January 14, 2009

"Extraordinary Tennis" Book

I have stacks of tennis books. Doesn't everyone who plays tennis have stacks of tennis books?

Of the many tennis books I have, there are only a few that I go back to and read over and over. My favorite of these is a book published in 1977 that I originally bought in a thrift store. It is by Simon Ramo, a virtual unknown (at least to me) in the tennis world, and it's called Extraordinary Tennis for the Ordinary Player.

In his preface, Dr. Ramo (he has a Ph.D.) states "I always knew myself to be--and destined to never be more than--an 'ordinary' tennis player; 'mediocre' would be more accurate. If, as is usually claimed, it is beneficial to play with players who are better than you are, then I could also be categorized as the most highly benefited player I know." This guy is talking my kind of tennis.

He makes clear that there are two types of tennis - "pro" tennis, which most of us will never play and shouldn't try to, and "ordinary" tennis, which most of us play all the time. He then tells you how to win at ordinary tennis - which is a lot different from what it takes to win at pro tennis. Here is his great observation regarding many net players in doubles:
Very frequently, an average-type net player congratulates himself because he has never allowed his opponent to get by with an alley shot, either on the forehand or the backhand side. This net player hugs the alley. If his equally nonchampion opponent tries to put one down the alley, he clobbers it for a point by angling it down and away to the side. But this is really not something to brag about. Specifically, if you are this kind of net player and no alley shot ever gets by you, it means that you are overdoing it. Your opponent is rarely going to try an alley shot on you. He knows that you are going to abandon the rest of the court and stay fixed to protect that alley. You have given him everything but the narrow alley. And you have provided your partner essentially no support, and have failed to nettle your opponent. All in all, you have probably lost ten times as many points for your side by your neglect as the few you gained by handling that occasional alley shot.

Ramo, p.99. If this kind of talk doesn't get you out of the alley, nothing will.

The rest of the book is full of equally forthright commentary and has the added bonus of stick figure diagrams populated by ordinary players with names like Dill, Symington, Ketchum and Loughborough. Who knows how he came up with these names?

Anyway, I love this book, I highly recommend it and I can say, without a doubt, that I have gotten my 50 cents worth of value out of this thrift store purchase.

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