Saturday, December 19, 2009

Q & A: Why is the U.S. in a six-year Grand Slam winner drought?

Tennis styles may be cyclical. The game has been maturing over the last 30 years or so and, thanks partly to technology changes, has grown up quite a bit. But perhaps it is time for the pendulum to swing back a few decades.

Stop by a tennis court today and watch our youth hit nothing but power topspin. They don't consider what kind of shot to hit. They just pound away and expect this cookie-cutter style to be good enough. Lets not dare use skillful control of the ball. Let's instead use tons of spin to make it fall within the court regardless of how bad we hit it. Here is a concept: if we slow the ball down a bit, and work more on better placement and keen strategy, the power might not be so necessary on every shot.
NOTE: from the book "OPEN", an autobiography of Andre Agassi, (Brad Gilbert, Agassi's coach comments) "Quit going for the knockout. Stop swinging for the fences. All you have to be is solid...just keep the ball moving. Back and forth. Nice and easy. Solid. Be like gravity man."

Since serves today are bigger than ever, why don't we see a return to serve and volley tennis? I watched a recent clip of McEnroe and Edberg in a 2008 tournament and marveled at how effective this style can still be even for those past their prime.

Maybe it is time to re-think a return to "style" in tennis instead of ball torture. We push critical thinking skills in school for students, but where is the critical thinking on the court when doing nothing more than hitting every ball in the same, predictable way? What if our up and coming players focused a little more on variety and good shot selection than increasing their topspin? Hey, could it make our American tennis record any worse in Grand Slams than it already is?

Where is the adrenaline-pumping tennis of a Connors? Maybe our US players are bored into mediocrity with the same-old repetitive shot that might be safer to hit but does little to inspire.

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