I was fortunate enough to be able to come to New York this year. Junior US Open starts during second week of regular US Open 2017 so this opportunity gave me a chance to see many top professional players. Hanging around guys like Federer, Pliskova or Del Potro is not only great to remember but it is also a huge lesson that juniors can use to get own game to the next level.
Loud fans. Arthur Ashe stadium. Wilson balls. All these factors are related only to this spectacular event. US Open 2017. Getting to watch Sharapova or Nadal on the biggest tennis stadium is hard to explain in words. It is an unbelievable experience for a human being but as a tennis coach I also look for lessons that I can share later with my players.
A lot of spectators look at match just to enjoy it but my approach is not the same. I want to enjoy but I also want to leave stadium smarter as a tennis coach. During second week of US Open 2017 I was watching a lot of matches. Nadal, Carreno Busta, Shapovalov, Sharapova, Vandeweghe are just few of many players that I was able to analyze.
Their game is great but as we know at the top level most of the players have similar technical and tactical skills. That is why I always look for these „hidden” skills that really make the difference and I think I found them.
Not everyone can be like Nadal or Federer who are able to dominate for many years but most of competitive juniors can definitely be like Carreno Busta or Sloane Stephens who work hard on their game and are able to come up with great final result.
Too many times young players admire only the winners forgetting that getting to the quarterfinal is the success that most of us can only dream about. That is why it is worthy to learn from everyone and try to incorporate little details that can give us advantage in the long term.
So what are these hidden factors that I was able to notice during my trip to US Open 2017? There were many lessons but I would like to share with you the 3 most important ones. Here they are:
1. Beginning of the match
It is amazing to see that top players are able to start matches really well. It is visible especially between male competitors. As we know male players base their hard-court game on serves so if there is one break in a set many times it means the set is over.
That is why it is so crucial for professionals to be able to start the match on their own high level. And they are able to do so. It is important lesson for juniors who need 2-3 gems at the beginning of the match to get the rhythm and needed control over the ball. On the top level you don’t have this time. If you don’t start the match well you can lose a set pretty quickly. Work on your beginning if you want to be like pros!
This little detail was never so visible for me on TV but it took my attention immediately on all matches played on Arthur Ashe stadium. Nadal, Vandeweghe and other top competitors use their towels after every point! They know how important it is to play the best game during each point so they don’t want to have situation when the racquet slips in their hands and they lose control over the shot.
Using towel is a great way to get rid of extensive sweat, analyze the last point and plan the next one as well as not to rush between the points. Many juniors lose few points in a row because they don’t take enough time between rallies. Towel can be a great friend for tennis players but you have to start using it.
3. Playing with big pressure
Arthur Ashe stadium. 22 547 seats. Two players playing tennis. One is American. Can you imagine how big pressure there is? American player has a big support but also there is big responsibility. Rival has to deal with the crowd that claps hands and screams after every point won by American. This experience was mind-opening.
If you want to get to the top you have to learn how to deal with big pressure. Many juniors complain during tournaments that few friends of the opponent are too loud. Really? Compare it to over 22 thousands of friends of your rival. That’s a challenge. If you are able to focus on your game when the environment is hostile then you are on the right way to become a champion.