Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to fend off a big server

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager

John Isner made quite a run at last week's Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati before falling to Rafael Nadal in the finals. But in earlier rounds he had to overcome the top seeds in the world, such as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro by fending them off with his biggest weapon—the serve. In a pre-match interview, Djokovic was asked how he was going to tackle the big server when he jokingly responded, "I don't know, do you have any tips?" So when he lost to Isner in a close match, the question still lingered in the air—how do you fend off a big server? You may not be able to return a serve by John Isner, but try the following tips and learn how to return like the pros. 
flickr pic
  • Stand back - Give yourself time to react and get to the ball.
  • Read the serve - One of the best ways to prepare for a big serve is to gauge its placement. You can do this by gauging the server’s toss, stance and swing.
  • Split step - Split step as their hitting the serve and move towards it's placement.
  • Rotate those hips - When you rotate your hips as you swing, your racquet is automatically prepped to return.
  • Shorten your swing - If it's coming at you fast, you're not going to have time for a loopy swing, so close it in with your elbow close to your body.
  • Block - If all else fails, this is an easy way to get the ball back in play. Keep a firm grip and aim deep or angle it off.
It's all about early preparation. If you're anticipating the serve, you'll be able to return almost anything that comes at you. But if you still find yourself struggling, know this—big servers have lower percentage serves, eventually they'll tire themselves out (we hope!).

*If you like what you see here, then don't forget to comment or subscribe!*

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The secret to staying consistent

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager 
Towpath's Alex Aleman demonstrating
how to warm up with consistency. 

There's always going to be those times when a short hiatus is unavoidable whether you're going on vacation, have an injury, or just haven't had the time to play. It's not uncommon to return to the court a little rusty, but with the right strategy in place you'll feel like you never left.
Play it slowww. Many times we return to the court with enough energy to smack that fuzzy yellow ball through the back fence, but hitting as hard as you can will not only keep you off balance, it also becomes a struggle to gauge any sort of rhythm. The key here is to play at a slow enough pace that will allow you to get back into ready position in time to anticipate the next shot.

Over-exaggerate your strokes. Maintaining optimum technique is a challenge after a break on the court, especially when the goal is to hit deep with good net clearance. To achieve this, try over-exaggerating the motion of your strokes as a pro would when demonstrating a shot. You'll settle back into your comfort zone in no time.

Stay on your toes. It's easy to tell any returning player to keep their feet moving at all times, but when you've been on a long enough hiatus-it ain't happening. The important thing to remember when your feet are dragging is to rock slightly onto your toes (or the balls of your feet) and keep them grounded as you swing. This will kick those feet into gear while still remaining balanced so you can focus on hitting at your strike zone. 

Have realistic expectations. Did you really expect to make a perfect cross-court approach shot right from the gate? Your game needs some fine tuning so be patient, keep practicing and give yourself some slack! 

*If you like what you see here, then don't forget to comment or subscribe!*

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to play with a tournament official

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager 

We've had another successful year at the Akron Open thanks to all the players and volunteers who participated. We had quite a few exciting matches filled with fist pumps, dives, and un-returnable winners. However, despite having the majority of our matches running with not so much of a hiccup, there were some courts that had a little different outcome. There were questions on scores, tiebreakers, and rulings from double bounces, foot faults, to nicking a ball in the air.  Luckily there's always a tournament official on hand to settle any disputes but we'd like to review how to utilize an official and what to do when there isn't one around. 
All USTA sanctioned tournaments will have a roaming official, meaning they will move from court to court and assist when needed. However, what many players don't realize is that when you have an official on your court and you're hoping for an overrule on a call or a clarification on a rule, you have to request for one. So if you're wondering about a line call that your opponent called out, ask the official what they saw.
On the other hand, if you're in the middle of a match and you have a discrepancy or question when the official is nowhere nearby, what do you do? Two things, stop play and signal for a spectator to get an official or wait on the court until one comes around. If you decide to play on after openly questioning the call, warn your opponent that you will be requesting an official to overlook the match.
Remember, playing a match with an official on your court is actually a good thing--unless of course if you're knowingly cheating. An indication in the quality of any tournament is if there is an official around keeping order on the courts. Imagine them as a supportive teammate and if they make an overrule or call against you, you may question it but listen to what they have to say and most important--DO NOT argue. We can all appreciate the benefit of having a tournament official so at the end of your match, don't forget to thank them for their time.

*If you like what you see here, then don't forget to comment or subscribe!*