Tennis Blog

Josh’s Fresh Take: July Edition

Superstitious Habits? Do They Really Work?

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

It’s funny how superstitions formulate for an individual. A form of eccentric routine that helps an athlete perform or rather gives them the confidence to perform at their best. Rafael Nadal is a walking example of superstitious habits. His famous tucking his hair behind his ears right before a big serve or that he needs two water bottles, one warm and one cold, during a match. In addition he also jumps non-stop during every pre-game coin toss and, my personal favourite, how he will not stand up from his chair until his opponent stands.

This past week, I had the chance to talk with fellow UBC Tennis Centre Coach, Dana Radivojevic, about some of her superstitious habits on and off the court. Some of which, like Nada, help Dana focus against her opponent and calm her nerves.

“What I used to do during my matches, specifically when it was time to pick up a ball for serving, was I would pick it up with my left foot and my racket. Once I did that, I would bounce the ball all the way back to the baseline about 5 to 10 times depending on how nervous I was. Once at the baseline, I would bounce the ball three times with my left hand and then I would serve. This was just a way that would help me focus and relax.”

This is the most interesting part of superstitious habits. They become part of a routine where individuals carry them out to focus and relax, just like Dana said. But are there other reasons as to why people carry out these habits? Can it be a form of OCD? Another habit of Nadal’s is the fact that he needs his water bottles diagonally placed facing the court with the labels pointed towards his side of the court. Is that really going to help his performance against the likes of Roger Federer? The angle of his water bottle label? In short, most likely. If this is part of Nadal’s routine and the labels were not facing the appropriate direction, it could serve as a distraction. Nadal’s focus would be taken away from the game until this was corrected.

It is fascinating really that there is so much going on inside an athlete’s head that one small superstitious habit not carried out could throw them off completely. In Dana’s case, she makes sure not to eat a lot of sugar when preparing for a match because of a previous experience.

“One time I had Nutella before a match and it completely threw me off. I played terribly. From that one experience, I created a routine to eat healthier instead, like eating eggs, or whole foods and nothing processed.

Did the Nutella that Dana had before that match really effect her performance that greatly? Perhaps, or perhaps not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Dana gets reassurance from cutting out sugar before a big match. Reassurance that a poor performance is unlikely to repeat. And that, my friends, gives confidence which is a huge aspect of any sport, especially in tennis.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: June Edition

High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, Weighs In

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Our new High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, has infused a surge of energy and life in to our High Performance programs with his high-demand and energetic coaching style. His voice can often be heard from 3-4 courts away and he always gets the most out of his athletes. On behalf of the Tennis Centre, it is a pleasure to have Sasha join our team as we look forward to the future. With that said, I had an opportunity to sit down with the man of the hour and discuss his passion for the sport as well as some nutritional advice that he wanted to share from his own past experiences.

Interestingly enough, Sasha brought to light his superstitious habits on match day as well as his ritual for the night before a match.

“I would have one full cup of Gatorade before every match. Once I was on court I would alternate between a full cup of water and a full cup of Gatorade to stay hydrated. I was very superstitious when I played. I would always have bananas throughout a match to keep my energy up. The night before, I would make sure to carb load with a lot of pasta and meat sauce to have energy for the next day. And before my matches I would eat a bit lighter with granola bars to try to get any kind of vitamins up.”

After speaking with Sasha, it was intriguing to hear about his superstitious habits as I am sure other coaches or athletes have some interesting habits of their own. It is known that Olympic runner, Usain Bolt, insists on eating chicken nuggets before every race. This is something that many dieticians would raise their eyebrows at, but hey, if it works then who is to say it is wrong? On that note, I’ll make sure to ask some other coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre about their superstitious routines and include it in next month’s Fresh Take.

Here are some departing words from our new High Performance Director on why he loves coaching the game of tennis:

“When a kid I am coaching wins, it brings me more joy than when I used to win. Just seeing them succeed after the hard work that they put in and seeing the joy on their faces makes it all worthwhile for me.”

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: May Edition

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

It is amazing how the fundamentals of tennis stick with us throughout our tennis career, but they are not skills that you actively think about during a match. As one of the tennis coaches at UBC, we stress the fundamentals to our students to help develop their game. Some of these fundamentals include the ever-important impact point, set-up, hitting zone, recovery, and the different grips for each stroke. To think about all the fundamentals at once is overwhelming when you are playing, but when your game is off and you are skanking balls off the court, it is beneficial to focus on a specific one.

I hit for the first time in weeks the other day and noticed I wasn’t quite getting what I wanted with my shots. Either they were just going out, or coming up short and hitting the net. Instead of just playing out the points with my opponent, I tried to focus on my set-up; getting my feet set and body sideways before the ball bounced on my side of the court. This meant that I could not be lazy, but instead had to be quicker in order to get set properly. By focusing on this, I could control more of my shots and place my opponent from side-to-side with less difficulty. It ultimately kept me in the game and I was able to win some points.

I am not necessarily saying that everyone needs to work on their set-up in a match. I just believe that it is beneficial to have a specific focus or goal during a match. The old quote “perfect practice makes perfect” comes to mind. Having something in particular to strive for will go a long way. Try it out, and if you are already doing this, try focusing on other fundamentals or skills next time you hit the courts.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: April Edition

Tennis: The Mental Battle

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

It is no secret that tennis is a mental game. Perhaps one of the most out of any other sport. In a singles match, there is no one else to rely on but yourself; no teammates to support you, no one to take the blame for your mistakes… just you. This might be one of the most difficult aspects of the sport to overcome. As a tennis coach, I often see how this affects the young athletes that come up through our programs here at the UBC Tennis Centre. I notice how the pressure in a match to win a point or an audience watching from the sidelines can completely change the way someone performs. A serve that has, until now, been of second nature is suddenly being watched by other people. It is amazing how that serve can change so drastically once an athlete pays attention to every single detail: the toss, the impact, the constant thoughts running through their mind, or perhaps trying to impress someone in the audience. Of course, this is the case for any sport, but I believe it is much more heightened with tennis as you are the lone soldier facing off against another lone soldier. A mental battle.

Recently, I was coaching teen fundamentals during our Spring Break Camps along with fellow co-worker Bob Exell, who is not only an incredible tennis coach but an incredible player as well. As we were heading off court, one of the students approached Bob with frustration. She was concerned with how to control her emotions while playing in a match, as she would get frustrated and angry when she made a mistake. Bob calmly mentioned that it is important to stay positive and that it is incredibly easy to let mistakes and negativity spiral your game out of control. He then said something that I will never forget. He said, with a chuckle I might add, “one more thing, as you’re walking away tell yourself, ‘I am in control’, and take a deep breath.”

Like I mentioned earlier, tennis is a mental game and it is important to learn from your mistakes. But I think it’s almost more important to not let those mistakes get to you; learn from them and move on. Re-assure yourself with positive thoughts, especially in the middle of a match. And like Bob, use a simple phrase to remind yourself that you are in control. It will go a long way.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Our Sport Facilities are hiring!

Looking for something to do this summer? Look no further than the south side of campus!

We’re still looking for a couple of quality students to join our Facility Operations student staff teams at the following facilities:

  • UBC Baseball Indoor Training Centre
  • Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
  • UBC Tennis Centre

To apply, log in on Careers Online and search for jobs under ‘Athletics and Recreation.’

Applications are open throughout April! 

Josh’s Fresh Take: March Edition

Can Other Sports Make You a Better Overall Tennis Player ?

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

From coaching athletes for the past two years ranging in age from 3 to 70, one of the biggest realizations I’ve had is how playing other sports, besides tennis, dramatically improve your game. Time and time again there have been beginner tennis players that sign up for tennis, pick up a racket, and by the end of the first lesson are rallying consistently over the net. This is regardless of the program or their age. Red, orange, green, youth, teen, and our adult clinics; I’ve seen it in all of these levels. These players often have an “athletic look” or generally seem like athletes. Recently I started asking questions, “how can this be? This player has barely touched a racket, how are they so quick to pick up this technically-difficult sport?”.

I asked nearly everyone that surprised me in terms of expectations for a beginner. I found that these specific players have played, or are currently playing, other sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc. These sports all develop athletes in their individual ways and generally help with coordination as well as an active body. They also prepare players to constantly be ready to react to a quick movement whether it’s taking a wrist shot in hockey, hitting a home run in baseball, or fast footwork in soccer. These aspects directly translate to the tennis courts as these players are coming in with a high level of hand-eye coordination and sense of their surroundings and body. This makes learning the game of tennis incredibly easier than it would if they never played another sport.

Personally, as a hockey and tennis player I’ve seen some direct translations between the two sports in a fascinating way. I play with a left-handed hockey stick and in tennis I hit a backhand with both of my hands on the left side (as I would for hockey). I’ve always found that my backhand in tennis had a lot more control and power than my forehand and never really thought about the reasoning. This was until I started noticing the same in some of the students I coach, whom after asking all had the same background: hockey. Because of the countless hours of handling a puck, passing, and shooting using both hands in another sport, you ultimately develop more control and strength on that side which translates over to the backhand in tennis.

So for all you beginners out there that are interested in playing tennis, remember that you can improve your tennis game by not only playing tennis! There are many other skills that translate over to the game that will only make you better. Juggle a soccer ball in your spare time, run sprints at the track, shoot pucks at a net, get out there… and make sure you always stay fresh.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.


Ps. If you have any personal experience of playing other sports that translate over to the game of tennis, email us your stories! We would love to hear from you.

Josh’s Fresh Take for February

How Much Gas is Left in the Tank for Aging Roger Federer?

Introducing our new monthly segment, “Josh’s Fresh Take”. Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

The class-act Swiss-born Roger Federer looked like he found a time machine and jumped back to his prime earlier in the month when he took home his 18th Grand Slam championship against rival Rafael Nadal. It marked his 100th professional tennis match as well as his first win against the Spaniard in 10 years, as he had not defeated Nadal in a major since 2007.

With Feds now at the ripe old age of 35, the question remains, how much gas is left in the tank?  Perhaps the Swiss-native could defy the odds and become the tennis-world’s next Jaromir Jagr. (For those of you that don’t recognize the name “Jagr” he’s an NHL player currently playing at the age of 44, and rather well).

With his most recent Grand Slam win, Feds is well on track of Jagr-like capabilities. According to the ATP article, “Federer Tops Nadal in Epic For 18th Major Crown,” it mentions that Federer is the oldest Grand Slam champion since Ken Rosewall who won three major titles in 1970 and 1971 after celebrating his 35th birthday. If the man of the hour can resist injuries, whose saying that he can’t play well into his late thirties?

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

UBC TSC Tennis has Nationals in their sights

kieran2By Josh Martin, Head of Communications

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak with Kieran Bertsch, the Captain and Executive Club Lead of the UBC Thunderbirds Tennis Sports Club. Bertsch is completing his final year at UBC as both a fourth-year civil engineering student and as a member of the UBC TSC Tennis. The soon-to-be graduate has taken the reins on leading on and off the courts this year— a challenge that Bertsch has embraced with open arms.

“It’s a fun experience leading the [club], a lot more work than I thought it would be, but I’m definitely glad I’m doing it. It’s my last year so I might as well give it a shot while I can.”

In his final year, Bertsch has made it abundantly clear that structure is essential in the making of a successful club. He brought this mentality to the try-out process at the start of the season, where he and the Head Coach, Wes Bertsch (Kieran Bertsch’s brother), made the tough decisions on comprising a men and women’s club.

“This year [at tryouts] I came up with a plan so that everyone had a fair 30-45 minutes of playing time. They all [played on] half court—so we had four players to each court.

“It was a process that worked really well, and of course it’s always tough when you’re picking a [club] with so many players on the cusp of making it. I feel like we made a good choice, the [club] is committed.”

The confidence that Bertsch holds in his club is transparent. He believes that this year his group is stronger than ever and if his players come out to all three practices each week (two training days and one match play day) they have a good shot at taking home Nationals—a feat in which they cannot afford to lose.

“Our main goal is to make it to nationals and win. To do that we [can’t] lose anything. We have to win Regionals to make it to Westerns and win Westerns to make it to Nationals.”

Bertsch and his squad will get their first test this upcoming weekend, Nov. 20-22, at an Invitational Tournament hosted by SFU at the Burnaby Tennis Club. This will serve as a good measure as to where UBC stands against the likes of rival universities UVIC and SFU.


Athlete’s Profile: Renee Ren – A Future Columbia University Student

by Josh Martin

This past week I had the opportunity to talk to Renee Ren, a Junior Tennis player that is currently in the Elite Champs Tennis Program at the UBC Tennis Centre. Taught by 10-time Junior National Champion and former NCAA and ATP player Daniel Chu – the program is designed for advanced skill development for players that are competing in provincial, national, and/or international competitions.

Ren, who is a promising future Columbia University student, is currently training at the UBC Tennis Centre. She began playing at the age of 11 and has been tearing up the courts ever since.

“My dad got me into playing tennis first because he was really interested in the sport and I just started playing at a couple of courts in Vancouver. That’s how I got started.”

The 17 year-old believes that it will be challenging to orchestrate the balancing act of a busy schedule with tennis, studies, as well as a social life when she makes the move to the East Coast next year.

“The challenges are pretty extreme, it’s really tough to balance tennis and school work,” says Ren. “In addition to playing competitively I have to take a lot of honors and advanced courses such as the I.B. program. That’s definitely a big challenge. But I have a lot of support from both my friends and family.”

The Vancouverite hopes to end up in medical school with her studies at Columbia while keeping tennis close to heart – a sport in which Ren simply can’t get enough.

“[The reason I love tennis is] definitely the people I get to play with, they’re all really friendly and definitely make me feel welcome on the tennis court. [The] second thing would be just playing my game and moving around and playing points. I definitely love that challenge. That’s what keeps me coming back and playing competitively.

The level of maturity Ren possesses is evident in the humble-but-confident demeanour she speaks with – something that she shares in common with one of her favourite athletes, Roger Federer.

“[He’s my favourite] not because he won all these grand slams but it’s because the way he composes himself on the court and the way he presents himself ,” says Ren. “I really appreciate that. In addition, the way he keeps on fighting through and playing when he’s getting older shows his deep love for tennis and that really impresses me.”

Ren will be graduating High School of June 2016 before embarking on her adventures to Columbia University in the fall of next year – a journey that will shape Ren for years to come.

On behalf of the UBC Tennis Centre, we wish her all the luck.

Tamara Slobogean Lesson #5: I’ve been Busy…Playing Tennis

Forgive me Godwin, it’s been four weeks since my last blog entry. But I’ve been busy….playing tennis. I’ve played every week since my last lesson. Sometimes I’ve hit the court up to three times a week. In fact, I write this last blog entry for the UBC Tennis Centre as I cool down between practicing my serve on the old wooden court on Galiano Island. I hit this court solo on Saturday mornings now, while my husband sleeps or while he fishes.  As he is devoted to fishing, I am now devoted to tennis. It’s my exercise, and it’s becoming my meditation. I think it serves the same purpose. With mind trained on the little yellow ball, no room for the pesky thoughts I try to shake when I sit in silence. I learnt a lot over six weeks of tennis lessons. I tackled a bunch of firsts and met some great new people.  In fact, we’ve started our own mini league. We’ve met religiously once a week at different public courts around town since our lessons wrapped. We’ve already talked about a follow up lesson or two with our man Godwin. Between his skill, instruction, encouragement and demeanor, I think it’s fair to say my classmates and I have a new appreciation for the game, and for our own ability and potential. If I could, I would play tennis everyday.

Tamara Slobogean is a local TV producer who has blogged about her experiences as the Blushing Frugal Bride. She’s now blogging her way through Tennis 2.5.