2012 London Olympics, the future of American tennis, and discussing elite tennis academies with a tennis coach

We were watching tennis matches from 2012 London Olympics and talking about different issues in the tennis world. Here are some points that could be interesting for you.

Do you have the same favorites for Olympics like you had for Wimbledon? Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova?

Serena William’s dismantling of Vera Zvonareva and Vika Azarenka shows she remains in a class by herself. If she is on her game, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. I don’t think that Maria Sharapova has a chance in the finals.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova

On the men’s side, I still have to go with Roger Federer on grass in London. Andy Murray now is really a threat for him, but I have to bet on Federer again.

Roger Federer. London 2012

Why has Ryan Harrison, who is considered as a very prospective player by many American tennis coaches and specialists, not shown consistently good results yet?

I’m still looking for Ryan Harrison to grow emotionally so that his game matches his command of the court. He has the body to hit hard. I think some day he will.

 What do you think of Jack Sock’s chances to reach top 10 and become the next American star?

If I’m looking at another young American, I’d think of Steve Johnson. He’s a winner.

Some tennis parents and players are looking for elite tennis academies.  What do you think about that?

Plenty of academies will give player lots of court time, instruction, and physical training. They all claim to be elite. They can be a good deal for somebody who lives in Minnesota and has unlimited money. Since a four year full scholarship is worth about $240,000 the outlay may make sense. For someone living in California, Florida or Texas, where they can play elite tournaments every week, I don’t understand it. I still think it makes sense to pay more attention to education than to tennis.

Preparation for a tennis match

Let’s speak about a preparation for a tennis match. Here is a quote from Nick Saviano’s book Maximum tennis:

Nick Saviano and Sloane Stephens

“This is a day before the big match. If you can go to the tennis courts where you are playing and hit a few balls on the courts to get acclimated, it can really help. Don’t practice too long. Your goal is to maintain your skills. Today is the time to ease up and have a light practice. Keep in short and simple.

The primary objective is to have a short, positive workout, which leaves you feeling confident about your game as well as physically fresh. Don’t dwell on the upcoming tennis match or tournament. A lot of tennis pros will have a quiet dinner or take in a movie simply to get away from tennis and stay mentally fresh. Pack your bag so that all your equipment is ready.

Take extra tennis  rackets, an extra change of clothes, and a second pair of tennis shoes to be safe. Pack sweats or a warm up suit, even if it’s hot outside, because you may be inside an air-conditioned room sometime during the day and you don’t want to catch a chill. Also, be sure to have a water container, towel, practice balls, Band-Aids, athletic tape, sunscreen, a hat, and anything else you may need.

Make sure that you have your transportation taken care of, you have directions, and you know your starting time. Line up a warm up partner if you can. If you find that visualization works well for you, I also suggest that you spend some time visualizing yourself out on the court enjoying the competition and playing extremely well. You want positive anticipation about the tennis match. Set up your performance goals.

Remember, they should be things that you can control and that help you play up to your potential. Finally, get to bed early and get plenty or rest because tomorrow will be the big day – your tennis match day.”

So, you can compare these recommendations with your own routine, and if you like it make changes in your preparation for a tennis match.

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Practice under pressure on the tennis court

Another psychological secret of tennis champions from the book Maximum tennis by Nick Saviano.

Saviano Genie - Practice under pressure on the tennis court

To best deal with the pressure of competition on the tennis court, frequently simulate those experiences in practice. The legendary coach of UCLA’s dynasty, John Wooden, espoused this philosophy,

“The pressure I created during practices may have exceeded that which opponents produces. I believe when an individual constantly works under pressure, they will respond automatically when faced with it during competition.”

Try to duplicate the various scenarios you are faced with in tennis match play. If you have trouble serving out a match, play some sets with a friend, where you start at 5-4 serving and then play out the set. If you don’t play break points well , play a set where each game starts at break point and play out the set. Do drills where you keep the score. Play a practice set and have the loser buy lunch. By putting extra pressure on yourself in practice , you quickly will learn to improve your ability to execute under pressure in tennis matches.

Remember, the biggest challenge (and the best weapon you have) when you compete on the tennis court comes from your own mind.

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Don’t take it personal in tennis match

I continue to publish some interesting thoughts of Nick Saviano from the book Maximum tennis.

Don’t make your tennis match into a personal battle between you and your opponent, even you hate his guts. It is counterproductive to focus on the person you are playing, as opposed to how he is playing, what he is doing, and what his tendencies are. If you are thinking about your opponent, you are no longer focused on your own execution.

Nick Saviano and Jennifer Capriati

Jennifer Capriati, after defeating Serena Williams in a hotly contested quarterfinal match at the 2001 Wimbledon, said “I don’t worry about what she (Serena Williams) is doing. I just try to concentrate on my own game”. Perhaps Jim Courier said it best, just before winning the 1992 French Open: “Opponents don’t worry me. It’s like playing a faceless person on the other side of the net. I concentrate on me and how I play”.

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Smart Tennis vs Power Tennis

I like that comment by Alex Yep:

Serena Williams. Wimbledon 2012

“Power tennis vs smart tennis. A great discussion. I think power tennis has a slight edge over smart tennis. You look at Serena Williams, she has power and quickness, which is a devastating combination. Then take a look at her game averages. With her power, she compensate the unforced errors with free points and winners. However, with smart tennis, the question is, can you finish the point? Smart tennis is great ball placement.

Radwanska Agnieszka, the smartest tennis player

With Agnieszka Radwanska reaching #2, I think it is more then just smart tennis. I think in the women’s field, some of the best players have retired and some have been phasing out which opened up the door for players like Radwanska. In order to sustain at the top level I think you need smart tennis and some power tennis. We’ll see if Radwanska can maintain that type of play and continue to be able to beat the top level players.”

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