Monthly Archives: April 2015

Power On Our Groundstrokes

In today’s professional game, power in players’ strokes have become a paramount factor in determining their success/potential. Players are unable to apply pressure to their opponents without enough power. In fact, people who do not have enough power are the ones who are most likely to get pushed around. Being unable to produce power, hitting winners become more difficult and thus you end up having to rely only on your opponent’s errors in order to win points.

Power really adds another dimension to your game: being able to hit winners at will and applying enormous amounts of pressure onto your opponent at even unpredictable times – it just profoundly enhances your game and makes tennis less of a grind. However, of course, using power tends to strongly correlate with making errors but the benefits of possessing power greatly outweighs this con.

Take a look at Ferrer’s match with Djokovic at the Australian Open 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN4Q2zu4oyY). Compared to Djokovic, Ferrer has no real fire power. What makes things worse is that his ball speed never really changes and that is the reason why having power is so important. With power comes a larger range of gauging your ball speed. What makes gauging ball speed so advantageous is that your play becomes more unpredictable and the opponent will always be on his/her toes. Ferrer is a clear example of how damaging it is not changing ball speeds. Just look at Djokovic! Producing winners left and right, Djokovic throughout the whole match was in such a smooth balance and a fantastic rhythm. What makes it an even worse of a nightmare for Ferrer is that Djokovic can willingly power up his shots. It is just clear that Ferrer is always at a huge disadvantage going up against Djokovic, and the rest of the top guys.

On the other hand, Djokovic masterfully demonstrates why power is an important asset to be at the very top of the game. With power – whenever he sees an opening during the rally – he can end the point right then and there. Many instances during this match Djokovic would be hitting his typical rally-ball and then out of nowhere he will inject a lot of pace into the ball. As a result,  Ferrer will be caught completely off-guard and be put on the defensive. This is something Ferrer can not do as well as others. However, his fitness and machine-like consistency makes up for it – enough to keep him in the top 10 for many years now.

Although having power is not absolutely necessary, it’s an important dimension that can make points less physically burdening instead of having to grind out points continuously.

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The Simple Truth of the Game of Tennis

People make out tennis to be a very complicated sport. If you think about it, it’s not at all complicated, but rather a simple game. Of course there are many elements pertaining to the sport such as: power, directions, the serve, the return, the groundstrokes, volleys, touch, footwork, mentality, defense, and offense. However, at the end of the day, the person who gets the ball back one more time than his opponent is the winner. All of these elements listed are just products that aid you in accomplishing this objective. The ones who understand this the most are probably defensive players. Their main strategy is to return as many balls back as possible while playing a very safe and consistent game. With incredible fitness, these guys are menacing.

Murray on defense

Andy Murray is a prime example of a defensive player with prodigious fitness. When you watch this guy, notice his tactics against most players; he plays a rather safe game, simply just trying to out-rally his opponent most of the time. The reason why he does this is because he possesses a great deal of stamina – he knows that he can outlast about 95% of the people on tour. Furthermore, take a look at Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. These guys’ defense are also out of this world. Of course the three are aggressive when they can be (especially Federer) but they grew up playing the game defensively. Look at where they are now; they reign at the top of the game because they developed this kind of foundation. They understand that at the end of the day, it is all about the person who gets one more ball back.

Obviously every player knows this but do they actually truly execute it? No, they tend to lean their interests towards hitting winners or looking flashy which makes them prone to making unforced errors. These are the guys who have their good days/streaks and bad days/streaks. The guys who reign at the top are hanging up there because they are the ones who are consistently able to get one more ball back than their opponents can.

Check out this match of Grigor Dimitrov v. Andy Murray at the 2015 Australian Open (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJH0hxrMCCc)

Notice how aggressive Dimitrov chooses to play in the first set. In the beginning he appears to be slaughtering Murray, hitting volleys past him and pummeling winners left and right. However, Murray still comes out on top in the first set because he’s the one getting the ball back one more time than Dimitrov does. In the second set, Dimitrov’s aggressive game varied in success throughout. At the beginning of the set, his aggressive game went against him, producing too many errors that put him down a break. Though, later in the set, his aggressive game began to pay off as he was able to win the set in the tie-break. Then, it began to become clear in the third set that Murray was the more consistent player with better timely controlled aggression compared to Dimitrov, winning the set 6-4. The fourth set was devastating. Dimitrov’s aggression in the beginning was on a roll, taking him up a break 5-2. However, once again Dimitrov was not able to keep this level of play up as Murray breaks back and soon afterwards at 5-5, Dimitrov concedes the break to Murray with a heartbreaking double fault. Up 6-5, Murray ends this match with a 6/4 7/6 6/4 7/5 victory. Watching this match just shows that aggression is only a factor of the answer and that getting one more ball back than your opponent is the answer. If someone is able to get to every ball and return every shot, then that person would be virtually impossible to defeat.

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Why Do I Like Tennis?

Why do people like tennis? Unfortunately, I could not come up with reasons that could generalize for the entire community so I altered the question and changed it to, “Why Do I Like Tennis?”

If you are a perfectionist like I am, then you will probably take a liking for tennis, considering the many, many techniques there are to master. For example, we have the two groundstrokes which are the forehand and the backhand. While they are both classified under the same category “groundstrokes,” they are not exactly identical in terms of technique. The forehand is hit with the dominant arm and the core is what does the swinging; whereas the backhand  – while the core is utilized the same way – is strict on requiring that your dominant arm is straight upon contact. For the two-handed backhand, the core is still similarly used; however, obviously this stroke requires the proper usage of both arms. Furthermore with groundstrokes, there are heaps of sub-skills that you need to or naturally learn as you become more advanced such as the running forehand/backhand and the lasso-whip forehand. Besides the groundstrokes, there are also the serve, the smash, the volley, and the footwork. The vast and maybe infinite amount of techniques there are to master is what makes this sport so enjoyable to me, and probably for many others as well. The sport feels like it’s never ending, for there is always a particular skill to improve in your game.

I also really enjoy that the sport can be played singly. While I do enjoy playing team sports (basketball), I more prefer individual sports because in games, all of the weight are on your shoulders. You are out there on a battle with yourself and the person across the net, mentally and physically. I covet witnessing myself overcome mental obstacles and knowing the extent to which I can last physically. Whatever happens at the end, there is no one else to blame but yourself. You look to fix that by analyzing what went wrong and figuring flaws out with your coach on the practice court. With the aspect that tennis is played individually, you really learn a lot about your own capabilities and how strong you carry yourself as a person.

Andy Murray is well known for his forehand to be extremely loose and neutral of the wrist.

While the core fundamentals are the same for all high-level players, each of them always have a touch about his/her stroke (usually on the backswing) that differs them from others which is also another reason why this sport intrigues me greatly. For example Richard Gasquet’s forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk_eCLU_qnU) has quite a wild and strange loop to it that almost makes it look like his forehand is at a continental grip when in reality, it’s at a semi-western grip. The way he hits it just seems so unconventional compared to the rest. Also, If you look at Grigor Dimitrov’s forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3vfjOZuKJI), you will notice that every time after he turns his shoulders, he cheekily throws a peace-sign out as he extends his left arm.

Jeremy Chardy’s extremely cocked wrist on the takeback of his forehand is what greatly distinguishes him from the other players

I do not think anyone else on tour does this. Going to Andy Roddick, he’s known not only for his booming serve (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZC_uAGut9s) , but how distinct his serve looks; it’s a rather quick motion. It appears that he tosses the ball literally as he goes into the trophy position while others tend to toss the ball and then proceed to the trophy pose. All in all, from Federer’s graceful and elegant forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71xnOPbmrUI)  to Nadal’s brutalizing and wicked forehand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxmoF1qzouE) , it is evident that there is not one correct way of doing things in tennis and that each person who plays the sport will always have something perceptibly unique about their game. As a result, this always makes me wonder… what do I do that is unique from other players? In tennis, there is this sense of originality that is felt among players like no other sport. This is what makes tennis so interesting for me to watch and play.

There are many other reasons as to why I like tennis. However, the never-ending feeling in evolving your game, the sense of responsibility one bears on himself, and the distinctiveness the game creates among players are the main reasons why I love the game.