Roland Garros – The 2012 French Open

The 2012 French OpenThe French Open (French: Les internationaux de France de Roland-Garros or Tournoi de Roland-Garros,  named after the famous French aviator Roland Garros) is a major tennis tournament held over two weeks between late May and early June in Paris, France, at the Stade Roland Garros. It is the premier clay court tennis tournament in the world and the second of the four annual Grand Slam tournaments – the other three are the Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon. Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam held on clay and ends the spring clay court season.

Yesterday I discussed this upcoming tennis tournament with some my friends: Who will be winners, how Americans will perform on Roland Garros in Paris? I’d like to share some our thoughts about what may happen and who have chances to become heroes in France.

Serena Williams has shown in this year that she can still dominate, so we have to assume that, as usual, it is her tournament to lose. Maria Sharapova’s movement and flat strokes don’t help her on clay. Carolina Wozniacki has the game, but maybe not the guts. There are probably five-six more women with a chance to win, like Petra Kvitova, Vika Azarenko, Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska.

In our opinion that Rafael Nadal should dominate in Paris. David Ferrer can give him a fight but he can’t beat him. It’s not the best surface for Novak  Djokovic, Roger Federer, or Andy Murray. French tennis players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gaël Monfils are very good on clay, but they are not able to win seven straight matches for two weeks marathon.

About American men players, we think that only John Isner has a chance among the Americans to be in the second week, probably he can reach a quarter final of The 2012 French Open.

Choosing a Tennis Racquet

Bruce Levine, tennis racquet expertChoosing a Tennis Racquet

We continue to discuss with Bruce Levine, Technical Adviser for Tennis Magazine and tennis.com for racquets and strings, how to choose a right tennis racquet.

Q.: There are a lot of brands on the market: Babolat, Wilson, Head, Prince and many others. All of them say that they use “unique” new technologies that make player’s game more effective and consistent. What is your opinion?

A.: Each of the brands has its own technologies but in general there are trends that these technologies perform. First it was making lighter racquets and using titanium, then it went into intelligent materials… The big trends today are that the vibrations are dampened in the frame and grip systems and that frames have intelligent materials in their make up.

Q.: Value and non-value of new technologies. How can you define them? How can an average player can understand all this tech and marketing information from producers and sellers?

A.: It depends what a player is looking for in a frame. The “game improvement” category of racquets will have visible technologies and many bells and whistles. Most of these are visible and have clear “benefits”. Big grommets are a good example. Volkl has this technology in their new Volkl Blast (as well as several other frames ). The whole for the string (the grommet) is larger and allows more string movement which increases the movement of the string on off center hits and allows the ball a better chance to get a better hit.

The more playeresque a racquet is, the less technology you will generally find moreover the less change you will find in the frame from generation to generation.

To understand technologies, I think one must read what the manufacturer writes, read our Gear section in http://www.tennis.com/  and feel free to e-mail and ask. Technologies are a tough area to understand and changes happen often in the industry; do your homework.

Q.: Recently, two former #1 women players Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki changed their racquets brands. Now Maria Sharapova plays Head (was Prince) and Caroline Wozniacki plays Yonex (was Babolat). Why?

A.: I believe that changes that are made are for two main reasons; #1 money and #2 playability. I n the case of Sharapova I believe she felt she could no longer play inure free with her Prince racquet and this looked around and found something that gave her comfort and the playing characteristics she wanted.

Understand that players’ frames are customized in many ways to make the frame play the way he/she wants; in all ways.

Q.: Your personal opinion. What is the best tennis racquet brand?

A.:  This question I cannot answer.

OK, I understand you. Thank you very much for your answers.

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Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 3

Mili Veljkovic and Nenad Zimonjić

Mili Veljkovic continues to answer my previous question:

It was not difficult to understand from those answers that as more experienced tennis players are – the tougher clients are and that they want:

  • to see first obvious results as soon as possible but the time that majority are ready to wait for the first obvious result is between 3 and 5 days only,
  • to know what will they learn, how fast and difficult it will be,
  • if they are a bit more shy or with weaker concentration – they prefer individual lessons but it costs more. Of course, as better player is – work must be individual,
  • if they like socializing and more fun – they are for group lessons and they know that as the bigger group is – shorter time with teacher!

As I learned what’s bothering the most of tennis fans I started to focus on how to accelerate the learning process or with other words – how to teach better and faster.
I realized that huge number of people get disappointed easy – in themselves or in their teacher – and they quite on tennis i.e. quite on lessons. We teachers and the whole tennis industry loose the same clients. Domino effect.

It was not difficult to figure out that I needed to make my client happy after one, two or three days maximum – if I don’t want to lose even those with the least patience. But what if that impatient person is not very talented? Percentage of very talented people is not that high, right? Just imagine how many people ready to pay well have left because of the reasons we just mentioned?

Let me come back on my post graduate studies. We were learning about learning process and the subject was physiology. Nothing special, every sport faculty has that. Inside that book, we had to read, was more complicated part – learning motor skills. The theme started to intrigue me more and more and thanking to internet I dive into new thing for me – neurophysiology of motor learning!

We all heard of techniques for faster reading, faster remembering numbers, words etc. Well, there are patterns how to achieve all of that using different techniques likey Silva method, Tony Buzan’s method, Loci method, Alexandar method, brain mapping etc. After reading countless number of researches in the field of cognitive and motor learning and after conducting my own researches inspired by mentioned studies – I finally came to my own “formula” how to create new “muscle memory”. The results were so incredible fast and with high quality, even with the people who have been playing for decades and who were consider “not very talented”, if you know what I mean.

In a last five years more than five or six hundred people (all levels, from many countries – majority form Serbia) have successfully passed my ‘treatments” – clinics and courses. Needless to say how much they increase their love toward tennis. That was my idea and wish – since I was teenage instructor.

The “secret” (I don’t like this word but it is kind of true of my technique) is in a synergy that is created when we combine number of exercises set up in very specific and precise order:

  • rules of bio-mechanics, neurophisiology and methodology create such a “fusion’ that learning process accelerates minimum 50 times faster than standard way of learning,
  • intervals between exercises are important as well as resting and sleeping,
  • type of tactile feedback is crucial for forming synapses but only if we obey the laws of bio-mechanics and methodology,
  • because of tactile feedback – I designed various teaching aids that prevent student in doing harmful incorrect repeating,
  • cognitive learning during very beginning is a must, as well.

This technique is applicable on all ground strokes and to fix someone’s forehand or backhand takes three days and three nights – maximum! Everything what was good (correct) in previous kinetic motion (chain) will stay when a person learns new stroke, and what was not “good” will be forgotten – but only if we carefully control the speed. If a person shows impatience and speeds up the movement – the old habit would prevail! Patience is our best friend!

Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 2

Q.: You are tennis coach and the same time you are a Sports professor. What is your major in Science? How it helps you with your coaching work?

Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expertA.: Firstly, I am not university professor otherwise I would have to be doctor (PhD). But I am adviser to few sport university professors – that’s something means too.
Few years ago I took post graduated studies and I am doing researches and with that data I may one day go for PhD if I discover something more than I have so far, because what I did so far is maybe “a knock on the door for PhD theses” . Maybe … it is enough for tennis PhD, but not enough for sport science yet. Anyhow I promised to myself that I would go for the academic title after I receive some world tennis recognition – you see how modest I am.

One thing I am sure of – I would never be able to understand the essence of tennis i.e. sport the way I do without diving deep into scientific laws. Five years ago, my twenty years of international teaching made me grow up into experienced coach but the turning point and the “switch” that had happened to me, in the beginning of my post graduated studies in 2006, twenty years after my university graduation (Why so late? Why not and what is late for learning? OK, also the dean was my tennis student, he loved my way of teaching and he offered me half scholarship fee since I was in veteran national selection and people say that only Roger Federer plays more elegant than me … As if! : )

Anyhow, when we had to write an essay for the psychology class, we were supposed to choose a subject and to use any kind of survey’s methods. Since I was already experienced tennis pro who had thought thousands of people of all levels around the globe, I decided to use that and I picked the subject that was in my mind for many years:

Why people don’t – or don’t want to play nicer and why are tennis not more massive, since it is as popular and healthy as a recreation?

Of course, I asked only those people who were somehow involved with tennis and those who answered that they liked it but never tried. We contacted 300 people in seven countries where I coached (Serbia, US, Croatia, France, Greece, England, Swiss) and some of the main questions were:

  1. What made you stop play tennis?
  2. Why did you stop taking lessons?
  3. Why you never started with lessons since you play active recreational?
  4. So, you say you like it, but why you never started and tried to play tennis?

The answers were so educational, inspiring and intriguing that made me say hmmm : )
That was when it ‘hits” me for the first time while the most important facts are:

  • majority of tennis players are inpatient with seriously short “fuse” when they are working on their improvement (we all know – old habits are difficult to correct),
  • they don’t know how long it will take to fix mistakes and how much it will cost them – but they want to know,
  • they don’t know how will they look like when they finish with lessons and what is the first satisfactory goal supposed to look like – but they want to know,
  • after every played lesson they doubt more and more if they are capable of getting it,
  • if they have already changed few teacher – they expect disappointment and the next teacher one is getting less time to show some concrete results,
  • they expect that learning / correcting can take to long time and they are not sure whose fault is this – theirs or teachers,
  • what if they simply can’t do it – if they are no talented enough – the famous self esteem issue!

Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 1

Here is a first part of an interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club (Belgrade), Split Method’s author, PTR professional.
Nenad Zimonjic actively followed Mili Split Veljkovic’s presentation

Q.: When did you start to coach tennis and why? Did you attend special courses or college to become a tennis coach?

A.: It took me some time to respond because I was looking for accurate info regarding my coach’s history. It matters who teaches you, what was the ranking …and it was long time ago!

When I was 11.5 years old, my family moved from one part of Belgrade to the building across the street of Partizan’s sport center. Parents told me to choose what I want to train. All sports were there in front of me. I felt like a boy in a toy shop. Tennis attracted me as a magnet. I was just fast kid who didn’t know anything about any sport. Most of my schoolmates were into all other sports (Red Star was just 2 blocks away), but I remember watching some big guy in his 50s or 60s who was dancing on the court and beating much younger guy who was actually very good. That young guy was competition player and the older guy was Petko Milojkovic. I was fascinated with his grace in spite he was 100 kg. I became his pupil. He used to be top Yugoslav player but WWII stopped him. As a veteran player he was for many years top in Europe.

My next coach was Bane Vucetic, another top Yugoslav coach and amazing technician who, as a junior, used to beat Ilie Năstase.

Even Seles’s father used to bring Monica to Partizan for additional lessons while as I was as a sport college student assisting my coach. Technically I could say that Monica (she was about 8 years old) was on my lesson.

One summer Jelena Gencic, Yugoslav champion, also known as the first Novak Djokovic’s teacher, was coaching our junior team and in Split I joined their team to be coached from Niki Pilic (also Novak Djokovic’s coach)!

My point is – good coach inspires and means so much in developing kid’s personality.
I loved giving lessons and I started as a junior 17 years old even my coach forbid me because I played for the first Partizan’s team.

My first instructor’s certificate I got when I was 18 only. I became youngest coach with university (sport science) degree in Yugoslavia. I was considered as one of top talented junior players in Yugoslavia. Army was obligatory and then university for five years. So much about my professional career as a tennis player.