Tennis Blog

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.

 

Tamara Slobogean Lesson #4: The Split Step

I’ve never been one for quick comebacks or witty repartee. By nature I take information in, assess, then make my thoughtful move. I am the turtle, not the hare. On the court, sluggish reflexes don’t serve me.  But after years of wishing I could jolt myself into action, propel myself to the right spot to be ready for the ball, I think it may finally be advantage turtle.

I am fascinated by the split step. Perhaps mildly obsessed. I’ve been practicing it in the condo – my husband keeps reminding me our neighbours below probably aren’t pleased.

He’s not calling me fat, it’s just that the sparky, urgent nature of this move is all business. So as I rehearse, I have to acknowledge, that on the hardwood of our wood frame building, my sudden movement does make a thud.

Let me try to explain it: Man serves. Moment man’s racket makes contact with ball, opponent bursts forward, as if taking that wide hop in a game of hop-scotch. This is the mighty split step.

After years of lamenting a sluggish reaction time both in life & on the court, I have new ammunition. I get its potential. I stumble trying to put the sequence of steps together that begins with the split step, but just once, it works. I find myself in the right place at the right time. I return a pretty powerful serve, and I hit well.

All this may just be proof you can teach an old dog new tricks. Not sure Godwin would agree, but I think I’m improving. If I am, it’s thanks to him.

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.

The Serve

The serve.

Over the years, anytime I ever agreed to a tennis date, I made 2 things clear: I am happy to rally. And, I do not serve. Until very recently (tennis lesson #2), I never cared about the rules, was never interested in playing for points.

These tennis lessons are my life in a petri dish. With every lesson, it seems, something about the way I operate reveals itself to me. How much more comfortable I am doing something I’m good at. How easily annoyed I get with myself (and with others), when I’m sure I should be grasping something faster. This is what keeps me sticking to what I know: Let’s rally people, no need to serve.

In this class, there is no place to hide my fear of the serve. Thank goodness for Godwin. I am starting to wish he could coach me through my life. I actually think he can smell the fear. So, instead of telling us ‘Now, we’re going to learn the serve,’ he explains the importance of warming up the shoulder. Suddenly I am facing a big mesh wall. Then I am ‘scratching my back with my racket’. Next I toss the ball and freeze when my racket makes contact. Finally, I sweep the racket down and, Godwin insists, ‘pat an imaginary child on his head’. Add a leg lift, a hop, and a bow. Suddenly, I am serving. And, with power. There’s still a lot to learn. But I’m feeling fierce armed with the basics.

Tennis lessons or life lessons? What I’ve signed up for at UBC continues to be a powerful piece in the story of my personal evolution. Learning a new skill. No longer sweeping under the rug, what I’m too afraid to try.

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.

Tamara Slobogean Lesson #2: A Game of Errors

I’ve been looking forward to Thursday all week. I won’t lie. After last Thursday’s lesson, I was stiff until Tuesday. A good sign of how hard I worked. Today, the young man in our class is absent (I suspect he was discreetly moved up to a more advanced level). But the ladies are back. So now it’s just the girls – and Godwin. (By the way, I’m sporting my new tennis skirt. Purely a practical move. I now have a place to stash my balls;) Today another game changer. As we rally, we are reminded when to make contact with the ball: hit when it’s on its way down. Turns out I’ve been hitting it way too early! What a difference. I have more time to get to the right place, and the right position. Next, Godwin announces, we’re going to play a game. ‘Does anyone need a refresher on the rules?’ I sheepishly admit I could use one. So, from the racket spin that decides who serves, to the accumulation of points, I absorb like a sponge.  My next sheepish admission: ‘I don’t serve,’ I say. ‘Just try,’ says Godwin. Somehow, I do. That’s the nice part of today’s story. My opponent is a far more sophisticated player than I. So, after 3 games in which I am totally creamed, I have a mini-tantrum. Not my best moment. To this Godwin gathers up the group. ‘Tennis,’ he says, sounding as wise as Buddha, ‘is a game of errors. The court is large, the possibilities are endless. Tennis is a game of errors, and the winner is he or she who makes less of them’. I am fascinated. I feel like I’m having a spiritual experience. For the first time in my life, I understand sport as a mental game. Time to pull up my big girl pants, (ok my very small, big girl skirt), and play with my head…

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.

Intro. to UBC Tennis: Back to Basics

Feels like it’s been forever since I played a sport. My exercise routine for the last 3-4 years has consisted of a bit of running, a lot of walking, a bit of weekend hiking, and 1-2 yoga classes a month.

Desperate for something new, something to distract me from the fact that I’m exercising…it’s time to take up a sport.

A quick inventory of what I loved as a kid that could satisfy what I’m looking for today? Ballet, volleyball and tennis. Quick process of elimination and tennis it shall be. I have a racket – (affectionately called ‘an oldie but a goodie’), and the classes at UBC Tennis Centre just happen to start this week.

The lead up to lesson 1:

15 minutes early, as always, I sit in the impressive UBC Tennis Centre, able to watch the action on the courts as I wait for my 1st class. There’s a kids class happening. As I watch the spunky youngsters soak up the drills, and passionately chase that little yellow ball, I can barely contain my enthusiasm. Good or bad, skilled or not, that’s about to be me. My enthusiasm is quickly snuffed out. I’m already anxious I may have signed up for too advanced a class. But, I reasoned, somebody has to be the worst. Now the reception area starts to fill. A couple of men arrive. One drops into the push up position, the other breaks out a skipping rope for a vigorous warm up. I am terrified. I haven’t hit with any regularity in 15 years. Even when I did, all I did was rally – I was never interested in learning the rules of the game, or even how to serve. What have I gotten myself into?   As I sit wondering if I should quietly back out, maybe sign up for a lower level, Godwin the coach comes calling. Tennis 2.5 starts now. Those very athletic men continue with their skipping and push-ups. Three women appear and answer Godwin’s call. As I’m about to breathe a sigh of relief at the true make up of this class, something new to worry about. I’m the only woman not in a tennis skirt.

Lesson #1: The class consists of 4 women including me, one young man and Godwin the coach. Any of that anxious chatter in my head that only ever tries to undermine what I take on, melts away immediately. Everyone is warm and ready to learn. No questions from Godwin asking how long we’ve been playing, no judgement, no ‘show me your serve’…just genuine warmth as we begin our first drill. From the service line, an easy rally, with the goal of keeping the ball a certain height.  Eventually we move back to the baseline. Now, we work on deciding where to position ourselves to receive the ball. I learn that by the time the ball is half-way between my opponent’s racket and the net, I need to decide where I should be to receive it. Just committing and making that decision, already makes me feel like I’m playing better. Before the 1st lesson is over, I am tackling what I think is my biggest tennis challenge – being in the right spot when the ball lands on my side of the court. I leave elated. I am dripping with sweat. My heart’s been beating fast for an hour and a half. I’ve had the time of my life. I feel like I’ve improved, that maybe I could even be good at this one day! Did I mention I sweated more and worked harder than I ever did in any step class? Success!

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

Tennis Racquet Frame & Stringing Guide – Provided by Rackets & Runners

Our tennis wall is full of very playable tennis racquets with excellent feel, control, providing plenty of “power”. The challenge is finding the racquet and string that best suits the game of the player in question.

I – Frame Materials:

Racquet manufacturers have evolved from wood to aluminum, and for the last 30 years, graphite as the primary building material of their frames. Aluminum is still used in the construction of some recreational racquets.

Aluminum ($20 – $90):

Aluminum, the most abundant metallic element on earth, known for its reflectivity, heat conductivity, and ability to resist corrosion, has proven to be a very useful material in the modern age; we even make tennis racquets out of it!

Aluminum Frames are sometimes ‘fused’ with graphite. This method involves making a part of the frame out of aluminum and molding another part made from graphite to it, usually the shaft to the head.

Pros:  Lightweight (for a metal), Inexpensive

Cons:  Poor shock and vibration dampening qualities, Prone to bending/warping

Graphite ($90 – $220):

Invented back in the 19th century the graphite used in tennis frames is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring mineral. Like aluminum, it is used in countless manufacturing applications.

Constructing a racquet with graphite (usually embedded in a plastic resin) allows the designer to be more precise in regard to overall frame weight and balance. How the graphite is positioned provides the ability to control flexibility or rigidity in specific sections of the tennis frame. Because of this the player can choose a racquet that best matches their playing style, and/or allows development of particular aspects of their game.

Pros: Precise balance, weight, and flex distribution, natural shock dampening properties, very strong

Cons:  More expensive material, can fracture

 

II – The player:

The most important consideration when selecting a tennis racquet is the player using it.  Player ability, swing speed/length, playing style, strength/size, etc. should be taken into consideration when selecting a racquet. A combination of the following factors determines the overall control, power, and feel of a graphite frame.

 

III – Weight:

Modern adult racquets range in weight from 7.9 oz to 12 oz. Heavier racquets are generally suited for a more advanced player, or a physically stronger player.  Greater weight makes the racquet feel more stable, but lessens manoeuverability.

IV – Balance:

In addition to the overall weight of a frame, how that weight is distributed is also important. Lighter racquets are usually head heavy, while heavier racquets tend to be handle heavy. Positioning weight in the head of a lightweight racquet adds to the power and stability of the frame. A balanced racquet provides a balance of power and control from the frame; these racquets tend to fall in the middle of the weight range, 9.5 to 11oz.

V – Head Size:

Racquet head sizes range from 90inch² to 125inch² frames with larger head sizes are generally lighter weight overall with more weight in the head of the frame. Oversized frames are often used in doubles play. Smaller headed racquets tend to be evenly balanced or handle heavy, and are heavier overall.

VI – Stringing

Strings are available in a myriad of styles and construction; these can be broken down into four categories: multifilament, synthetic gut, monofilament, and natural gut. Tennis strings range from offering more playability (power and feel) to more durability (longer lifespan), as you gain more of one, you sacrifice the other.

Multifilament, thinner gauge synthetic gut, and natural gut offer the most playability. These strings have more elasticity, resiliency, and “bite” into the ball better.  Thicker gauge synthetic gut and monofilament strings flex and stretch less, thereby increasing string durability but at the expense of feel and power from the string bed. Players will often use two different types of string in the mains and crosses of their racquet. These hybrids are designed to maximize the benefits of the two string types used, for a better combination of playability and durability.

The tension of the strings is another consideration. Each racquet has a recommended tension range (measured in lbs or kg),  with lower tensions generally resulting in more power, and higher tensions providing more accuracy.

Obviously, with play, strings will gradually lose their resiliency and tension resulting in poor performance, even if the string does not break.  A rule of thumb for restringing is to do it as many times per year as you play in a week. Keep in mind a racquet sitting in a closet will lose tension over time.

VII – Summary

We have outlined a number of considerations involved in finding a tennis racquet most suited to a player’s game, there is no such thing as the “best” racquet. Playing style, skill, and personal preference all play important roles when selecting a frame. It is important to consider how the frame works for you as a player, and to consult with a specialist that can help you wade through the many choices available on the market.

This Tennis Racquet Frame & Stringing Guide is provided by Rackets & Runners