Tuesday, December 7, 2021

So, you want to be a tennis pro

Dom Irrera

Dom Irrera

One of my all-time favorite comedians is Dom Irrera, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who does this great bit about his friends, who always love to give medical advice, when a buddy is sick called, “not a doctor.” “Oh, you got that flu? Yeah. Drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest,” his good bud suggested.

“Boy am I glad that I ran into you. First of all, you’re not a doctor, are you? Because I don’t know where you got that kind of information. I was just about out of my house when I was about to do wind-sprints and dehydrate myself before I felt better. You’re all-right, pal!”

Strangely enough, I really can’t pinpoint it but for some reason, it seems like everyone who plays tennis wants to be a tennis pro. Every time, no matter where I visit, I observe tennis players offering lots of coaching advice to their partners. Over twenty years ago, I took my Hideaway Beach tennis academy to the Jack Kramer Tennis Club (the home of Pete Sampras, Tracy Austin & Ellsworth Vines, among others) for some top junior competition and most of the tennis courts were occupied by want-a-be tennis pros and their basket of balls for coaching. Not one of these courts-with coaching baskets, were occupied by the club coaching staff.

Unless I am missing something here, it appears that most tennis players desire to be tennis professionals. And believe me, it doesn’t matter what ability one may be, watch a tennis match and there is someone on the court dishing out advice.“I know that we can beat these guys if we control the net or let’s keep the ball away from the lefty because he is killing us, “one partner suggested to his teammate.

Apparently, a lot of tennis people have pretty good size egos and they just desire to be experts. The problem is that most people are not qualified to offer good solid tips that will enable the player to improve. Moreover, more times than not, the non-expert may be doing more harm than good.

For example, during one of my friend’s clinics recently, he noted that one of the players was scolding their partner for not covering the middle of the court during a heated-exchange. Upon further examination, this know-it-all player was completely out of line and was only criticizing their partner because they were at fault, not the partner!

During my visit in Los Angeles with my academy, I observed two eager players who were trying to offer the other some advice on the forehand stroke. Sadly, both players were way off base; one of the guys was leading with the edge on the stroke (a big and very dangerous mistake) and there is a quick fix. But this so-called tennis expert did not understand the solution and was continually confusing his friend. I badly wanted to interject and offer a free tip but I intelligently pulled back and walked away.

Perhaps the most glaring problem in our sport is lack of good eye contact; anxiousness takes over and most amateurs do not watch the ball long enough to really play tennis well.  Let’s face facts – if a tennis player does not see the ball well, they are never going to be able to master this sport.

This problem of non-experts offering their two-cents is disconcerting and potentially very dangerous. In doubles, when a team gains the net by attacking their approach shots, it is prudent to stay together and finish out the point. But, hundreds and hundreds of players continually suggest to their partner to run to the baseline to cover the potential lob. Again, when an amateur does not assess the situation correctly, they put their team in peril. When a doubles team effectively plays the net area, they are cognizant of the lob possibilities and know when to shift and cover.

If you are an aspiring tennis professional and looking to gain more tennis knowledge, I urge you to purchase Howie Burnett’s book, Net Notes (Amazon.com). Island Club tennis pro, Burnett offers insights like, “From rally to attack mode or Put your tummy to the target or If you attack, they will lob,” and so many other valuable nuggets that will enable players to suggest good ideas to their future partners.

Remember one key point about eventually being a tennis professional – be ready to work weekends and holidays and don’t plan on retirement!

Doug Browne is beginning his 26th year as Director of Tennis at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island. He has been associated with the USPTA for 25 years, and has been playing, talking, and teaching tennis for most of his life. He may be reached at DBrowne912@aol.com.

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