January 31, 2009

Serena Doubles Her Win

Serena Williams not only won the Australian Open this morning (our time), she completely dominated the tournament, winning not only the women's singles championship, but also the women's doubles, along with her sister, Venus.

In singles, Serena simply blew Dinara Safina, off the court, beating her 6-0, 6-3 in less than an hour. Most of the games weren't even close, with Dinara failing to score points in games regardless of whether she was serving or receiving.

But what I find completely remarkable is that Serena did this just one day after she and sister Venus stomped their competitors in women's doubles, beating Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama, 6-3, 6-3. While I haven't heard much about Serena's fitness or training, she must be in just incredible shape to pull this off in the heat down under.

This was the 8th Grand Slam doubles title for the sisters. And if you think they play tennis so well that they don't even need to talk to each other during a match, think again. Here's an interesting excerpt from a piece on the Australian Open website, commenting on their doubles play:
While the sisters produced flawless tennis today, they admitted their doubles game needed a bit of help in the early days.

"I think when we first started playing, we thought we knew each other so well we didn't have to talk between points … Someone told us, maybe Zina (Garrison), that we needed to talk between points," Venus smiled.

"We never told each other where we were going to serve or anything," Serena adds.

"We just figured we're so close that we don't need to do that. I think that's pretty clueless," Venus laughed.
So if the Williams sisters are talking to each other during their doubles matches, you can bet I'm talking to my partner during mine.

Now I just need to get myself up at 2:30 a.m. to catch Federer and Nadal playing for the men's title in what is sure to be a fabulous end to the Australian Open.

January 28, 2009

Serena Stays Alive

Serena Williams has made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open, despite being down a set and facing a match point in the second set against Svetlana Kuznetsova! Talk about not throwing in the towel!

With someone like Serena, a big comeback like that is no surprise. But what is a surprise to me is that she is actually looking good in the "Light Photo Blue" dress trimmed in "Liquid Lime" green with which Nike has outfitted her. (Apparently Nike can make up whatever name it wants for its colors.) This dress is the same style as the one she was expected to wear but in a different color. And it is something that would look great on almost any woman, regardless of her shape or size. Good for Nike and Serena for coming up with something flattering for a change! And good luck to Serena in her semi-final match against Elena Dementieva (shown below, who is looking very cute in red despite all the little sponsor logos on her outfit)!

January 25, 2009

Australian Open Update!

The one thing I can confidently say about Grand Slam tennis - it brings my husband and me together. Tennis is the one sport that we can both watch on TV and actually care about. Even when we have our Super Bowl party blow-out each year, I barely pay attention to watching the game. Except of course to see the commercials and possible "wardrobe malfunctions."

But right now, we are both heavily involved in figuring out when the Australian Open is on and what is happening in the matches. Since we DON'T have the Tennis Channel, we are often watching matches where we already know the outcome.

No matter. It is still a lot of fun to watch and critique this stuff together.

And, as you know from my previous post, I do not play pro tennis and have no illusions that what I'm playing is ever going to be anything close to pro tennis. But, even players like me, plain old ordinary tennis players, can learn a lot from watching the pros.

So what have I learned laterly? Roger Federer is two sets down playing Tomas Berdych and makes a huge comeback, ultimately winning 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Dinara Safina wins her first set 6-2, loses the second 2-6, and then fights her way back to win the third 7-5 after facing several match points!

The lesson: never throw in the towel. Too many times we think we see the way a match is going and we just give up. I realize Roger Federer and Dinara Safina have a lot more at stake than I do in my Friday morning indoor league match. But if I'm going to show up to play a match, I may as well play right up to the very last point.

By the way, I happen to be a big Andy Roddick fan. Especially over the past few years when he seems to have been working so hard and is keeping sort of under the radar. And he's still in the Australian Open! He faces Novak Djokovic in his next match. Good luck Andy!

January 24, 2009

Slowing Down Match Momentum

Have you ever played a match that moves way too fast? You think you'll warm up any minute now and get a rhythm going. Next thing you know, you're down a set, its match point and you just lost by hitting your return WAY out! Did two sets really go by that quickly?

If you often get the feeling you've been "rushed" through a match, you need to come up with some acceptable ways to slow down the other team's pace and momentum. I'm not talking about gamesmanship or pretend bathroom breaks. Rather, you need to be aware of those opportunities that you are afforded in any match, by rules, regulations, etiquette, whatever, to regain your composure, calm down, and get a grip on what's happening on the court.

So what are some acceptable ways to slow down the pace in a match?

The rules of tennis provide help here. Let's assume the ITF's Rules of Tennis apply (which they should). Rule 21 states:
The server shall not serve until the receiver is ready. However, the receiver shall play to the reasonable pace of the server and shall be ready to receive within a reasonable time of the server being ready.
So when you're the server, you set the pace and it should be a "reasonable" pace. When you're the receiver, you play to the pace of the server and you have to be ready within a "reasonable" time of the server being ready. (Note that "The Code - The Players' Guide for Unofficiated Matches" also says, in Paragraph 29, that the receiver shall play to the "reasonable pace" of the server.)

That sounds like, whether you're serving or receiving, you should never feel rushed since you have a "reasonable" amount of time to get ready.

Rule 29 goes on to say:
As a principle, play should be continuous, from the time the match starts (when the first service of the match is put in play) until the match finishes.
a. Between points, a maximum of twenty (20) seconds is allowed. When the players change ends at the end of a game, a maximum of ninety (90) seconds are allowed. However, after the first game of each set and during a tie-break game, play shall be continuous and the players shall change ends without a rest.
So even if you're playing someone who is insistent on playing by the "rules," you have 20 seconds between each point and 90 seconds on the changeovers - plenty of time to calm yourself for each point!

And these are the rules used by the ITF and the USTA! I'm guessing most of your matches aren't tournaments or so formal or contentious that people are pulling out the rules and timing each other. You can probably take much more time than these rules allow for.

And your league rules or regulations may help too. For example, the league rules of the West Houston Ladies' Tennis Association state, in Paragraph 5 of the Match Play section, "a 10-minute break may be taken between the 2nd and 3rd sets only. A bathroom break may be taken at any time." I'm not saying you should take a bathroom break at "any time," even though it says you can. And I'm not advocating the gamesmanship of using "pretend" bathroom breaks to slow down match momentum. But I would sure take one during a changeover if the match was rushing along and I thought there was the slightest chance I needed to go.

There are plenty of other opportunities that are not in any rules or regulations but that are certainly allowed by tennis etiquette:

*Talk to your partner after each game or at least on changeovers. Even a word or two between points is acceptable.
*Take a drink of water betweeen games and on changeovers.
*Tie your shoes if you need to.
*Retrieve stray balls and return balls that come on your court (I know - it sounds like a weird opportunity to slow down a match but you know balls are rolling around the court all the time so there's nothing wrong with getting them out of the way).

All of these will give you just a few extra seconds or minutes to slow down both yourself and the pace of the match. And ultimately you'll find that small amount of time is all you need.

January 21, 2009

A Great Day To Be An American Tennis Fan!

It was really fun flipping back and forth between the Australian Open and all of the Inaugural Balls last night. Michelle Obama nailed it in her glamorous white one-shoulder gown by 26 year-old (!!!) designer Jason Wu.

Do they care about the inauguration of our first African American President down in Australia? Of course they do! Here is a great excerpt from the post-match interview done with James Blake after he beat Frank Dancevic of Canada in the first round of the Australian Open, right before the inaugural events:
Q. Coming up in just a few hours, Barack Obama's inauguration, does that have any significance to you, being African American?

JAMES BLAKE: Absolutely has significance to me. I hope it has significance to a lot of people in the States. We're in a time that seems very historic. We're looking for positive change in the States. We're in some situations that are less than ideal in our country. I think if there's any man for the job that's ahead of him that can deal with the tasks and the pressures of being President in this tumultuous time, it's Barack Obama.

I was proud to donate and help with the campaign. I'm proud to ‑‑ I'm always proud to say I'm an American, but I'm going to be especially proud at 4 a.m. here. It's going to be a very significant inauguration, a very significant presidency to have the first African American in power. Hopefully it will knock down more doors.

It was so great to see an African American and a female running for the highest office in our country. I really think there's no one better qualified for the job than Barack Obama right now.
Good luck to James in his remaining matches!

January 20, 2009

Ivanovic Wins In First Round

Here's a shot of Ana Ivanovic after her first round win on Day 1 of the Australian Open. I think I called it correctly in my Australian Open Fashion post - this dress is a Tennis Fashion Don't! Especially after a hard match where one has been sweating profusely. This dress is clingy in all the wrong places. And baggy in all the other wrong places. She is a good looking player and deserves better advice or tailoring or something from Adidas (her attire sponsor).

January 19, 2009

The Australian Open Is On!

Just in case you don't know - today is the first day of the Australian Open. You can check it out on ESPN2, occasionally, if you don't have The Tennis Channel. (Like me.)

You can keep up with the scores on the Australian Open website - www.australianopen.com. You can also track the schedule and scores right here on the Tennis Fixation blog by clicking on the Australian Open widget in the sidebar to the right. I'll just tell you that out of 17 Americans entered into the tournament, after the first day, only 10 remain!

January 16, 2009

Are You the Tennis Partner No One Wants to Play With?

Believe it or not, there are some ladies no one wants to partner with! They are not bad players. In fact, they may be pretty darn good. They make their shots. They win more than they lose. But, for a variety of reasons, these ladies just take all of the fun out of playing tennis. Make sure your name is not on this list of "The Tennis Partners No One Want To Play With!"

1. Are you partnered with "Bossy Betty"? Bossy Betty tells you where to stand, where to hit the ball, what you're doing wrong and what you need to do to correct all of your mistakes. She usually starts all of this before you even get on the court and will continue throughout the match. Partnering with Bossy Betty will require you to be patient and very in control of your emotions.

2. Are you partnered with "Coaching Cathy"? Coaching Cathy spends most of her time between points and on changeovers telling you how to improve your game. She doesn't claim to be a tennis pro but because she has taken many, many lessons over the years, playing with her is, in her opinion, the next best thing to playing with a pro by your side. She will instruct you throughout the match but will pay almost no attention to what exactly the problem on the court is. You will have to take her coaching in stride and just play your game as best you can.

3. Are you partnered with "Blaming Betsy"? Blaming Betsy is sure that your team is losing because you are not doing your job. Unlike Bossy Betty and Coaching Cathy, Betsy doesn't have any real insight into what is going wrong and doesn't have any good ideas about how to turn things around. She just knows that it's all your fault and wants to make sure you know it too. Again, you will need patience and a positive attitude to make it through the match with Blaming Betsy.

4. Are you partnered with "Hooking Hannah"? "Hooking" is what we call cheating in tennis and Hannah will be hooking right from the start of your match. You may not be 100% sure on your calls but Hannah is always positive on her's. And her calls always seem to work in her favor. You will often find yourself in the uncomfortable position of seeing a ball "in" that Hannah called "out" in which case, you are supposed to correct your partner. But correcting Hannah all the time is no fun and can certainly lead to a rift in your partnership during the match. Just remember to call them as you see them, point out any "errors" in Hannah's calls when necessary, and leave the match feeling good about yourself.

5. Are you partnered with "Talkative Teresa"? Talkative Teresa is pleasant enough to be around. She just won't stop talking. She talks between points. She talks on the changeovers. Between sets, she wants to sit down and have a good, long conversation. The problem with all of her friendly chat is that it can be very distracting. For her, for you and even for your opponents. You will need to be sure YOU are not hanging out, participating in these talks if you want them to end. And you may need to tell Talkative Teresa how hard it is for you to focus with all of the chatting.

6. Are you partnered with "Negative Nora"? Negative Nora is having a bad day today. She is having a bad day every time she steps on the court. The other team is playing "down" and should be at a higher line. The other team is cheating. She wasn't supposed to play today anyway. And her knee is hurting. If she gets down too far in a match score-wise, she is just throwing in the towel because she knows she is going to lose. And guess what? You are going to lose right along with her! When playing with Negative Nora, your job will be to keep things positive. No matter what. You can always make a big comeback in tennis, even when you're very far down so keep right on playing and try to bring Nora around.

7. Are you partnered with "Gloaty Gladys"? If Negative Nora is a sore loser, then Gloaty Gladys is the opposite - a gloaty winner! She fist pumps on her good shots! She fist pumps on her lucky mis-hits! She fist pumps on the points she wins when her shot somehow dribbles over the net cord onto the other side! And, most embarrasingly, she fist pumps on points she wins on the other team's errors! Gloaty Gladys sees herself as just another aggressive player. Is it a breach of tennis etiquette to celebrate her opponents' errors? She just doesn't see it. You probably will have to put up with this throughout the match. Perhaps complimenting your opponents on their great shots will bring some level of civility to the match.

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.

January 12, 2009

Why I Love Mini-Court

Around here, warming-up for a match, a clinic, a lesson or drills always starts with "mini-court" tennis. You stand at the service line and your opponent, across the net, does the same. In singles, you're in the middle of the court, at the center of the service line. In doubles, you're on the service line at the back of whatever service box is on the side you'll be playing (forehand or backhand side). Then you just "tap" the ball back and forth with your opponent. The goal - keep the ball in the service box across the net and hit it after one bounce on your side. This is not a volley drill so you don't take it out of the air.

Sounds boring, right? Most people want to rush through this little preliminary warm-up or try to skip it altogether. Even those who play a few minutes of mini-court don't try too hard - they're OK with the ball going anywhere but the opposite service box and don't care if they keep "lobbing" you, with the ball going over you and behind you and into the other service box and onto the next court.

But mini-court tennis can be a very helpful drill. You don't have to take my word for it - I once saw Mashona Washington, a pro ranked as high as No. 50, play mini-court for over an hour! She was just tapping the ball back and forth over the net. And I thought, "If it's helpful for Mashona Washington, surely it can do something for me!"

So here's what I think you can get out of playing lots of mini-court tennis:

1. Mini-court helps you practice placement. You probably know that placement is usually more important than power in ordinary ladies' doubles. In mini-court, the area you are supposed to hit into is only a fraction of the size of the whole court. To be successful, you must place the ball much more accurately.

2. Mini-court helps you practice restraint. Most of us want to hit the ball hard. At least I do. In mini-court, you have to learn to hold back just a little. Unless you're going to put topspin on every ball (see No. 3 below), you are going to have to practice restraint and patience to keep the ball in and to keep the rally going. Restraint can be a very valuable tool during a match when a small tap over the net results in a point won where a hard whack at the ball often ends up in the bottom of the net.

3. Mini-court helps you practice topspin. One way to keep a ball in during a full-court game is to take a full swing at the ball, hit hard and flat and cross your fingers that the ball doesn't go out. Another way is to take a full swing with topspin, causing the ball to drop in at the last minute. In mini-court, you can practice this by taking a pretty full swing at the ball and keeping it in with topspin. You will have to put massive topspin on that ball to get it into the opposite service box, much more than you would usually use in a match.

4. Mini-court helps you with footwork. When you are playing mini-court against someone who really doesn't care where their ball goes, you will find yourself running down all kinds of things. When this happens, don't get frustrated with players who do not know how to do a "proper warm-up." If you can consistently respond to this by not only returning those balls, but also placing them back in the opposite service box, i.e., playing proper mini-court tennis, maybe it is time for you to take on Mashona Washington!

Maria Sharapova Out of Australian Open

Maria Sharapova announced yesterday that she will not be defending her title at this year's Australian Open due to ongoing problems with her shoulder. So I guess we will not get to see the yellow and brown ombre-shaded dress after all.

January 9, 2009

Sizing Up Opponents

I once played a match where I had a lot of difficulty with one of the opponents. Her serves had a very weird spin to them and my own serve just didn't seem to be doing what I'd hoped it would do. It was probably well into the first set before I realized she was a lefty. Seriously.

This kind of stuff used to happen to me all the time. Now, it happens only occasionally which I consider to be progress. To cut down on these "surprises," I try to pay attention to my opponents during the warm-up (I know - what a crazy idea!). By the time we start playing, I want to have some idea of what to expect from them and what I need to do to (hopefully) win against them. Here are a few of the things I look for during the warm-up:

1. Righty or Lefty - I learned my lesson here. I'm not a great server but at least I need to be sure I don't keep directing my serve to my left-handed opponent's forehand. Playing against a lefty looks different so accept that and don't let it psych you out.

2. Physical Condition - Are my opponents young or old? Are they on the "heavy" side? Do they move quickly or slowly? Will they tire out easily? You're going to play people differently depending on how they look. With an older, heavy-set lady, you run her around, play quickly and tire her out. With a younger, fit player, you have to be consistent and require her to hit the winner and beat you.

3. Serve - What kind of serve are they showing you during warm-up? Does it have a lot of spin? Does it move around a lot? Is it hard and flat? Or is it a real "puff ball" that will require you to move in? Just don't be fooled by what you see during the warm-up. Some ladies have a lousy serve during warm-up that really comes on line during the match. Some ladies don't want to show you their real serve during the warm-up so what happens during the match may be a shock. Of course, some ladies hit great serves throughout the warm-up and then you wonder what happened to those serves once the match starts.

4. Strong Partner vs. Weak Partner - I think the most basic strategy in doubles is to pick on the weaker player so you need to pay attention during warm-up to who that might be. This also means you need to pay attention to the other opponent - the one you are not warming up with. Look over and see what she looks like and is doing.

Following the warm-up, before the match starts, be sure and talk to your own partner about what you picked up on during the warm-up as well as what she saw. If you've paid attention during warm-up, by the time the match gets going, you should both know several things about your opponents and have an early strategy for playing and beating them.

January 6, 2009

Australian Open "Fashion"?

The 2009 Australian Open is right around the corner - it starts on January 19. So I was, of course, wondering what the top women players would be wearing. Another way to put this - I was wondering what kind of tennis wear will be coming out for me to buy in the next month or so. Well, if what the players are supposed to wear is any indication of what will be available for me to wear, it's not looking good. Here is a sample of what the players may wear at the Australian Open and my less than appreciative comments.

These are the dresses that Maria Sharapova is supposed to wear at the Australian Open. I like the ombre shading on both and I like the white/black dress. But yellow and brown? Does anyone look good in yellow and brown?

This is the dress that Ana Ivanovic is supposed to wear. While I like the color, the whole thing looks a little . . . dowdy. A drop waist? Gathering and weird draping? I thought she was younger than me. This looks like something my grandma would wear if she took up tennis.

This is what Serena Williams is supposed to wear at the 2009 Australian Open. Pink with black trim. I'm pretty sure I already own this outfit. Can't Nike come up with something more exciting for Serena? Lord knows she'll wear almost anything (remember the U.S. Open catsuit?). This outfit is just bor-ing.

If these are my options, I may not do too much tennis shopping in the next month or so. Hopefully we'll see cuter things come out for the French Open.

January 5, 2009

(Sort of Like Having) The Tennis Channel

I don't have the Tennis Channel. I used to have the Tennis Channel but then my cable provider changed and it went away. And some people in my house don't think we need to pay extra to get the Tennis Channel. So, for now, I just check in on their website. And the website is actually pretty good and has one of my favorite Tennis Channel segments - the One Minute Clinic. This is a great source of video tennis tips by a variety of experts aimed at players who are ordinary (like me). The best part is each tip is only one minute long so you can watch several at one sitting before your ADHD sets in. So check out the Tennis Channel website and the One Minute Clinic for some interesting and useful tennis tips.

January 3, 2009

What's In My Tennis Bag?

Well, I have my new tennis bag all loaded up and ready to go. I have already gotten several compliments on it I think because it is so bright and colorful! But a tennis bag can't just be cute - it has to do its job. That means it has to have everything you might need to play well and win a match. So here is a list of what I carry in my bag. I admit it - it is a lot of stuff. But I don't want to lose because I didn't have a band-aid!

1. Two Tennis Rackets - I don't carry two because I think it makes me look intimidating. I'm pretty sure no one has ever been intimidated by me and my two rackets. I carry two because I have actually switched rackets during a match. While I have one I usually play with, sometimes it feels "funny," especially after it has been restrung. And I want to be ready for that day when I hit a ball so hard that I break a string!

2. Tennis Balls - Seems obvious but I have been known to NOT have a can of balls with me. This can get old if your partner always has to come up with new balls. So I try to have one new can for match play as well as a can of used balls to warm up with.

3. Grip Overwrap - I use that regular old blue wrap that has Pete Sampras' picture on it (or maybe it is the Bryan brothers now). If you don't like that one, don't worry - there are tons of different wraps in tons of different colors and textures. Or maybe you use rosin or that sticky stuff in a tube. Just be sure you have whatever you need to make your racket feel comfortable in your hand and prevent it from slipping.

4. Cap or Visor - To keep your hair back and to keep the sun out of your eyes. Especially useful when you're playing a lobber.

5. Hair Stuff - This is a big one for me. I don't like to pull my hair back but I can't play seriously with it in my face. I have come to accept that to play well, I have to put my hair in a ponytail AND clip my bangs back. You will know I am playing a serious match if my hair is pulled back, my bangs are in a clip AND I'm wearing a cap.

6. Sunglasses - Like Number 4, you may need these when you're playing a lobber. But you may also need them when its just a bright day outside. Unless it is absolutely about to rain, I wear sunglasses.

7. Sunscreen - Here in Houston, we wear sunscreen most of the year. Even in winter, it is still sunny enough to be outside playing tennis and therefore to be wearing sunscreen. I have a lotion for my face (SPF 70!) and a spray for everything else (SPF 45).

8. Water - I always carry my own water bottle. Perhaps the other team is supposed to provide you with water, but you never know what you're going to find. It may be a gallon jug out on the court and you are supposed to keep refilling a small plastic cup. A plastic cup that looks just like everyone else's. It may be one of those cooler/dispensers on a stand that you don't know how often it is refilled or with what. It may be nothing - which happened to me at one match where the person who was supposed to bring water bottles forgot.

9. Towel - This is obvious.

10. Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Safety Pins - Typical first aid, emergency type stuff. You need this for yourself and to share with your partner.

11. Phone Numbers - I carry cell phone numbers of almost everyone I have ever played tennis with. Sometimes you need to call your partner to say "Where are you? The match is about to start!" Sometimes you need to call a team mate to say "My partner didn't show up! Can you be here in 10 minutes to sub?" Sometimes you need to call a friend to say "We have an indoor court but only 3 to play. Do you want to come play tennis with us and then go out for lunch?"

12. Pens & Paper - To keep score, etc.

13. Rules of Tennis - I carry the ITF Rules of Tennis, whatever written rules are available for the various leagues I play in as well as a copy of "The Code - The Players' Guide for Unofficiated Matches." I don't want to seem too geeky about this stuff but it really helps to know the rules. You are eventually going to get into some kind of conflict and the person who knows the rule often wins the point.

14. My Lucky Charm! - I almost forgot this one. I always carry my little Hello Kitty tennis player keychain with me for good luck. One of my kids gave it to me (OK - it's a Happy Meal toy) and so it is special. I don't know that it is necessary to have a lucky charm in your bag, but it can't hurt. And with all that other stuff in there, it's not like it's going to add much weight.

January 1, 2009

Top Tennis Resolutions for the New Year!

Here it is, January 1, 2009, and, if you're really looking to improve your game in the new year, then you've got to make, and hopefully keep, at least one Tennis Resolution. While there are any number of tennis resolutions you might consider, here are six possibilities. I personally have chosen Number 4 as my 2009 Tennis Resolution and I'll keep you updated as to how it goes. Pick one of these for yourself and let me know about your own progress!

Resolution No. 1 - Meet new people to play. Break out of your rut and play someone different. This will not only give you more tennis opportunities, it may also give you some variety and challenge in your matches.

Resolution No. 2 - Try a lesson with a new pro. If you haven't taken a lesson in a long time or if you've been with the same coach for years and find yourself going through the same routine at each lesson, try someone new for a change of pace. You may find that having someone take a "fresh" look at your strokes results in some quick and easy improvements.

Resolution No. 3 - Get in better shape for tennis.
I don't mean hitting more balls and improving your strokes. Instead, increase your stamina on the court by working out aerobically - running, biking - whatever it takes to get your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. Also, consider adding weights to your work-out to increase your strength, an area in which most women are usually deficient.

Resolution No. 4 - Play more "fun" tennis. All of my tennis matches are currently league matches. Because they count for points, I don't feel like I can try anything too new or daring. So I'm going to play more for fun this year and try some of the shots and strategies I work on in lessons and drills.

Resolution No. 5 - Perform a better warm-up before matches. I'm not talking about doing a better job during your warm-up with your partner and your opponents. Rather, spend some time before you even get out on the court stretching and, if possible, doing some aerobics to get your blood pumping. This way, you're more likely to hit the ground running rather than losing those first few games because you're still warming up.

Resolution No. 6 - Improve your second serve.
Many of the women I play have a pretty good first serve. Not many of the women I play have a great or even decent second serve. They pop it over the net, just getting it in to start the point. So work on getting some kind of second serve in 2009. Don't worry so much about pace. Work on spin and placement, two things that can be even harder for many returners to deal with.