Discussing Roland Garros – The 2012 French Open

We were drinking green tea and discussing upcoming Roland Garros 2012 with a tennis coach after a workout today. Actually I asked him three questions and here are his answers.

French Open is just around the corner. After Madrid, many tennis specialists start talking that Roger Federer is back to his way and he is able to capture #1 again and win Rolland Garros. What is your opinion?

Roger Federer can definitely get back to number 1, but he has to worry about Novak Djokovic on hard along with Rafael Nadal on clay. The French remains Nadal’s to lose.

Serena Williams showed again in Spain that when she is in good fit and mood, no one can compete with her. Is she able to return her #1 and win in Paris?

Serena’s best is a level better than that of anyone else. I have no idea how long she can keep it up, but it will be a physical deterioration, not a lack of the will to win. I’ve picked her to win the last 20 majors she’s played. I’ve only been right half the time.

Agnieszka Radwanska plays very different tennis, her style looks like Martina Hingis and Anastasia Myskina. I call it “smart tennis”, she plays tennis, not just hit the ball. She is #3 now. Is she an exception or her style gives her advantage?
I heard from one tennis coach the rule: Play different style from most others players and you will win more than lose. What do you think about that?

Great smart tennis, Martina Hingis, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, will beat average hard tennis, but it won’t beat great hard tennis. Francesca Schiavone has by far the most variety in her game of any top player, and she won only one Grand Slam. Meanwhile Serena Williams goes on destroying opponents. Nevertheless, if you can’t be Serena, then it’s foolish to try to outslug her, so slice, dropshot, serve and volley all make sense.

I do agree that it’s a good idea to do something everyone else isn’t doing. But you have to master your game, and figure out how to neutralize the other player’s game. The game has always gone in cycles and always will.

Choosing a College for a Tennis Player

Choosing a College for a Tennis Player

There are many ways to find a right college for a tennis player. For example, you can work directly with college tennis coaches or cooperate with consultants. Today I had a pleasure of talking to Ross Greenstein, President/CEO of premier consulting company Scholarship for Athletes.

How did you start to work as a college placement consultant? What do you like about that?

When I was a freshman in college, I knew there was a need for this type of service.  In fact, I started SFA because I noticed there was a huge problem with college athletes quitting and/or transferring schools.  I started with some preliminary research by interviewing many college athletes about their recruiting experience. Through these conversations it became very clear that there was a huge need to guide and educate athletes through the recruiting process.  Every college athlete wished they would have had more education during their recruiting process.

Also, I have always been intrigued with coaching.  I believe that coaching is a form of education and therefore through my service, I am providing some education about the recruiting process. As I did more research it was evident that their was not a company out there that was using the recruiting process as a tool to educate student athletes about important life skills that are needed during the process.

When should a tennis player begin to look for a college?

High school student athletes should start to make a list of potential colleges, email the coaches a resume, and call the coaches in 10th grade. It is very important that the student/athletes know all the differences between the colleges on their list. Making a list of 10-15 universities is a good starting point.

Tell me, how do you work? If someone wants to talk to you and ask for your help, what should he (she) expect?

If somebody an athlete or parents wants to learn more about the recruiting process and how we might be able to help them they can reach us through email, Facebook, or by directly calling us. Our staff is very experienced and is composed of former college athletes.  Parents and athletes should expect honest answers from us about their kids’ opportunities.  We are here to help and explain to the families about the recruiting process.  After hearing how we view the process and what we do with our clients they can decide if they want to work with us. We will gladly talk to the families about the recruiting process before they sign up with us and give them some tips.

There are a lot of rumors that foreign tennis players often receive full athletic scholarships, yet they hardly speak English on a decent level. Are colleges more likely to accept a great foreign player with low understanding of English than an American who is more academically educated but has worse tennis skills?

This recruiting process is just like a job interview.  College coaches receive thousands of resumes from student athletes from all over the world.  The college coaches are going to hire who they feel is the best candidate for the job.  Often, the international athletes out- interview the American athletes by reaching out to coaches and players with more anticipation and by building better relationships with them.

As far as speaking English is concerned, the international athletes all have to take the SAT and TOEFL.  This means that English is set at a certain standard for all students.  They also tend to do very well academically once they are at American universities. Being American or international does not benefit the student/athletes, how they interview will be the deciding factor whether they are chosen or not versus another athlete with similar abilities.

Your three advices to tennis parents and tennis players who are in search of athletic scholarship?

If you are looking for an athletic scholarship, the first thing you should do is learn about the recruiting process.  A good way to do this is to contact our company directly. Even if you have no intention of hiring us we will be happy to give you a basic education and some free advice.

Step 1:  Find out the requirements for each school in order to be eligible.   If you are ranked top 10 in the world but are not eligible to play, there is nothing a college coach can do for you.  The NCAA Clearinghouse will determine your eligibility.

Step 2: Contact college tennis coaches and college athletes.  Start asking them as many questions as possible about the programs they are at and their experiences.

Step 3:  Try and play against as many tennis players as possible that are current or former college players.  This will help the college tennis coaches learn your level.

Thank you Ross and good luck to you!.

Nutrition for Junior Tennis Players

Nutrition for Junior Tennis Players

I already wrote about my first impression on how junior tennis players ate during tournaments or all day workouts at some tennis academies in the US. Then I understood the essence and power of the fast food industry, so I just try to oppose it in everyday life.

healthy food

There is a proverb “A man is what he eats”. Success in tennis also depends on what a player eats.

I very often see in tournaments the same picture: during a break between matches, players eat junk food, like fast food and processed food, as well as drink soft beverages full of sugar. It is very rare to see a kid eating banana, plain yogurt, fat-free fish, or whole grain bread. More often than not it is hamburgers and fries.

A couple of words about nutrition during a day of a match. A player should eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the first match. Ideally in the morning you need to have light breakfast with high-carbohydrate foods, like cereal with fat-free milk, dried beans, whole grain bread with marmalade or honey, banana and so on.

Do not eat a big steak before a match. You do not want your organism wasting valuable energy on digesting heavy food when it should be preparing to play. Eat your heavy protein food the night before, but keep your eating light right before a tennis match.

The key is to plan your sports diet, be very intentional about your intake. Do not take whatever in your fridge. Plan your nutrition around your tournament and training schedule and fuel up properly.

Remember, the most delicious foods are often the most harmful for a young tennis player. Always try to make healthy food at home, and bring it with you to tournaments. It better prepares you for the next match, saves you time, money, and your health.

There is a good idea to have a food diary in your training notebook. For one-two weeks write down everything you eat and when you it. Also, note at several intervals during the day, how you feel. At the end of tracking period, look at your notes and analyze the effect of certain foods on your organism. Do you find any patterns? Based on your findings, decide which foods are good for your mind and body.

Your health is in your hands.

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Is Serve and Volley Still Alive?

Is Serve and Volley Still Alive?

I try to understand why do so few players add the serve and volley to their game, virtually none of the top players?  This style definitely seems be the easiest, surest way to win a point at the net. Can a tennis player with a two-handed backhand be a good serve-and-volley player? How should a tennis player use this style successfully? I talked about these things with some tennis coaches. Here their thoughts about that.

Pete Sampras

First of all, to be a good serve and volley player, you have to have one-handed backhand.  There has never been a great serve and volley player with a two-handed backhand, and I doubt there ever will be one. There are several reasons for that:

1.    The strike zone for a one-handed backhand volley is far in front, just like a one-handed drive, as opposed to the two-hander which is taken close to the body.
2.     Obviously, a tennis player with a one-handed backhand is more comfortable playing with one hand than is a two-hander.
3.    The one-hander player is more likely to feel the need to position him aggressively

A successful serve and volley tennis player needs a dominant serve to play this game. It can be with power, like Boris Becker and Pete Sampras, or spin like Patrick Rafter and Stefan Edberg. You have to be a much better athlete than the average ones on the Tour. You have to have a fully offensive mind-set. And it wouldn’t hurt if you are left-handed player.

At this time many people, including most tennis coaches and specialists, say that serve and volleying is dead. They tell us that racket and string technology gives returners the advantage. But the same technology helps the serve and the approach to the net. Are the present players better than Bjorn Borg or Jimmy Connors at defending against the serve and volley game? Are the today’s service returners better than Andre Agassi or Michael Chang? Of course not.

Chris Evert wrote about serve and volley in Tennis Magazine:

“Still, given how well players serve, it’s a strategy that could be a bigger part of a lot of players’ arsenals. Yes, returns are formidable,but serving to spots out wide or into the body can yield opportunities for successful forays to the net”.

In my opinion, there is a problem that many modern tennis coaches do not know how to teach their players this style. They prefer to use the simplest approach while coaching their players to the aggressive baseline game.

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Athletic Scholarships for Tennis Players

There is a hot question for many tennis players and their parents. Imagine, your kid has played tennis for ten years from 8 years old; you invested some money in his tennis skills. Now, he (she) is a High School student, probably a sophomore or a junior. It is very clear for you that your player will not start playing pro tour after High School. So, you want to find a right college and get some return (athletic scholarships for a tennis player) on your tennis investment.

You have already known that if your kid is not blue chip or a five-star player, you need to make hard work to find a right college for him. The lower your kid’s level of play, the more efforts you need to make. I write here my thoughts about tennis players with two, three, and probably four star level of tennis.


Blue chips and five stars players usually have invitations from more than one college and they just need to make a right choice.

First, go online. There is a lot of website like http://www.collegetennisonline.com, http://www.collegeboard.com and so on. There you find information about a structure of college tennis, understand the difference among Divisions I, II and III, etc. Then make a list of colleges your kid wants to go. May be 40-50 is enough for start a process. It is important to make the list, because it allows you to work closely with each of the targeted colleges.

You also need to systematize all information that helps you in searching right college and create: athletic resume and cover letter, college selection list, tennis DVD and college evaluation list.

I don’t want to write here detailed instruction about the whole process. You can find out everything from the Internet.

Second. Hundreds, maybe thousands foreign tennis players play college tennis in the US. Think, if they were able to get scholarship while living and playing tennis overseas, you definitely can do it for your American kid.

The true is for some college tennis coaches the level of play is not the main reason for selecting a player to their tennis team. I personally know a half of dozens payers who got scholarship for Division II, and whose play’s level is like U16 TOP 50-150 of Southern California. Try to make a good contact with a coach, and if your kids’ SAT (ACT), GPA is at least on minimal level for the college, the coach will accept him. Tennis coaches look for team players; it is a very important factor when they consider a candidate.

Think twice before sending your kid to college on an athletic scholarship. He (she) will be supposed to train and play tennis 20+ hours a week. Does your kid have a capability to play tennis and study successfully at the same time? What is your kid going to do after college: find a job and work as a professional, or go to coach tennis with major in Political Science or Economics?

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