Each December, I get excited about Chanukah and Christmas, and I love to smell that crispness in the air. Our kids come home from Virginia and South Carolina, and we are able to celebrate the festivities. Oh, by the way, that includes cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl. The big decision is to decide if we go to Tampa or enjoy it on the big screen television in the great room.
We just held a star-studded tennis ‘expo’ at Hideaway Beach, featuring the top Naples Pro League player and Hideaway Beach’s summer pro, Tye Myers. He teamed up with hitting partner and Furman Paladin tennis star, Matt Browne, and they wrestled one of the best teams in southwest Florida. The incredible opponents hailed from Brazil and Lebanon. Jose Pastrello of Quail Creek is one of the best players in Naples, and was a top 20 junior player from Brazil and star at FGCU. His partner was Jichan Zaatini, who once played for the Lebanese Davis Cup team. You can read all about the exciting tournament in the next edition of Coastal Breeze News.
In order to prepare for the new CTA/USTA season in 2014, I have compiled a simple list of do’s and don’ts for our ambitious tennis enthusiasts:
• Be prepared to shift with your partner — don’t stay in the same area.
• If you are at the net, don’t let balls bounce and move backward.
• If you are near the baseline, let the ball bounce and make a good decision.
• Don’t play every ball; have some trust and let balls sail past the baseline when you are in no-man’s land during your doubles match.
• Don’t come to an abrupt stop; slow down and let your balance catch up.
• If you would like to routinely hold serve, avoid the angle serves. Too many talented people serve balls to the strength of the opponents.
• Approach shots are intended to set up the volley. Don’t hit a weak ball and charge unless you enjoy losing.
• Vary your volleys. Hit deep to set up the patterns, and then add short angles for easy put-away shots.
Far too many league tennis players fail to shift and move with their partners. If the ball is hit wide, move with your partner. Successful doubles players continually move so they feel involved in the point. If you stay in the same spot, your opponents will learn to hit the easy openings. Whereas, if you are constantly moving and coordinating with your partner, you are creating a much more difficult puzzle for your foes to figure out and then they will make simple errors.
Remember, the toughest skill in tennis is to watch for the ball, and if you are always moving and gliding, your combatants may begin to watch the movement more than the ball. And, don’t forget the great exercise one benefits from when she is always active on the court.
One of the more difficult items in tennis is to make quick judgments. The closer to the net, try to hit the ball in the air, and if you are farther from the net and close to the baseline, please let it bounce. As we delve into the no-man’s land areas, have confidence to let balls travel past the baseline, or you will be giving away too many points.
If you want to get better at this one area, work on the boundary drill in practice. In this particular drill, I have two of my players standing between the service line and baseline, and we hit various balls that will either land in or go well past the baseline. The key is to have our players begin to trust their eye and see if they can let some balls go. In short order, our students begin to make better decisions under pressure. If you are an avid net player, it is wise to move quickly and slow down but don’t come to an abrupt stop or you will lose balance and the ability to hit a clean volley. The real purpose of the split step is to regain balance and control, stopping too harshly will be a problem.
Last, as I have mentioned in previous columns, learn to serve in the correct areas of the court. Under duress, too many players hurry their serves, and it often travels to the foes strength. If you wish to hold serve on a regular basis, serve to set up your partner. Believe it or not, I cannot remember a time when my net partner was not actively involved in holding serve. We all need the help. Find their weakness, and go there relentlessly.
Let me know how you are progressing with your tennis game. Good luck.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing a tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.