Here is another interview with Mitch Bridge, Southern California Tennis Academy. I found his thoughts are interesting.
Can you comment on Serena Williams lost in Paris?
Serena’s loss first round at the French Open had largely to do with her lack of a safe rally ball. She could have survived her match against a very worthy opponent by putting more balls in play-especially on big points. Her game appeared dated because she couldn’t hit heavy like so many of the girls can do now. Hard and flat seemed like her only option. She can usually serve her way out of it, but on the slow, red clay her opponent was able to return her 1st serves.
Why US tennis players lost their leadership in world tennis? What are main reasons for that?
There are two main reasons that the US isn’t faring well in professional tennis, especially on the men’s side.
The first reason is that tennis has become so global that many countries are producing quality players and the competition is much greater. In the 1970’s when the US had 25-30% of the top 100 pro players, tennis was only popular in 10-12 countries. Now tennis is widely popular all over the world, and in many of those countries tennis is more popular than it is in the US in the heirarchy of sports. This is largely due to tennis becoming an Olympic sport in 1988. Countries started investing in tennis development for their athletes, giving tennis more credibility as a sport for the masses. Now tennis is growing faster than any other major sport in the world.
Secondly, the US is failing to produce top tennis talent professionally among its citizens because our top athletes are playing football and basketball. The US has some of the greatest athletes in the world, but they are not playing men’s tennis. Two of our best female athletes are the Williams’ sisters, and they have done extremely well. But our best boys aren’t being funneled into tennis development. Imagine if Kobe Bryant, Lebron James or Adrian Peterson were trained in tennis since the age of 5 or 6. This is where the USTA should put their Player Development dollars. The US could have as many or more top players than any other country if it went out and recruited the best athletes and sponsored them into tennis. Only when this happens will the US once again have many top players, and this in turn will make the sport more popular to the US audience which will drive the sport for many years to come.
USTA recommends for players who are not in top 5 in USA go to college, and try to play on pro level after college tennis (like John Isner). What are pros and cons of that advice?
I agree with the USTA recommendation that players out of the top 5 in the US go to college first before playing the pro tour. With the way college tennis is structured now, college players can play as many as 15 pro events during the calendar year. This gives them plenty of opportunities to test the pro waters. If they have enough success in these pro events-meaning winning Grand Prix level main draw matches-then turn pro. Going to college on a scholarship allows a player to mature, gain free coaching and travelling, and grow into a strong enough player to play at the top. The biggest obstacle to the college route is not age but the building of enough weaponry to succeed to the top of the tour. Players need to continue to strive for tremendous growth in their games in order to eventually make the jump to the pros.
What is the most important thing in Roger Federer play? Why he was able to win 16 Grand Slams? If someone can overreach this achievement in future?
Roger Federer’s greatness in tennis has mostly to do with sublime athleticism. Roger is truly one of the best athletes in the world, and he happens to play tennis. His quickness, agility, coordination, feel and mental fortitude are as good or better than any of the great soccer or basketball athletes. Roger is a elite professional athlete who could succeed in any sport that he trained in at the highest of levels.
Roger Federer has won 16 Grand Slam tournaments because has dominated, along with Rafael Nadal, professional tennis for most of the last 10 years. His ability to stay healthy and compete in every major for that duration, and his unparallaled drive to be the greatest keep him at the top of the game and help him create the opportunities to win majors. Roger’s ability to rise to another level in the biggest matches has made him nearly unbeatable in many finals, especially at Wimbledon and the US Open which are played on faster courts.
A frequent question asked these days is “can anyone ever pass Federer’s record of 16 majors?” Although it is truly a remarkable run of Majors, I believe Rafael Nadal will break the 16 major mark before his career is over. He is still the player to beat at the French, and he was right there at the Australian almost winning his 11th Major. He is great on grass as well, and he has an unmatched competitive will that hasn’t been seen since Jimmy Connors. It would take remarkably good health, and Novak Djokovic relenting some of his dominance for Nadal to stay in contention for 17 majors.
What are your three advices to junior tennis players?
My advice to junior players is as follows:
Decide what your priorities are in your life. How badly do you desire to be a great player? Do you really want tennis success badly enough to leave the life you currently have for a new tennis life? It will take ten years to make you a champion! Do you have the patience to last that long with your training? It is easier to become a doctor than to succeed on the professional tour.
If you still want to be a tennis champion after answering all of the previous questions and defying logic, then you need to make a game plan for your future success. The first component of every champion is having a coach that can make you a champion. He needs to have many high level skills: (a) technical and tactical knowledge, (b) overview of the professional game and how your game can compete given your size, skill set, and temperament, (c) time and commitment over several years of training, and (d) ability to blend tennis training, competitive play, physical training, tournament coaching and diet into helping control all aspects of your athletic and tennis development.
The last aspect to becoming a world-class player is to put yourself in a competitive environment. You need to be in a location that offers a good climate to train in every day. This location should be outdoors to cut down on costs, and allow you to play in some wind and sun to prepare you for the reality of tennis competition. Also, the training region should be at sea level. Altitude training is good for fitness but bad for your tennis game. The ball travels to quickly with little effort, so players don’t create powerful enough games, and the rallies are too short at altitude counter to the reality of playing on the tour. The other important aspect is to make sure you are training in a region that has very strong and frequent tournament opportunities. Players need to consistently test themselves in tournaments and gain valuable tournament match experience without having to travel too much Travel is fatiguing and takes away from training time.
These three variables will decide your future and allow you the best chance at becoming a champion.
Thank you Mitch for interesting and useful thoughts.