Senior Tennis Blog

Carolyn Nichols Senior Tennis Home Page; Ranking Tables, FAC, Historical Records; USTA Adult National Tournament Schedules; USTA Standings; ITF Seniors Home Page. ITF Rankings; USTA Senior International Competition. 2021 USTA Team Selection Guidelines; 2021 Level 1, 2, 3 Tournaments; 2021 Gold Ball Champions ; Instagram.

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ITF SENIORS TOUR

The ITF Seniors Tour is a global tennis Tour that provides players aged 30 and over with a high quality and enjoyable competitive experience. 2019 saw 27,500 registered players and 502 tournaments take place across 70 nations.

ITF Seniors tournaments range from Grade S1000 (aimed at elite players) to Grade S100 (aimed at recreational level), featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles events for each five-year age increment from 30+ to 90+.

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Manly Juniors Wrap Up Successful Year — Illawarra Boys 14 Results

Today, at Illawarra, Matthew Curtis and Bede Kirwan came runner up in the boys 14U doubles final against a very tough team, seeded first.
They were seeded second and won 3 matches to reach the final against older opponents.
In singles, Matthew lost a close match in the quarters against the eventual winner and Bede lost to him in the semis. Bede came in 3rd place for the playoff event between losing semi finalists.
Source: Kristina Curtis

TNSW Dec Junior Tournaments

A number of our junior club members are playing in the following tournaments. You can follow their progress in their respective events by clicking on the links and the Boys/Girls 14 draws..

Good luck guys!

2021 Parramatta JT

Parramatta Tennis Inc | North Parramatta 16 Dec to 19 Dec

2021 Tennis Macarthur JT

Tennis Macarthur | Leumeah21/12/2021 to 24/12/2021

2021 Illawarra AMT/JT

Illawarra Tennis Association | Rockdale27/12/2021 to 31/12/2021

Tennis: the players struggling to break even | FT

Tennis champions Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are among the best paid athletes in the world. But prize money drops off steeply, with lower ranked players often struggling to make a living amid the expense of travel and coaching. The FT talks to governing bodies in what is a fragmented sport, and follows two players fighting to get to the top and get paid…

It’s one of the most popular sports on the planet with both men and women. So why are so many professional tennis players still struggling to make a living?

If you want to do this you have to invest in yourself. It’s a big risk, but it’s also a really big reward. It’s completely dependent on your result. If you have a bad year you could work an entire year at a loss.

Who is in charge of the rules of tennis? Everybody and nobody, right?

People outside the sports world think, everyone’s making a ton. They are not. It is tough.

My name is Alicia Barnett. I’m 28 years old. I live with my dad when I’m not on the road. And this year I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home.

Hi, I’m Liam Broady. I’m 27 years old. I’m from Stockport, Great Britain. This is the best year of my career.

It’s hard to not get consumed by thinking about prize money a lot, but at the end of the day you have to go to a tournament and realise that you’re investing in yourself and in your tennis.

There’s a lot of pressure to perform well at tournaments. If you don’t do well you can be working at quite a loss. So it’s a pretty unstable income.

At the end of the trip you sum everything up, and you think, OK, I’ve done well this week. And it is a little bit calming. So you come away feeling better that you’ve made a profit or you’ve broken even, and you can relax a little bit, but it’s an afterthought. If I’m playing good enough tennis then the money will take care of itself, I think. My roommate just came in. The reason Luke’s here is to save money basically.

So they’re really seven different stakeholders within tennis. The ITF looks after the junior and up to the professional ranks and beyond that. We have the men’s tour, the ATP, the women’s tour, the WTA. And then you have the four grand slam events. And those seven stakeholders together work on promoting and developing the sport around the world.

Well, we clearly undermonetise. We have a billion fans, you know? We are very popular, and we have a very gender-neutral fan base, but we are extremely fragmented. We have all these different organisations – ATP, WTA, the four slams, and ITF – that go to market completely separately, differently with different governance. So we don’t do a great job in selling and distributing our sport.

That’s where we have to do better in tennis. We’re probably the fourth or fifth largest watched sport in the world, and we get very little in media content except for the majors. That I’d like to see change.

With a billion fans tennis is among the most watched sports in the world, but it accounts for less than 2 per cent of global sports media rights, which were worth a total of $44.6bn in 2020. That means less money to trickle down to the players.

It’s 6:45 in the morning and it feels like a very early start over here in Brest in France. Let’s hope we get a seat on this train. Yeah, you know, life on the road can be difficult at times, but you do get used to it. And it’s a lifestyle at the end of the day. You’re probably away from home really for 40 weeks a year.

You share stories about how you ended up staying in a brothel because it was the cheapest thing. Or you’re eating oats in the room rather than paying for breakfast just to save a little bit of costs.

Most prize money goes to the top players. As you go down the ranks it drops off steeply. This year in the top 500 median earnings from prize money were around $137,000 for men and $92,000 for women. If you’re one of the top players you’ll be earning millions of dollars in prize money as well as sponsorship deals.

Lower ranked players may get some extra help from grassroots funding and free rackets, and clothes in return for social media promotion. But the majority of their earnings will come from winning on court. More than a third of the women and nearly a quarter of the men in the top 500 have taken home less than $50,000 this year.

When I’ve asked players, you know, how much money do you have to earn to make it? And most of them come up with $100,000 to $150,000. That’s a lot of money.

At the moment, the current pie, let me put it that way, the total revenue generated by the tennis professional sport and what we distribute in prize money doesn’t allow for the second tier to have players that can make a living and sustain the cost.

You can’t argue that: the best players deserve the most money. At the end of the day, tennis is a business, and you want to keep your most valuable assets happy. And that’s the same in any business.

It’s the top three or four men and top three or four women that drive ticket sales.

I would debate maybe just the best players get the most money but just maybe a little bit less, and they should share the spread of the rest of the money.

It’s difficult because you think, well, they’ve worked really hard and they’re very talented. They deserve to be there. And if we work hard enough, we can get there too.

All the grand slams have moved to give more money to the players who get knocked out in the early stages. And British players, for example, can also benefit from pro scholarships and tournament bonuses. But many top 500 players don’t make it to the slams.

They play most of their season on the second-tier Challenger Tour and contend with injury, losing streaks, and high costs with few guarantees of financial returns.

I think that you’ve seen a real concerted effort by the tennis stakeholders together in distributing the money so that more players are able to make a proper earning. It used to be a little bit more top heavy, whereas now if you lose in the first round of a grand slam tournament, in singles alone you’re going to earn about $50,000.

I made the second round of Wimbledon this year and that’s kind of my way of paying my coach, and my physio, and my S and C coach for the next year and to be able to afford the tennis tour really.

At some point, you have to draw a line. And beyond that line I think we have to be honest and say, in the Challenger Tour you should be able to at least break even and pay your costs. But you have to be conscious that this is sort of like a university. That’s an investment for you. Then go and move into the professional tour where you have a job.

I’m currently stretching up in the gym here in Bratislava after a good session. I’m on tomorrow against Ilya Marchenko. He’s a good player. I played him last week as well in Bergamo.

Obviously, we got the hotel for free at the Challenger’s, which is a nice bonus. The prize money came to about 1,500 euros I think, but then, of course, I need to pay for my coach’s food, and bills, and his weekly fee as well. I’m probably working at a loss last week. That tends to be the way that it works at most of these tournaments.

I don’t think it will ever be possible to have a sustainable tour at that level simply because it lacks the interest of the fan and the engagement of the sponsors, broadcasters, and ticket revenues.

Billie Jean King won 12 grand slam singles titles. She’s even better known for fighting for equal pay for women. In the early ’70s, one of her aims was this.

If you’re good enough to make a living, very few people were going to be included in that first go around because we knew we had to start small if we’re going to make it. Was that our goal? Absolutely not. Our goal is more is the merrier. I personally would like to figure out how we can have at least 700 or 800 people making a living. That would make me happy because that’s with the NBA. That’s Major League Baseball.

Every time I wake up in the morning I think about it. I have my blessing list, but then I think, we got to do better today. We got to make it work.

In 2020, Wimbledon and other events were cancelled, but the pandemic was also an opportunity.

To be honest, I’d probably say only since Covid have I started to be able to make money and actually put a little bit away into savings, and that’s at the age of 26. I’ve been a professional tennis player for six, seven years before that. During Covid we had a lot of tournaments in Britain, and there were no outgoings.

Tennis did come together. We had what we called a player relief fund, where we gave to the top 750 players in the world. We moved Roland Garros to September. We had to change the calendar. We changed the ranking. We got a lot closer to WTA. I’m a very strong believer that the two tools should be combined because together we are stronger.

We shouldn’t be competing with one another. We should be competing with the outside world, and I think that’s part of the strategy.

With the help of an adviser we are sort of in the process of evaluating the different options of how can we create a new governance that can enable us ultimately to provide a better product to the fans. Because at the moment, if you ask yourself the question, who is in charge of the rules of tennis? The answer is everybody and nobody, right?

If the ATP and the WTA were to merge, which would thrill me, it’s got to be 50-50. You’ve got to fight for each other. When you’re together you need to have equal prize money, equal everything.

Meanwhile, men’s number one, Novak Djokovic, co-founded the Professional Tennis Players Association. He said he wants more transparency in tennis and to improve livelihoods. Low earnings from prize money can mean some players never get their chance on court.

I think the damage to the sport is pretty massive if the wealth isn’t spread to the lower players. I think there are a lot of players then that, like I said, are incredibly talented and never get the chance to achieve their greatest tennis.

There could be guys that unfortunately don’t live in a nation where you have a strong federation which is capable of subsidising your cost. And then you might actually lose that talent that could become a great champion in the future.

We are addressing it. Is it perfect? Absolutely not and we know it. It’ll never be perfect. No sport’s ever perfect. No business is ever perfect. I think it’s quite a miracle that we’re doing as well as we are.

I spent my last 10 days of the year at the Davis Cup supporting the squad, practicing with them, and getting them ready. I basically spent the last couple of months backpacking across Europe really. It felt really good coming home.

You may not start out playing tennis for the money, but the money can be a game changer.

I actually figured out as well I spend about £12,000 a year on stringing and rackets. So at the end of the day this sport is incredibly expensive at the higher levels.

You always have to make sacrifices for things that you want to do. I’m just really grateful that I’m able to play tennis and travel. And I’m grateful that I have that support network because, otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to do it.

To be top 200 in the world or top 250 in the world is a remarkable achievement. Out of, I think, 7bn people, it’s not many people who can say that. Obviously, if you can become good enough then you can earn a living at the sport. But sometimes it’s not that easy.

A lot of kids will come up to me and say, do you think I should try or not? I tell them always try because you do not want to say when you’re older, I should have tried ever. You don’t want to ever say that, I should have, I could have. So I think it’s really important to give it a go because you know what? If you do make it you’re one of the elite. You get lucky in life, and there’s opportunities you can never dream of.

Tennis: the players struggling to break even

A Good String Job Can Manage Your Limitations | AskThePro

In our previous column on rackets, we make reference to the key advantages of a good restring in managing your limitations!

The tournament pros are absolutely fanatical about their choice of strings and the associated string tension — which they change to suit both surface and playing conditions — and often during a match.  I still carry two rackets in my bag each with a slightly different tension to accommodate the changing playing conditions at Manly Lawn.

Conversely, our average tennis player puts what I euphemistically call “two dollars worth of nylon” in a $200+ high performance frame — and expects to play consistently well and without injury, especially tennis elbow.

Most club players who play two or more times a week are well advised to get a GOOD STRING JOB every 8 to 10 weeks depending on the season.  Aggressive players who blast the ball with big western forehands need to update every 3 to 4 weeks or so.  Yep, strings go loose and dead — and performance suffers!

Trust me when I say, your game will improve at least a POINT A GAME with a good restring! You might even be encouraged to take a few lessons to help better manage the rest of your limitations.

So what constitutes a GOOD STRING JOB?

First a little science education since modern strings come in different materials and thicknesses, each designed to suit different playing styles. In the table below, you’ll notice the differences in the main and cross strings and the dependence on whether you want control, power, comfort (did I mention managing tennis elbow?).

Thickness is pretty screwy since 18 gauge string is thinner than 16 gauge, go figure!

You can see from the graph above that the typical $2 nylon (16G) has high durability (to ensure rackets have a good shelf life) and low spin potential ( aka “feel/control”)! How did that new Wilson play with the $2 nylon strings?

Even at my tender age, I still use a hybrid combination of 18G multifilament Gamma Live Wire on the mains and Babolat Blast (Nadal’s string) on the crosses. Yep as I’ve aged and reverted to social player status, I’ve gone for more control and less power by reversing the mains and the crosses per the table. The 18G Live Wire is more lively (plays like gut) and gives me much more feel. The Blast allows me to give the ball a nudge and more topspin when I need to.

And now the string tension.  Most players string the crosses the same as the mains and expect the tension to be even itself out throughout the racket during stringing. Well that’s the logic anyway. The GOAL was always to get an even string tension in the racket to increase the ‘sweet spot’. Yep, for most of my playing life I relied on that logic too. Of course my ball watching was so much better than, and I played with gut, so miss hits were infrequent. And yep it’s SOoooooo Wrong!

Several years ago I ran into a older, chain smoking racket stringer in California who set me straight — and he didn’t hold back!  Turns out that what most people miss is the impact of FRICTION on the Crosses when you’re feeding the string under and over through the Mains. Whatever tension you string the Mains at, you ADD 5lb to the Crosses to counter the friction. Here’s my current stringing pattern to illustrate this key point:

 

So Obi Wan how should I translate this to my game? Well most rackets come with a suggested stringing guide for tension. Start with the mid range for the racket for the Mains and then string the Crosses 5lb more.  Then adjust up and down as required until you’re comfortable with the tension. Aside, typically you can use a lower tension that the one you used previously; helps your feel and control.

Just ask Tommie for ‘Rob’s restring’ if you want to try this type of restring at the Manly Tennis Centre. You’ll find an immediate benefit of a bigger sweet spot — and most of your misshits will go over now as your control is significantly improved.

As for the choice of string, well that depends on your game. I’ve given you the guidelines in the table above which you can probably figure out yourself. Even so, probably better to go talk to Scottie when you want some pro advice about what strings may suit your individual playing style. Or ask me.

To repeat you’ve got to manage your limitations — and using better technology (whether frame and/or strings) is a great way to do this. Cunning and guile will only get you so far! Invest in the technology!

Make a regular investment in a GOOD STRING JOB using the latest materials technology; it’s absolutely worth it for your psyche alone!

Sincerely,
Tennis Whisperer

Ash Barty’s mindset coach: Get out of BED | SMH

And this is because, as the former sports marketing director at Nike, he recognised a pattern in the athletes he worked with, and later on, in the successful business people he coached: many were struggling under the pressure of external validation, be it from winning, making money, achieving social or corporate status.

“We’re so distracted by achievement and results more than the process of going there,” says the father of three boys. “We’re craving from others what we’re not prepared to give ourselves which is unconditional love: will someone please recognise me, will someone please accept me, will someone please acknowledge me?”

Ben Crowe post match in the Richmond change rooms after the 2019 Grand Final.

Ben Crowe post match in the Richmond change rooms after the 2019 Grand Final. 

Focusing on what is outside our control, like the expectation of outcomes or the expectations of others, not only leads to stress, pressure and anxiety, it is a losing game, he insists: “Last time I looked, no one controls the future which means you’ll tighten up not lighten up.”

Instead, by focusing our attention on what we can control, like who we want to be, we remove external “distractions” and can focus without fear.

“You still go after the things you love to do, they just don’t determine your self-worth,” Crowe says. “You can go after your dreams without any promise you’ll actually achieve those dreams and that’s OK.”

Ironically, this lack of fear to follow our dreams makes us more likely to achieve them. Crowe believes, this is one of the keys to Barty’s success, both on and off the court.

“[She] has put her goals and dreams out into the universe, and she’s gone after them and she’s also embraced these principles – gratitude and appreciation and celebration – rather than getting caught up in expectation or entitlement,” Crowe says. “She’s truly embraced the principle of acceptance – accepting the things she can’t control and focusing back on the things she can control. She’s connected with her purpose and sense of why, she’s established her values which is so fundamental to anyone’s success because when we’re on our knees and life sucks it’s our values that gets us through.”

These concepts are used to help clients answer three “simple but not easy” questions: Who am I, What do I want and How do I get there?

BEN CROWE, MINDSET COACH TO ASH BARTY

 

It was what got a 16-year-old Crowe through losing his dad to a heart attack, while trying to resuscitate him; it was what got him through losing his best friend to suicide; and it was what got him through laying off “a few hundred staff” while working for Nike in Hong Kong nearly 25 years ago.

Following this “professional crucible moment”, he used humility and curiosity to “pick up the pieces and respond to the challenges” he faced. He sat down at the Peak Café in Hong Kong and wondered what he was going to do with his life.

After two days spent scribbling on post-it notes trying to figure out his “why” and, after years of working with athletes on their external story, he decided it was time to work with them on their internal one.

“I settled on wanting to help athletes do things better and be better for it. My definition of an athlete has evolved to anyone who wants to compete, have fun and play,” says Crowe, who launched a mindset app last month, providing a digital “personal leadership” course based on the same exercises he uses with athletes and CEOs.

He, along with his wife Sally and their two young sons at the time, moved home to Melbourne where he launched and subsequently sold two sports entertainment companies before officially transitioning to mentoring.

“There’s only ever the response to what life throws our way… we can stay in BED, which is an acronym for blame, excuses, denial, or we can say ‘it’s my decisions, not the conditions that determine how I’m going to get through this’.”

BEN CROWE, MINDSET COACH TO ASH BARTY

 

Crowe’s approach is not about reinventing the wheel. He explores the stories we tell ourselves (Tony Robbins), leaning in (Sheryl Sandberg), vulnerability (Brene Brown) and ‘aha’ moments (Oprah).

These concepts are used to help clients answer three “simple but not easy” questions: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get there?

“If you can help people answer those questions that gives them the sense of confidence and happiness to find a path to go after their journey… then yeah [I think they] want that drug,” says Crowe who is running a mindset masterclass on September 29.

I wonder aloud whether seeing humility and humanity in highly accomplished people, like Barty, reminds us ordinary folk we don’t need discontent or ego to drive us or our ambitions. But I also wonder how applicable his approach is for someone who doesn’t have a job as a result of the pandemic right now or for someone like Michael Cassel, whose production of Hamilton was facing $10 million in losseswith 80,000 tickets cancelled because of the lockdown.

“There are so many things we can’t control, getting back to the things we can control is pretty powerful,” Crowe insists. “You need to draw down on your energy source that gets you through the pandemic, and it might be courage, love, perseverance, resilience, positivity or optimism…

“There’s only ever the response to what life throws our way… we can stay in BED, which is an acronym for blame, excuses, denial, or we can say ‘it’s my decisions, not the conditions that determine how I’m going to get through this’.”

Michael Cassel is a great example of this, Crowe adds: “He goes ‘I decide my attitude, my mindset, my self-worth… I’m not going to let COVID and the conditions of my business determine my self-worth. I am going to own my story and with my values and my purpose and my affirmations I’m going to overcome this and help my people overcome this’… His perspective is what will get him through.”

Speaking of perspective, I ask him about the kind of human he wants to be.

“If someone says who Ben Crowe is I say I’m a playful dad, I’m a grateful son, I’m a mischievous mate and a loving soulmate and a curious golfer – as in how the f–k am I going to master this game.”

 

Bathroom stall: Tennis toilet break rules


How long is too long to take in the bathroom

Article I, Section W, Paragraph 4 of the 2021 Grand Slam rule book limits women (who play best-of-three-sets) to one trip off court and men (best-of-five) to two trips “for a reasonable time for a toilet break, a change of attire break, or both.”

The discussion at, ahem, Flush-ing Meadows on Tuesday swirled around whether it was “reasonable” that play was delayed for more than eight minutes because Tsitsipas took his time while exchanging his sweaty outfit for a fresh one between the fourth and fifth sets of a nearly five-hour victory over Murray a day earlier.

“What’s your opinion on this? You’re umpiring the match,” three-time Grand Slam champion Murray could be heard saying to the match official. “Give me your opinion. … You think this is good?”

Murray, who swapped shirts while seated on his changeover bench before the final set, is among those who have advocated for some sort of rule switch.

Put a specific time limit in writing, say. Or have stronger consequences than the simple warning that Tsitsipas received from the chair umpire for a time violation Monday, when he and Murray both were soaked from 70% humidity and heat in the low 80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius).

“It’s so vague. Another vague rule in tennis. And I think that’s what Andy was complaining about,” 18-time major champion Chris Evert said during ESPN’s telecast Tuesday. “Let me tell you, eight to 10 minutes, that gives the player time to sit with himself, to figure out what he needs to do, to reset if he needs to, to reach into his bag and get a phone call. Or reach into his bag and read a text. It opens the door to a lot of things that maybe aren’t fair in tennis.”

Calling pace of play “an important issue on our sport,” the U.S. Tennis Association said it needs to “continue to review and explore potential adjustments to the rules, whether for bathroom breaks/change of attire or other areas, that can positively impact the pace of play for our fans and ensure the fairness and integrity of the game.”

The ATP men’s tour said reviewing toilet break rules and those governing medical timeouts “has been an area of focus in recent months,” calling it a “work in progress.” The WTA women’s tour noted that it changed its bathroom rule to allow one break instead of two during matches, adding: “As with any rule, the WTA is always open to conversation and evolving rules if changes are necessary.”

If Tsitsipas’ purpose was gamesmanship, it worked.

Murray lost focus and, he explained later, the lengthy pause in play cooled him down, causing issues physically for a guy who is 34 and has an artificial hip.

This isn’t the first time the issue has come up with Tsitsipas — or other players. Just one example from Monday: No. 19 seed John Isner left the court for what amounted to a break of more than seven minutes between points after the second set of this three-set loss to Brandon Nakashima in an all-American match Monday.

A little more than a week ago, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev accused Tsitsipas of getting help via phone messages from his father, who’s also his coach, on a lengthy trip to the bathroom during their semifinal at the Cincinnati Masters. Coaching is not allowed during matches.

“He’s gone for 10-plus minutes. His dad is texting on the phone. He comes out, and all of a sudden, his tactic completely changed. It’s not just me, but everybody saw it. The whole game plan changes,” No. 4 seed Zverev said after his win Tuesday. “I’m like: Either it’s a very magical place he goes to or there is communication there.”

Zverev said he views what Tsitsipas does as the “kind of things (that) happen at junior events, at Futures, at Challengers maybe, but not when you’re top three in the world. You are allowed to do that, but it’s like a unwritten rule between players.”

Tsitsipas and Isner did have their defenders.

“We’re drinking. We’re hydrating a lot. We have to use the bathroom. To change my socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirt, everything, the whole nine yards, hat — it takes five, six minutes,” No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S. said after reaching the second round with a win Tuesday. “Then, by the time I walk to and from the court … .”

abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/bathroom-stall-tennis-toilet-break-talk-swirls-flush-79754222

 

Covid-19 Recovery in Athletes | AskThePro

What kind of post-viral symptoms can athletes expect following a Covid-19 infection and what are the implications for a return to sport?

As our understanding of Covid-19 has evolved, it has become abundantly apparent that this is a virus that primarily affects the elderly (over 60-70 years of age), and particularly those with underlying serious health conditions, which have been shown to increase the risk of mortality by around 2.5 to 12-fold regardless of age.

By contrast, fit and healthy individuals under the age of 60 years are largely only mildly affected or may not affected at all. For example, the US Center for Disease Control data shows that in the 18-30 age group, the risks associated with Covid-19 are 100 times less than in the 65-75 age group and 600 times less than in the over 85s age group.

POST VIRAL RISKS

Despite the very low risk of serious illness in Covid-19, younger and fitter individuals can of course still contract the illness mildly, and like all viral infections, there exists the risk that post viral effects (‘Long Covid’) may be experienced.

Covid-19Recovery

Source: Sports Performance Bulletin August 2021

Pitfalls of Early Specialisation for Young Athletes | AskThePro

Are there risks for early specialization in young athletes, and if so, is there a better developmental pathway?

Practice makes perfect – or so they say. However, when it comes to youth sport, can athletes have too much of a good thing?

When high levels of performance in a particular sport are desired, athletes need to spend more time training for that sport. In young athletes,
time constraints (due to the demands of school, exams etc) invariably means focusing or even specializing in that sport to the exclusion of other sports or physical activity pastimes. Indeed, researchers have suggested that the process of specialization is the key mechanism for attaining elite performance in a particular sport, due to the increased volume of time spent in intensive training for that sport.

Source: Sports Performance Bulletin August 2021

EarlySpecialization4YoungAthletes

Tennis United Competition on Tennis Clash | ATP

The WTA and ATP are teaming up with Tennis Clash, the world’s most popular tennis game for mobile platforms, developed by Wildlife Studios, to launch a new co-branded in-game tournament, Tennis United. All participating Tennis Clash players will be able to compete in the Tennis United tournament from 19-23 August.

The tournament gives participants the chance to compete, show off their skills and win prizes in a brand-new virtual arena. The event is the latest in a series of co-branded marketing initiatives between the Tours and runs parallel to the 2021 Western & Southern Open, a WTA 1000 and ATP Masters 1000 combined tournament in Cincinnati.

Qualifying rounds of Tennis United will be held from 19-21 August, where players will compete in 10 matches to reach the finals. The top 50% of players in each bracket will advance to the final round which will be held from 21-23 August. Every player who reaches the final round will be awarded an in-game prize. These prizes will become increasingly rare the higher the tier level the players compete in.

WTA: https://www.wtatennis.com/news/2213435/wta-and-atp-join-forces-with-popular-mobile-game-tennis-clash

Angels & Demons on Court | AskThePro

Sam Stosur and Nick Kyrgios have some new friends in Naomi Osaka (French Open) and gymnast Simone Biles (Olympics).  Athletes who think that they have failed to live up to expectations—whether it be parents, peer group, coach or media.

Regrettably media these days have jumped on the band wagon wanting to label it as “mental illness”.  It’s not, it never was.

Competitive sports put athletes under pressure to perform. And any major championship increases the pressure exponentially.

My good Scottish friend, Johnson Brown, put it succinctly: “you’ve got to ask the question”.  What Johnson meant was to give your opposition a chance to miss. Equally,  you are often asking the same question of yourself.

On a personal note I well remember scouting an opponent with my coach before a major championship final. Says the well meaning coach — “The guy can’t play, you’ll have no problem…”.  Fast forward to next day’s final. There’s a big crowd. It’s 5 all in the third set! Enter my demon: “the guy can’t play” — not a subtle message demon —clearly I can’t play either!!  And I, and the crowd, know it!  Or that’s what my demon wants me to believe.

Choking, jitters, twisties and baulks in major competitions are part of the game. It happens to all athletes from time to time.  We all succumb at some point, under pressure — and particularly when the competition is beyond our level of experience.  It’s very difficult to win a Grand Slam and particularly at your first go. Closer to home recall Bosko playing Rimmo in the club singles final.  Bosko confided he knew what to do but couldn’t execute on the day against a more experienced player.

Quoting Olympic gold medal-winning rower Kim Brennan:  “Everyone has their angel and demon sitting on their shoulder,” she says. “The demon is always going to be there. You train yourself to accept that everyone’s got them. I bet Ariarne Titmus has her demons. But you get comfortable with it. You say, “Hi old friend, I knew you were coming. That’s nice. But I’m going to keep doing what I’ve trained myself to do’.”

Therein lies part of the answer (training/process) about how to handle competitive pressure.

Research shows us that our minds contain two systems. The first acts instinctively and requires little effort — it’s based on our evolutionary fight or flight tendencies—and easily fueled by our demon.  The second (our angel) is more deliberate and requires much more of our attention.

Our thoughts and actions vary depending on which of the two systems is in control of our brain at the time.  The key question then is how to ‘reset’ Mildred to Angel mode when competing. By the way, part of the solution is to ‘name’ your fears and move the goal posts. Mildred is the name I give to my mind, really the first brain that ‘runs the system’.

Another personal note: “I’ve never beaten Jimmy Parker” says my dubs partner before we have to play a USTA dubs championship final.  Parker has just won the World singles championship for the age group.  You mean ‘Jimmy Buffet’ says Pam, using humour to diminish the power of his name before we take to the court.  It was a hard match but we managed a win.

You’re more creative and intuitive when you’re in a better mood. When you’re in a better mood (Angel), the part of the mind that is alert and analytical tends to relax. That cedes control of Mildred to her more intuitive and quicker thinking capacity — key to competitive tennis!

So how do you reset Mildred under pressure. You’ve got 25 seconds between points, 90 seconds when changing ends.

Rhythm is the key here. Normal sinus rhythm is 60 beats a minute. This is the rate when your breathing and heart rate are in sync.  Under stress, this can change dramatically — eg shortness of breath in panic mode.

Most players have a natural playing rhythm. Agassi played very fast, Djokovic and Nadal much slower than Federer. Barty plays fast.

Serving is the one time you actually have control of the point — witness Djokovic’s 12 plus ball bounces during a tie breaker.  He is trying to sync his rhythm. So apart from ‘buying time’ by bouncing the ball, what are some other ways to reset Mildred.

Several years ago, we had the ‘Russian Ritual’. Recall Sharapova turning her back to the court/opponent and adjusting her strings for a few seconds. Or more recently Nadal’s approach which is to adjust his gear and brush his ear before serving.

A better way is to monitor/relax your breathing.  Recall from above that you’re trying to keep your heart and head (no pun intended) in sync.

I teach a basic 4/7/8 breath schedule to calm Mildred down when players feel under pressure. Breathe in to a long count of 4, hold for 7 and breath out, stretching your diaphragm for a count of 8.  Repeat as often as necessary.

Lastly, you have to learn to ‘play’ rather than to ‘hit strokes’.  Recall our Olympic rower Kim Brennan’s comment above about ‘training yourself’.  Perfection is to learn to ‘play on the other side of the net’ which few achieve.

Too often we are so focused on our own game (and particularly strokes) that we forget that we are competing against other players.  Hence the old adage: ‘a good player will always beat a good hitter’. But that’s a much bigger topic for another day.