Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What's your Universal Tennis Rating?

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Do you know what your Universal Tennis Rating is? You might already have a Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) and just not know it! EVERY tennis player can have a UTR. Whether you’re a league player, recreational, junior, college player, or a tennis pro playing the circuit, UTR is available for everyone and will provide the most accurate measurement of a player’s true skill level. Sooo what is it? How do I look up my UTR? How does it work? Also, because I’m sure for those USTA players out there you might be thinking, I have a USTA rating so why would I want to know my UTR? 

Because its universal. Because its affordable. Because it can accurately match up players more competitively. UTR embraces and rates every type of player out there, not just those with a USTA membership. So you can now accurately compare your skills across the globe with those at any age, experience-level and gender. 

Unlike the USTA that uses a rating scale of 1.0-beginner to 7.0-advanced to gauge your playing level, UTR has a rating scale of 1.00 to 16.50. Why the big scale? Because there is a wide variety of players out there! You have your beginners, intermediate players (recreation/league players fall anywhere from 2.00-5.00 on average), high school players, tournament players, collegiate players (typical range is 9.00-13.00), and top-professionals (Roger Federer has a 16.14 UTR) all being rated along one scale. If you’ve played any sanctioned tournaments or are in any adult leagues such as the USTA, then you may already have a UTR and can simply claim your profile by searching for your name. If you’re brand-spanking new to competitive tennis, you get rated by posting a score from a casual hit or by playing recreational matches and poof, you have a UTR! Your UTR will become more reliable after approximately 5 matches, and then will continually update after each subsequent match.

The goal of @MyUTR is both simple and ambitious: measure every player’s ability along one scale.

So how does it work after you get rated? UTR calculates down to the 1/100 of a point and lets you know exactly where you stand by being super transparent with letting you know how its algorithm works. The UTR algorithm calculates your match rating and the match weight and averages the matches you've played to come up with a player’s UTR. What this means is it looks at the match rating (numeric level) and calculates based on how you perform vs. the expectation of the match. So if you're expected to win a close match against an opponent but end up dominating 6-1, 6-1, then your match rating goes up. Even if you are expected to lose, but then end up having a closer match than what was expected, your UTR will go up. Look at it as a win even though you didn't technically win! 

The match weight is actually pretty interesting because matches are weighed heavier on numerous accounts, such as playing an opponent that is closer in numeric rating than somebody 2 points above/below you, playing someone with a more reliable UTR which means they play often, and playing longer matches. A match format that is best of 2/3 sets has more weight than a match with a 3rd set tiebreak. So after looking at both your match rating and weight then voila! you get your new calculated UTR. Also, everything is in real-time. The system updates your rating after every match played (with the exclusion of mixed) within the last 12 months. That includes verified/sanctioned matches and tournaments or just a casual match at the park. 

Here’s my takeaway:  As a newbie to the UTR system I like it. It’s easy to get started, simple to track, and I like that it tracks your progress real-time. Yes, the USTA system is one of the best rating systems out there, because really what else was there to compare to before? The problem I see with tracking a player's level solely on the USTA rating system is we’ve become accustomed and groomed to compete based off of how we think it will affect our rating vs. going out there and competing to the best to our ability. Also, for some players I feel like it has become more of a status symbol. I’ve seen groups of friends break up based on ‘moving up or down’ in the world of USTA league tennis.  And that is why tracking your UTR instead can be so refreshing. We don't have to have this win or die mentality or that we have to "protect" our rating for whatever reason, but rather go out and compete often and win as many games as possible, because at the end of the day that is what makes you a better competitor.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Are you ready for a change?

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member Author of "First Serve", a plant-based cookbook with a tennis theme

The Game Changers in theaters 
Monday, September 16, 2019.
August, 2019.  It’s the annual summer break from scheduled tennis drills and matches. For me, it’s a time to take stock of my fitness, both mental and physical. The first of January may be the traditional day for resolutions, but I never feel moved to much action in the dead of winter. August, on the other hand, is a time of promise and anticipation of cooler temps and less humidity, the autumn holidays, (especially Thanksgiving), and a kind of positive energy that creates my kind of momentum. Fall Interclub and USTA leagues are just around the corner as well as chances to be more intentional and motivated during weekly drills at Towpath.

For a different kind of powerful motivator, you can also mark your calendars for the Monday, September 16 public release of the documentary, The Game Changers. I had the chance to see this in June at an Engine 2 Immersion event and highly recommend it if you are interested in improving your fitness for life, both on and off the courts. 

Executive producers James Cameron (Titanic), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Chris Paul, Rip Esselstyn and others headline the big names behind this film. I was glad to see that my favorite doctor, Michael Greger MD (author of “How Not to Die”), is the film’s scientific advisor. An excellent choice in my book!

Some of the team behind the highly-anticipated vegan documentary, 
The Game Changers. (Photo: Plant Based News)
This documentary follows the training and successes of various elite athletes who excel in tennis, weightlifting, bodybuilding, trail running, cycling, football, auto racing and more. To what do they owe their success? PLANTS! Not only have whole plant-based foods enhanced their performances, their recovery times have markedly improved too. Now, before you think that this is not for you – we are amateur club players, not professionals traveling the world with a nutritionist, physical therapist, hitting partner and coach – think again. The Game Changers is a fast-paced 88 minutes all focused on dispelling the myth that animal products are the key for athletic success. It’s for you and it’s for me and for all who want to be fit, active, perhaps pain-free and disease-free and oh yes, happy! See you at the movies!

(Towpath Tennis Member, Barb Youel, is the author of "First Serve: 40 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for a Year of Tennis Grand Slams & Club Matches", Lean Green Living LLC, 2017. Copies are available exclusively at Towpath Tennis Center for $16.95. You can order yours today at 330-928-8763 or stop in The Shop for your copy today.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Have you heard of the phrase, “practice makes perfect?” How about, “perfect practice makes perfect?” If you're getting on court and hacking up some sloppy shots just because its a practice (guilty✋), then you're not making the practice perfect. Perfect practice is playing and executing shots as you would in a match setting. But I get it, some days when you're having a particularly bad day with say your backhand, it's difficult to work on it in the middle of a group lesson or drill. So instead, grab the perfect practice partner that will work tirelessly with you while happily putting up with all the junk you might hit—the ball machine! With the upcoming USTA season, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to aid in your quest in perfecting your practice by creating a list for ‘Best Practices with the Ball Machine.'

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

  • Make a plan before you get onto the court. Don’t just come out to hit and see what happens. Think about what you need to perfect; forehand, backhand, slice, top-spin, approach shot, overhead, volley, footwork—the ball machine will do it all.
  •  Don’t do too much in one setting. For instance, make a list of your weakest shots and focus on 1 or 2 that are giving you the most trouble. Then practice and repeat, repeat, repeat! Practice until you can confidently hit the shot over a few times in a row. Muscle memory has higher success in retention when you’re able to focus on one shot at a time.
  • Improve your timing. Once you’re able to hit the perfect shot comfortably, change up the pace. In a real match setting you might have someone popping floaters over or an opponent serving bullets. Adjust the speed on the ball machine to improve your rhythm and racquet preparation. Start slow-medium-fast, or fast-medium-slow and repeat.
  • Have targets and/or consistency goals. Practicing targets can involve actual cones to aim for, or start simply by aiming for 5 shots in a row down the line, then do 5 in a row cross-court. For practicing consistency, make a goal of getting the ball in 10 times in a row then raise it up.  
  • Work with a pro. Request to incorporate the ball machine in your next lesson. A pro can much better analyze and tweak problem shots when they can watch you hit from a different angle.
  • Bring a buddy. One exercise that will keep your feet moving while hitting shots is practicing a little ‘ping pong’. For example, set up the shot for backhands only and rotate each shot between you and your buddy. You might be huffing and puffing but you’ll thank this heart-pumping practice in the next long match rally.
  •  Leave time for serves. It’s not uncommon to see our members leave the last 10 minutes of their session or tag on another ½ hour just to practice serves. Think about it, when exactly do you practice serves? When it comes to a strong game, every shot matters. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
If the ball machine seems intimidating, ask a Towpath staff member to show you how to use it and what you want to work on. Once you get going, you'll be a practice expert in no time!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Why you need to try the Wilson Clash

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Let's talk Clash! What is it? How is it different? Why do I need to play with? How can I get my hands on one?
Now available for purchase & demo at Towpath Tennis Center.

What is the Wilson Clash?
Short answer: Wilson's new revolutionary racquet. Long answer: The Clash is not only Wilson's new buzz-worthy racquet, but its pushing boundaries with its innovative technology making a racquet that has both ultimate power AND control.

How does the Wilson Clash compare to other racquets?
The current carbon fiber racquets on the market right now are either suited toward control or power. The Clash has both! Wilson has worked its majic in creating Freeflex and Stablesmart technologies making the Clash twice as flexible as other racquets. And why do I want a more flexible racquet you might ask? Because it allows for longer 'pocketing' of the ball, so the racquet bends with each stroke for maximum power and control.

Why are there two versions of the Wilson Clash?
The Wilson Clash 100 and Clash 100 Tour are designed with NO specs on the racquet. This was an intentional decision made to eliminate preconceived notions on a racquet before trying it. The main difference is in the weight, so make sure to demo both to find which works best with your game.

Who will want to play with the Wilson Clash?
Anyone looking for an arm-friendly racquet! If you didn't know comfort and speed could be combined in one racquet without too much shock on your arm, then you're in luck! The Clash offers significant feel compared to other leading racquets without compromising power. Also, the stability/flexibility features in this racquet are demonstrated nicely when adding a soft touch to a volley winner or cranking a groundstroke from the baseline. Compatible with all playing styles!

How can I play with the Wilson Clash?
Demo the Wilson Clash 100 or Wilson Clash 100 Tour for free at Towpath Tennis Center during your next lesson or clinic, or make court-time at our demo rate to see what everyone's talking about. Also, Wilson is now offering the Clash Confidence Guarantee if you buy a Wilson Clash by April 15. If you aren't 100% satisfied, return it within 2 months of purchase for a full refund that can be used toward other Wilson gear and equipment that better complement your game.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tennis makes lifetime friends

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner

It has been an exciting year at Towpath! We also saw the end of an era after 50 years of our air structures came down. So many tennis friends have been shocked by not seeing the bubbles anymore. We are stepping into a whole new era as we are about to start our 51st year of indoor tennis.

It hard to believe that 50 years ago I graduated from Akron Central in 1969. That was the year Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Woodstock took place, Nixon was president, the first ATM machine was introduced, and Rod Laver was number one in the world. In 1969, I entered the University of Akron, and joined the collegiate tennis team. Little did I know that all these years later, I could say that tennis has been my passion through it all. I’m so grateful for this game and all the acquaintances and friends I’ve made throughout those years from players across the country, and the world. Tennis is such a great sport for making lifetime friends. I want to share one story of this in the next generation of friendships.

Last month, I attended the induction of my son, Alex, into the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted with his life-long friend and doubles partner, Lou Konstan. The pictures say it all! The first picture was taken in 2001 at our annual Thanksgiving Tournament when the boys played against each other as young juniors in the 10s division. Lou and Alex are pictured with teaching professional Lois Bradford who also coached the boys during their high school tennis career.

What other sport can you meet for competition when you’re 7 years old, and still play at age 90? As we turn the page to 2019, I cannot encourage you enough to introduce a youngster or an adult to tennis, play more yourself, compete and make new friends.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tennis and your life: Research proves rewards of physical activity

Dallas Aleman | Owner of Towpath Tennis Center

This fall, the Akron Beacon Journal has brought some interesting and disturbing information to the forefront. First, it has been reported that Ohio’s youth are growing more plumb. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says 18.6% of young people ages 10-17 are obese in the Buckeye State. That gives Ohio the sixth highest rate nationwide. The report quotes, “childhood obesity continues to be a major public health challenge with significant financial and societal implications." Jamie Bussel of the foundation says, “far too many young people in this country are facing increased chances of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all due to a preventable condition." Scientists predicted that more than half of today’s children will be obese by age 35 if current trends continue.       

Marnie Watson is a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital and specializes in obesity medicine. She quotes, “we spend more time using our screens and devices a lot more today than we have in the past." I couple this with an article in the Wall Street Journal about an online gaming company, Epic Games. In July 2017, they introduced a new game called Fortnite.  As of this writing, the game has 125 million players and the company is doing a second round of financing and the company is now worth 15 billion dollars. It is an addictive game that draws kids as young as six years old into shooting zombies and people in a cartoon world. Not looking at even the merits of the game, I can’t imagine how many hours were spent by 125 million people playing the game. There must be a lot in Ohio if we are the 6th highest in obesity in the nation.

How does this relate to tennis? What if some of those players were out on the tennis court learning a lifetime sport that would give them all the rewards of challenging oneself with skills that don’t come easy. They can use all parts of their body’s physical and mental capabilities to compete against others. They would be building up a healthy lifestyle of exercise and having to deal with real people on the other side of the net and not zombies. We at Towpath that have been teaching tennis for over 40 years are noticing more and more youngsters that have low levels of concentration, unwillingness to commit to learning something difficult, and an inability to overcome adversity with perseverance. There is also a fear of failure and unwillingness to try to compete unless there is a guaranteed reward. I am sending out a word of caution to parents that are caving into letting their kids be online too much. Tennis, and other sports for that matter, have rewards that no online presence can give to children. Yes it takes more of a commitment from a parent to take a youngster to tennis programs, practices, and competition both time-wise and financially, but we are seeing an epidemic of what the alternative is.

Towpath member, Don Secard
Here at Towpath, we have another member, Don Secard, still playing tennis at age 91. What is the secret? Not only does Don live it, but he presented us with a new study done by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings from Sept. 4 of this year. Experts like to say the best form of exercise is whatever kind you’ll actually do. However, new research finds that people who combine exercise with their social lives may be at an advantage over solitary exercisers. The social interaction involved in partner and team sports may compound the plentiful benefits of physical activity, adding more years to your life than solo exercise. Tennis, badminton and soccer are all better for longevity than cycling, swimming, jogging or gym exercise.   

The research goes on: “for both mental and physical well-being and longevity, we’re understanding that our social connections are probably the single most important feature of living a long, healthy, happy life,” says study co-author Dr. James O’Keefe a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Mid-American Heart Institute. “If you are interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regimen is that it should involve a play date.”

Tennis is a sport for all ages. It involves every muscle of the body and focuses our mind to concentrate in overall engagement of mind and body together to achieve results. Tennis is more than lifting weights, stretching, or getting our heart rates up--it was the number one sport for longevity. He says, “tennis is intensely interactive, at every point you’re talking, it’s just a very natural way to emotionally bond with people, besides getting your exercise.”

Tennis came out on top in the research. Compared with sedentary people, those who reported playing tennis as their main form of exercise could expect to add 9.7 years to their life span, followed by badminton (6.2 years), soccer (4.7 years), cycling (3.7 years), swimming (3.4 years), jogging (3.2 years), calisthenics (3.1 years) and health-club activities (1.5 years).

Towpath Member, Don Secard, is living testimony of what having a regular “play date” can do for you. His tennis is physical, mental and social, and he enjoys his play dates at Towpath. As I write this, I wonder what our coming generation of seniors will be like. I do know this, tennis has its rewards and they are many, however, tennis is not easy. So parents consider experience, wisdom and what you are modeling and teaching your youngsters about life. The internet has made things easier in many ways, but has it made things better in a real meaningful way? Let’s tell the story to your family, children and friends. Tennis can help you get fit, have fun, and make friends, which all add up to something that you cannot put a price tag on. But if you do it, you will have lifelong rewards in every one of the categories of fitness, fun and friends. What more could you want from an activity or sport? Congratulations Don on your milestone and letting us know the secret. You are addicted to something that is real with people on the other side of the net and not zombies.                                               

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dunlop CV series racquet review

Keenen Lambert | Towpath Tennis Contributor | Copley High School Varsity Tennis Player

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 Tennis Racquet
What a great racquet for today's players! This racquet combines the need for speed, spin, and power that is sought after by many players today. It's a great racquet for those who like to move around the court and play both baseline and net rallies. It's solid enough to allow you to produce great amounts of power by swinging through the ball, while maintaining excellent accuracy. The Srixon Revo CV 3.0 weighs 10.6 oz, offering a great medium for those looking for a racquet on the heavier side that you can still swing through the ball with great speed. The touch at the net is not something this racquet is known for, but it makes fairly good placement at all areas of the court. Also, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 does a great job of letting you attack the ball easily, while generating spin.
Summary: If your looking for an all around racquet that will allow you to accelerate the racquet through your shot with ease, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 5.0 Tennis Racquet
Baseline players will love this racquet! The Srixon Revo CV 5.0 combines two different areas not often found in one racquet. The 9.9 oz frame is definitely head heavy, allowing you not only to hit with precision and speed, but also with the 102 sq. inches head size it provides a larger target zone on your strings giving you a decent shot on any off-centered connection. It has a solid swing-through with ease while letting you generate the power. The placement and control are good on all areas of the court, but the lighter weight of the racquet will come into effect when at the net, as the Srixon Revo CV 5.0 will give way easier on a volley. Swinging for power on serves is very easy, and the 16x19 string pattern allows for effortless spin generation. This racquet is very user-friendly and allows an advancing player to add spin and pace to their strokes.
Summary: If you're a competitive player who wants to have a little more room for error with immense amounts of spin, easily generated power, and accuracy then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 5.0 is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F Tennis Racquet
Having trouble hitting the ball with power while on the run? The Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F allows you to hit the ball with spin and pace while still moving latterly on the court. Not as solid on the swing-through as other racquets, but it does allows you to swing faster. You'll expect quicker reactions on the return of serve as well as when rallying harder shots from the opponent. At 11.2 oz with a very headlight frame, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F is perfect for intermediate players. It has great touch and control at the net, and basic touch and control at the baseline. Because this feels like a lighter racquet when hitting lots of volleys from the net, the racquet will definitely give where your wrist will take some of the impact.
Summary: If you're looking for a racquet that helps you return serves with ease and produces great power and spin on the move, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F is for you.

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS Tennis Racquet
This racquet produces power! Just plain and simple, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS is for the rising player or intermediate player that wants to produce a ton of power when they can't produce it themselves. The 16x19 string pattern also creates easy production of spin. At 10.7 oz with the headlight frame, it is definitely the lightest of the 6 Dunlop racquet demos Towpath has to offer, but that light of a racquet might just give you the edge you need. Control is not bad, but the quickness that you get on the return of serve and on volleys is the signature feature of this racquet. Also, because of its light weight it will give at the net and allow you to swing through the ball faster. This quick action swinging will give a player quick action targeting to place the ball exactly where they want it on the court.
Summary: If you want a quicker reaction racquet with a lot of power then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 4.0 Tennis Racquet
The Srixon Revo CX 4.0 is exact and predictable. It allows most players to generate power while having accuracy, spin, and placement. Fairly firm from the baseline, while also holding firm at the net against even the toughest volleys. This 10 oz racquet is right in the middle of the spectrum, which allows for great control and a 'middle of the road' approach to a tennis racquet with a little bit of everything: spin, control, accuracy, power, stiffness, touch and placement. I would love to hit with this racquet at the net all day long. Its great for those players who especially love the net, but is also impressive for full-court players with available quickness when hitting on the run, while also staying controlled. The thick frame allows for a more solid feel for all your shots, whether its a ground-stroke from the baseline, a slice from mid-court, or a volley at the net, this racquet won't let you down!
Summary: If you're looking for an all-court racquet with literally anything you can think of as a player with solid strokes and available power, spin and accuracy, and control and touch, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 4.0 is for you.

Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS Tennis Racquet
Control is the name of the game when you refer to this racquet. At 10.2 oz, the Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS generates power for the intermediate player with fantastic touch and control. With this amount of control, you will have an incredible tool for a confident game. The lighter weight gives you an easy way to generate racquet speed, and the 16x19 string pattern allows for easy production of spin. Net play is remarkably easy! The Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS is very maneuverable so you can never get caught off guard. Also, for a light-weight racquet, it still has a thick frame that allows players to easily redirect the shots of your opponent, and allows for generation of decent pace and a confident serve. A great performance racquet with easy placement.
Summary: If you want incredible placement and control on all areas of the court then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS is for you.