TossAssist - "No one ever had a great serve without a great toss!" - SquareHit Tennis
TossAssist™ sets the players wrist into the correct angle to create a quiet, stable wrist and hand platform so as to accurately and repeatedly lift your ball toss up to the same spot. The TossAssist is an anatomically designed tennis trainer that comfortably fits all players and ensures accurate ball tosses so you can fully develop a powerful and reliable serve.
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TennisOne published an amazing 51 new editions throughout 2007. This last issue we bring you the best 2007 articles from some of our outstanding writers. Next year promises to be a major one, and we look forward to seeing you at www.tennisone.com. Happy Holidays!
Kim Shanley, Publisher, TennisOne
Looking Back at 2007
Part One: The Women’s Game – Lessons For Us Too
There’s a strong implication recreational players can gain from the 2007. The main focus is on the world’s two best players, and as I see it, it can be grasped not just by recreational adults but also by juniors, parents, and coaches.
This first article addresses the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. I could wax endlessly on Justine Henin, but before so doing, let’s have a look at the arcs of such powerful players as Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova.
In 2007, the Williams sisters each showed they can still win big, but Will there be an Agassi-like, late career commitment change? I’m guessing not.
In 2007, the Williams sisters each showed at discreet but significant times that they can still win big. Serena’s effort at Australia was impressive, even more so than Venus’ triumph at Wimbledon. There were even signs that each had improved a bit, Venus most notable on the forehand side and her willingness to come to the net. And yet it’s still rather painful to see how these two waver in and out of tennis. Venus is now 27, Serena 26. Can they still win Slams? Probably. But the lack of sustained engagement with the tour is unfortunate. I hope for more from each sister in 2008. As ex-pro David Wheaton recently told me, “Will there be an Agassi-like, late career commitment change? I’m guessing not. Those kind of shifts are hard to make.”
Sharapova had the bloody tar beaten out of her by Serena in Australia and Venus at Wimbledon. Struggling with an injury that impeded her serve all year, she was unable to dictate enough points. Only a fine effort to each the finals of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships in Madrid – where she lost the best women’s match of the year to Henin – gave her a sense of significant accomplishment in 2007. At the same time, while I deeply respect Sharapova’s tenacity and commitment, I fear she could well be a female Andy Roddick: a gritty fighter with limited hardware.
Here’s where we enter the news-you-can-use zone. Both the Williams sisters and Sharapova were exposed to tennis by zealous fathers. Sadly, the outcome of that model – rather than the process -- has been taken as gospel by a great many tennis instructors. What I’m talking about here is the unwitting, codependent collaboration of a gung-ho father and hot-to-trot instructor mostly teaching young ladies how to rip the ball again and again. Yes, I know that repetition is a vital factor in mastering a technique. But it is only one factor.
Lindsay Davenport, uses a great strategy: She’s slow, so knows she must instantly dictate a point, and does so with thundering groundstrokes
The trouble occurs when repetition becomes less a means than an ends. The man who most ardently shaped Sharapova’s strokes, the great coach Robert Lansdorp, once asked me, “Who gives a blankety-blank about strategy? Just hit the ball.” With all due respect to a coach I think has a certain kind of genius, I would heartily disagree. Surely a baseball player is aided when he knows a pitcher can’t throw a good curveball. Ditto for a basketball player who knows the man he’s guarding prefers driving to his left. And so on.
So the takeaway is that tennis is not just a game of strokes, but one of strategy. Every player employs a strategy whether he or she admits it or not. Lindsay Davenport, for example, uses a great strategy: She’s slow, so knows she must instantly dictate a point, and does so with thundering groundstrokes (taught to her, yes, by Robert Lansdorp).
This leads me to one of the reasons why I think Henin won ten tournaments this year, including two Slams. Watch her play, and you clearly see someone who when learning the game as a child did a lot more than have some combination of parent and instructor repeatedly yell at her to rip the ball. This is a woman who grew up not just working tennis, but playing it. For whatever number of reasons – one being that Belgium is such a tiny tennis nation so there just wasn’t that much micro-management of youngsters – Henin was left alone to create her own playing style. Even when she joined forces in her teens with Carlos Rodriguez, there was a concept of how she could build points and evolve a long-term playing style.
Justine Henin plays a beautiful all-court game and oh, that elegant one-handed backhand.
I shudder to think of the many American coaches I’ve met who might have encountered a diminutive girl of Justine’s size and ostensibly (unconsciously?) handed her the standard-issue playing style for contemporary juniors – the two-handed backhand, the semi-Western forehand, the near ignorance of net play and minimal attention to the art of court management.
A playing style must arise organically and with collaboration. One recent coach I’ve spoken to, former pro Chris Lewis, tells me when he starts working with a player he looks for many cues – how the player even walks into a room, how he or she goes about talking, what kind of energy the player has, shots he or she prefers, and so on. The rub is that during this lengthy development period a parent or player must put aside the desire for obvious short-term results – that is, the kind that can be generated by playing the standard-issue game. Granted, that style may work too, but again, the lesson from Justine is this simple: Let a style evolve. Reshift the assessment of results away from winning matches.
I am not saying that tennis needs to be art. Nor am I saying that every player should be left alone to merely do things the way they want. Just because a young girl is smitten, say, with Henin, does that mean a one-handed backhand is her best choice. Most of all, a player needs to be effective. Beauty is not the issue. The issue is engagement, of building a game that’s sustainable, diversified and able to keep a player in love with the sport over the course of a career. That’s true no matter if you’re on the tour or a 3.5 player. Certainly it held true even for someone initially as limited as Chris Evert. As her career lengthened, she enhanced much of her game, learning to hit harder, coming to net more, even attempting ways to beef up her anemic serve.
The two Serbs, Jelena Jankovic (left) and Anna Ivanovic
came up big this year but do they have what it takes to win
In the contemporary women’s game, it’s uncertain to me how that premise applies for the two Serbs who rose this year, Anna Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. Ivanovic strikes me at first as a blissful pounder. I’ll be interested to see how she evolves in the coming years in her quest to win big – and at the same time, fend off challenges. Jankovic has less juice, but somewhat more variety. But she also strikes me as a bit too self-deprecating for her own good. Does she truly believe she’s worthy of big titles, or does she just play the daylights out of the tour and let things take their own course? Again, 2008 will be quite revealing.
This is a lifetime sport, and even in the case of a pro, the example of Henin shows how attention to texture and variety can keep one committed to growing. It’s clear to me, for example, that Henin has even more upside to her broad approach to tennis than, say, Sharapova. Her foundation is not just technical, but attitudinal. To borrow a concept from one of my favorite coaches, Steve Stefanki, Henin is a contender – constantly looking for ways to enhance her craft. That is something players of any level can gain from.
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The Dementieva Serve or Arm Action Breakdown
Elena Dementieva is one of the finest ball strikers on the women’s tour. She has classic technique on her groundstrokes and has been one of the more consistent performers, finishing in the Top 10 the last four years. She hits a clean, fairly flat ball off both sides, takes the ball early, moves very well, and has a strong competitive spirit. But perhaps she is best known not for one of her assets but for her liability - and that is her serve. Doug King examines her this often faulty stroke.
Pro Strokes within the Advanced Foundation
Roger Federer is certainly the "Tiger Woods" of the tennis world. His game is discussed, analyzed and revered by so many in the industry. For this end of the year feature, I revisit my article, "Pros Strokes within the Advanced Foundation" because it captures the essence of not just his forehand, but the concept of how to model your game within this foundation. Using Federer's forehand, I augment this discussion with how my 8-year old daughter, Kyla, has been trained and break down the stroke to isolate and identify the key points of his forehand topspin. Dave Smith
The Forehand Drop Shot
In his Pro analysis series, long time WTA coach, Heath Waters, turns his video camera and his focus on the forehand drop shot technique. Using David Nalbandian and Roger Federer as his models, Heath points out the fundamental commonalities these top players use during the execution of the drop shot and shows you the reference points you can apply to your own game or coaching.
The Serve – Developing the Live Arm
Doug Eng looks at what it takes to develop arm action on the serve. He calls this the live arm action. For some people, this action occurs naturally, for others it has to be learned and practiced. If we are to define what makes a good serve, the live arm is a dominant criterion. A good live arm motion has several key elements: initial relaxation, flexibility in the launch position, acceleration in the internal rotation of the shoulder, and breaking the arm links.
On the strength of his electrifying performances at the ATP Masters Series in Indian Wells and the ATP Masters Series in Miami, Novak Djokovic has moved within the elite in world rankings. He is the prototypical “modern” professional. Tremendous fitness, excellent court coverage, semi western forehand, two fisted backhand and adequate serve. But more than anything else he plays a well rounded game with confidence both from the baseline and the net. Jim McLennan examines his strengths and weaknesses.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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