Web Site Changes

Following the ownership transfer of the Manly Tennis Centre (MTC),  MTC has established its own independent website. You can find it here: https://manlytenniscentre.com.au/.
Consequently, the Manly Lawn website has now been revised to incorporate these updates. You’ll will notice some changes in the Menu choices.
The Tennis Whisperer section, previously part of Manly Tennis Centre subdomain, has relocated to its new digital home at www.tenniswhisperer.com.  This website teaches tennis strategy to players of various ages and skill levels.
Our profound gratitude goes to the professionals, coaches, playing partners, and cherished friends
who have generously shared their tennis knowledge and experiences over the course of five decades.
These invaluable insights form the foundation of the strategies outlined in this new website.

USPTA Quick Tip: Soft Hands on Volleys | AskThePro

USPTA Elite Professional Katie Dellich shares a trick on getting students to understand why they shouldn’t hold their racquet so tightly on the volley!
Good luck,

Rob, USPTA Pro
Tennis Whisperer

What Does it Take to Create an Elite Junior Player? | AskThePro

We were fortunate to watch several promising juniors compete in the Club Championships over the past several weeks.  One parent watching the matches asked this week’s question.  What Does it Take to Create an Elite Junior Player?

Creating an elite junior tennis player involves a blend of talent, dedication, and a specialized teaching program.

The Muir Tennis Academy (MTA), drawing from years of experience, developed a tennis curriculum that emphasized building on individual strengths.  The program was very successful in creating college athletes with the payoff that tennis paid for their education.  Some even went on to become College Coaches themselves, one even has his own tennis academy.

The approach mirrored a multiyear academic education, with structured semester programs focusing on seven key elements. The curriculum allowed for tracking a child’s progress and tailoring teaching to their specific needs/strengths, all while incorporating healthy competitive elements.

Here’s a copy of the curriculum.

The curriculum was divided into two main sections: learning the Fundamentals and Building a Game based on the fundamentals.  Classes were held biweekly for groups of 6 – 8 players.

1. Fundamentals

  • Ball Watching: This involved teaching players about eye-hand coordination and focus, with drills designed to track the ball from the opponent’s racket to their own.
  • Balance and Rhythm: The training here included exercises to improve physical coordination, footwork, balance, and rhythm, enhancing agility and court movement.

2. Building A Game

  • Applied Fundamentals: This step involved integrating basic skills into more complex drills, combining ball watching and balance with hitting exercises to simulate real-game scenarios.
  • Strategy Essentials: Players learned tactical aspects of the game, understanding different shots, their appropriate use, and how to anticipate the opponent’s moves.
  • Singles Strategy: The curriculum focused on specific singles play strategies, such as court management, exploiting opponents’ weaknesses, and enhancing serve and return games.
  • Doubles Strategy: Emphasized teamwork, positioning, and communication in doubles, teaching effective partnership strategies, including court coverage and shot selection.

This structured approach fostered learning and development, focusing more on the “experience” rather than just winning or achieving high rankings.

At the end of the day, the role of the coach is to help develop a ‘good person’ with life skills. If they happen to become an elite tennis player too, that’s a bonus.  Good luck.

Rob Muir
Tennis Whisperer

The Dreaded Tennis Elbow | AskThePro

Recently, I have a reoccurrence of the dreaded tennis elbow. What can I do about it?

Unfortunately, sooner or later, most of us have to suffer through the dreaded tennis elbow.  Between 10 and 50 percent of players suffer from tennis elbow so you’re not alone. And as most of us find out – rest doesn’t help.

Tennis elbow occurs when repetitive forces cause micro-trauma injuries to the tissues around the elbow.  Common initiating factors include: using a new racket, using nylon strings that are too tight, oversized grips, playing in the wind, hitting ‘heavy wet balls’.

In addition, if you suddenly increase your playing intensity and couple this with poor technique, especially the backhand and serve, you reduce your body’s ability to withstand these forces and develop tennis elbow. Striving for that little extra can really hurt you!

In a study by Kelley (1994, “sufferers showed poor body positioning and greater involvement of their forearm extensor muscles. They also showed rapid change from wrist flexion to wrist extension when striking the ball and early in the follow-through. This placed the wrist in an unstable position to withstand repeated forces. Importantly, the backhand stroke heightened these differences.”

If you are suffering from tennis elbow, you will have pain radiating down the lateral side of your elbow or stiffness in this area. Your symptoms may disappear if you stop playing, but this is obviously self-defeating. If you consult a doc, they’ll suggest anti-inflammatory drugs, injections, and RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method. These, however, merely treat the symptoms and don’t address the underlying factors that caused the injury.

Another paper by Noteboom (1994) suggested 5 stages of treatment for tennis elbow: 1. Reduce pain, 2. Reduce inflammation, 3. Induce the healing process, 4. Maintain fitness, and 5. Control force placed on injured tissues.

Part of reducing the pain and inflammation is to get the inflamed tendons and muscles to ‘release’ (this is why some people have success with acupuncture). Typically the muscles and tendons are displaced away from your body causing your arm to be ‘bent’ and exacerbating the stress on the elbow point. You need to find the pressure (i.e pain) point, and gradually increase the pressure there until you feel the muscle release – sometimes takes a couple of minutes depending on how extreme your case!.

Repeat liberally and at the same time, start hot massage beginning at the wrist and gradually work your way up to the elbow to both release and stimulate blood flow to the muscles and tendons. Be patient, since there’s typically little blood flow to tendons which is why it takes time for the inflammation to go down. Gradually you’ll see your arm “unbend” as the muscles and tendons return to proper alignment.

In my own case, it takes about 10 days to get my elbow in reasonable shape if I’m diligent. Thereafter, after I’ve completed stages 1-3, I use a series of stretching exercises coupled with reducing the force in hitting the ball.  Racket stringing technology is developing all the time and I’ve found that one of Gamma’s strings, Live Wire, definitely eases the force on my arm.  While it might costs a few $$ more for a restring, even so, you’ll easily make up for this in frustration and injury reduction.

Candidly, putting the right strings in your racket is worth at least a point-a-game advantage in power, control, and injury prevention! If you can afford the technology, buy it!! Likewise, if you worried about your technique, spend a few $$$ on lessons.

Rob, USPTA Pro

Tennis Whisperer

How Do I Handle Match Play Distractions? | AskThePro

This week’s inquiry comes from a club member participating in our club championships. During the heat of a match, my opponent unexpectedly erupted with incomprehensible outbursts, visibly losing their temper, and impulsively hurling their racket against the fence. This unsettling incident disrupted my concentration, leading to my subsequent loss of three consecutive points and ultimately the entire match. How should I effectively deal with such situations in the future?

When your adversary is unable to defeat you with their racket alone, it is crucial not to permit them to discover alternative means of gaining an advantage. Rather than succumbing to frustration due to your opponent’s unsportsmanlike behaviour, consider seizing the opportunity it presents.

Competitive tennis is all about matchups and your ability to discern your opponent’s psychological state. This not only allows you to draw energy from your opponent’s mental struggles and maintain your composure when trailing, but also enables you to adjust the game’s tempo to create a more favourable matchup during play.

In essence, when your opponent exhibits visible signs of distress, you should maintain a brisk pace to keep them off balance. Conversely, during pivotal moments or when they are gaining an advantage, you should slow down the tempo. So, how can you identify these tell-tale signs of your opponent being “visibly upset”?

You encountered a few distractions in your match, so here is a list of common indicators that your opponent is feeling pressure (remember, these may also apply to you):

  1. Abuse: Engaging in abusive racket behaviour such as throwing or hitting it against the net.
  2. Control: Making critical errors at crucial times, double faults, or trying to steer the ball instead of hitting it.
  3. Mouthing: Negative self-talk, shouting, or using abusive language.
  4. Negative: Refusing to accept errors or calls, and dwelling on mistakes.
  5. Physical: Inability to relax, deliberately making bad calls, or rushing play.
  6. Rushing: Exhibiting signs of agitation and hurrying the game.
  7. Visual: Expressing dismay at errors, displaying negative body language, or making mocking gestures.

Many of these behaviours are childish and attention-seeking in nature, similar to behaviours not tolerated outside of tennis. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor your opponent’s conduct throughout a match to gain insights into their mental state and how they handle pressure.

Maintain your composure during crucial moments. Often, we internalize our focus, competing against ourselves. Avoid sending unintentional signals of frustration to your opponents, as this can boost their confidence. Players like Federer and Nadal excel at managing on-court distractions.

There is great value in staying composed, focusing on your own game, and minimizing distractions, whether they originate from your side of the court or your opponent’s.

Good luck,

Rob, USPTA Pro
Tennis Whisperer


Small tweaks to your fitness habits can have long-term benefits, writes Danielle Friedman
Getting older doesn’t have to mean moving less. The key to longstanding fitness , experts say, is envisioning the kind of athlete you want to be 20, 30, even 40 years from now, and training smartly in the present for that future.
‘‘ If you’re dreaming of retiring and hiking the mountains of Hawaii, make sure you can do that now, first and foremost,’’ says Kate Baird, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
Starting in your 30s, you lose between about 3 per cent and 8 per cent of your muscle mass per decade, and more after turning 60. Bone mineral density also starts to decline in midlife, which puts you at risk for fractures and osteoporosis. Your VO2 max, or the heart and lungs’ ability to take in oxygen and convert it into energy, decreases as well. Making a few changes to your habits early can slow these declines and prepare you for decades of physical activity, Baird says.
Here’s how to get started, according to exercise scientists and trainers. The best way to be proactive about your future is to assess your fitness today, says Grayson Wickham, a physical therapist in New York City, and the creator of Movement Vault, a stretching and mobility app.
The four key areas to check are your body’s strength, stability, mobility and cardiorespiratory fitness , he says, which all typically decline with age. ‘‘ The human body is extremely resilient,’’ Wickham says. ‘‘ But the double-edged sword there is that it’s so resilient that we can get away with a lot – until we can’t .’’
For a professional fitness evaluation, make an appointment with an exercise physiologist, physical therapist or certified personal trainer, all of whom can then work with you to create a personalised training program.
Testing one’s fitness can shine a light on potential weaknesses or areas in need of boosting, Wickham says, helping to prevent injury before it happens. For example, if your stability is shaky, start doing balanceboosting exercises like single-leg stands and weight shifts, or workouts like tai chi and Pilates. Or if you’re less flexible than you desire, take up yoga or devote more time to dynamic stretches.
The best way to measure cardiorespiratory fitness is to test your VO2 max with a doctor or an exercise physiologist, Baird says. Many wearable fitness trackers, including some Apple Watches and Fitbits, offer estimated VO2 max readings as well.
As you get older, you should, above all, strive to exercise 150 minutes per week with moderate-tovigorous intensity aerobic workouts and two sessions of strength training (15-20 minutes per session), which together can boost both longevity and quality of life.
But how you spend that time should look different from day to day or week to week, says Sarah Witkowski, an exercise physiologist and associate professor at Smith College. Even small changes can be beneficial , she adds. If you typically do lunges, try lunging in different directions some days or combining them with overhead dumbbell presses. If you like to walk, once or twice a week choose a hillier route or walk as fast as you can.
Strength training can be a veritable fountain of youth if you approach it strategically. When we’re younger, our motivations are often aesthetic, says Amanda Thebe, a personal trainer based in Canada who specialises in working with people over 40. But focusing only on isolated muscle groups, such as abs or biceps, often neglects muscles we can’t see that contribute to health and strength. ‘‘ There’s nothing wrong with doing your bicep curls and your deltoid raises if you want to be pumped for summer,’’ Thebe says. But balance these exercises with compound movements – exercises that work several joints and muscles at once. ‘‘ Things like a dead lift and a squat,’’ she says. ‘‘ Things that move us up and down, and side to side.’’
Prioritising core muscles beyond the visible abdominals will also contribute to overall strength as we age. Planks are a great option, and pelvic floor exercises help, too.
Source: The New York Times

Developing a Warrior Mode | AskThePro

The mental side of competitive sports is crucial as it directly impacts an athlete’s performance and ability to handle pressure. Developing strong mental resilience, focus, and confidence can often be the differentiating factor between success and failure!

Today’s SMH contained an insightful article on Stuart Board’s development as a professional cricketer. Here’s the relevant teaching extract:

” ….  It’s been a remarkable career for someone who, in his first year of international cricket, was hammered for six consecutive sixes by India’s Yuvraj Singh during the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa. Broad claims that over was the making of him. 

‘‘ It was obviously a pretty tough day . . . I learned loads,’’ Broad recalled. ‘‘ I pretty much based a whole mental routine through that experience, knowing I was left very short as an international performer in that moment. 

I rushed my preparation, I didn’t have any sort of pre-ball routine, I didn’t have any focus. And I started building my sort of ‘warrior mode’ that I call it after that. 

But I think it steeled me up to make me the competitor I am to this day and has driven me forward. 

You obviously go through massive peaks and troughs. But ultimately, I think it’s that bounce-back ability and ability to put poor days behind you because certainly . . . you have a lot more bad days than good days in cricket. You have to be able to deal with them to make sure your good days can flourish …….’’ 

In tennis, like any sport, there are highs and lows, victories and defeats. But it’s the ability to bounce back from setbacks, to learn from the bad days and to develop the resilience needed to thrive in the face of adversity. 

Embracing a “warrior mode” emphasizes the importance of incorporating pre-serve and 4-7-8 breathing rituals to reset one’s determination in overcoming setbacks during matches, ultimately allowing players to persistently seek solutions and maintain a competitive edge.

Good luck.
Rob  Tennis Whisperer

Game Changers: Mastering the Court’s Real Estate | AskThePro

This week’s question comes from a mid level Badge player.  What are the optimal positions on a tennis court during a match? I often find myself in the wrong position during play.

Considering the highly sought-after nature of Manly as a real estate location, we can draw parallels to explain the relative tactical value of court positions using real estate as a simple metaphor.

1. Net Position – “Manly CBD”: The net position in tennis can be compared to a prime location in the real estate market. Being close to the net provides several advantages. Players in this position have greater control over the game, can execute quick volleys, and apply pressure on their opponents with aggressive shots. It’s a desirable location that allows players to dominate the court and dictate the pace of the game.

2. Baseline Position – “Home”: The baseline position in tennis can be likened to living at home. Being at the baseline gives players a bit more space and time to strategize and react to their opponent’s shots. It provides a solid foundation and acts as a starting point for rallies. Players in this position have a good vantage point to analyze the game, set up their shots, and patiently wait for the right opportunity to attack.

3. Mid-Court Position – “Strategic Acquistion”: The mid-court position in tennis can be compared to a strategically located investment property. Being in the mid-court gives players versatility and options. It allows players to quickly transition between defense and offense, covering more ground and maintaining control over the game. Players in this position can take advantage of opportunities and adjust their game plan based on the situation.

4. Approach Shot Position – “Emerging”: The approach shot position in tennis can be likened to a growth area in the real estate market. Being in the approach shot position provides players with the opportunity to move closer to the net and take control of the point. Players in this position can showcase their attacking skills, put pressure on their opponents, and potentially finish points with powerful winners.

5. Defensive Position – “Blue Chip”: The defensive position in tennis can be compared to a safe haven property. Being in a defensive position allows players to absorb their opponent’s shots and extend rallies. It provides a fall back option when the opponent has the upper hand, enabling players to reset and regain control of the point. Players in this position focus on consistency, precision, and strategic shot placement.

In summary: The net position represents a prime location for control and aggression, the baseline position is like the comfort of home with strategy and patience, the mid-court position is a strategically located investment property with versatility, the approach shot position is an emerging growth area with attacking opportunities, and the defensive position acts as a safe haven property for regaining control.

Good luck.
Rob  Tennis Whisperer

Coaching For Life: A Guide to Playing, Thinking, and Being the Best You Can Be | Tennis4Life

Paul Annacone’s book “Coaching For Life: A Guide to Playing, Thinking, and Being the Best You Can Be” delves into his personal journey within the world of tennis. Beyond being an autobiographical account, it serves as a valuable compilation of lessons that can be applied to our everyday lives. Annacone’s close proximity to some of the greatest tennis players has granted him a profound understanding of the core principles that define a true champion.

Starting his coaching career in 1995, Annacone worked alongside the legendary Pete Sampras, a partnership that laid the foundation for his subsequent success. Widely revered as one of the most esteemed mentors in the sport, he has also coached notable players such as Roger Federer, Tim Henman, Sloane Stephens, and presently guides Taylor Fritz, one of the top-ranked players from the United States.

Through his experiences, Annacone offers profound insights into the mindset, strategy, and personal growth required to excel not just in tennis, but in life as well. His book acts as a guide, encouraging readers to tap into their potential and embrace the qualities that propel champions forward. With “Coaching For Life,” Annacone imparts invaluable wisdom garnered from his own journey and his extensive work with some of the game’s finest, inspiring readers to be the best version of themselves in all facets of life.















Where should I stand to receive serve? | AskThePro

This week’s question comes from a mid level Badge player.  Where should I stand to receive serve?  If I stand too far back, I can be aced out wide particular on the forehand court. If I stand too close, I can get overpowered particularly on a big serve?

Pros employ various strategies to returning serve to neutralize the servers advantage. Medvedev/Djokovic/Nadal play a long way back, Federer/Kyrgios/Barty play closer to the baseline.

The following stats chart illustrates the variations in the “neutralizing effect of the serve” based on the returner’s position for either the forehand or backhand court and, for first and second serve. Note the huge difference in the Second Serve position where the server has lost the advantage of the first serve!

Ultimately, the best approach for you is the one that provides you with a long-term advantage in getting into the game and creating the opportunity to win more points.  I teach this as your “Happy Position“.

To optimize your return position and neutralize the server’s advantage, here are a few guidelines to help you find your ‘happy position’:

  1. Assess the server’s tendencies: Observe the server’s patterns, strengths, and weaknesses. Do they often go for powerful serves or rely on placement? Are they consistent with their first serves?  Flat, slice or kick second serve? This information will help you anticipate their shots and allow to adjust your position accordingly.
  2. Consider court positioning: For first serves, standing around 2 to 4 meters behind where the ball bounces in the service box is a good starting point. This allows you to have enough time to react to powerful serves while still being able to cover a wide serve on the forehand court. Standing deeper than 4 meters may make you more vulnerable to wide serves, so find a balance between depth and court coverage.
  3. Adapt to second serves: As the chart shows, second serves often offer greater opportunities for an aggressive return. Here, the optimal return positions are significantly different. Some players excel at taking the ball on the rise, while others prefer a position where the ball has dropped slightly. On average, attempting to take the ball on the rise is much more challenging for club players, so finding a comfortable position where you can consistently make solid contact is key. Experiment with different positions during practice sessions to determine what works best for you.
  4. Focus on the key third hit: Remember that the return is just the beginning of the point. Aim to hit a deep and well-placed return that puts pressure on the server. If you force a short ball on the server’s second hit (the third shot in the point), it opens up opportunities for you (or your partner) to attack with an easy volley or a strong groundstroke.
  5. Be Adaptability: Tennis is a dynamic sport, and your return position should adapt to various factors such as different opponents, court conditions, and serve styles. Stay flexible and be willing to adjust your positioning based on the specific circumstances of each match.

Find your own “happy position,” where you can consistently return the serve and get into the point. This is typically at waist height, while allowing you to move forward into the ball, and around 3 meters from where the serve bounces in the service court! And yes it changes from first to second serve, from opponent to opponent, from day to day as court conditions change!

Good luck,
Rob  Tennis Whisperer

What’s a Good Miss? | AskThePro

I’ve heard you often refer to a lost point as “a good miss”?  Why, you still lost the point!?

It’s understandable that you might question the idea of a “good miss” since losing a point is never ideal. However, the concept of a “good miss” is rooted in strategic thinking and risk management in tennis.

Statistics from Tennis Analytics show that hitting the ball into the net is one of the most common errors in tennis.  If you study the table below, two lightbulb moments will jump out at you:

1.  The vast majority of points, at any level of the game, are lost (typically 90% of points are lost!), and

2.  Over 40% of those errors result from hitting the ball into the net.


By avoiding this FUNDAMENTAL error of hitting the ball into the net, players increase their chances of winning the point. Therefore, a “good miss” refers to a shot that does not result in a net error but may still end up out of  court.

By aiming to avoid the net and hitting with margin, players can reduce the risk of making unforced errors and increase their chances of winning the point.  Moreover, they give the opposition a change to miss and make an error.

Of course, a shot that lands in the ideal location is always the goal, but it’s not always achievable. In those situations, a “good miss” can be a strategic and effective approach to minimize mistakes.

In summary, a “good miss” is not about celebrating a lost point, but rather a strategy to minimize unforced errors and increase the likelihood of winning the point, and the match, in the long run.








What are some tips for coaching my child in singles? | AskThePro

This week’s question comes from a parent of a junior player.  “Thank you very much for sharing your doubles strategies.  What are some tips for coaching my child in singles?”

As a parent of a junior player, you may be wondering how to improve both your and your child’s singles play. Singles play requires a different set of skills and strategies to doubles play. Here are some practical tips to help your child improve their singles game:

  1. Focus on the serve: A strong serve is critical in singles and can give your child a big advantage from the outset. Encourage your child to practice their serve regularly, and vary the placement, speed, and spin of their serves to keep their opponent guessing.

  2. Play to your child’s strengths: Help your child identify their strengths and weaknesses, and encourage them to play to their strengths. For example, if your child has a strong forehand, encourage them to run around the ball to use it to dictate play. I call this the “Nadal Variation.”

  3. Stay aggressive: In singles play, it’s important to stay aggressive without being overly aggressive and to take control of the match. Encourage your child to hit their shots with pace and depth to keep their opponent on the defensive and look for opportunities to move forward and finish points at the net.

  4. Be patient: While staying aggressive, it’s important to be patient and wait for the right opportunities to attack. Encourage your child not to try to hit winners on every shot, but to play long rallies as/when required and force their opponent to make a mistake.  To win the point, you have get into the point first!

  5. Stay focused: Tennis is as much a mental game as it is a physical one, so it’s important to stay mentally focused and composed throughout the match. Encourage your child to stay positive and focused on the present moment and not to get too caught up in mistakes, talking to their opponent, or bad calls.

  6. Adapt to your opponent: Encourage your child to see what’s happening with their opponent on the other side of the net and adapt their game to their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. If their opponent has a weak backhand, they can target that side of the court more often. If their opponent is a good net player, they can keep them back at the baseline with deep shots and lobs.

  7. Be prepared to change your game: In some cases, your child’s game may not match up well against their opponent’s game. They may be overpowered. Encourage them to have a “Plan B” that may involve coming to the net to volley more often; hitting high, slow balls, or slow short balls to bring the opponent to the net, particularly if the opponent has an extreme Western grip. “Plan B” is never having to make the old chestnut excuses: ” I lost because I played badly” or “the other guy cheated”! 

Remember, the real secret of the game is the player who hits the ball over the net and into the court the last time, wins the point!  

With these strategies, your child will be well on their way to becoming a well-rounded tennis player who can play both singles and doubles at a high level, giving them a priceless gift of lifelong enjoyment and potential life long social connections through tennis.

Good luck!
Rob  Tennis Whisperer

Ps: Questions always welcome.