for a good read on the pro players I recently found a great blog on professional tennis that I'd recommend if you're keen on keeping up on your favourite pro players goings on. It's called http://www.protennisfan.com/. It's got pretty detailed info on news and events related to a bunch of pro players, really up to date as well. Basically you've got blog articles based on player news and events broken down on a per player basis which I hadn't really seen before in my travels. I had a good read of the James Blake stuff regarding to his quarterfinal match with Agassi. Instead of combing all the tennis news sites for info on your favourite players this site probably wraps it up for you.

Blake Vs Agassi Vs The Imposters

Much could be said about the Blake Vs Agassi match from a technical/strategy standpoint but it really boiled down to guts like any entertaining match ultimately does. For me the main thing on my mind in the end for some reason was the unique experience Tennis and competitive sports in general can give people. The match was decided by a precious few shots in the fifth set tiebreak. Was either Blake or Agassi really the "winner" of that match? No one really dominated, it was so close the fact that someone would go on in the tournament almost seemed like a flip of a coin as much as a clear statement of who was the stronger player that day. Sure Blake was bummed and Agassi was on a high after winning but it brought to mind that cheesy phrase they put on the entrance to center court at Wimbledon, something like "To meet with victory and defeat and treat these two imposters as just the same" since there was so little that seemed to make the winner and loser here. For me the "take home" part was a statement made by Agassi right after the match on court when he said that matches like this one were the reason he kept playing since to paraphrase "How else could he get such an experience?". In my everday reach there is nothing that can quite duplicate the physical exertion, mental focus, drama and basic highs and lows that a competitive tennis match can provide and guess what, this is true for Andre Agassi too. A guy who has millions in the bank knows that the thrill of competition is something that he cannot purchase and you don't have to be playing the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open to get amped up about trying to serve out the match late in the third set. You can be in a dogfight with some dude with two forehands in the first round of the local Joe's Donut and Fried Fish Shop Open and barely be able to hold onto your racquet! This is really cool because it's a reminder that ultimately you, me and Andre Agassi are all playing competitive tennis for the same reasons. So somebody will win, somebody will lose, apparently they are both "imposters" and the the reason you play is for the unique experience that is only possible if you put it on the line in a tournament match.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ivo the Entertainer

After watching Ivo Karlovic take on Andre Agassi at the US Open I'm compelled to state that Ivo is the most entertaining player currently on the professional tennis circuit. The reason I find him so fun to watch is that every match you get an answer to the question "What would happen if I played (insert pro player here) but was given an unreturnable bomb of a serve". Every time I watch him play I feel as though I'm watching a decent club player's game attached to the world's most formidable service delivery. This makes for highly entertaining matchups like the other night where you have Agassi, a legend in the sport trying to figure out how to get his racquet on the ball often enough to put a set together against a guy he would otherwise kill from the baseline. You just know Ivo is holding his breath once that serve is returned and Agassi is like "phew ok, go fetch that topspin winner I'm now going to hit will you?". For Ivo, the problem with bringing a bazooka to a gun fight is that it takes longer to reload and once Agassi gets the serve back he can pepper the court with full-automatic gunfire until Ivo duffs one or just can't get there in time. But this is what makes it so fun! It's really interesting because even though people would say that this type of power serving is ruining the game there are some real strategic decisions going on. When Agassi is serving he has got to be careful not to just push the ball and wait for errors in case Ivo ends up busting a few lucky balls and gets the break. For Ivo he's got to make sure he doesn't duff too many sitters or other easy balls and cough up a break. Even though they are totally different in every respect they both have the same fundamental problem i.e. they cannot break serve. So the whole match is really tight and as usual goes down to a highwire act in the tiebreak. If you want more insight into this have a read of Professor Agassi's post match interview which you can find here . I happen to like tiebreaks because this means the match is close and both players are focussed on the task at hand instead of either thinking they've got it in the bag or are out of the set and waiting for the next, especially in a five setter. Anyway if you are a tennis fan and into the X's and O's of matches an Ivo match never fails to deliver the entertainment. I hope we see more of him in the latter rounds of the tournaments, it's boring watching Federer play nerf tennis with Roddick or Hewitt these days.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Interesting Brad Gilbert Link

Here is a link to an interesting interview with Brad Gilbert done at some point early in his work with Andre and around the time of the release of his first book Winning Ugly. Some in the Tennis community aren't keen on Brad but if I had to pick one person to listen to on TV to comment on matches or provide insight it would be him. He really understands tennis from a strategic standpoint. He's not going to tell you how to hit a forehand properly, you can figure that out yourself, what he will do is give you insights on how to think on your feet and how to implement a game plan that will work for your style of game. Having a strategic game plan to use when you play matches makes tennis a lot more fun and enjoyable because you have something to focus on and try to implement instead of just "hitting shots" and getting frustrated if you're not playing like Roger Federer that day. Anyway here is a link to the BG interview



I also highly recommend you pick up a copy of his book winning ugly which is a must have for any club player, I keep it in my racquet bag just to jog my memory and get into the right frame of mind before a match

Henman Out in 1st Round at US Open

Just glanced at the US Open homepage and saw that Henman lost his opener. He really has had a terrible patch this hardcourt summer season. I hope my blog gets found and he reads my article on professional tennis and why he should switch to a 27.5 inch racquet! What does he have to lose at this stage in his career? He will have fewer points to defend next year at this time, he needs more pop on his serrve so he can get into net, Rafter and Edberg won the U.S. Open with a kick serve and volley game and Henman can volley as well as either of them. Well just my two cents, I hope they don't start pestering him with retirement questions now a la Sampras during his late career slump.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Buying Used Tennis Racquets

Due to the decline in proper racquet demo programs at many sporting outlets I've become a fan of purchasing used racquets at lower cost until I'm certain I will stick with a certain frame. I know many people who waste a lot of their hard earned money buying new untried frames and then abandoning them. For those that are interested in buying used frames I've found three good sources on the web.

The first is a tennis store in New Mexico named Sandia Racquet Services www.sandiaracquetservices.com. They are a tennis specialty store that sells demo frames at very good prices. I purchased a Yonex MP-5 Tour from them for $50 US and was very pleased with the quality of the frame as well as the service and delivery time. Since they are USTA certified stringers they know how to grade a racquets quality properly. While the selection is not exhaustive you may find a late model frame you are interested in at a fraction of the cost.

The second place for finding used tennis frames is the Tennis Warehouse discussion forums. This is probably the most active and technical tennis forum on the web right now and you will find many tennis nerds who have tried every frame under the sun and have frames to offload. Since used tennis frames are just space junk and people have money tied up in them if not used you can usually strike some good deals. There is also a forum devoted to finding specific frames that you can post to if looking for something. Here is a link to the Tennis Warehouse Discussion forums,

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/

I direct your attention to the "For Sale or Trade" or "Wanted" forums.


Lastly you can search ebay for used frames, I bought a pair of Prince TT Warrior MP's from a seller there and was pleased with the price and the quality based on the pictures he had posted. The reason ebay is my third choice is that you will more likely be buying from people who are not necessarily really informed on tennis and are selling a racquet that is sitting in the closet. They are also probably less able to talk about how the frame plays which is a benefit of buying from the pro at Sandia or the people on the Tennis Warehouse forums.


Warning: Buying cheaper used tennis racquets can become an addiction and can lead to a never ending search for the perfect racquet where you never hit with the same one twice. Never buy more than one of a new frame that you haven't hit with even if you are offered a great deal on two or more since the honeymoon doesn't always last too long. Good luck in your search

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wilson nSix-One Tour

I have used the Wilson nSix-One Tour for about a year and can describe how it plays from the eyes of an intermediate/advanced player. The primary strength of this racquet comes from its rock solid stability at impact which allows you to crush the ball. The downside of this stability is it's weight which puts a premium on early racquet preparation. It's weight combined with its small headsize and sweetspot made it a racquet that I really liked if I had been practicing and playing a lot, but tough to use if I was rusty. Here is my breakdown on the racquet from a stroke perspective:


Forehand -> Really enjoyed the weight and stability on the forehand, the small head also is very maneuverable and I could generate good racquet speed to impart lots of topspin. It's weight also helps you on forehand slice due to stability at impact and force you can generate from a short swing.

Backhand -> Similar to forehand but the weight seemed to put more of a premium for getting the racquet back early. It's easy to get caught late on the ball and mistime your shot. Accuracy is a plus with this racquet so I knew I could count on making my opponent play.

Volleys -> My favourite shot with this racquet. Even though the racquet is heavy, its headlight balance makes it easy to maneuver. The stability is great for making solid impact with the ball in flight and it does not twist in your hand or require you to take a big swing to get a nice solid volley. Also if you can get a racquet on the ball when reaching wide, it's mass does a good job of providing a platform for the ball to bounce off so you don't have perfect form.

Serve -> While I enjoyed good accuracy from the racquet I found its heavy weight hard to swing quickly to generate racquet speed. Over the course of the match I noticed a decrease in my second serve velocity as I got tired. If you really crank it the heavy weight can produce some bombs but I found it tough over the course of the entire match. If you've got good upper body strength than this can be a good serving racquet. The small 90 inch head is also conducive to serving the flatter balls down the T.


If this sounds like the racquet for you here is a link


N Code nSix-One Tour 90

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Google Answers On Tennis

I stumbled upon this posting on Google answers where someone was looking for a set of good tennis websites that exist on the net. It's not perfect but it's a good resource and of interest to people looking for tennis content. I'll be creating my own set of tennis sites and resources that I frequent on the net but this will help you in your search for now.


Google Answers On Tennis

Thursday, April 28, 2005

How Henman Can Win A Major

In my humble opinion Tim Henman is a great tennis technician and competitor who is really fun to watch if you are a hardcore tennis fan and are a proponent of the serve and volley strategy. I also like the way he still a proponent of the straight up sportsman in the vein of Stefan Edberg, Rafter etc who takes his lumps, doesn't bs about his shortcomings and doesn't need to belittle his opponents and still speak confidently about his ability to win. There is much talk about the demise of the serve and volley or net rushing strategy in the pro game and the causes of this trend but I won't get into that here. I would say that the current dominant strategy in the game (power basliners) works to his advantage because most of his opponents don't face net rushers too often and he brings a surprise element to each match. The point I'd like to make is that I believe that at this latter stage of his career I think that Tim should consider a change in racquet technology in an attempt to get some extra confidence on serve and breakthrough to win his first major (be it the Big W or not, god save the queen blah blah).

My rationale for this is as follows:

1. When watching his matches my analysis of Henman's main strategic struggle is that he is not always able to ply his A game at the net on as many service points as he would like. He can get into dogfights against players with good returns that force him to stay on the baseline too much on his serve games (strong examples of his nemesis game style are Hewitt and Nalbandian, but he can have troubles with more journeymen players like Canas (no offense just looking at historical ranking here). When the going gets tight late in a set Henman is stuck playing his B game as he can't get to the net quite often enough off his serve and needs to invent something off the ground to get in there. If Henman had a more consistent "approach shot" like serve like Rafter or Edberg he would not be necessarily hitting service winners when it was tight but at least he could use his serve to get to net on somewhat even terms. When he needs a point I think he would agree he's better off dealing with a tough first volley than creating a forcing approach shot off the ground should he even get the chance in a baseline rally.

2. I don't believe it is a coincidence that currently some of the biggest servers on tour use slightly longer racquets of the 27.5 inch variety (Roddick, Ljubicic, Arthurs). Unless you are of above average height and limb length like Rusedski or Joachim Johanssen physics dictates that a higher impact point is easier to achieve consistently with a longer racquet. Players like Roddick who have great mechanics are not necessarily aided in the speed dept but I believe the slightly longer racquet allows them to hit that big bomb more often. So for Henman the longer racquet would allow him to hit that decent serve to get him into net on "even" terms more often under stress at 4 all in the 3rd or 5th. Knowing that he's going to be getting to net consistently in the big moments is going to boost his confidence because I think he feels he can beat anyone currently walking this planet if he is standing at net and they are attempting to pass.

3. Many would argue that while extra .5 inch length may help him on serve his all around game may suffer on other shots such as his volleys and ground game. While that may be true Henman is a very very high quality volleyer, I would put him up there with Edberg in terms of ability to cover the net and really stick volleys. Basically I think the guy could volley with a frying pan and he can make the adjustment. If the longer racquet improves his serve by say 5% and his ground game falls by the same % then it would actually improve his game because it's all about his volleying ability and I argue improving his serve gets him further in that direction than a great forehand would.

4. I want to make it clear I'm not suggesting Henman just boost his percentage and go for kick serves all the time. I believe this was the Stefanki strategy and it didn't work because he can't generate the pace on serve to bother guys with his current racquet. He still needs to be aggressive on serve and mix it up, the longer racquet will hopefully make it easier and thus more consistent so more of these aggressive serves land in and he can volley to the open court.

5. Their are no gaurantees in this life and my proposal for the use of a longer racquet is by no means a sure shot. However, what I'm saying is that now is the time for Henman to make such a move and get Slazenger to put a longer racquet in his hands. As far as I can see right now its just a brave commitment to more of the same from Henman in terms of getting over the hump to win a major before he retires from the pro game. Basically he'll keep fighting, hanging tough and hoping for a patch of good form and confidence to coincide with a major event. Perhaps one could argue that if he hasn't won a major with his current frame yet then its time for a change as he's a consistent top 5, has a good record against the top players. This could have a psychological as well as physical benefit if nothing else.


So in closing if I had the bolts to offer him such an opinion I would basically say that he's got nothing to lose and much to gain by trying a longer racquet, he'll know in the first 4 or 5 tournaments with the new racquet if he's on to something. Besides a volleyer knows what a calculated risk is every time he rushes the net!

The Reason for This Blog

The reason I have created this blog is to provide my take on the wonderful sport of tennis (should anyone be interested), its personalities, techniques and otherwise inconsequential drivel