The Tennis Parent’s Bible

Most parents spend the majority of their time, money and energy in developing their children’s fundamental strokes — focussing on ‘how to hit the ball’.

However, in today’s competitive game, a lack of success is most often the result of a lack of understanding on ‘how to play’ — to build a game based on each child’s unique set of skills: size, strength, speed.  To complete the picture, most kids come with under developed mental and emotional components — to deal with adversity, disappointments, injuries and losing.  Championship tennis is very much a microcosm of life  writ large.

The Tennis Parent’s Bible (Frank Giampaolo) is designed to assist parents (and coaches) better understand the mental and emotional complexities of raising a tennis athlete. While it was published a little while ago, even so, its advice to parents remains evergreen.

It is a comprehensive guide to becoming a world class tennis parent!  Yep, parents have to learn as well!!

Click on the link below and enjoy the read!
Tennis Whisperer

TheTennisParentsBible2ndEdition

 

 

 

Roger Federer’s Workout Routine – Sporting Ferret

We’re going to look at some of Roger Federer’s favorite exercises that have helped him retain elite levels of fitness in a professional career spanning over 23 years, covering warm-ups, exercises for mobility, agility, and strength training.

 

How Roger Federer Warms Up

Whether you’re a professional athlete or weekend warrior, warming up before undertaking intense exercise is essential in helping to improve your performance and avoiding injuries.

Though Roger Federer has an army of nutritionists, personal trainers, and coaches, his warm-up exercises are basic moves that are easy to do but have multiple benefits.

Jump Rope: Jump rope is an excellent exercise for your cardiovascular system and agility. Federer likes to start off slowly and work his way up to ‘double-unders’.

Butt Kicks: A simple yet effective warm-up exercise perfect for elevating your heart rate and getting some heat into your quads.

Stretches: Dynamic stretching is best performed once your muscles are warmed up a little. Avoid static stretching as it can negatively impact your workout and fatigue your muscles.

Side-Line Sprints: This exercise not only builds a bulletproof cardiovascular system, but it’s also known to pack on muscle and get the body used to sudden changes of direction, which is essential on the tennis court. This intense exercise is best done as the last part of your warm-up.

 

Roger Federer’s Favorite Exercises

Medicine ball Shuffle: Roger Federer uses the medicine ball shuffle (passing a medicine back and forth while shuffling sideways) with his coach as a way to build core stability, arm strength, and coordination.

Lateral Band Walks: With resistance bands, like the Victorembands, wrapped around his legs and feet set at shoulder-width apart, Roger Federer performs lateral band walks to increase his hip stability and knee-joint strength.

Cone Drills: Federer’s workout routine includes cone drills to sharpen his agility by using cones as markers for fast-paced direction changing, while simultaneously practicing his forehand and backhand.

Side lunges & Twists: Using a medicine ball to tax his muscles further, Roger performs side lunges with a twist for balance, coordination, and isolating his hamstrings, glutes, and quads.

Trampoline Volleys: Standing on one leg on a trampoline, Federer practices volleying the tennis ball to a partner. He believes it helps his balance and hand-eye coordination.

Racket Drills: Practice makes perfect, and Roger Federer’s fitness coach, Pierre Paganini, runs racket drills with the 20 grand slam winner to make sure his forehand, backhand, groundstroke, and volleys are as sharp as possible.

HIIT: Or ‘High-Intensity Interval Training is a series of cardiovascular exercises performed at maximum intensity for periods of 10-to-15 seconds followed by a rest period of around 45 seconds. Federer does HIIT to build explosive power for short but taxing points within a tennis match.

Jogging: While jogging is not high on Roger’s list of popular exercises, building cardiovascular endurance is essential for top tennis players. Though much of the game is played over short, intense time periods, tennis matches can last for hours.

 

Rest & Recovery

Roger Federer didn’t become a top athlete by exercising alone; he achieved elite status by recovering properly from consistently intense workouts and letting his body adapt to the stimulation.

If you want to recover sufficiently, you need a balanced and nutritious diet and proper sleep. Federer eats whole foods healthily, lean protein for muscle growth, and complex carbs for energy and endurance while getting a minimum of ten hours of sleep per night.

Following Roger Federer’s training routine might not lead you to win Wimbledon, but it will help improve your overall health and fitness, which will lead to gains on the tennis court.

www.sportingferret.com/2021/03/29/roger-federers-workout-routine/

ATP: Why is my game so up and down?

A question we get all the time is why is my game so up and down — particularly as we age.

What is the common denominator with changing conditions, newer balls, various styles of opponents — your ability to watch the ball. In fact, the stats are 90% of errors are caused by players not watching the ball.

No matter your age – it is never too late or too early to learn how to REALLY watch the ball.

Here’s a few basic tips to help you start improve your watching — and even out your game.

Everyone has a Dominant Eye leading to shot preference and, typically a forehand, since most of us are cross dominated.  How do I determine which eye is dominant?

  • To minimize effect of eye dominance, be at right angles to the direction from which the ball is coming — particularly on service return and volleys.  If watch any of the Big 4, you’ll see that change their return positions depending on whether they are returning from the Forehand or Backhand sides.

Move your eyes, rather than your head. Moving your head loses time for shot preparation.

 

  • Try to hit the ball in front so you minimize turning your head — and consequently hitting the ball consistently late — particularly on your non dominant side. Lefties have notoriously weaker back hands for this reason!

These two tips are basic Ball Watching 101 to help you both play better — and more consistently!

Cheers,
The Tennis Whisperer

 

The World’s Best Tennis Players Are Serving Balls Into Hotel Mattresses

Two weeks of quarantine is a professional athlete’s worst nightmare.

In the spring, after my beloved, overpriced New York exercise studios closed, one grim “In these unprecedented times” email after another, I did what any aspiring workout enthusiast with a little cash to burn might do: I got out my credit card and I bought monthly subscriptions to three different online classes.

The era of kidding myself that I would actually exercise at home had begun.

I started with a virtual edition of a class I had attended in person. I pushed my bed into the farthest corner of the room, away from the dresser where I’d set up my laptop, freeing up the only six remaining inches of space in which I could move. I lit a candle. I shut the door. I lifted my arms to begin—well, first I paused to check if my neighbor could see me through the window—then I began. A few minutes later, my partner texted from the next room to tell me that I was stomping and breathing loudly enough to make an off-camera appearance on his Zoom call. Also, I was scaring the dog. That was the end of that experiment.

Fortunately for my checking account, my livelihood doesn’t hinge on my performance as an athlete. On January 16, a flight from Doha, Qatar, full of tennis players and their coaches touched down in Melbourne for the Australian Open, one of the four biggest tennis tournaments of the year. Soon after, all of the passengers received an email: Someone on the plane had tested positive for COVID-19. It was the third flight headed to the tournament on which this happened. All the players going to Australia knew that they would encounter a “modified” quarantine protocol, giving them just five hours outside their hotel room each day (strictly choreographed for the athletes to get to and from the practice courts and gym with as little contact as possible). But in light of the coronavirus cases, the Australian government would require everyone on the affected flights to “hard quarantine” for 14 days. No exceptions, including the freedom to leave their hotel room, would be made for the players. After all, Australia’s near elimination of the coronavirus didn’t happen by accident. Seventy-two athletes, 14 days of court-free-tennis fitness to maintain. No hitting partners, no physiotherapy visits, no kidding.

 

A microcosm of pandemic absurdity was born. Before last week, Google results for “How to train for a Grand Slam in your hotel room” would have turned up empty. Searching that phrase now is to encounter a treasure trove of almost voyeuristic delights. Image upon image is available of some of your favorite players—in living quarters approximately the size of a falsely advertised Manhattan studio apartment—serving balls into propped up mattressessquat-pressing a leather reading chair, and celebrating negative COVID-19 test results with pizza delivery. The athletes received stationary bikes courtesy of the event organizer, Tennis Australia, to help with indoor cardio. The American player Tennys Sandgren plucked his from the floor and lifted it over his head. Heather Watson, a top British player, completed a 5K by literally running back and forth across her room.

At any hour of the day, the players are on social media, posting about boredom or anxiety, just like the rest of us fed up with quarantine. They get stir-crazy. They stop shaving. The occasional grumbling appears in a fleeting Instagram story, but for the most part, during all of my swiping, I found everyone in admirable spirits, the sheer athleticism of their footwork drills hypnotic. Sometimes the makeshift circumstances can get pretty noisy. “In the beginning, you would hear sounds occasionally, more from players playing video games, but now it’s constant background noise,” Andrea Petkovic, one of the athletes in modified quarantine, told me. “Players hitting balls against the walls, players throwing shit around, players jumping, players running in place. It would be hilarious if you were not about to have a nap but can’t because the person upstairs decided to do their daily workout.”

Other players have dropped the gimmicks for more typical quarantine workouts. The New Zealand player Artem Sitak, set to play doubles in the tournament, arrived in Melbourne on a flight from Los Angeles. After he learned that someone on his flight had tested positive and that he would be stuck in his hotel room for two weeks, he posted a thoughtful video explaining how he’d known the risks of traveling to Australia mid-pandemic. I reached out to Sitak on Instagram to get a sense of his daily routine. His three-hour workouts, which he starts after lunch, sound vaguely like something I would never make it through at a CrossFit gym I would never attend. First, he bikes at high intensity for an hour (admittedly not his favorite activity; he prefers to run). Then he switches to a series of wall squats, lunges, jump lunges, free weights, and medicine-ball and core work. Everything is wrapped up with stretching and foam rolling. And, like most of us, it’s Netflix before bed.

Isn’t staying in shape incredibly challenging to do in quarantine? “It’s all in the mindset,” Sitak assured me in an Instagram message. “I decided on day one that it wouldn’t be difficult. I’ll have a set program each day and I’ll stick to it. Now here we are on day twelve and I feel great mentally.” Oh, okay. But seriously, isn’t staying in shape incredibly challenging to do in quarantine?

I asked Paul Annacone, a former coach to Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, what effect the forced quarantine might have on players. He wasn’t particularly optimistic. “I can’t imagine not hitting a tennis ball, or even not being outside, for 14 days, all within a couple days of playing a professional tennis tournament,” he said. (Annacone now coaches Taylor Fritz, an American up-and-comer who is playing in the tournament but is not one of the 72 players in hard quarantine.)

The Australian Open starts on February 8, so the players currently in their rooms will have more than a week to make the most of their court access once their isolation period is over. But still, two weeks in the lead-up to a Grand Slam without the regular rhythms of daily practice matches and physiotherapy, or fine-tuning responses to a hitting partner’s strokes and movements, is a significant disadvantage. Many professional tennis players pick up their first racket in early childhood—Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both started playing when they were 4 years old—and it’s a reasonable expectation that some may go years or even decades without spending two weeks off the court. Otherworldly talent certainly helps (cue Federer), but for most pros, success is largely the result of consistency and relentless repetition. One tactic to fend off rust, Petkovic suggested, is to play “shadow tennis.” “Either actually take the racket and swing while you imagine hitting balls,” she said, “or just hold it in your hand when you’re rewatching Friends for the umpteenth time. This way the body gets used to it and it won’t feel so foreign once you step on the court.”

The rose-tinted view is that this unexpected period of rest could actually do the players some good. During the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing, the American runner Shalane Flanagan came down with food poisoning and had to forgo training to sleep and rehydrate before the 10,000-meter race. She won the bronze. Not bad. Could there potentially be any benefits to all of this? I posed the question to Rennae Stubbs, the former top doubles player in the world.

“None whatsoever,” she said.

Meanwhile, for those of us without the glory and the glamour of a Grand Slam to train for, we do what we can. A few nights ago, as I hunched forward and scrolled through Twitter for player updates, a flash of movement caught my eye. It was my next-door neighbor jumping up and down in his living room. Burpees. Unmistakable. I squinted, and saw the familiar outline of a pumped-up instructor on his television. At least he was trying.

CAIRA CONNER is a writer based in New York City.
 

 

How Swiatek’s sports psychologist honed her mental game

WTA Insider speaks with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz about the perils of professional tennis and the importance of training the mind as much as the body.

Daria Abramowicz can think of no better research lab for sports psychology than the high-stakes, high-stress world of Grand Slam tennis. The 33-year-old Warsaw native has served as Polish phenom Iga Swiatek’s sports psychologist for nearly two years, traveling with Swiatek’s team to big events to help address the challenges of playing on the tour.

The 19-year-old has been an unstoppable force in Paris, booking a spot in her first Slam final in just her second main draw appearance at Roland Garros. Unseeded and ranked No.54, Swiatek paved her own way over the fortnight, defeating last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova in the first, playing pitch-perfect tennis to oust top seed Simona Halep in a 6-1, 6-2 masterclass, in the Round of 16, and showing no signs of nerves or pressure as she played as the clear favorite to defeat Martina Trevisan in the quarterfinals and Nadia Podoroska in the semifinals. Swiatek is now the first Polish woman to make the Roland Garros in the Open and just the second all-time, following Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, who was a runner-up in 1939.

It is rare to see a young athlete not only employ a full-time sports psychologist but to also speak so openly about her struggles and successes in handling the psychological strains of being a professional athlete.

“I just believe that mental toughness is probably the most important thing in tennis right now because everybody can play on the highest level,” Swiatek told reporters after her fourth-round win. “But the ones that are tough and that can handle the pressure are the biggest ones.

“She just made me smarter. I know more about sports and I know more about psychology and I can understand my own feelings and I can say them out loud.”

“So I always wanted to develop in that way. I was working with some other psychologists, two probably when I was younger. But Daria was the best I could get because she just understands me very well and she knows me very well and she can kind of read my mind, which is weird.

“She was a sailor so she has experience in sports and she was a coach so she has the full package. She just made me smarter. I know more about sports and I know more about psychology and I can understand my own feelings and I can say them out loud.

“She just makes my confidence level higher.”

Read more –>

Serving Is Mental. So Stop Thinking So Much.

Some of the best players in the world have struggled with one of the most basic shots in tennis at the French Open.

PARIS — Raffaella Reggi rose to 13th in the world in women’s tennis in the late 1980s despite a serve so balky she once recorded 28 double faults in a match in Rome. With the shrill voices of fans pleading with her to use an underhand motion still ringing in her ears, Reggi said she walked into the press room afterward and professed, “I have no idea how to serve.”

Watching a player repeatedly start points by hitting balls into the net or, in the German Alexander Zverev’s case, beyond the baseline, can be excruciating.

“I had some flashbacks,” Reggi said of Zverev’s double-fault-filled performance in his United States Open final defeat to Dominic Thiem.

It’s akin to actors forgetting their lines during a soliloquy. You sit there, helpless to assist, willing them to get back in the flow. If all the court’s a stage, double faults are a tennis player’s inner heckler lashing out.

Mary Carillo, the NBC analyst and former French Open doubles champion, said, “It’s almost always the same culprit: nerves.”

How the anxiety seeps into the technical execution varies. It can be a wandering ball toss that throws off one’s rhythm or a tightening of the limbs that makes it harder to bend the knees and execute the natural arm swing. The challenge for those struggling with their serves, Carillo said, is to fight the instinct to bend the ball into the box slowly and carefully and instead accelerate their racket head speed.

“More action at the point of contact gives more margin, not less,” she said.

The serve is the only stroke in the sport where the player exercises complete control of the moment. It is a stand-alone action, so when the moment goes awry, there is stand-alone accountability.

The 23-time major singles champion Serena Williams, who has one of the most potent serves in the game, said that on those rare occasions when her best weapon is misfiring, “My brain is like: ‘Oh, my God! I never miss this!’”

The embarrassment of being a professional unable to execute this elemental shot faithfully can be acute.

“I mean, in practice I make the serves,” said an exasperated Coco Gauff, who opened the French Open stalking the baseline between service points yelling, “Focus!” as she piled up 12 double faults in a victory against Johanna Konta.

In the next round, Gauff had 19 in a three-set loss to Martina Trevisan of Italy. The 16-year-old Gauff has averaged almost 15 doubles in her last four matches.

“It’s just confidence, just a mind thing,” said Gauff, who added: “I don’t really think it’s a technical thing. I mean, we talk to a lot of people. Sometimes I mess up and hit a bad toss. I mean, when I’m out there on the court, I know I double-fault a lot, but I try not to think of it.”

Read more —>

Whisperer Serving Tip: Lighten up on your grip to accelerate the racket head. Most players ‘choke the chicken under stress’ particularly on serve.

Are Underhand Serves Underhanded? Tennis Is Opening Up to the Crafty Tactic

Players concede that the serve can be a good tactic against players who stand far, far back from the baseline. And they know when opponents are trying to show them up.

Neither the pioneer nor the present-day popularizer of the underhand serve has been in Paris this year during the French Open.

Michael Chang, who won the tournament with a clutch use of the serve in 1989, is back in the United States, spending time with his wife, Amber, and their three young children. Nick Kyrgios is back in Australia, spending time on social media as a freelance tennis critic, which should make for some testy conversations with his peers when he finally does return to the circuit in person.

But Chang’s and Kyrgios’s legacy has been on frequent display in the first week of the Grand Slam tournament.

Underhand serves, once broadly considered underhanded in the sport, have been popping up in the autumnal gloom like mushrooms in the French countryside.

Peak season may have been Wednesday. In the stretch of a couple of hours, you could watch Alexander Bublik hold serve with an underhander (it seems time for a punchy, one-word term), see Sara Errani save a match point with one and watch Mackenzie McDonald save nothing at all with a floating, sacrificial offering of an underhander that the 12-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal pounced on for a return winner en route to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

“If he’s winning, it’s a good tactic; if he’s losing, it’s a bad tactic,” Nadal said. He added that, for example, it was “not a good tactic” for Mackenzie. For Bublik, he said, “if that works,” it was “a good tactic.”

Unfortunately for Bublik, it did not work often enough. He lost his second-round match to Lorenzo Sonego in a duel that was also brimming with other tennis exotica, like serve-and-volley tactics and tweeners.

Read more —>

Ask the Pro: Volley 101

Here’s a quick guide to the art of the volley:

  1. Volley Ready Position: The proper ‘ready position’ is to make sure your elbows are in front of your body.  Too often players stand too upright with their elbows tucked in behind their body — the result is they are slow to react because they have to move their body out of the way to hit the ball. Elbows in front increases your range of motion and speed to the volley.
  2. Move Your Eyes on the Volley:  It takes too much time to move your head, and you can’t recover quickly enough for the next shot.

Great to see a slow and steady improvement in our players in our Ladies Clinic practising these tips.

Cheers,
The Tennis Whisperer

 

ATP: Quick Guide to the Art of Doubles Play

  1. Manage the ‘real estate’ by understanding the 80% Rule.  80% of shots are in a 2-metre circle around the centre serve box!  Given a choice to defend always move to protect the centre of the court.  You might not make the shot even so you’ll have a play most times!
  2. Doubles is a Team Sport because one player gets to stand in a winning position without hitting a ball! The server’s, and the receiver’s job is to get the ball to their partner at the net. So much easier to win points at the net!
  3. Be a  ‘Threat” by your court presence.  Impose yourself when you’re at the net to intimidate the opposition.  For example Howard (big guy dominating the net) or Netto (fast guy moving around on the net) can cause opponents to make more errors!
  4. 80% First Serves.  Take a little off your first serve to start the point and serve 2/3 of your serves preferably to the opponent’s weaker side. Statswise, you’re more likely to win the point, you have more time to reach your volley position AND your partner has a greater chance of hitting a winning volley — a threefer! Besides your opposition is much more apprehensive about returning the first serve.
  5. Deep to Deep, Short to Short.  When you’re deep behind the baseline, simply return the balls higher over the net and deep within your opponent’s court.  A lob is a great shot to accomplish this particularly when your opponents are at the net.  Conversely, when you are drawn forward into the service box, try to keep the ball short, and preferably on the ground, so your opponents have to hit up — and you can volley down to finish the point.

Cheers,
MTC Tennis Whisperer

ProTip: When Should I Attack or Defend?

Question: I hit the ball fairly well but often am unsure of whether to ‘attack’ or ‘defend’ while playing a point.  What’s a basic strategy to make this choice simple?

Ninety percent of players spend their time on court trying to improve their technique, and particularly so when their serve or backhand breaks down under pressure or they commit a lot of errors. Often the “cure” suggested by their pro is more stroke lessons to either improve the suspect stroke or cut down on errors.  The next 9% or so figure out what the strengths of their game are: strong serve, volley, forehand weapon, speed around court, and try to play their strength(s) as much as possible against their opponent’s weakness. In case you have been doing the maths, the last 1% have actually figured out how to play/adjust against their opponent’s game.

Regardless of your strengths, your basic game starts with a clear understanding of when to ‘attack’ or ‘defend’ since ultimately success in tennis goes to the player who hits the ball over the net and into the court the last time! The so-called ‘pusher’ understands this very well and wins when his/her opponent overplays the ball — and their errors and frustration increase exponentially .

Many years ago, Billie Jean King wrote about a simple ‘traffic light strategy’ of dividing the court into green (safe), yellow (caution) and red (danger) zones. The strategy was based on a player’s ability to get close enough to the net to safely hit down on the ball. 

Here’s a simple figure I prepared some time ago to illustrate the basic principle:

It’s fairly obvious that a taller player has an obvious advantage by being able to see ‘over the net’ from deeper in the court. It also follows why the pusher wins if you are trying to constantly attack from the baseline — the odds are stacked against you! 

You’ll have noticed that in the modern game, the top players use more topspin to drive the ball up and over the net when closer to the baseline to overcome the disadvantage of being deeper in the court.

To be certain you understand the principle here’s a side view:

Hence, the simplest game plan of all then, is to figure out where your red, yellow, and green zones are and play accordingly.

When you are in the red zonedefend and keep the ball in play; in the yellow zone, hit approach shots to take control of the net by moving into your green zone. When in the green zone with a ball bouncing higher than the net, attack!  

This game plan also goes by another name — percentage tennis!  It may not be spectacular as ‘first strike tennis’, but success has a nice warm feel to it!

And even if you are trying to play ‘first strike tennis’, there are many times — and particularly on big points, when ‘first strike tennis’ is NOT your best option! Just watch how Roger and Rafa play the big points in tie breakers or when down set point or behind on serve.

Become THE ‘smarter player’. It’s always nice to come off with a win regardless of how poorly/well you hit the ball. In fact Brad Gilbert wrote a book about playing smart when you are outgunned. He called it –“Winning Ugly”.

Rob Muir, USPTA
MTC Tennis Whisperer

Contact Rob Muir