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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Clash of the Rivals (in 2011-2012)

We've always enjoyed famous rivalries of competitors at the top of their games. In the tennis world, there have been many:

Rod Laver vs. Ken Rosewall (1963-1976)
Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe (1978-1981)
Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert (1973-1988)
Steffi Graf vs. Monica Seles (1988-1989)
Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi (1989-2002)
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal (2005-present)

   But to understand a rivalry, we must first understand it's key component. The dictionary defines a rival as "a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another." We can certainly look into the tennis archives and agree with this statement when acknowledging the above pairings. But what about in 2012?
   One could argue that the new rival of Rafael Nadal is Novak Djokovic. But rivalries are usually reflected in a see-saw battle where one squeaks out a win over the other on any given day.Djokovic battled Nadal in 2011 a half-dozen times. And when the dust settled, Novak took home the trophy. Repeated and consistent beat-downs, at least in my book, are not rivalries. 
   So what has my mind buzzing with anticipation for 2012? Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Just in the past few weeks during round-robin play at the Barclays ATP World Tour Final, Tsonga and Federer met twice with their second meeting in the final itself. In their earlier match in the tournament, their tightly contested slug-fest ended in a 2-6, 6-2, 4-6 win for the fourth seed and defending champion Federer. But it was not to end there. The two made their way through the other best six players in the world and met in the final. Although Federer once again came away with the victory, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3, it was clear that the Frenchman Tsonga is never one to be counted out when playing the Swiss maestro. 
   One tournament does not make a rivalry you say? No it does not. But lets take a look at the highlights of 2011: Tsonga met Federer in the second round of the BNS Internationali d'Italia during the clay court swing and lost 4-6, 2-6. Then came the grass. At the 2011 Wimbledon Championships, Tsonga stunned the centre court crowd by coming from two sets down to defeat Federer 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. This was Roger's first loss in a Grand Slam event after leading two sets to love.
   The Rogers Cup in Montreal followed, and Tsonga once again overcame the Swiss in the third round by a score of 7–6 (3), 4–6, 6–1. On Tsonga's own turf in Paris, Federer followed up with a win of 6-1, 7-6 leaving one to ponder what would have happened if Tsonga were able to take the second set tiebreaker. 
   Roger is now 30 years young, and we will see how well he can maintain the beautifully-crafted racquet work he displayed in the latter part of 2011 where he won 17 matches consecutively and took the year-ending championship. Tsonga is a younger man, age 26, and has all the reasons on the world to be hungrier than a man who has already won it all. But it seems that these two have developed a chemistry that not only delights the fans, but one that creates the spirit of rivalry as we all have come to love. Even if it's short-lived as Federer moves ever closer to his career end, this match-up may prove to be the one-to-watch in 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Sunday, November 27, 2011
Gods Never Die - Roger Federer Wins Season-Ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and Makes History

November 27, 2011: London O2 Arena
Roger Federer (No. 3, Switzerland) defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 6, France) in 3 sets at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Final today in a brilliant display of determined and skillful tennis, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3. Read more...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Eat now, burn calories later?

If you are in the U.S., today, November 24th, we celebrate the holiday called Thanksgiving. It is a time to reflect on all that we have and be thankful for the bounty. Time is spent with loved ones, much food is consumed, and I think there might be some sports on television as well.
     What may not be clear is that watching sports on a backlit screen does not help to burn-off any of the calories you've loaded on from the Thanksgiving-feast- gluttony of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and various vegetables and sides. But what does it matter? After all, it is a day of family, and enjoyment, and peaceful bliss. Right? Unfortunately, it is not very peaceful to see the rounded mid-section resulting from this mega-consumption in the bathroom mirror.
     Here is one suggestion: consider how grateful you could be in having the public tennis courts almost to yourselves. That's right! Holidays are a great day to play tennis. No waiting. While others are sitting bloated in front of a tube and feeling the weight gain, you could be running around FREE tennis courts in your local park reducing that Thanksgiving meal calories-fest into the power of a Weight Watchers® microwavable dinner.
     OK. You say that you are fueling up for the big Black Friday sales day that begins the next morning at about 2AM. Well, as they say, it may not be a good reason, but it is a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving from GPT.

Here's a link to an episode of Gotta Play Tennis related to Black Friday shopping. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NEW CONTENT OF NOTE: Just in time for the holidays

Looking for a special gift? 
Need something different and unique?
Want your gift to stand-out from the rest? 

Pre-paid Tennis Lessons for 2012


Why not give The Gift of TENNIS to a friend, family member or another loved-one.

Purchase tennis lesson GIFT CERTIFICATES in denominations
 of 1 or more lessons (price discount applies when purchased in 3-lesson bundle).

Here is another idea..
Why not bundle some lesson certificates with a new tennis racket and some tennis balls?
Check out my Amazon.com links for tennis equipment at: www.gottaplaytennis.net

& A

Q. How do I purchase them?
A. Send me an email and make your request. Special discounts apply in 3-lesson bundles.

Q. How do I pay for them?
A. Check or money order made out to: Ron Miller, and mailed to address provided in my email reply to you.
Q. Can anyone purchase them? 
A. You must be in the local area of South Jersey since lessons are held at Gloucester Twp. tennis court facilities (unless you are willing to travel).
Q. How are lessons scheduled? 
A. I make use of Google calendar to schedule lessons. A read-only calendar link will be sent to your email showing tentative dates scheduled (all dates are subject to change; weather permitting)
Lessons will be scheduled for evenings and/or weekends
Q. Is there a limit to how many lessons can be purchased? 
A. There is a limit of 6 lessons (or two 3-lesson bundles)

Q. How can I find out more information about you or the lessons?
A. Visit my website at: www.gottaplaytennis.net and/or send me an email and I will be happy to discuss lessons with you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NEWS: The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are held annually at the end of the year at different venues around the world. It involves the top eight players in the ATP rankings, as well as the top eight doubles teams. 
     For 2011, the event is being held at the O2 Arena in London, England beginning on November 20th to the 27th. The defending champion of 2010 is Roger Federer.
     The following players have made it to the final eight: Roger Federer of Switzerland, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Rafael Nadal of Spain, Joe Wilfred Tsonga of France, David Ferrer of Spain, Tomas Berdych of the Czek Republic, Andy Murray of Great Britain, and Mardy Fish of the United States.
     Check out the action as it unfolds daily. As of this writing, there has already been some incredible matchplay as each pairing provides the quality of a tournament final. The eight players are split into two groups of four. During this stage, players compete in a round-robin format (meaning players play against all the other players in their group). The two players with the best results in each group progress to the semifinals, where the winners of a group faces the runner-ups of the other group.
     In case you need something to excite you more than the above roster of players I just mentioned, check out this link from Gary Bala of Timeless Tennis:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

REFLECTIONS: an inch is a cinch to make a change in your game

It's amazing how differently you can hit the ball when you look at it. While hitting the court this weekend, things were going pretty well at the onset of a hitting session. When I'm moving my feet and keeping the ball in play, while moving my partner around, all is well and I'm happy. 
     But things don't always stay status quo. His game picks up, he hits a few good shots that gives him more confidence, and things begin to change. He starts hitting deeper, with more angle and even more pace. This of course make my shots more defensive and thus gives him space to step in and hit a winner. 
     So the evaluation and calculation process begins. What was I doing earlier in our hitting that I am not doing now? Is he simply playing better, or did my shotmaking drop off and open the door for him to take over? This process of discovery is not all that easy for recreational players in general. There can be so many things wrong, or right, at any given moment. 
     We sometimes talk about over-thinking the shot, and we tell ourselves to just let it happen. "Trust your swing, positioning, distance, and racquet face." These are the words we force into our minds. But there is a caveat to letting it "happen." In some cases, we do what I did–I stopped watching the ball. After running through a variety of possible reasons for my letdown, I decided that my focus on the ball had been compromised. So what did I do? I committed to looking intently at the ball on every shot and fine tune my focus to achieve a better "minds-eye" measurement.
     Guess what happened? I did better. I started hitting deeper, with more pace and better direction, and created a more defensive response from my partner. Can you now predict what happened as a result? His defense fed me a better chance for even stronger offense. And all this came from simply realizing I was not watching the ball well enough.
     How simple are your difficulties on the court to fix? Are they a result of something very small? Most times they are. Do don't berate yourself when things are going wrong as if your tennis ability is miles away. You are usually only within inches of better success.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EPISODE 80 (Podcast): Seeing the ERROR of your ways–Part 2

In episode 67 of the GPT podcast, we discussed ERRORS and how important they are to the win/loss column. Here we identify some additional types of mistakes and take a look at how costly these can be in our own game and to the pros as well.
Subscribe in iTunes:

Monday, November 7, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Aerobic fitness burns brightly

A report by Jack Groppel, Ph.D., and the USPTA, entitled Tennis for the Health of It, states the following: The American College of Sports Medicine has cited that more calories may be burned in high-intensity intervals of exercise interspersed with low to moderate intensity levels. That’s exactly what tennis provides. It is interval training, due to the nature of how points are played. Because the heart rate gets into a fat-burning zone and then can easily go higher, tennis has been recognized as one of the leading activities that help to burn fat. Also, because the intensity of tennis can get fairly high, depending on how hard a player works while playing, and because tennis is purely an interval sport, more fat is burned after working out than during the time on court.
    Now I'm neither a scientist nor a doctor. But I can tell you that years ago I recall tennis being low on the list for activities that were considered a good aerobic workout. Doctors determined that the nature of the sport, stops and starts between points, did not provide an adequate sustained heart rate for aerobic benefit when compared to something like running. HORSEHOCKEY! After decades of playing tennis, I can tell you that when I move through a crowd, I'm always the one moving the quickest and without the associated shortness of breath I regularly see from adults even 10 to 30 years my junior. 
    After another solid hitting session this past Sunday morning, 1-½ hours of heartpounding forehands, backhands, volleys and overheads, I was dripping sweat in the midst of the east coast's low 50's temperature this time of year. But even better, according to the above study, I'm burning fat AFTER I leave the court due to the interval nature of the sport. In a society where we are constantly battling our weight-to-snacks ratio, I say HURRAH to that.
    I liken tennis to a candle. When you light it, the flame starts small but grows with intensity as the wick burns into the candle wax. The flame continues to consume all resources available, and even when the wick is extinguished with a puff of air, its embers continue to smolder for some time. I know that when I leave the court, my body is still working overtime as the body's cooling system of perspiration and evaporation do their job. I may burn brightest on a tennis court, but I would like to think that the health benefits of tennis will help me burn for a very long time ahead.