Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Believing you can win

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

History was made this last week. A Japanese player Kei Nishikori won the Barcelona Clay Court Championships! Nadal, Ferrer and all the other clay court specialist were out. That is the equivalent to having a Japanese basketball team come to the US and win the NBA Championships!  

It just goes to show that no one ever has a lock on winning just because they're seeded. One of the biggest misnomers in tennis is the seeding process. This is especially true for players who are new to the tournament circuit.

The inexperienced player is going to be either intimidated or in awe playing against a top tournament seed, and more often than not, will cave and accept a loss without exploiting all their strengths. The first seed will win on reputation and history alone, which to many players may seem like a cushiony spot in the draw. However, it's the first seed that has the most pressure than anyone else in the tournament since they have a lot to live up to. 

So everyone is asking, "What is wrong with Nadal?" I argue that nothing is wrong with Nadal. He may be ranked #1 in the world, but it's the rest of the field that now believes that they can beat him. This makes holding that slight edge so much harder for him. 

Tennis is all about believing. If you have the belief, heart, and you back it up with practice and play, it will go a long way. 

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Your tennis grip guide

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Shop Manager

It's great to see players experimenting with new grip positions, since it shows us your dedication in wanting to raise your game to the next level. However, too many times we've seen players pick up their racquet, re-position their hand after Googling how to do so, and then expect to hit a topspin forehand exactly like Rafael Nadal's--if only it was that easy! Along with having little to no instruction in how to utilize a new grip, many players are simply not experienced enough to execute them properly. So what is the right grip for us based on our level of play? We have compiled a guide of common grip positions and what it takes to master the shot.

Beginner-Intermediate Level

Eastern - The eastern forehand is one of the easiest grips to master as it is universally taught among beginners. Simply shake hands with your racquet and you've got an eastern forehand grip! This grip is great for generating power and is easy to transition to a backhand. Con: It tends to give a flatter shot performance, which is why it is not ideal for advanced players who want more topspin to outlast longer rallies. 

Two-handed backhand - The most popular backhand grip, this is ideal for players who don't have the strength for a one-handed backhand. It creates awesome topspin and is great for reaching lower balls that you can power through with double the strength. Con: It can be restricting on how far you can reach. 

Intermediate-Advanced Level

Continental - This is the most versatile grip since it can be used on all tennis shots, but it's commonly used for serves, volleys, overheads and slices. The continental grip is slightly harder to learn but is easier to master overtime. It's best for players who are committed to hitting at least 2-3x/week to get used to the feel of the 'V' shaped grip. Con: Despite being a model position for the two-handed backhand, it is rarely used for the forehand as it is restricting on the backswing. 
One-handed backhand - A very versatile option for the backhand, this grip is an easy transition to volley with and can be used to create a fantastic kick serve. However, to master a one-handed backhand you need the strength to hit through any kind of ball coming at you--low, high, spin and slice! Con: Generating topspin is more difficult to master, but can be done!  

Advanced-Pro Tour Level

Semi-western - Used by many of the pros on tour, this grip not only will generate more topspin, but it'll also allow you to flatten and power through any shot. This grip, however, is very difficult to learn so it's not recommended unless you are willing to put the time and effort into working on it. We're talking about those training 5-7x/week! Con: It's all about muscle memory with this grip, because it will take some time to get over the unnatural feel.  

Western -You want topspin? You got it! Talk about a safety net, this grip will give you tremendous control over your shot selection, and force your opponent to deal with a difficult high bounce. This is a grip you don't want to mess around with, unless you know what you're doing. Con: Not many pros play with this grip because it's limited to baseline players and is difficult to transition to and from a service and volley grip.  

We encourage players to step out of their comfort zone by experimenting with a new grip position, but as a club player you shouldn't get over-anxious and go all willy-nilly with a new grip every time you play-that will just mess you up! The grip position should only be used as a fine-tuner of the stroke, so if you're not trained properly you can easily injure your arm. If you're serious about improving or modifying your game, set up a lesson with a pro to see what grip is best for you and continue to work with them until you're ready to rip balls down the line with it!

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Switching from indoor to outdoor tennis

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru
Niya Fried at the JTT Championships in Indianapolis, IN.
 This is the time of year when you'll get the chance to play outside and practice. However, the first time out will be a shock to your game because conditions are so different. You'll feel like you've never hit a ball with any power and it'll feel like an eternity for the ball to travel over the net. That is the beauty of tennis, you have to be able to play through many types of elements; indoors and out, day and night, sun and wind. Those that are adaptable usually play well. Those that can’t adjust fall by the wayside.
Your first time out is going to be a setback. You will probably have a bad day, and so what! You can use a bad day as a springboard for a good day tomorrow. Depending on what the main culprit was that affected you game, follow the tips below to start your outdoor transition on the right swing. 

Sun - Bring a visor/hat/sunglasses. While serving, use your hand to block the shine as you toss the ball or toss the ball where the sun isn't as bright.

Wind - If coming behind you, use more top spin (low to high swing) to prevent a total blowout shot. If facing the wind, step into the shot with a more aggressive swing. However, if the wind is blowing lateral, adjust the direction of your shot by guiding it into the wind. 

Night - Whether it's getting dark or you're playing under the lights, the ball is going to play tricks on your eyes. Sometimes instead of one ball, it looks like 5 are coming at you at once! Keep your eye on the ball when it hits the ground and recite "bounce_hit" to find a rhythm. So when you see 'multiple' balls coming at you, you'll know which one to swing at. 

Noise - You might have already adjusted to the sounds of drills and lessons going on the next court over, but have you played with kids screaming, sirens blaring and a dog let loose beside you? Tuning out the sights and sounds of outdoor playing is a tall order but it can be done! Try humming to yourself and paying particular attention to the ball to keep your mind focused in the point. In between points, look at your strings or the ground to keep your eye from wandering.  

Rain - Depending on the surface, you might be able to play through a light shower because surfaces like har-tru and clay absorb the rain slower making them less slippery. However, whenever heavy rain (or fog) is in the forecast, it's best to avoid playing altogether. Not only will the courts be slick, but there's the danger of lightening as well. 

Remember, your first day out might be an ugly one, but follow these tips and you'll find yourself adjusting to Mother Nature before your opponents know what's what!

For those interested in getting a lesson from staff pro Alvin to prepare for the upcoming high school and/or match season, text TENNIS4 to #81680 and you will get this mobile coupon:
"Show the text and get $20 off a lesson with Alvin when you book a lesson with him on Fri, Sat, Sunday, or Monday during the month of April."

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