Acceleration Tennis at Meadowood (Napa) Resort - Doug King
Doug King teaches his Acceleration Tennis program at the beautiful Meadwood Resort in Napa, California. Doug is one of the country's foremost tennis teaching innovators. Founder of Acceleration Tennis, a revolutionary teaching system, Doug King is leading the way in reinterpreting the traditional tennis model.
Click here to see a video tour of Doug King's program at Meadowood Resort.
Knowing the Game - A Celebration of John McEnroe
"Borg and Connors come at you like sledgehammers, but this guy is a stiletto. A nick here, a cut there, and pretty soon you're bleeding."
- Arthur Ashe’s evaluation of John McEnroe.
“One of the main reasons that John plays, in all likelihood, the best tennis a 49 year old man ever has is his style which is not as dependant on physicality as most other players. John's tennis is a form of ballet with anticipation, cunning, and craft being his three biggest weapons. He sees the ball very early and cuts off his opponents shots instinctively to create angles that few other players can replicate.”
- Jim Courier
John McEnroe had quite a week at the recent Outback Champions Tour Series in Boston. Yes, his histrionics and foul language persist. But if you can look beyond that, as I have learned to do, at the ripe age of 49, the guy plays amazing, complete tennis. But similarly to his last ATP doubles title earned at the SAP Open in 2006, where in the display of his skills, understanding of the court, feel for the angle of play, movement, serve and return, he was, in each match, the best player on the court, Mac did it again in Boston. In the quarterfinals he beat four time grand slam titlist and Outback tour founder Jim Courier (age 38) 6-4, 6-4. In a fiercely contested semi-final he beat Pete Sampras (age 39) 2-6, 7-5, 10-4. And John capped the week’s work with a 5-7, 6-3, 10-5 victory over Aaron Krickstein (age 40).
Now for some perspective. John McEnroe holds 17 grand slam titles, 7 in singles and 10 in doubles. He has amassed 154 career titles overall – 84 in singles and 70 in doubles, and though I am only an amateur statistician, I do not believe that combination of singles and doubles titles has been or ever will be matched. The game of doubles offers a greater degree of complexity than singles (here come the emails – that is OK) as regards tempo, shot selection, and reflex volleying. Most points are controlled by those who are volleying down at the opponents, and none have been better at this art than Mac. Interestingly, he plays a version of his doubles game in singles – where he is either always moving forward, or looking for any and all short balls to take control of the point and finish at the net.
I write these articles with reference to the spectator, and what we can appreciate about certain players and their style of play. But equally I write with reference to the player, and how these same elements may either enlighten or improve your own style of play. And finally these articles are written for the competitors who are bedeviled by certain opponents, without ever knowing why they lose. And to all these varied ends, McEnroe “Knows the Game,” and on that score he knows his game inside out.
At the most fundamental level, the game is about one’s second serve, one’s ability to return serve, knowing all parts of the court combined with a willingness and ability to move forward and finish the points at the net, and finally movement – not the super-fit over-conditioned grinding model, but rather the graceful, gliding, agile model McEnroe continues to employ to this day. And he does all this at the advanced age of 49 against much younger opponents. Take any one of the following areas to your own game, give the project six months, and I guarantee (yes) significantly improved results.
Good as Your Second Serve
Click photo: Mac swings the ball out wide to the ad court, glides to and through the ball, volleying simply into the open court all the while making this look oh so easy.
First and foremost you, as well as any of the professionals, are only as good as your second serve. We are not talking about first serve bombs, but rather spinning, well-placed, confident deliveries to all corners of both service boxes. On this score, McEnroe rivals Sampras. His second serve keeps his opponent honest and unable to anticipate spin or location.
The quality of his delivery is more about the disguise and unpredictability, than about the heat. But in so many of the clips of Mac within the Pro Strokes Gallery, more often than not, he serves to the corner and moves forward for sitters, where the opponent was only able to get the serve in play rather than pound the ball at his feet or in the corners.
For your own game, resolve to practice and perfect your ability to hit to all four corners of both service boxes – if you are a right hander this means sidespin out wide in the deuce, and kick to the deuce court tee, sidespin to the ad court tee and kick out wide.
Return – Get the Ball in Play
Click photo: Mac chips the backhand approach from just inside the baseline, covers the forehand volley, and then actually anticipates the lob, moving back easily to knock off the overhead.
Imagine the server as the hammer, and the receiver as the nail. Active and passive. Servers bring the heat as it were, but too often receivers in this modern age attempt to hammer the return, where the percentages favor blocking, borrowing pace, accepting the passive role, simply getting into the point and working it from there.
A few years back at the Australian Open, Federer won a stretch of 10 games in a row against Andy Roddick. That is five consecutive service breaks! But, it must be said that Roger, at that point, was simply blocking the return to neutralize the service delivery, not hammering the ball to take instant control. McEnroe plays this role in spades, and as much as any relevant statistic, his 70 ATP doubles titles attest to his consistent, well-placed return of serve. For your own game, practice receiving serve from inside the baseline, borrowing rather than adding pace. We don’t see too many of the modern players employing this style, but that doesn’t mean it won't work, just ask Courier, Sampras, or Krickstein.
On this score McEnroe was and remains superlative. More or less a counter-puncher, he is not prone to take the first big swing, but rather content to trade jabs (as it were), always ready to instantly attack when the opponent plays the ball short or fails to fully recover. Mac simply plays the ball early to the precise area left uncovered by his opponent. Deep, short, angles, floaters, dinks, lobs, nearly every situation has a best reply, and Mac makes these decisions flawlessly time and time again.
Click photo: Flat down the line forehand approach from inside the baseline, nifty angle volley to the open court, followed by another simple winner to yet another open court.
Too often, with the more powerful racquets, and our big hitting professional role models, we overlook the art of the under-spin approach, the finesse half-volley, or the off-speed approach. But I find it uncanny how Mac seems to float to the net, anticipate the opponents pass, and in the video, he seems to be retreating for an overhead before the opponent has even made contact.
For your game this one may be harder to practice, for in mastering the “coming in skills” you will be passed many times. But the simplest contract to sign with yourself (or your coach) would be to take the net on every single second serve you receive for the next six months. Yes! At the end of this period your approach, your volley, your instinct for placement and length, and even the timing of your split-step will all be improved.
Finally, if not most importantly, tennis is a game of movement. And Mac glides around the court with the best of them. Stopping starting, changing direction, posture, balance, certainly we can appreciate the skills of Fabrice Santoro or Roger Federer in this light, but at 49 when any of us would be slowing down, Mac continues to float about the court.
The following comments have been a continuing source of controversy in my world, so reader you are now forewarned. Mac uses a gravity turn to initiate his movements to ground strokes, volleys or overheads when needing to move quickly. And this drop-step appears counter to much of the strength conditioning paradigms that emphasize muscularity over technique. But studying Mac’s feet in the following scenario, note how his initial step moves away from the ball and beneath his center of gravity, as he turns toward the ball and moves instantly in that direction. Dynamic imbalance as it were.
Click photo: Mac stings a backhand approach, moves quickly inside the service line, splits, then note the gravity step to the backhand side, volleying yet again into the open court.
Stefan Edberg, catlike quick about the net, used this same footwork. Rafael Nadal, who covers court and recovers with truly amazing quickness, uses the same move, a drop-step running recovery to retrieve yet another ball when impossibly out of court. And prior to injury, Seles (with the two handed forehand and backhand which supposedly limits her reach) used this footwork both to get to the ball as well as to recover. But this one will take some practice, especially if you shuffle or jab step to the ball. For those willing to try, check out the following articles in our library and or the Secrets of World Class Footwork, I did some years ago.
We are all getting older, certainly none more so than I. And this is a game for a lifetime. That said, and I quote Jim Courier yet again, “Baseline power players have little chance of being as good as John is at 49 due to the toll the game takes on the power baseliner's body versus the serve and volley player.” So with diminishing strength, but unwavering will, I encourage you to take a page from Mac’s book and explore guile, shot placement, court positioning, and gravity footwork. Certainly not all at once, but even one project will test your resolve and determination, and just might change even one competitive result. If so, it will have been well worth the while.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
The Secret to Controlled Power
It is said that nothing is more alluring than power. That statement certainly finds support in the game of tennis. Today’s style is synonymous with power; blistering serves, crushing topspin groundstrokes, and blinding speed of foot. Spectators cannot help but wonder how it is done and dream that one day, they will experience the thrill. Here Doug King explores the secret to controlled power.
Homage to Backspin
In the early days of tennis, racquet heads were small and the frames as heavy as the tree trunks they were made of. Players could only take little swats at the ball and they figured that backspin was the most efficient way to do so. In the mid 1980’s a new breed of players emerged with big muscles and racquets to match. They discovered that tennis could be won from the back of the court by peeling the felt off the ball. Out went backspin and in came topspins and outright winners. One could have thought that this was the end of the road for backspin - but it most certainly was not. Philippe Azar
Five Ways to Improve Footwork
In tennis, your footwork is very important to your stroke production and your ability to get from shot to shot in a balanced, comfortable position in order to execute the shot efficiently. Here, Ken Dehart shows you five drills that will improve your footwork and make you a better player, including the Circle Drill, the Butterfly or Figure Eight Drill, The Lateral Drill, and the Crazy Legs Drill.
ProStrokes Gallery - Marcos Baghdatis' Forehand
Marcos Baghdatis, now a veteran at 23 years old, continues to be a threat on hard and grass courts, but he's also a player looking to recapture the energy and promise of his 2006 Australian Open tournament where he lost a competitive final to Roger Federer. His game is more about using pace rather than creating it and about anticipation and sensing an opponent’s options. In this light he is comfortable playing from well behind the baseline on defense or well inside the baseline, moving forward to finish a point. Check out Marcos Baghdatis' game in the TennisOne ProStrokes Gallery.
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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