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Sunday, April 29, 2012

NEWS: The Reign in Spain continues with Rafael Nadal

Another clay court title for the Spaniard
Two of the best players that the country of Spain has ever produced are no doubt Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. So it should be no huge surprise that they were the ones to face off in the finals of the the Barcelona Open BancSabadell in Barcelona, Spain. The first set was a spectacular display of quality ball striking as the grunts produced by the two men showed their effort into each shot. When the clay dust cleared, Nadal had taken the tightly contested first set in a tiebreaker. The second set saw Nadal taking an early break, but Ferrer–ever the fighter–fought back and found himself at 5-6 in the second set and serving to stay alive. Nadal was to have none of that however after 2 hours and 40 minutes, as he became the only player in history to have won two tournaments at least 7 times.  
    In 2012, he has already won the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on red clay for the 8th time, and he took away his 48th ATP World Tour career title with the win in Barcelona. Ironically, David Ferrer has actually taken one more match this year than Nadal and has an additional championship trophy to his name for his troubles. 
    Nonetheless, Rafael Nadal walked away the champion of this matchup and is no doubt the man to beat for the remainder of the clay court season. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

NEWS: Nadal once again owns the red clay in Monte-Carlo with a win over Djokovic

Nadal congratulated by Djokovic
When is an upset not an upset? That depends on your definition. The world number one, Novak Djokovic, went up against a man he has beaten the last seven times in the last 18 months–Rafael Nadal–and lost. This took place at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in a dream final for a tournament director. When you get the two best players in the world–known rivals–to showcase your event by battling it out on the red clay, you have something special.
    As far as the rivalry is concerned, their performance at the Australian Open earlier this year was a much better performance with more drama and flip-flopping leads. Novak has been struggling all week while dealing with the grief of losing his grandfather during the term of this event. But professionals of his stature have a will of steel which will not bend until perhaps going up against nothing but the best. That describes Nadal on clay as he has won the last seven finals in Monte-Carlo. In this match, Rafa was the unabated windstorm who kept the pressure on Novak the entire match. The result was a less-than-stellar performance in return from Djokovic who lost by an uncharacteristic score of 3-6, 1-6. Hitting 25 unforced errors versus 11 winners for the match is no contest against probably the best the red dirt has ever seen.
    Djokovic may have struggled with mixed emotions about continuing to play tennis while feeling the loss of a very close family member, but that is not to take anything away from Rafael Nadal's performance. The Spaniard once again showed  how dominant he can be, and now with this win over Djokovic, he has broken the stranglehold Novak has had over him over the last 18 months. No one said it better than Nadal himself when he commented, during the trophy presentation, "after seven times, thanks for this one." Novak smiled and patted Nadal on the shoulder, but there is no doubt this rivalry will continue to heat up as the tennis year moves on.
    Congratulations to Rafael Nadal as the 2012 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters men's singles champion. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

EPISODE 89 (Podcast): When OPPORTUNITY knocks, open the door

Matches are won or lost on only a few critical points. When opportunities present themselves, it's essential to evaluate the circumstances, plot the counter-tactic, and proceed with implementation. Since tennis only allows a few seconds for all this processing, we need a roadmap that identifies common routes to success.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

NEWS: USA into the semifinals of the Davis Cup with Isner standing tall

The U.S. may be looking down the mountain for a change in Davis Cup action thanks to 6'9" John Isner. Currently ranked number 9 in the world and rising fast, Isner IS the mountain to climb. Defending champion Spain–three times a winner in the last four years–is the next opponent for the Team USA camp's quest for the Davis Cup as Isner and company took out a feisty French team in the quarterfinals this early April by a score of 3-2. 
    The win was clinched when Isner beat Joe Wifred-Tsonga in four sets by the score of 6-3, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3. Big John had already defeated Frances' Gilles Simon two days prior, and along with a win in doubles by the Bryan Brothers, a large task fell to the now Davis Cup veteran Isner as he faced world number 5 Tsonga. No problem, right? After all, Isner only took out Roger Federer by a score of 4-6 6-3 7-6 6-2-feds first loss in Davis Cup in 8 years-as the US defeated the Swiss team 5-0. 
    American captain Jim Courier–himself a 4 time Grand Slam title champion–feels very confident that his team's momentum will carry them into a formidable battle with Spain. Said Courier, "Spain, we’d probably lose it on paper. “But they don’t play it on paper. We have to play it and we have players who are capable and passionate and hungry. We’re going to be the underdog but we’ll be ready to play.”
    The U.S.A. has been the Davis Cup champions 32 times, but they have fallen short since their last win in 2007.

NEWS: Announcing FREE QuickStart Tennis Family Event in Sicklerville, NJ

Gloucester Twp. Community Park
Peter Cheeseman and Hickstown Roads
Sicklerville, NJ

Sponsored by Ron Miller of Gotta Play Tennis 
and Gotta Play Tennis Kids
in cooperation with Gloucester Twp. Recreation

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

EPISODE 88 (Podcast): Weapons of Mass CONSTRUCTION

We'll take a look at four underrated shots in today's tennis and evaluate  how these offensive and defensive weapons can help us construct a point.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Sunday, April 8, 2012
Tennis Quote: Wanna Have Better Tennis Concentration? Get Back to Nature . . .

"Philosophers, writers and laypeople alike have long suspected that interacting with nature can have a positive effect on our ability to operate at our best. Recently, scientists have confirmed these...read more

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

REFLECTIONS: Plan "B" on the court

One of the careers I have been involved in along life's journey has been education. But for as much of the planner that I am, things do not always go as expected in the classroom. Therefore, when lesson plans are out the window, there needs to be a "Plan B."
    I began hitting again in 2012 thanks to the unseasonably warm weather this year. In this part of the upper northeast, I typically need wait until early April to be outside on the court (I rarely have played indoors  during the winter months). Last week was my third venture to the public park, and my hitting partner of several years and I have been working to regain the remnants of how we left our strokes back in mid-December of last year. Interestingly enough, we did retain quite a  bit. Session 1 was a great start, and session 2 continued along the right path. But session 3 was something I was not expecting. Usually one anticipates that they will peak sometime in the season when all has come together–physically, mentally, and emotionally. Early season hitting is expected to be the hard work and tuning that greases the wheels towards better ball striking.
    Then there was session 3. The ball seemed to always be in my wheelhouse. The court sucked my shots down to its surface. And my power and commitment to each stroke was, in my evaluation, off the charts (from my hitting experience). Power, consistency, tactics all clicked in combination. It felt AWESOME!
    Then there was hitting session 4. How do I follow a week in which I have had my best ball-striking ever? How do you NOT feel a letdown after the exhilaration of feeling at the top of your game? Well, there was a letdown indeed. Shots that always landed in the week before with pace and spin were missing their mark. Power was throttled as the timing was not exactly right. The ball found itself outside that ideal hitting spot more often than not. I felt a bit flat and underwhelmed by my performace.
    Enter "Plan B."  If PACE and hitting on pure talent was not winning me the rallies, and since it was obvious that the magic of a perfectly timed kinetic chain was not to be, then CONTROL was the new black (as opposed to pink). I transitioned my game from high-racquet speed, pulverizing forehands and solidly-driven backhands to shorter but extremely accurate placements. I mixed up the pace and spin, and most importantly, continued to place the ball always just slightly out of reach. Never underestimate how much this both physically and mentally wears out an opponent. Drop shots and sidespin slices became standard fare and worked their magic indeed.
    As I've gotten older, I've most definitely become a much smarter and better player. But we all have our good days and bad ones. A bad day is when I leave the court and think of shots that might have been. But with experience comes the ability to turn things around. To keep doing what is not working, and expecting to get better results, is not intelligent tennis. Thanks to having the courage and practiced-skills to execute a "Plan B", I now believe that I can, more often than not, turn an initially disappointing hitting session into a fighting chance to leave the court with my head held high. And if we walk away uninjured, having had a great workout, and leave with a feeling of accomplishment, can we expect any more of ourselves or this game than this?

Monday, April 2, 2012

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NEWS: Novak no Djoker in win over Murray in Miami

Joining an elite group of only two others who have hoisted this trophy for the third time, Novak Djokovic repeated as champion at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida on Sunday, April 1st. In the good company of Andre Agassi and Peter Sampras–both three time winners–Novak took the win from the 2009 titleist Andy Murray by a score of 6-1, 7-6(4).
    Although April 1st is traditionally known as April Fools Day in the states, a day earmarked for one to play practical jokes or hoaxes on one another, Novak was no Djoker. He totally dismantled Andy Murray in the fist set with offensive powerful forehands, defensive all court coverage, and the overall solid play we have come to expect from the man sometimes referred to as simply Nole.
    The second set was a horse of a different color–91 minutes in length–as this seesaw battle went the distance (in two sets) and was settled in a tiebreaker 7 points to 4. In the end, Novak come through with some strong serving and relentless groundstrokes that absorbed the Murray offensive push and gave it back in spades. 
    Since January of 2011, Djokovic has won 4 of 6 matches between the two. But Murray's recent win over Novak in the semifinal round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in straight sets, and his epic 5-set loss in the semi's of the 2012 Australian Open, show that Andy certainly has the chops to give the world number one something to think about each time they take the court.