|MATCH POINT NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2011|
iTUSA Student Takes Unforgettable Summer Trip
Nicholas Reyes is a 16-year old Cuban tennis player from Coral Gables, Florida who is currently training at the iTUSA Tennis Academy. Nicholas believes it was fate that brought him and Rafael Font de Mora together a few years ago at an ITF tournament in Honduras. Rafael saw Nicholas' great potential and the two began working together in March of this year. This summer Rafa has given Nicholas, what would be considered by all young tennis players, the chance of a lifetime. Rafael sent Nicholas to Spain and other European countries to work with one of the top 40 tennis players in the world, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. “He [Rafa] has done me a great favor by sending me to Alicante, Spain and other European countries with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a top-ranked professional tennis player, and his coach Juan Esparcia,” said Nicholas.
Nicholas has found Spain to be different from the United States in several ways. Most notably, Nicholas considers Spain a calmer society, but more serious and focused when it comes to tennis training. “It is much more intense than most other USA trainers I have experienced, but the training intensity is very similar to the intensity I have become accustomed to with what Rafa puts out on the court.” Nicholas also had the opportunity to attend a Masters Series 250 event in Stuttgart, Germany. While in Germany he practiced with many professionals including Gael Monfils (current #7 in the world), Gilles Simon (career high #6), Jeremy Chardy (career high #31), Santiago Giraldo (career high #44), and Guillermo (career high #23). Nicholas said, “I have been with these professionals for a week and it’s amazing to see how they carry themselves and their professional attitude at tournaments. Getting an inside look on the professional tour has helped me a lot with my tennis. Rafa has given me this opportunity because he believes in me, and I am very grateful for that fact.”
During Nicholas' time in Europe he has competed in some Spanish tournaments and noticed a difference in the level of competition. “The Spanish players are a lot tougher to play than the American tennis players because of their will to fight for every point which is what I’m learning to do. All in all I am having a great tennis experience here, learning a lot and hoping to get my level improved every time I step out on the court. I want to develop a Spanish tennis player’s mentality which is to do die before I lose and to do everything I can in my will to win and to enjoy what I am doing on the court with the correct attitude.”
Nicholas has a bright future in front of him and this experience will surely help as he plays in ITF events in Central America as well as ATP Futures Qualifying in Mexico, in the coming months. We will keep you updated on his progress and success as he tastes his first experiences in professional events and embarks on this exciting journey of international competition.
Through the iTUSA network we try to provide each student with a life-changing experience that will help them reach their full potential, no matter what their goals are. Recently iTUSA provided Grant Solomon, a top nationally-ranked U.S. Junior player, with one of those experiences in Spain. Grant spent a week in Spain training with some of the best tennis players in the world. Below is a statement from Grant's mother, Kathleen, commenting on Grant's experience with his training in Madrid, Spain.
"We just returned from the training sessions you planned for Grant in Madrid, and we cannot thank you enough for all that you did to make such arrangements. The facility and coaching was beyond our expectations. A huge thank you for your introduction to Gorka. He is extraordinarily talented, professional and helpful and kind in so many ways. What a great role model he is, even if an ocean away! Grant was absolutely over-the-moon thrilled that he got to train with such intensity and encouragement, and that he got to train with Fernando Verdasco (with Feliciano, Lopez and Juan Monaco on an adjacent court to boot) was simply icing on the cake! What a fantastic and life-changing experience for him. So, now I am sold on him going to Spain to train on red clay for next year - it cannot come soon enough. Again, thank you so much for the wonderful introduction to Gorka and your beautiful country!"
Kathleen - Mother of Grant, Top Nationally Ranked U.S. Junior Player
Contact iTUSA if you are looking for that one-of-a-kind experience and training that very few academies or training programs can provide.
Noah Gampel's Success
iTUSA would like to send out congratulations to Noah Gampel for winning 4 tournaments back-to-back in the U-10 division.
Noah is a very talented 8 year old from Southern California. He recently completed a sweep of 4 tournaments including: the Costa Mesa Summer Tournament, the 79th La Junior Metro Tournament , the 10th Annual Coach Jim Vierdick Tournament and the 18th Annual Northridge Tournament. Not only did he win all 4 championships, but he did so without losing a single match!
Even as an 8 year old, Noah has very high hopes for himself and dreams of one day being a top professional player.
"My goal is to become a tennis professional and number 1 in the world. I really want to win the US Open one day and believe that I can. I will work very hard with my coach Rafael [Font de Mora] on my footwork, strokes and fitness . One day I will win grand slams and doubles titles with my friend Arnaud [Sewanou] who is also at iTUSA."
Due to his dominance in the U-10's age group, Noah has started to play in the U-12 division. Many kids jump into higher age groups without dominating opponents their own age, which can often lead to frustration and a lack of confidence. It is important to learn to win under pressure and against players your own age or even at lower levels before you moving up. The success and experience gained by beating players of your own age will ultimately help you when you are playing against older, stronger players.
Every Month Noah spends a full week training at iTUSA's headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Through iTUSA's video analysis technology, we identify the areas of Noah's game that need the most attention and development. This allows Noah to continue to address his weaknesses and develop his overall game, while also allowing his coaches back home in Southern California to work in conjunction with iTUSA and Noah to help him reach his maximum potential. iTUSA’s ability to work with a player's coach provides a consistent and organized structure for player development.
Click here to view one of Noah's training plans based on his forehand analysis.
Click here to watch Noah's forehand video analysis.
iTUSA's Juniors Sweep Los Angeles Junior Tournament
Rafael Font de Mora recently took a group of iTUSA's Juniors (Madison and McKenzie Majerle, Scarlet Rush, Nathan Niemiec and Arnaud Sewanou along with Noah Gampel) to participate in the 79th Annual Los Angeles Junior Metro Event. Rafael and the iTUSA juniors swept all the different divisions at the event including 5 out of the 6 players making the finals. We would like to send out special congratulations to Nathan Niemiec and Scarlet Rush who won the U14 boy's division and the U16 girl's division, respectively. Overall it was a great turnout and a great performance by the iTUSA team.
Hyatt Gainey Ranch Courts Will Be Resurfaced in the Upcoming Weeks
iTUSA continues its improvements. By the beginning of September, anyone who heads to the tennis courts at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale will be the benefactors of newly resurfaced courts. That is beacuse iTUSA will be working with prestigious court builder Dave Marburger to resurface all courts at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch during the last 2 weeks of August. We will be able to re-arrange programs and schedules to accommodate our students’ training. We appreciate your patience while we get the courts resurfaced and in great playing condition for your enjoyment and improved play. Thank you to Hyatt management for continuing to improve their tennis facility and supporting our programs.
The importance of learning all the ins and outs of becoming a pro player like taking care of your own racquets and stringing is very crucial for an aspiring young player. This is a skill that Arnaud has taken a liking to. Not only does it help him become more aware about his equipment, but it also allows him to know the exact specifics of what string, tension and string patterns are optimal for his play.
Arnaud is responsible at the academy for stringing many of the students’ racquets, and he has been able to use his skill and knowledge of the tennis equipment to become very good at what he does. Arnaud uses the money he raises through stringing racquets to help him attend and compete in tournaments. iTUSA is very proud of Arnaud's hard work and perseverance to reach his goals as he pays his way through with hard work and effort. If you would like to help support Arnaud, bring your racquets to the tennis courts at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch and let the little guy prepare your equipment for your next outing or match.
Click here to view a special video and to learn how you can help the Foundation.
Read the background of Arnaud’s story from our October 2010 newsletter here.
Rotational Groundstrokes Moving Forward and Back, by Jofre Porta
Objective: Develop rotation footwork in both of your groundstrokes as you move forward and/or backwards.
Description: This drill will teach you how to develop two of the most important components of great footwork:
1. Rotation around the ball.
2. Moving forward and backward and hitting on top of the ball depending on the depth of your opponent’s shot.
After executing the series of balls around the coach, the player should be rewarded with a short ball on either side to finish the point.
After watching and using this drill, you can understand how Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya have developed such incredible footwork to run around their backhands in order to dominate baseline play with their super-heavy forehands. Also you can see how perfectly Jofre’s players adjust to the ball with precise footwork regardless of the depth of the ball. No wonder they can win on all surfaces by backing up from the baseline on slower courts or moving up and playing inside the baseline on faster courts.
Now you have the secret of how to utilize rotational and up-and-down footwork so you can dominate your opponents and win on all surfaces, too.
Jofre Porta has already had a remarkably successful coaching career. He is the man who coached Carlos Moya from the juniors to becoming the French Open Champion in 1998, all the way to helping Moya become the #1 player in the world in 1999. Jofre also played a critical role in coaching Rafael Nadal in his formative years (between the ages 8 to 17). Jofre was in charge of helping Nadal getting established on the right foot as a professional.
Click here to watch the drill.
More Drills in iTUSA's Training Drills Database
Each week 9 new drills are added to the database!
Please visit this link to view iTUSA's Training Drills Database with over 1,000 training drills:
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Racquet Talk, with Glen Flint
It is with great pleasure that I begin working with iTUSA and my long-time good friend Rafael. I can think of no better place in the world that I would rather call home than beautiful Scottsdale. Over the 17 years on the professional tennis tours, I have been privileged to work with 6 world number 1 ATP players (singles), 5 world number 1 WTA players (singles), 9 world number 1 ATP players (doubles) and 6 world number 1 WTA players (doubles), and numerous top 10 players and Grand Slam winners. I hope to pass on some of the experiences that I have learnt over the many years and continue the high standards of iTUSA that is renown around the tennis world.
In my writings I would like to focus on the preparations of a player before they begin their match. Walking onto a tennis court should mean you have fully prepared yourself in many areas. Practicing your slice serve or topspin backhand crosscourt lob should be just one of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. A truly professional player removes as many weaknesses as possible to go into battle. Have you ever been the better shot maker on court but run out of gas in the 3rd set and lost? How about you easily lose to an opponent that you beat 2 years ago and wonder what happened? Could you have prepared better? Can you identify the weaknesses of your loss?
Glen Flint with Maria Sharapova
Today we will explore this scenario. It is your sectional semifinals. You are the key player for your team. With your singles match you could take your team into next week’s grand finale. After an hour and 15 minutes you take the first set in a tie breaker. One more set and your team will be celebrating. You are feeling good and have worked out your opponent’s little patterns. You know when you hit your inside out forehand approach shot your opponent can only manage a weak pushing backhand up the line. You know where they will serve because they have a ball toss pattern and you are sitting on that killer forehand of yours when they toss wide and slice ever time. Let’s go! Second set; nothing is going to stop you.
First point second set; your serve. You take a deep breath and grin a little. You Serve, “POP”. Your string breaks. After a tough quarter final win, 2 practice sessions during the week and the first set of your singles match, your trusty weapon has been retired for the day. You go to your bag and take the racquet that you used 2 seasons prior. It is heavier than the racquet you have been using lately. You have not strung it for some time; in fact it still has the strings in it you were using when you had that basic chopping forehand and had not even begun to master the topspin kick serve. The shape of the handle is a little different to your new one and the overgrip looks like you used it to do gardening. The first touch of the ball you notice just how loose the strings are, and for the first time today you double fault. You do your best but this old racquet has taken away every advantage you worked so hard for in the first set. You are reduced to basic pushing to keep the ball in play. You lose the second set 6-3, and to make matters worse, your shoulder feels sore with the added weight of the racquet, and your hands are getting blisters from the worn hard grip. Set 3 is just a blur. You lose 6-1. You are physically beaten and mentally shattered.
There is a saying that a bad tradesman blames his tools. That philosopher has never played tennis at a high level.
You do not need to be a top player to benefit from preparing your racquets before a match. Where a top tour-level player will take 6 to 10 racquets on court before a match, a club level player should have at least 2 racquets freshly prepared for match day. The racquets should be identical. Just because you buy 2 racquets from a store that have the same make and model on them does not mean they are identical. Factory racquets can differ by 15 grams (half an ounce); handles can vary by half a size that they are supposed to be. Balance on one can feel head light and head heavy on the other. Look carefully because sometimes racquets with the same name can even have different string patterns.
What do professional players do? To begin with, racquets will be sent to a racquet technician who specializes in transforming a racquet into an extension of the players arm. For almost 30 years some of the biggest names in the tennis who’s who have used RPNY Tennis in Manhattan to customize their racquets. Top players are very sensitive - even flexibility is measured on the frame. A batch of 50 racquets may be sent from the manufacturer to the customizer and flexibility measured. Perhaps 10 racquets out of the batch will meet the requirements. Player’s handles are created, each one different in some way for each player. Ever used a Wilson racquet but find yourself switching to a head racquet? First thing you may notice is the handle shape. Head has a more rectangular shape. A special mold is created for the player to copy the Wilson shape, but now it fits their Head racquet. Standard grip sizes do not apply; 4 1/4 too small but 4 3/8 too big? No problems. Everything is adjusted at the top level. Even handles are shaved on certain sides if a player always holds the racquet the same way on every shot. Racquet lengths are adjusted, too. Then the weighting is adjusted.
Think you never customize your racquet? Do you like certain overgrip better than others? That is a form of customizing. Have a favorite string you use? That is customizing, too. Bought a racquet and the factory strings felt too bouncy so you had it restrung? CUSTOMIZING!!
Every player should at least have their racquets checked for weight, balance and swingweight. It is a quick and reasonably cheap process that can benefit the player tremendously.
The ultimate goal is to know you can reach into your racquet bag and know you have 2 equal racquets that work with you, and not 1 lucky racquet that you use and 1 other racquet that you hope you don’t have to.
Choosing your racquet properly is not just for optimum playing ability, but also to reduce the chance of injury. I have a good friend who is a very clever lawyer. She was given a racquet by one of her friends as a birthday present. This racquet, even though it is overall light, is extra long, head heavy and has a 4 3/8 grip. My friend told me for years she used this racquet, and for years my friend has had shoulder pain. The pain was not created by the racquet; that came some time before, but the racquet contributed to the continuation of the pain. When I saw my friend, I gave her a regular length, lighter even-balanced 4 ¼ grip racquet with natural gut strings to try. She immediately remarked on how much easier it was to play and her shoulder did not experience the same severe pain. Even though my friend is a very clever lady, if you do not know how to choose your racquet, you may be damaging yourself without knowing.
What about strings? Can they help me? I hear you say. Strings are the contacting surface on the ball - the driving force of your shots. They control speed, direction and spin. Got a good racquet because you are a good player? What! You have cheap nylon strings in it because you break strings often? That is like driving a Ferrari and having $40 tires on it because you think they are going to wear out anyway. Try taking that corner in the rain at 70 mph and see if a set of Pirelli’s might have been a better choice.
Strings affect and control so many aspects of your shot’s final destination and body’s reaction. Let’s start with tension. Tighter is more control, looser more power. Simple, yes? Just what really is the difference between 61 and 62 pounds? At the top level 1 pound equates to about 18 inches. That will equate to a whole lot of unforced errors. Have a look at players bashing their racquet strings on their hands to test tension next time they are having an off day, then quickly sending it off court back to the stringer’s room for an adjustment of tension. Don’t think it is the stringer’s fault either, the day’s temperature may have changed during the match, or the lazy player may have thought going out to dinner the night before was more important than dropping off their racquets for a fresh restring. You may also note a lot of players changing to a fresh racquet every time there is a ball change. Imagine the strings and balls softening up over the 9 games they are used. Now bring in 6 brand new, hard, bouncy balls. Do you really want to use that same racquet in your hand that is getting softer and spongier? No! Me neither. I don’t think too many of the first few shots will find their target. At a solid recreational level you may not notice 1 pound, but 3 pounds you will. Tension begins to drop as soon as the racquet comes off the stringing machine. So if you like your racquet strung at 56lbs and leave it in your closet for the winter, be prepared to see a fair few shots sail long of the baseline in spring time. Tension on the tour level is changed up and down depending on; temperature, altitude, make of balls used, opponent’s style, court surface, even nerves and adrenalin. Back-to-back tournaments like Indian Wells and Miami or Madrid and Rome can see tensions differ by almost 10 pounds.
The effects of string types are many. The longest used string is natural gut, used for well over a century. It takes enough intestines from 3 cows to make enough string for 1 racquet. Why is this old fashioned technology still used today? Natural gut is the most powerful string still available, with the greatest return of energy of any string. It is also the most absorbing, so if you have any type of arm/shoulder injury, this string is going to look after you the best. The only down side is it does not give as much spin as today’s modern polyester strings.
The polyester strings have changed the game more than any other factor in the last 15 years. The amount of spin that these strings produce is the single biggest factor causing the serve-and-volley singles player to all but disappear from the pro tour. Players can hit the ball with all their might and know the spin will be so great that the ball will dip down and remain in play. The down side to these strings is that they are quite hard on the body of a pro player. This is why the hybrid of natural gut and polyester is now very common on tour. It is divided on tour whether to put the natural gut in the main or crosses. Generally the main string has the dominant characteristic.
A multifilament string is a good alternate to natural gut. Imagine a piece of string looking like 1000 hairs under a microscope; this gives the string its stretchy characteristic. It feels soft, forgiving but not too much spin.
For children and beginners, it is fine to start with a basic nylon string. It is nice and safe for the body and while they are just trying to make solid contact with the centre of the racquet head and not concerned about fancy spin, it will suffice until the skill level improves.
Bottom line when choosing your racquet and strings, get assistance from someone that understands racquets and strings.
So coming back to our warrior feeling that the tennis gods were against them - What preparation could have been taken to increase the chances of winning the important match? A second identical racquet, freshly strung the same as the first would have been a good start. Take the time to prepare your equipment.
Having the right racquet could improve your play level a few percent, having the right strings and tension could improve your skill level a few percent, getting fitter could improve your play level a few percent, and getting fitted for the right shoes could improve your play level a few percent. See a pattern developing? I am not saying you are going to win every match if you get the right racquet and strings, but if you have something in your hand that feels like an extension of your arm and works with you to play the shots you want, then that can’t be a bad thing. When on the court you should be thinking about your game and not your racquet and strings.
Like most sports, the higher level you play everything becomes more complicated, so if you are reading this and have just begun the playing tennis then relax. You have a while to go before we talk about tweaking your swingweight. If you are playing better then recreational level, maybe a good junior player who is thinking about getting to college on a scholarship or a high level weekend warrior who wants to lift your clubs trophy, then it is time to think about more than just your strokes’ biomechanics. Highly ranked ATP/WTA players still ask lots of questions to try and find an advantage, so believe me both Rafa and I are very happy to answer your questions and find a solution to that niggling question that has been on your mind for some time.
I look forward to meeting and talking to you at the Scottsdale Hyatt Regency. See you all soon.
Glen started his coaching career in Australia in 1993, where he developed players at the Queen Parks Tennis Club on Australia's Gold Coast. Glen has coached many of today's professional players. Among the many players he worked with was Samantha Stosur, the current WTA #4 player in the world. Even with his professional coaching, Glen finds time to work with players of all levels and ages.
Resist Reacting Emotionally After Points, by Allen Fox, Ph.D.
About Dr. Allen Fox
Dr. Allen Fox earned a Ph.D. in psychology at UCLA and is a former NCAA champion, Wimbledon quarterfinalist, a three-time member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and coached the Pepperdine tennis team to two NCAA finals. He currently consults with tennis players on mental issues, appears in his popular 1-Minute Clinics on the Tennis Channel, and lectures world-wide on sports psychology. He is also an editor and writer for Tennis Magazine.
Dr. Fox is the author of four books: “IF I’M THE BETTER PLAYER, WHY CAN’T I WIN?”, “THINK TO WIN,” “THE WINNER’S MIND, a Competitor’s Guide to Sports and Business Success,” and “TENNIS: WINNING THE MENTAL MATCH.”
His books can be purchased on his website at www.allenfoxtennis.net.
RESIST REACTING EMOTIONALLY AFTER POINTS
BOOK EXCERPT FROM “TENNIS: WINNING THE MENTAL MATCH”
By Allen Fox, Ph.D. © 2010, all rights reserved
Your game will tend to follow your emotions, positive ones producing good play and negative ones, bad play, so you need to control them rather than having them control you. The starting point for this (and probably the most useful single idea in this book) is the following: When a point ends have no feeling or emotional reactions at all! It means that whether you have made the most egregious error or hit the most outlandish winner, it’s generally best to have no emotional reaction whatsoever. No matter how important the point, when it’s over, regardless of outcome, you simply turn around and start walking back into position having had no emotional reaction. Nothing happened! As an example, watch Roger Federer’s face at the end of a point. You will not usually be able to tell if he has just hit a winner or missed a sitter. Most of the time, he doesn’t react. You see the outer lack of reaction, but, equally importantly, he doesn’t usually react internally either.
What about reacting positively after winning a point? Okay, let’s start with the obvious counter arguments. You may say, “What if I hit a good shot? Shouldn’t I celebrate or pump myself up with a raised fist or something? Doesn’t this fit better with your theory of having good emotions so your game will follow them and get better?” My answer is that most highly-ranked professional players do not do this. Notice I say most and not all. Of course some players, like Lleyton Hewitt, Jimmy Connors, Rafael Nadal, John McEnroe, and Maria Sharapova do (or did) play better by pumping themselves up after winning points. But even they didn’t do it after every point they won – often, yes, but only after some points. These few players performed well on adrenaline and seemed, somehow, to be able to emote again and again without getting emotionally exhausted. But keep in mind that these people are champions with far more emotional resiliency, self-control, and confidence than you or I have. (If you win a couple of Wimbledons you might also be able to get away with it, but until then, I advise against it.) In any case, even they are the exceptions among the pros. The list of great pros that usually didn’t react after points is far longer – Don Budge, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, Roger Federer, Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Stephan Edberg, Pete Sampras, etc., etc., etc.
The reasons for not reacting emotionally after a point are many:
1. In a close match you will lose every other point. Reacting after points means you will continually swing up and down. This is an exhausting emotional roller-coaster and will mentally tire you out in a long match.
2. You will make errors, some unaccountably terrible and some on huge points. If you react to these errors they will scare you and possibly make you lose faith in your strokes. Experiments have shown that memories are genetically programmed to be enhanced when accompanied by strong emotion, and it is not beneficial for us to remember all of our errors too vividly. So it’s best to completely ignore errors emotionally. Assume they are random incidents and immediately forget about them. The response should be, “Nothing happened.” Then just walk on without acknowledgment.
3. Reacting after points momentarily throws you off balance emotionally. You then have only a few seconds to gather yourself before the next point starts. You put yourself in an emotional hole and have to quickly dig yourself out. It is best to start preparing for the next point from an emotionally neutral position rather than from a hole.
4. You are momentarily allowing your emotions to get out of your control, and you risk being unable to get them back under control. A tennis matches is best played like a day at the office – going about your business, under control, and using emotions only as needed to help you get the job done.
5. You overemphasize the importance of particular points. It is best to treat all points as important but none as too important. This helps keep your emotions on an even keel.
6. If you pump up and celebrate the points you win, what do you do on the ones you lose? (which will be every other one)
Using adrenaline: Having said all this, there are occasions, not too often, when even the non-reactive pros choose to react after making a great shot or winning a particularly important point. They will do it to pump themselves up in crucial situations, usually late in a set or late in the match, to give themselves a shot of adrenaline. (You can also do it deliberately by slapping yourself on the side, making yourself feel aggressive, and saying something like, “Come on!!” or “Get going!!” under your breath.) Paradoxically, this type of adrenaline response is sometimes even useful in counteracting shaky nerves in pressure situations. At such times it is natural to become tight and conservative. Calling up an adrenaline response can sometimes loosen you up. Essentially, you try to turn feelings of fear into feelings of aggression, the physiological correlates of which are quite similar.
Adrenaline is a hormone released by the adrenal gland that makes you stronger and quicker - sort of a personal afterburner - but running on it too long can tire you out. It can speed up your reactions, strengthen you when you are getting tired, or help you focus when your concentration is slipping. However it’s best to use it sparingly - on occasions when it will do the most good, such as when the finish line is in sight and you need a little something extra to drive you over it. Players differ in their response to adrenaline, so you will need to learn from experience how often and when to use it. But regardless of what you learn, the vast majority of your points should end with no emotional reaction at all.
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