Kevin Anderson, the 6’8” Nightmare

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Todd Widom

Many people have their opinions of how someone became so good on the ATP Tour and then there are those who played and saw the progression of how someone became such a great tennis player.

I am not sure if I was fortunate or unfortunate to have played Kevin Anderson five times on the ATP Tour. I was 0-5 against him and most of those matches I felt coming off the court that I played an excellent match, but unfortunately lost. You see, the margins in tennis are so slim at the professional level that one ball missed at a bad time will cost you the set.

I played Kevin between 2006 and 2009 in Champaign Illinois, Winnetka Illinois, Cincinnati Ohio, Louisville Kentucky, and Granby, Canada. Of the 12 sets that we played in those five matches, six of the sets went to either 7-6 or 7-5. In the Cincinnati Masters match, I already lost to Kevin twice so I knew what was coming at me. At under six feet tall, the shorter player usually has a disadvantage in tiebreakers due to serving, but I won the first set tiebreaker and then lost the second set 6-2. I looked up at the scoreboard and realized that Kevin had served 92% first serves that set.

Kevin Anderson - Kevin Anderson, the 6'8” Nightmare

I thought good luck breaking his serve.  In the third set, I had break point and had a high forehand to put away, I ripped it for a winner and it just hit the top of the net and did not go in.  Kevin played a couple of good return points in the third set tiebreaker and I went home unhappy again for the third time.

Later that year, I played Kevin in Louisville, Kentucky on a lightning fast indoor court.  I thought that this time I should try slicing returns to try and somehow get the point started on his serve. It was a good match.  Kevin went back to his hotel with a smile on his face. I lost 7-5 in the third set.  I played Kevin one more time, in Canada this time I lost 7-6, 7-5.

It is difficult playing someone serving 140 mph coming from a 6’8” frame. Watching 20 aces go by you in a match is tough. The basis of this article is about how Kevin evolved into one of the best tennis players on the planet. When I played Kevin, I felt like from the baseline I was dominating him groundstroke for groundstroke. His amazing serve kept him in the matches that we played against one another and it should be that way considering his size.

His groundstrokes were solid, but he was defensive from the baseline which is not normal for a guy his size. In amateur tennis, meaning junior and college tennis, you can win many matches playing good solid tennis. However, at the highest level of tennis, you have to apply pressure, hurt people with your weapons, and force the opponent into making errors due to the quality of your groundstrokes.

I always thought that if Kevin could take the ball earlier, play a bit closer to the baseline, and develop a great transition game coming towards the net, he could be an amazing player. This is what you saw at the 2017 U.S. Open. I have been seeing it for some years now, but it really came together at the biggest professional tennis tournament in the world.

Kevin was and obviously still is very professional about how he goes about his daily work. I saw this from when we were playing because he was very disciplined about his profession. Kevin is a great person and kudos to him for making the necessary adjustments and finding the right people to take his game all the way to the top of professional tennis.

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Why top ITF female juniors stay on the top?

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Marcin Bieniek

Travelling around the world and being a coach on the ITF Junior Circuit is a great possibility to learn and increase tennis knowledge. Looking at own player’s development, results, and responses are all steps important in the process of athletic career so coaches who go to the tournaments have much bigger opportunities to help players achieve their dreams.

One of the crucial areas in my coaching is learning from others and by watching top players compete I can easily transform this knowledge into my coaching sessions to make it more effective and transfer the work into results.

There are some really significant differences between male’s game and female’s game even at the junior level. Boys are solid and stable so that is why it is not surprising that player ranked #250 is able to beat the guy who is constantly playing junior Grand Slam tournaments. All boys have great serves, good footwork and consistent baseline game so the final result depends on a given day performance.

Girls’ game is completely different. There are some critical areas that differ top 50 juniors from players who are only 40 or 100 places behind. Even the ranking position is pretty close between 2 players the reality is that top 50 females have skills that let them win 9 of 10 matches against rivals ranked 50-200 ITF.

If you want to improve your game and achieve better results you have to make sure that you are better every day than you were before. Only long-term vision with conscious daily work will guarantee that you walk the right way and even when you lose it doesn’t mean that you step back. Being able to watch players compete at various highest-grade ITF Junior tournaments in Morocco, Osaka, Cairo, Prague, Porto Alegre, Barranquilla and many more interesting places I was able to see the reasons why top ITF females stay on the top.

Most of the athletes included in this group are there because of their good results during the whole year. Of course there are few players who achieved great results only in 1 or 2 tournaments but these ones won’t stay there for a long time. So how can we get our player to become top 50 junior girl in the world? How to make her stay there for a long time? Here are the areas that you can learn from athletes who are already there:

Stable and solid performance

Do top 50 players play their best match of life every time they step on the court? Absolutely not. Do they have skills at much higher level than players ranked 50-100 ITF? Definitely not. The secret is in their ability to play at solid level for the whole course of the match. That is the difference. Top players play well for the long time without any significant ups and downs. They don’t play spectacular – they play solid but it is enough.

Players who are not in the top are able to get the lead 2:0 or 4:1 while playing against top female junior but they are not able to close the set or the match. They get the lead because of extraordinary performance that they can’t maintain for more time than that. If you want to get into top 50 you have to be able to find your level of play that you are able to maintain for more than few gems.

Opportunities don’t change anything

Great champions look for opportunities and try to give their best when facing crucial times in match. Top juniors do it too. When they face the break point they don’t slow down the racquet, won’t change the strategy or move few steps back behind the baseline. They are in the top because they have courage to trust their shots when it really counts.

Completely different story we can observe while watching players who are ranked outside the top. When facing a pressure moment they change strategy „from winning the point” to strategy „not losing the point”. Only brave athletes achieve great results so if you want to join this group you can’t doubt your abilities in crucial moments.

Fitness side is not a weakness

Looking at lower ranked players we can spot some weaknesses in physical preparation. Player A has lazy footwork. Player B needs some air after 20 shots rally. Player C can’t ace rivals because the speed of the serve is really slow. All these factors are related to poor fitness abilities. When you look at top 50 ITF juniors you won’t see these weaknesses. All players are well-prepared physically so that is why they don’t have down times during the whole match. If you take care of your base you can build a great game on it.

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Seven Key Reasons Why the Best Tennis Players Succeed

Seven Key Reasons Why the Best Tennis Players Succeed

Every junior tennis player needs to read this: Your ‪success‬ is determined in how you handle the ‘bad’ days.

To every junior athlete/ tennis player out there, the sooner you can get to grips with these seven points below, I promise you the sooner you will step up to that next level. To be an elite athlete in a sport you need to be in great physical shape, have a good understanding of the game or sport, and pay attention to your nutrition.

However, the biggest gain to be made can be found in your mindset, and how you go about handling what I call the ‘bad’ days.

success_fail

Here are seven key reasons why the best tennis players succeed:

  1. A successful athlete accepts that they are not going to perform their best level every time they step onto the court, track or playing field.
  2. They understand that success does not lie in a one-off upset against a big player or just having a few good results. It lies in consistent control of their emotions and mindset.
  3. A successful tennis player understands that in order to win on their ‘bad’ days, they need to always give their best and believe they can actually win.
  4. A successful athlete does not spend their time comparing themselves or current level to their greatest ever performance.
  5. The success of a tennis player lies in their ability to play ‘well enough’ to pull out a win on that day. They understand it gives them another day and chance to make it better!
  6. They do not ruin their chances of winning or playing better (even when playing poorly) by letting a negative or bad attitude get in the way.
  7. They know how to win ugly.

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Importance of Periodization for Development of Tennis Players

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Allistair McCaw

There were more injuries and pull outs in the Australian Open this year than any other slam. With the season having been shortened to give the players more rest, surely there should be less injuries you would think?

Over eagerness and poor preseason periodization planning is causing many ATP and WTA tennis players to arrive to the first Slam of the year already injured and exhausted! I explain you why it happens.

Just this month I turned down working with two WTA professional tennis players ranked inside the top 50 due a disagreement.

Now, I love working with the best, and the one player is certainly an exciting up and coming star for sure, but I won’t compromise on what I strongly believe in.

So, what was the disagreement you ask?

They wanted to start their preseason training already in the first and second weeks of November. After I went through the reasons, previous players mistakes, respecting rest and explaining the disadvantages, they still stuck (and their coaches) to their own plans.

Being a specialist for over 18 years in the field and trainer to 11 Grand Slam winners, you would think that my advice and experience would be taken, when I suggested that it was far too early to start, as they had just barely concluded this season (2 weeks before).

One common thing I see when I am in Australia for the lead up tournaments to the 1st Slam of the year is this:
– Players already taped up like Egyptian mummy’s, falling to pieces physically and looking mentally drained too;
– In fact, there were more injuries and pull outs in the Australian Open this year than any other slam.

Here’s the new dilemma: After years of the players pushing for a longer off season, the ATP and WTA season’s have now been shortened by between 3-5 weeks. However, now what we find, are tennis players starting their preseason training even earlier. Some even throwing in a few exhibitions too.

What we have on our hands is an even bigger issue, but with the same implications – ‘Over training’ instead of ‘Over playing.’

What we also see most of the time, especially from inexperienced trainers and coaches is ‘over zealousness’ – wanting to ‘push it’ harder than the year before thinking that by doing this, it will yield more results. Usually the opposite occurs: Athlete feels great mid December, but come January like a donkey, when it matters most. What we also see occur in these off season activities, is athletes picking up injuries and niggles doing unfamiliar exercises and activities they don’t usually perform in-season.

One thing that really makes me cringe, is trainers taking these tennis players into the gym, (keep in mind the players having been away for extended periods on the road), loading weights on the bars with the goal of getting the player ‘strong’ 4 weeks without gradual progression.

In the past, periodization (planning of an athletes season) hasn’t always been the easiest thing to plan for a tennis player, but one thing that’s pretty cut and dry now, is that we have an off season and a confirmed start date to new season. So no more excuses towards adequate rest and training.

In my experience working with numerous ATP and WTA players, if I’m aiming at having them peak come Australian Open time, they aren’t starting their training until at least 1st week of December. They could start mid November with some off very light off court work, fun stuff like hiking, swimming, biking etc..) but they wouldn’t go near a court or do any tennis specific work.

The ultimate goal is to have them fresh come Australia, physically and mentally. I want them healthy and hungry to go and not the opposite of what we see happening – Tired and carrying injuries or niggles.

In my experience, and probably 90% of the players will agree with me here, the month or period after the Australian trip, is when the players feel most exhausted out of the whole year! And they’re only 4 weeks into the new season – why? Easy, here’s why: Add their preseason training load which is usually tougher than their normal routines on the road, to the long hot Australian trip (matches, more training in between if they lost early between tournaments), that’s already between 8-10 weeks already! – Get my drift?

In the conditioning and sports performance world, when planning a program, we usually break training down to 6 weeks blocks for peaking an athlete. If an athlete has been in intensive training, a breakdown will usually occur by week 6 or 7 (sometimes even sooner if athlete has been not respecting recovery and rest enough). So, if you back date the training from Australian Open time, that means training should only start training around 1st week December.

What we see come Australia time (and I encourage you to keep this piece), is already an injury list getting longer than great wall of china!!

Here’s 5 common mistakes tennis players make:

  1. Too much too soon. They start to soon having not yet fully recovered from previous season.
  2. Don’t respect rest as much as work. They under estimate the physical and mental fatigue factor.
  3. Some players are still carrying injuries from previous season into preseason training.
  4. Some Coaches/trainers getting paid yearly – player feels they need to ‘utilize’ them.
  5. Over zealous and enthusiastic trainers and coaches.

As a Sports Performance Specialist for almost 19 years now, I’ve learnt from my own mistakes in competing professionally as well as working with some of the world’s best.

I always listen and respect athletes, coaches and trainers I work with or come into contact with, but will not always agree. I also won’t buckle or discard my own principles and beliefs to what a player/athlete feels is right in an area that I specialize in, no matter how many slams they might have won.

As coaches, It is our duty to educate and teach the athlete on what is right and what is best for them, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice what to do with that advise.
But sticking to your principles, core values and staying true to yourself is what matters most.

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Fourteen Principles of Mental Toughness in Tennis

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Ray Brown

1. Mental toughness can only be taught by someone who is mentally tough.

2. There is nothing on the web about mental toughness of any value. It is all pop psychology or pseudo psychology.

3. Most people can learn to be mentally tough; the Marines do it every day.

4. Mental toughness starts with physical toughness. This means the one must have the ability to endure very tough physical drills that are painful by controlling their pain with their mind. This is something that only humans seem to be able to do.

5. Being mentally tough requires knowing yourself and especially knowing your own weaknesses, fears, misgivings, self doubts etc and being able to control them under pressure.

6. Mental toughness requires being able to endure physical and mental pain and continue to perform at a high level.

7. Mental toughness requires being able to perform at a high level in the face of fear by controlling your emotions with your mind.

8. Mental toughness requires that you be able to make your own decisions without regard to the opinions of others; you must be self sufficient under duress.

9. Mental toughness requires that you put friendship aside and objectively defeat a friend.

10. Mental toughness requires that you must be able to continue to fight hard when exhausted, discouraged or facing a vastly superior opponent.

11. Mental toughness requires that you never show fear in the face of a superior opponent; that no opponent can intimidate you.

12. Mental toughness requires that you will attack a superior opponent when possible; that you will defeat a friend without hesitation.

13. Mental toughness requires that you never be affected by the opponent’s disadvantages, particularly physical limitations or appearance.

14. Mental toughness requires that you be willing to defeat every opponent as badly as possible without any hesitation.

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