Erowal Bay Tennis Club

Subtitle

TENNIS TIPS by John Hunt

A few years ago, . . . quite a few years ago, EBTC president, John Hunt, wrote a column for the South Coast Register, as part of the regular Erowal Bay Tennis club page. 

Here are a selected few for your enjoyment. . .

After you've read them, turn to the "Tell us another one" page. . . for some family fun. . .

JUNIORS AND THEIR PARENTS (August 28, 1984)

Tennis facilities for juniors have certainly improved during the past thirty or forty years. This not only helps to discover the rare budding champion who may be lurking in our midst, but just as importantly sets the stage for years of future enjoyment of r many more juniors.
At what age should they start? I believe that they have already started even before they are allowed on the court, if their parents are tennis players. The toddlers on the outside of the wire not only ride their tricycles or rip the ears off their friends; they also watch mum or dad on the court.
The court mannerism and style (or lack) of a parent, can often be detected in a youngster from almost the first time they walk onto a court. So behave yourselves on the court mum and dad.. Big eyes are watching.
Playing with a ball around the outside of a court or in the backyard is valuable training and a lot of fun for any toddler.
A close friend and previous tennis partner of mine played ball with his young son as often as possible, which totalled many hours every week. It did not matter whether the game was tennis, football, baseball or even just catching the ball. As long as dad was having fun the games continued. The young toddler is now a ten-year-old, and although I have not seen him on a court recently, I would wager that he would beat the pants off most in his age group. Dad may not realise it, but he was a great teacher (not a bad tennis player either). I encourage all tennis players to take their children to tennis with them.
When my eldest son reached the ripe old age of fourteen, I started to take him with me each week when I played in a men’s night comp in Sydney. Within a few months, he was well known and accepted as one of the boys. He felt at home, and when he eventually joined a team in his own grade, dad wasn’t needed to hold his hand. Sure, I heard a few colourful jokes and one or two naughty words between sets (men will be boys) but he also watched the tennis and remembered a lot of those booming shots that were crashing past his dad.
During day tennis, even at the toddler stage, my children were always welcome around the court. After all, where else would I get three fans?
Although the kids are welcome around the court, they should never be allowed on the court during competition or even social play. An adult is two or three times taller than a toddler is. Can you imagine an eighteen-foot tall giant walking on your leg as he runs to retrieve a ball? However, during a social afternoon the court may be free of adults for ten to fifteen minutes. Don’t allow the toddlers to run wild. Tell the over six years olds that it is their turn for a set. Let them have a hit, but only four at a time. If they are not interested, don’t force them. Wait until the next week and make the offer again.

COMMITTEE (or ‘They’) (August 8, 1984)

"Why don’t They do this?" "When did They do that?" "Why did They wait so long to call it off?" "Why did They call it off so soon?"
Although I am currently a member of three separate tennis committees, I can remember the days when I only had to submit my name, pay the fees, and grab the racquet. Providing the competitions and tournaments were run fairly smoothly, my mate and myself gave very little thought to the committee. After all, They were only doing their job. We were vaguely aware that from time to time to committee would have to provide a little effort to organise our sport. We expected this of the committee: we had paid our fees.
In 1976 I joined a committee of and association in Sydney. Many members had complained in vain to the committee because trophies had not been awarded for competitions for two years. I decided to offer my services to rectify the situation. After six months I had purchased and presented over eight hundred trophies. More importantly, through my involvement with the committee, I had learned how much time and effort these special people donate for your enjoyment. I began to realise that Their work was really OUR work - MY work. The committee had not organised the trophies because they simply did not have the time.
I have been involved with several committees since leaving Sydney and have found that the same tireless people are available in every club. We are especially lucky in Erowal Bay. Our club is small but rapidly growing because the members are happy with the committee and the committee happy with the members. As our club grows we should ensure this happy atmosphere continues. It will if we remember a few Do’s and Don'ts.
The committee should consider every member equally whether young or old, reasonable player or learner, competition player or social.
Members must remember that the committee does not receive any payment or privileges for their hours of work. In fact, they are usually the first to pay their fees.
Regardless of which club you are a member you should try discussing any grievance with a committee member. Constructive suggestions are always welcome. But remember before your suggestion is acted upon it must be considered an advantage for the majority.
Never set out to abuse a committee member - They are doing Their best and will make mistakes. After the hours of work for the majority, abuse from one only can be very hard to take
How can you help? Next time you learn that a working bee is being organised, try to help. When you discover a hole in the wire, or a loose screw in a door, or a lawn that needs cutting, don’t say They should fix it - YOU should fix it! I for one will never again sit back and let everyone else (or Them) do the work.

VOLLEY (August 1, 1984)

After hitting the desired approach shot and obtaining our opponents return in the planned position, we often make a complete mess of the proposed winning volley. The three most common errors:
Failing to stop to hit the ball;
Incorrect position of the feet;
Too much back swing.
Stop to hit the ball: After making your approach shot, move to the net quickly so that you are able to stop just before your opponent hits the ball. By doing this you have time to move in any direction to position yourself for the volley. You will then have time, if you’re lucky, to stop to hit the ball.
Position the feet: If your opponents return is soft you must turn side on and transfer your weight to the foot nearest the net so that you lean into the volley. A short back swing is required to gain the desired power to punch the shot firmly at the selected target. This should be your opponent’s head if the score is 0-5.
Too much back swing: Many opponents have the nasty habit of not returning the ball as you had expected. Instead of the nice friendly soft return, you may be confronted by a booming low drive. When this happens refrain from the temptation to belt it back twice as fast. In this situation you do not have time to think about the position of your feet. You only have time to get your racquet out to meet the ball before the ball reaches your body. You will need a firm grip on your racquet and lock your wrist. Use the pace so that your opponent has put on the ball, and simply punch it away for a trim winner. Unless you are playing a drop shot, remember - don’t allow the ball to hit the racquet - the racquet must hit the ball.
This all sounds very easy, and to some players it is, other have to work hard for a little success, I know.

PLAYING IN THE WIND (July 25, 1984)

I am told that sailors like a stiff breeze. I don’t know how they handle a gusty and swirling unpredictable blow, but I am sure they do better than we tennis players.
I have heard many of you moan and groan about the conditions on a windy day. If you haven’t heard me, you haven’t been listening. However, we have to face the truth: the wind can spoil a good afternoon. But only if we let it!
Firstly, we must accept the fact that we will not be able to play our normal accurate and precise game. If you can usually land the ball on a dollar coin - settle for a dinner plate. If you are like me and can usually land the ball on a shed, settle for a house. Secondly, remember your opponents are going to have just as much trouble as you, but even a little more if you are a little sneaky. In the warm up, slyly hit a ball higher than usual. Imagine where you think it should land and carefully remember the difference after it hits the court. If you hit the ball too high, go get it, stupid!
If you are playing directly into the teeth of a southerly buster, don’t use strength to bash the thing back. Prepare very early for each shot and ‘stroke’ the ball firmly and let the racquet do the work. Once you settle down you will find that only a little more effort is required.
As soon as you master playing into the wind - you guessed it - change ends. When playing with the wind behind you, it will be tempting to use almost no follow through. That is fatal. You must still follow through to get the ball anywhere near where you are aiming. If you use your normal follow through, the ball will probably go out. The follow through has to be smooth and slow. I like to think ‘slow motion’.
When the wind is across the court, you can use it to advantage. When serving, aim to the side of the service square where the wind will carry the ball well away from the receiver. When the receiver makes the big stretch to reach the ball, the return becomes more difficult as it has to be hit against the wind. During play, aim down the centre, or at the side, where the wind will blow the ball into the court. A sideline shot becomes easy on one side of the court where the ball appears to be going out as it crosses the net, but is blown into the court. A sideline on the other side is very difficult and should only be tried if the opposing net player strays too far towards the centre of the net. If your opponents are having trouble handling the wind, be nasty and hit the ball a little higher than usual to give the wind a chance to blow the ball around. If they do the same to you, glue your eyes on the ball as never before.

THE SERVICE (July 18, 1984)

We would all love to have a consistent booming cannonball first serve. If that is your aim, you are wasting your time reading this; you should be out on the court practising for about four hours each day.
The cannonball first serve can be seen on our local courts. Mostly in second divisions, and mostly faults. When you watch the top division player in most associations, you will discover that most players sacrifice a little power for consistency.
If you watch TV, sure they certainly pound the first serve, but they are champions, we are battlers. We can all learn from watching them, but we can also learn from watching our own friends in the district. If you see a player with an obviously better and more consistent first serve than another, analyse the two styles. Please do not advise the weaker server of their errors as you may find a racquet wrapped around your swelled head. Simply learn so that you may change your style slightly for better results.
If you are a beginner or find that you are having trouble with your first serve, remember these few basics. How many times should you bounce the ball before commencing you serve? Don’t ask me, I wouldn’t have a clue. I bounce it once! However, do whatever you have to, to gain your concentration. Before commencing your shot, your shoulders and feet should be pointing in the direction of your intended serve. That is, a line drawn from the front of one foot to the other should be pointing at the target. Weight should be evenly balanced. As both arms rise, the weight should transfer to the back foot. As one hand releases the ball, your weight should start to transfer to your front foot so that, as you strike the ball, all your weight is on the front foot and you are ‘leaning’ on the ball. The racquet head should give you the feeling of propelling itself right after the ball into the service square.
The ‘throw up’ is very important and only becomes easy with practice. Try to ‘place’ the ball in the air rather than ‘throw’ it in the air. That is, extend your arm to its full comfortable height and release the ball from you hand. You can practice in the back yard. You will need your racquet in the other hand for feel and balance, but don’t hit the ball, your neighbours may not understand about tennis players. When the ball drops to the ground, your throw or placement has been correct if the ball lands between 450mm and 600,mm in front of your body, depending on individual preference.
The second serve...you don’t need it, you just served an ace.
Naturally, there is much more to the service than these few lines, but there is also much more to the game of tennis than I could write in a year.

RULES AROUND THE NET (July 11, 1984)

We would all play much better if we didn’t have to worry about the net, that horrible piece of equipment stretched across the centre of our domain is a constant source of annoyance. Not only does it spoil a lot of our perfect shots; we aren’t even allowed to touch it during a point. We can’t even give it a sly kick whilst our partners are playing a stroke.
The rule states, that if we touch the net whilst the ball is in play (not as we make a stroke, but whilst the ball is in play), we lose the point. You will also lose the point if your racquet or any piece of clothing touches the net. If you are wearing a hat or glasses at the beginning of a point, and the wind blows your hat onto the net (even if along the court surface) or if by any other source your hat or glasses or any other item which you are wearing or carrying touches the net whilst the ball is in play, you lost the point. If a hat or towel or any other item which was left on the umpire stand or court wire, etc, blows against the net whilst the ball is in play the owner does not lose the point.
May you strike a ball before it passes over the net: No - loss of point. May you strike a ball that has passed over the net and allow your racquet to ‘follow through’ over the net without touching net? Yes. May you allow your foot to extend under the net? No - you are then touching your opponent’s court - loss of point. When an opponent’s return hits the net well below the top, may you touch the net with your racquet on the opposite side? No - not before the ball hits the court surface on the opponent’s side - loss of point. May you lean over the net to hit a ball, which has bounced on your side of the net and is blown or spins back over the net? Yes, providing the net is not touched. Also you may run around the end of the net to play such a ball providing you do not touch the playing surface on your opponent’s side. If a ball hits the net post and goes over the net to drop in your opponent’s court, is the shot good? If playing doubles, yes. If playing singles, no. Singles should be played with the net posts in a different position.
(This rule regarding the net posts refers to correct posts where the tops of the posts are the same height as the net. As most of the nets where we play are suspended on posts that protrude above the net, the rule does not cover the situation. However, most clubs accept the shot as good. If you are accurate enough, have a go; it would be a tricky shot. If you are playing against me, have a go...please!)
If a ball is returned into your opponent’s court below the height of the net, around the post, is the shot good? Yes, providing it does not pass between the net and post.
What other words do we use to describe the net? Unprintable.

PLAYING AS A PAIR (July 4, 1984)

When choosing a partner you must not only consider their tennis ability, but also a person you can regard as a friend.
When discussing tactics before a match, it is much easier to talk about your own and your partner’s strengths and weaknesses with a friend than merely another tennis player. An ideal combination for our graded tennis is one player with a powerful overhead and reasonable pace attack. The other should be a reliable percentage player who can hit the ball over the net all day long. If you are the reliable half of the partnership, remember ‘percentage’ play includes going for the winner when the opportunity arises.
However, you must be prepared after a good win for you partner to receive most of the praise for his or her more spectacular game. If you are the attacker remember to praise your partner for the set-ups.
When each point commences one player should be just behind the base line, the other at the net. As soon as you can force you opponent into a difficult shot, both take to the net, the chances of a forced error, or a ‘sitter’ are at their peak.
Once a point has started, forget the idea of ‘your side’ and ‘my side’. The player at the net should take every shot, which can be reached, in reasonable safety. The base line player should back up the open side. The net player should dictate the positions, but allow time for your partner to react.

THE LOB

The lob can be used as a defensive shot to allow you and your partner time to get back into position, it can also be used as a clean winner or very effective approach shot. If you use the lob often, you may win more points than you lose, however, be prepared for criticism.
A good lob approach shot will practically go unnoticed when you or your partner cracks away the resulting overhead for a winner. If a zooming forehand drive just misses or cracks into the tape, you will often hear "oh, bad luck!". If a lob falls a little short and your opponents score the winner, you can almost hear the heads shaking in disgust.

HOW TO WIN 6-0 (June 27, 1984)

When you find yourself in a position where your team needs a 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2 win in the final set, enjoy the challenge. Most importantly, you must have confidence in your partner. If you walk onto the court thinking ‘I must win 6-0’, you have no chance. If you are thinking ‘We must win 6-0’ your chances are better but still slim. You must take every point as it comes. It is impossible to lift 100 bricks, but one by one, the task becomes easy. Regard every point (including the first) as match point. Think only of the point being played. If you look after the cents, the dollars will look after themselves.
If you enjoy crashing down a booming first serve which occasionally goes in, resist the temptation and sacrifice 25% of the pace for 75% consistency. Keep your return of serve away from the fiend at the net. Leave the crashing sidelines for another day. If you are unable to drive the ball hard and deep, ‘soft’ and deep may do the trick. Give your opponents backhand a thorough workout. You may prefer to blast the opposition off the court.
If you are unsure of which way to play the situation, if the scores were reversed - which way would you like to see your opponents play?
I think I would have a much better chance of scoring a game or two if my opponents tried for a clean winner on every second shot.
Keep the ball in play; make them fight for every point.

HOW TO LOSE 6-0

Everyone is an expert at something!
Practice makes perfect. We all have to face it sooner or later. If nothing will go your way, remember that you are only playing for enjoyment. Would you rather be doing the chores at home, or work, or school? Enjoy your sport regardless of the outcome. When it’s time to shake hands, it may be hard to say ‘too good’. If so, try ‘too good today’. Don’t blame your partner, you will need him or her next time. Don’t belittle your opponent’s win by saying how badly you played, just smile and wait for another day. If the same opponents repeat the thrashing a second time, a judo chop to the throat with the racquet is essential before the third match.

PREPARE EARLY (June 20, 1984)

Early preparation for each shot is essential for consistent play.
With the exception of an overhead smash, every time you hit the ball after it bounces, whether backhand or forehand, you will hit a ‘ground stroke’.
Early preparation it particularly important for each groundstroke.
For players with the conventional ‘shake hands’ grip, the easiest position to play the ball is waist high.
Players with a Western grip may find the shoulder high shot more comfortable.
In either case and whenever possible, position yourself early so that you allow time to stand still whilst actually stroking the ball.
As you are getting into position take the racquet back so that your back swing has been completed by the time you stop the stroke ball.
If you rush to the court to play a match and arrive a few minutes before starting time, chances are that you will rush every shot for the first fifteen to twenty minutes and wonder why you are having a ‘bad day’.
Whenever possible, professional players warm up for thirty minutes to an hour shortly before a match.
If they need that sort of preparation, we cannot expect to rush on and immediately play our normal super game.
As our matches are for fun and relaxation a long warm up is not practical or essential. However, if you wish to feel satisfied with your form, try arriving ten minutes early for a quiet chat before doing battle. Remember, prepare early for each shot and each match, it does help.

THE FOOT FAULT (April 17, 1985)

A foot fault is generally not called in our social competitions, and in my opinion, for good reason. A central umpire cannot watch the server for possible foot fault and also watch the flight of the ball accurately. If, however, the server is obviously not standing between the centre line and the sideline when preparing to serve, the umpire should inform the server of the illegal position. The server must stand between the centre, and double sideline in doubles, and singles sideline in singles. If the server claims that a slight movement just before hitting the serve brings him into a legal position, the situation becomes a little difficult. In this case, a player from either team should be asked to act as centre or sideline, lines person.
Of course the more common foot fault occurs when the server touches the base line or moves into the court whilst serving. We all expect to lose the point when we hit the ball our or serve a double fault, or even touch the net. For some strange reason, many players become quite angry if anyone even suggests they are foot-faulting. A foot fault is a breach of the rules and should not be ignored. A foot on the line whilst serving gives the server practically no advantage, so why break the rules? If a server hits the ball with one foot 30 or 40 centimetres inside the court, this becomes a definite unfair advantage, and should be stopped.
Before criticising your opponents, have a look at your own team mates serves. Also have a teammate watch your serve, for too many players foot fault unknowingly. If an opponent continually foot faults and claims that the service is legal, he or she should be quite relieved to have someone act as linesperson, so that you can no longer criticise. Any person acting as linesperson should know the rule:
Rule 7: Foot Fault: The server shall throughout the delivery of the service:
(a) Not change his position by walking or running.
(b) Not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the base line within the imaginary extension of the centre mark and sideline.
It should be noted that slight movement of the feet does not mean walking. Also, if the server is inside the court, but not touching the surface at the moment of contact with the ball, the service is legal... A big coil spring under each foot could be an idea!

HOW KEEN CAN YOU GET?! (April 10, 1985)

It is nice to see people enjoy their participation in any sport, but it is great to se the extent some players will go to ensure they get their game of tennis. No doubt, participants in other sports are just as keen, but I can recall a few incidents worth a mention.
Two teenagers entered a rather low-grade doubles tournament. After five or six matches, they won their way to the finals with ease, as did their finals opponents. Rain fell consistently on the morning of the final, but an hour before the match, the youngsters decided to ring the courts. Panic stations were quickly manned when they discovered no rain had fallen in the suburb where the courts were located. After a quick change of clothes and no time to worry about wet weather gear, they stampeded to their motor cycle.
Approximately 15 of the 20 kilometres to the courts were through drenching rain. To their amazement, rain had still no fallen on the courts. Sympathy was not on the minds of the committee when they were faced with two drowned rats with squelching feet. They seemed more concerned about the wet and muddy footprints on the clubhouse floor. The match had to start on time.
Their racquet heads and strings were dry, but everything else was absolutely drenched. Even the pocket-handkerchiefs had to be wrung out before attempting to wipe the racquet grips. The first five games of the first set were lost to love, but two points were scored in the final game before 6-0 was reached. The second set of the three set match was identical. The first five games to love, and two points in the sixth. The match was over in a little over twenty minutes.
Should they have forfeited? Of course not! They had a miserable time, but shared a hilarious memory for many years.
Maybe even more incredible, I have seen a chap dry puddles from a loam (or clay) court so that a match could continue. Quite common, but with a Wettex. Or the fellow with his broken leg in plaster, hopping around with one crutch on the court to keep his eye in, may have been the keenest. Or the keenest may be one of many others how have played under very difficult, funny or sometimes sad conditions.
Even losers are still winners when they have enjoyed their game of tennis.

HOW DOES OUR TENNIS COMPARE TO THE CITY STANDARD? 3/4/85

I have been asked this question many times. It is true that the standard of Division 1 or A1 is definitely stronger in the big smoke than our own area. However, do not despair, in comparison to numbers, we do not fare too badly. Most areas in the cities have A1, A2, A3, A4, several reserve grades, as well as B and C grades. For comparison I will say they have grades from Division 1 to 17 or 18, or more. Only our top three or four players could hold their own in Division 1. The remainder of our Division 1 players would be spread through Divisions 2 to 4 or 5. Our average players in divisions 1A and 2 would certainly play in the average divisions of 7 or 8. The weakest of our lowest division would have to settle for 17 or 18, but the stronger players in our lowest division would move up the scale to 9 or 10.
So if you regard yourself as one of our top 3 or 4 players, you could certainly play in the top city division. The remainder of our Division 1 players would have to admit that the city standard is too tough. However, if you were an average lowest division player, you would have to move up a few grades and could be excused for saying that our standard is higher than the city.
If you are in the top 10% of our players, you could handle the average player in the top 10% in the city. If you were in the bottom 10% or somewhere in the middle, by comparing the percentage of your grade against the 17 or 18 city grades, you would know where you should play. By comparing numbers, our standard becomes the same. But if you play Division 3 in our area, please do not imagine that this compares with Division 3 in the big cities. If you think you have seen a budding young champion, remember the cities do not have a monopoly on the big guns. Yvonne Goolagong came from a NSW country town and who could ever forget the youngster from Rockhampton, Rod Laver?

SUPPORT YOUR PARTNER (March 27, 1985)

Tactics and discussion before and after a match are important. In addition you can support your partner during a set. By supporting your partner, I don’t mean holding him or her up, if this is the case, you could be in a little trouble. When our game is not firing, a word of encouragement or even an understanding smile from a partner can work wonders. On the court coaching is certainly no help. When your partner is having a rough trot, if you offer advice regarding footwork, back swing, follow through, watching the ball, etc, you will not be helping. Chances are, your partner will think "who does he think he is? Australian champion or something?" You may be giving your partner an excuse not to blame himself, but the know-all chattering from his partner. A simple "don’t worry, keep trying, you’ll come good" often does the trick. Or "I’ll have to do it, you got us through last time." As soon as your partner hits a good shot, let him or her know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
If you are having a rough trot, you can still support your partner. Several years ago in Perth, I was playing in the final match-deciding set of a grand final. May partner’s game was a little off but I was firing quite well, for me. We gained a two game lead at 4-2. My game slipped out of gear but my partner was starting to get it together. Between points I simply told her that she was playing well, "stick with it until I can do something to help." She did, and we won the match.
Later she told me that she hadn’t realised that my game had gone off and was blaming herself. My admission was enough to lift her game to allow us to hold the pair at 4-4 and go on to win.
Don’t shout "good shot" every time your partner wins a point, don’t shout "good shot" if your partner has simply put away a sitter. You will not only antagonise the opposition, but also leave yourself with nothing meaningful to say when your partner really deserves a pat on the back.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CONCENTRATION (March 20, 1985)

When confronted with opponents who are approximately the same standard as ourselves, concentration alone can win or lose a set. A broken string, a wrong call, a shower of rain, or any little lapse in play, if we let it, can destroy our concentration.
I have won and lost many sets during the past forty odd years. One of the many that I can remember vividly concerned concentration. I was a teenager playing with a mate of the same age against a pain of old fellows around 20. We were playing in a Sunday morning men’s competition, and although it may sound a little far fetched, it is a true story. Although it was more than ten years ago (OK much more), I can remember the score as if it were only last year.
My mate and I trailed 0-5 and as the other pair was to serve, we felt as if we were in a little trouble. When we also trailed 0-40 in the sixth game, even our youthful confidence was beginning to dwindle. At that time a competition rule required two umpires in the chair, one from each team. At set point, I returned the service cross-court. One umpire called "out", the other objected. Then the server objected. Then my mate objected. I didn’t have a clue, and felt that by the way I was playing, it was probably out.
Well at 5-0 and 40-0, surely the old boy could play two. He did. They both hit the back fence on the full (that part is exaggerated, but it was a double). The next point was also a furious double. Our opponents then tried to settle down, but their concentration was shot to pieces. We won the game and our concentration was locked in on fighting back.
I will never know whether the vital ball was in or out. I cannot remember which umpire called it out (probably the blind bloke from the other team). I cannot remember which team won the match, or the results of any other set. But I will always remember that we won this set by 7 games to 5. We won the set because of the lack of concentration of our opponents. We not only won the set but also learned a very valuable lesson in concentration.

SUPPORT YOUR PARTNER (March 27, 1985)

Tactics and discussion before and after a match are important. In addition you can support your partner during a set. By supporting your partner, I don’t mean holding him or her up, if this is the case, you could be in a little trouble. When our game is not firing, a word of encouragement or even an understanding smile from a partner can work wonders. On the court coaching is certainly no help. When your partner is having a rough trot, if you offer advice regarding footwork, back swing, follow through, watching the ball, etc, you will not be helping. Chances are, your partner will think "who does he think he is? Australian champion or something?" You may be giving your partner an excuse not to blame himself, but the know-all chattering from his partner. A simple "don’t worry, keep trying, you’ll come good" often does the trick. Or "I’ll have to do it, you got us through last time." As soon as your partner hits a good shot, let him or her know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
If you are having a rough trot, you can still support your partner. Several years ago in Perth, I was playing in the final match-deciding set of a grand final. May partner’s game was a little off but I was firing quite well, for me. We gained a two game lead at 4-2. My game slipped out of gear but my partner was starting to get it together. Between points I simply told her that she was playing well, "stick with it until I can do something to help." She did, and we won the match.
Later she told me that she hadn’t realised that my game had gone off and was blaming herself. My admission was enough to lift her game to allow us to hold the pair at 4-4 and go on to win.
Don’t shout "good shot" every time your partner wins a point, don’t shout "good shot" if your partner has simply put away a sitter. You will not only antagonise the opposition, but also leave yourself with nothing meaningful to say when your partner really deserves a pat on the back.

CHOOSING A RACQUET (March 13, 1985)

Years ago it was easy: all we had to do was choose between four or five brands, decide whether we could afford top grade or medium, select the grip size and finished. But now we first have to decide the type - wood, aluminium, stainless steel or composite. Then we have to choose between countless brands. Next is head size, then the type of string and finally where to make the purchase.
For beginners I recommend wood. Hitting the ball in the centre of the racquet is not always easy and the wooden racquet allows a little more margin for error. Aluminium, providing it is a top grade racquet, is great. To my knowledge only one or two manufacturers supply a stainless steel racquet and I therefore prefer not to comment. Composite racquets in my opinion are the best, but also the most expensive.
Which brand? This is where we have to be careful. A friend may have a great racquet of a particular brand. This does not necessarily mean that all models of the particular brand will satisfy our requirements. If you try a friend’s racquet and would like one the same, don’t be tempted by a cheaper model of the same brand. If you can’t afford the same model, tell your friend how shocking the racquet is and you might get it cheaply.
In my opinion the standard size head is a thing of the past. Racquets with huge heads tend to be a little cumbersome, but the over size or mid size is comfortable and effective. There are various recommended ways of choosing a grip size; the most reliable is the one that feels most comfortable. When undecided, always select the larger of the two that you cannot choose between. Natural gut is certainly the best string, but it has to be top quality. Also to retain its superiority the racquet should be restrung every three to four months. I can’t afford $27 to $30 every three to four months and settle for synthetic string at $10 to $13. Once again the string has to be top quality. Because the price and availability of the various brands of synthetic string are almost identical, you can feel confident of advice from your racquet stringer.
We all like to pay as little as possible for our selected purchase. If you know the exact brand, model, weight, grip size and string, a discount store is perfect. But if you require a little assistance and assurance before you spend your hard-earned money, remember your favourite sports store.
When stringing a racquet, the sports storeowner or manager quickly learns the qualities of the various branks and materials including the quality of the all-important grommets.
After reading this, you are probably none the wiser. However, if you require further assistance, your sports store, your own coach, or I would be happy to discuss it further (and probably leave you completely confused).

SET POINT (March 6, 1985)

After a good hard-fought and even set, it is comforting to arrive at set point if it is your way. It is in fact so comforting that we sometimes relax as if the set has been won. But the most important point is still to be played and we should be thinking how to play the point.
Whether it is an ace, sideline, or cross-court drive, a clean winner is a great way to finish a set. If you have a 5-0 or 5-2 lead, you certainly have the upper hand and as your confidence is probably at its peak, a big finish is worth the risk. But if the score is close, this may be your only chance, so don’t blow it by trying to win the point as quickly as possible. Whatever tactics you have been using during the set must have been successful to earn set point, so why change? Keep your cool; don’t try for the big winner off a difficult shot. Don’t slow your game down to a crawl. Play you normal game, be patient, and wait for the opportunity to place the winning shot.
Even if you lose the point and consequently the set, you will still have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t throw it away.
If you are on the wrong side of set point, use the same tactics, but be prepared to attack and take a little more risk. If you never seem to reach set point, you need a new racquet or stacks of help.
SET POINT (March 6, 1985)
After a good hard-fought and even set, it is comforting to arrive at set point if it is your way. It is in fact so comforting that we sometimes relax as if the set has been won. But the most important point is still to be played and we should be thinking how to play the point.
Whether it is an ace, sideline, or cross-court drive, a clean winner is a great way to finish a set. If you have a 5-0 or 5-2 lead, you certainly have the upper hand and as your confidence is probably at its peak, a big finish is worth the risk. But if the score is close, this may be your only chance, so don’t blow it by trying to win the point as quickly as possible. Whatever tactics you have been using during the set must have been successful to earn set point, so why change? Keep your cool; don’t try for the big winner off a difficult shot. Don’t slow your game down to a crawl. Play you normal game, be patient, and wait for the opportunity to place the winning shot.
Even if you lose the point and consequently the set, you will still have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t throw it away.
If you are on the wrong side of set point, use the same tactics, but be prepared to attack and take a little more risk. If you never seem to reach set point, you need a new racquet or stacks of help.

HUSBAND AND WIFE AS PARTNERS (December, 1984)

Too often we see a husband and wife combination that cannot enjoy their game, let alone win. To me this is a great pity because they should have a distinct advantage. They are able to discuss their tactics before and after each match. Problems arise, not only when one or the other is having a bad day, but also when only one mistake is made. When playing with a fired, we all seem to remember our sportsmanship, encouragement, forgiveness and plain old-fashioned manners. When husband and wife get together on the court, stern words and glaring glances are not withheld. If we take the time to think about this attitude, most of us would agree, simply stupid!
The same attitude often applies when a parent joins a son or daughter on the court. The parent may also tend to give non-stop advice. In either case the pair is doomed to failure. If a family pair support and encourage one another, on the court as they do in everyday life, they can certainly develop a formidable combination. If husband and wife do not support and encourage one another in everyday life, get a divorce and look for a stronger player.
As I am not about to criticise all of you charming ladies, I will advise you men to brush up on your manners and you may start to win some of the matches which you have been losing. A few words of encouragement or occasional advice between points are great. But if you wish to criticise or advise the little woman at length, leave it until you get home. Be tactful or wear a crash helmet.

ENJOY A SET WITH BEGINNERS (Nov/Dec, 1984)

Probably one of the best ways to improve your tennis is to play regularly against stronger players. You should remember that the stronger players are playing a weaker player. You should also make yourself available to play against weaker players to allow them the same opportunity. Providing you are not having a bad day, playing stronger players can be very enjoyable (if you are not getting thrashed). Playing weaker players can also be enjoyable, but remember the weaker player too would like to enjoy the game. If you decide to show the weaker player how good you are, no one will enjoy the game. Similarly, if you do not try, the game will not be enjoyable. I am able to enjoy a game against weaker players (if I can find any) because I adjust my own game to allow the opposition to be more competitive. The amount of adjustment depends on the strength of the weaker player. Let us assume that the weaker player is a beginner.
Firstly, after a few hits you can determine the beginner’s stronger shots. Play the majority of your shots to the beginner’s stronger positions. Allow your service to fall a little short and once again aim at the stronger side. Do not give points away by deliberate mistakes. Even if you have to run yourself ragged, keep the ball in play for as long as possible. Still aiming at the beginner’s stronger points. If you are presented with a set up during a rally, put the shot away for a winner. If a ball is obviously going out, don’t hit it, as your opponent must learn to control the ball. Make sure you win the set, but by a small margin.
If you follow this simple method, the beginner will gain valuable confidence and has the opportunity to practice many shots. You too are able to gain valuable experience, although you are not trying for many winners, precise placement of the ball is required. You can also polish up on your footwork and stroke play.

CONVERSATION ON THE COURT (October 23, 1984)

Interesting conversation between friends is certainly a great pastime. However, the tennis court is for tennis, and endless chatter from one player will certainly destroy the concentration of the others. If you can chatter away and still hold your concentration, you may win the set, but certainly no friends. When all players are in the mood for a good old chinwag, and hit and giggle, okay. But make sure nobody is waiting for the court. A few words between partners or opponents, between points, is great, but must be light hearted and about the game. When a player is thinking only of the next point and how to gain the upper hand, a remark of "How’s your car going?" from one player to another, is simply shattering.
In our social competitions, possibly even worse than endless chatter from the players, is dead silence. If the players are unable to relax enough to engage in a few light hearted words, the tension will show in their game. Not only that, you are on the court to enjoy yourself!
In a recent match, I umpired a ladies doubles. Between points, the laughter and jokes were continuous. I felt as though I was interrupting each time I called the score. Had the four ladies been a little more serious, the standard of play would have been a little better, but the standard wasn’t bad, and the ladies had a ball. They enjoyed the set and I am sure they would have eased up on the chatter if it were a more serious set.
When playing without an umpire, only call the score after every three or four points. You should know the score yourself, but it is necessary to check with you r opponent to avoid confusion. If you are having a good run, don’t rub salt into the wound of your opponent by calling 15-love, 30-love, and 40-love. Your opponent knows the score, only too well.
Dead silence, or endless talk? There is a happy medium, and if you adjust your mouth to suit your friends, you will be asked to play again and again.

COURT BEHAVIOUR (October 16, 1984)

Behaviour on the court can be put into two categories: plain old-fashioned manners and good sportsmanship. You would not spend a social afternoon at any small gathering without introducing yourself to any new faces. Nor would you leave without bidding farewell to your friends. Similarly you should introduce yourself to any new opponent, and remember his or her name. This is particularly important if a player is from another club or district. When you play at the home court, you are the host, make your visitors feel welcome. Whether you are the host or visitor, when you are ready to leave, don’t just grab your racquet and disappear, a friendly "thanks for the match" and "see ya" rounds off the afternoon.
I do not like to wander into the aisles of a supermarket without the presence of my wife, and her experience, to protect me from the barging trolleys. I get the same feeling when faced by an opponent who makes me feel I am only on the court to make up the numbers. Good sportsmanship from all players ensures a great outing. Bad sportsmanship from only one can spoil the day for all.
At a recent junior grand final match, our youngsters treated several adults to two examples of great sportsmanship. During one game, a young player, a little taller than the net, could not return the ball into play. His partner, who was much older at around 14 years, continued to win each point on his side. After several deuces, the old bloke finally lost a point to lose the game. Before commencing the next game, the old fellow, almost kneeling to his partner’s ear, spoke very quietly but with wisdom. Although others could not hear his words, the engrossed expression on the youngster’s face revealed his confidence in his old partner.
When the next game continued after this 60-second discussion, the altered tactics were clear to all. The pair won several of the remaining games, and although I can’t remember who won the set, the pair won me.
During a later set, and as the match was shaping into a very close finish, another 14 year old was feeling the tension. Although he was playing well, after losing a few points, he had to accept the loss of another when his opponent’s racquet dribbled the ball over the net, from what would have been a winning shot.
Thunder and lightning seemed to be brewing in the 14-year-old’s face, steam was almost rising from his head, and his racquet grip was almost crushing under the strain. As we all know the feeling, and adult spectator quietly advised "keep your cool". We all shuddered at the thought of a likely reply. Without changing his expression, the deep toned, sincere reply of "it’s hard" won the respect of all present.
These kids are the property of Erowal Bay Tennis Club!

A LET (October 2, 1984)

When to play two, when to play only one? Players are often confused when a point has to be replayed, whether the server is entitled to one serve or two.
It is unfair to the server when after much discussion between the players and umpire the server is only allowed one. When the server is only allowed one, the point should proceed as soon as possible.
Rule 12: "...(a) when called solely in respect of a service, that one service only shall be replayed.
(b) When called under any other circumstances, the point shall be replayed."
Because of the rules relating to a ‘let’ there are only two occasions when one service only is allowed.
If the umpire is unsure whether the second service was good or a fault, or if the umpire calls "fault" and then realises the serve was good - play one.
If the receiver was not ready for the second serve whether the serve was good or a fault - play one. In all other cases the server is entitled to two serves.
For example, when a receiver’s return of a second service is doubtful, or any ball during a rally is doubtful - play two. When the first serve is doubtful - play two. When play is interrupted because of some cause beyond the players’ control - play two.
If your serve hits an opponent before touching the ground, a let does not apply; you have won the point. If you serve hits your partner, a let does not apply, it is a fault. If you again hit your partner with your second serve, all the rules put together can’t help you.
Get off that court and out of sight as quickly as possible.

SERVER SHALL NOT SERVE UNTIL RECEIVER READY (9/10/1984)

The player serving must wait until all players are ready before serving. If a player is foolish enough to serve before his or her partner is ready, tough luck. The ball is in play and the point must continue. However, the server must wait until the receiver is ready. In doubles, if the receiver appears to be ready he or she may still request a let, if his or her partner is not ready. In which case, the receiver must not attempt to return the service. The server must also wait until the receiver is ready before serving the second serve.
Rule 11: "Receiver must be ready". The server shall not serve until the receiver is ready. If the latter attempts to return the service, he shall be deemed ready. If, however, the receiver signifies that he is not ready, he may not claim a fault because the ball does not hit the ground within the limits fixed for the service. Note: The server must wait until the receiver is ready for the second service as well as the first, and if the receiver claims to be not ready and does not make any effort to return a service, the server may not claim the point, even though the service was good.
It sounds as though the rule is all for the receiver, but don’t be alarmed. If you are to serve, and the receiver decides to spread a cloth for a picnic lunch, you can serve the rule regarding 30 seconds time limit between points.
What should you do when confronted by an opponent who serves the second ball without hesitation after a fault? In most instances, your opponent is not seeking an unfair advantage, but has simply developed a bad habit. Do the sporting thing and try to be ready for the second serve. If, however, you feel that you are being deliberately and unfairly unsettled, request the server to replay the second serve. Remember, if you intend to request that the second serve be replayed, you must not attempt to return the ball, and if the serve is a fault, the server is still entitled to another serve.

NEW PLAYERS OVER 45 (September 25, 1984)

Even if you may not admit your age to others, you must realise that although you are not old, you are no spring chicken. True, the game of tennis may be played to a ripe old age, but there are precautions. A young player can walk onto a court, warm up for a few minutes, and then play at full speed. The standard of play would be higher with a longer warm up, but risk of injury is slight. Even for players past the half way mark in their thirties, a long warm up is very wise, players who have played regularly and continuously for many years, find they have to warm up a little more each year.
For new players reaching middle age, the possibility of a pulled muscle or twisted ankle is very real. Don’t allow this possibility to restrict your game and ruin the enjoyment. We would all feel a little stupid, touching our toes and doing push ups along side of the court. If you are a new player or haven’t played for several months, carry out a set of warm up exercises before leaving home. Take it easy for the first ten minutes on the court. Concentrate on a smooth action on all strokes. Naturally you would like to dart around the court like a youngster. Your mind can manage it, but break the news to your body gently. Your body can be persuaded, but be cunning, ask for only a little extra at a time. Otherwise the complaints will be loud and clear.
Tennis is a great and enjoyable exercise. As your standard of play improves, the exercise becomes more enjoyable and more beneficial. Many players who commence the game at a later age feel they could never play competition...Wrong! I have seen many social players in our area that could hold their own on the lower grades. Competition increases the enjoyment, improves your standard, which in turn improves the exercise benefits. More importantly you will meet many new friends. However, whether you play competition or social, remember to warm up and start slowly. Then you can increase your pace and let your hair down. If you are unable to increase your pace, don’t me sad. My problem is, I can't let my hair down.
After all that wisdom on exercise, I had better stop writing before my arthritis strikes.

CHANGE OF TACTICS FOR VETERANS (September 18, 1984)

Unfortunately, we all have to face it sooner or later: we are slowing up! It would be nice to be able to serve and volley as we could in our younger days. It would be even nicer to serve and volley as well as our convenient memory allows us to think we could, in our younger days.
Do not despair, There are compensations.
Although our reflexes may not be as sharp as a razor, our anticipation is much more reliable. Our anticipation is of little use when we are at the net, and we know exactly where a booming forehand drive is heading. It gives very little pleasure to know that we are going to be passed, and we haven’t the speed to do much about the situation. The obvious answer is, we have to rely more on baseline play. Play the net by all means, but choose the correct time. As soon as the opponent is scrambling, get in there and put it away. With our improved anticipation, we can be half way to the ball before it crosses the net. Rely on your anticipation and experience, it is your best weapon.
Certainly, you will be ‘wrong footed’ at times, but I am sure that a few passing shots will not stop a young player from attacking the net whenever possible.
Conserve your energy; don’t run for impossible shots, just to prove you could almost get there. Slow the first serve down a little, and develop a spin. Move your opponent around; a tired looking opponent is a good tonic for any veteran. Our synthetic court surfaces are a good equaliser between the young and older players. The surface slows the ball and allows a little extra valuable time.
If we realise our own capabilities and apply a little thought, we can still be competitive. Is experience and anticipation a more powerful weapon than razor sharp reflexes and agility? No way! Is the game more enjoyable for veterans? In my case - Yes! It would be nice to play on my 90th birthday.

PLAYING LEFT HANDERS (August 7, 1985)

Many players, right- and left-handed alike, can become quite unsettled when playing against left-handers. The secret is to remember that you are playing a left hander. I have heard quite a few players admit that they did not realise they were playing a left hander until half way through the set. From the very first point you should be looking for your opponent’s weakness. The first step in this direction of course is to note which hand of your opponent is holding the racquet. Because we play against more right handers than left, we have to keep reminding ourselves before every point that our opponent is left-handed. Some say that left handers have a distinct advantage when serving to the second court. This is because the left hander can obtain more angle and swing the serve wide to a right handers backhand. I believe that this observation is correct. However when the situation is reversed and a right hander serves to the first court to a left hander, the same exact advantage applies.
In doubles your return of service should alter when returning to a left hander, as should your serve and almost every other shot. I believe that left handers do have a slight advantage, but only because we play more often against NORMAL PEOPLE!

NET PLAY IN DOUBLES (July 31, 1985)

You must be aggressive and sometimes reckless if you intend to be a good net player. For too many players have a dreaded fear of being sidelined. During your partner’s service game, if you stand still and mind your own business, you will make very few errors, but also win only an occasional point. A good net player gets the weight off the heels every time an opponent is about to strike the ball. With the weight off the heels you are ready to pounce in any direction. Your opponent will soon recognise your readiness and their choice of area to hit the ball is severely reduced. This is a great help to your partner on the base line because the position of the return is easier to anticipate.
Anticipation is the key to successful net play. Try to anticipate the direction of your opponent’s shot, and have the courage to trust your judgement and have a go. If you move around on the net and punch away a few winners, sooner or later you are going to be sidelined. Why worry, if you win three or four to lose one or two, you are in front. I have lost my partner’s service many times because of my movements on the net, but I have won the game on many more occasions because of the same antics. I am not fast on the net, so I have to anticipate the return and start early.
Stay within a metre or two of the net whilst your partner is on the baseline. If you partner moves in to join you at the net, move back only a little, certainly no further than half way between the net and service line.
Next time you are on the net, don’t stand timidly still, go after the ball and have a go. You may win some points, but more importantly, it’s great fun.

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT? (July 3, 1985)

Why do we play tennis?
To win? For satisfaction in our own ability?
For fun?
All these are correct but in the wrong order. Several times I have written about matches or incidents in the dim past - this story on why we play tennis unfolded only two weeks ago.
In a sudden death final, where the loser bowed out, and the winner went onto the grand final, the combination of Lou and Jenny Durante with Miles and Ann Howe, faced Roger and Margaret Duddy with Denise Dick and Yours Truly. After seven sets, my team led by four sets to three, but Lou’s team held a two-game advantage. A win in the last set by Roger and I would force a draw. We led 3-1. They led 5-4. We levelled at 5-all. A tiebreak was played to decide the set. Seven points to two to our team and the match result, a draw.
Another tiebreak then had to be played immediately to dec

TODDLER TO INFANT (August 28, 1984)
Now that you have your toddlers completely under control around the court, and they understand why they are not allowed on that great big playing field, let’s have a think about the six to ten year olds. This is the time when many parents ask, at what age should their child commence lessons. Some coaches say eight years, some say ten, I prefer the answer from many other coaches, who say it depends upon the particular child. If they are keen to play and are obviously enjoying themselves after a few lessons, they are old enough.
A one-hour per week lesson is enough for your coach to teach them basic stroke play and service within a few months. Practice between lessons, against a brick wall or on the court with a friend or mum or dad, is extremely helpful. The child should be encouraged to practice as often as possible, but never forced. For over 99% of us, tennis is for enjoyment only, and if your child is not enjoying the game at an early age, allow them to give it away until they wish to try again.
If you have time, remain at the court whilst your child is being coached. Your child and the coach will know that you are interested. Be a spectator only; allow the coach to conduct the lesson. Remarks of ‘good shot’ or ‘bad luck’ from the sideline are encouraging and helpful. But instructions such as ‘stand back a little’ or ‘watch the ball’ are best left to the coach. You may notice a definite error in your child’s lay. Rest assured! The coach is aware of the error, but may be working on a more important flaw. Learning has to be fun, particularly at this early age. If too many instructions are directed at the child in a short period, learning becomes complicated and interest will fade. By all means, talk to you child at home about their tennis. This is the time when a few hints from mum and dad can be very helpful.
If you child misbehaves a little on the court whilst the coach is busy with another, a stern word from a parent helps the whole class. (The stern word should be directed at the child, not the poor old coach). Good sportsmanship and court etiquette at any age is essential for any player to gain maximum enjoyment from their tennis. This is where the coach and your child definitely need help. The subject should be discussed quite often at home, and remember, teaching by example is probably the best way.
Children of non-playing parents are at a disadvantage, but they can help...

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