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Last call for the gotta play tennis podcast

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

May the new year bring you winning forehands, surprising backhands, solid volleys and consistent serves.

Oh...and enjoy all the other things that 2013 may bring! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

REFLECTIONS: Another Christmas tennis surprise

Beginning page personalized

As originally appeared in NYTimes
Last year during this festive holiday season, I shared my thoughts about a wonderful gift received under the tree. This happened to be an authentic Wimbledon towel from none other than Christy in the U.K. Well, santa must have been doing some serious research this year to find a tennis gift to match, or even top, something as meaningful as that simple piece of cloth with green and purple. And he was successful. Just wait until you hear about this new level of tennis infatuation.

The box was rather heavy, very flat, and about the size of a frying skillet. What emerged amidst the the paper, tape and cardboard wrappings was definitely not for the kitchen however. I carefully slid out what appeared to be an atlas-sized hard back book. The burgany leatherette cover, emblazoned with the words "The New York Times: A History of the Men's US Open Tennis Championships", was exciting and intriguing. Upon closer inspection, as I turned the first few pages, I found a customized sticker that stated, "Presented to Ronald Miller, Christmas 2012." I gulped and moved on. The first three pages that followed listed the men's final combatants from 1925 to present beginning with a win by William T. Tilden and ending with Andy Murray taking his first Grand Slam title. This was history unfolding before my eyes as I viewed names such as Hewitt, Roddick, Stich, Rafter, Connors, Borg, Lendl and Gerulaitis. But in addition, I glanced at Ashe, Rosewall, Edberg, Roche, Kramer, and even Laver. I once again moved on.

Handsome hard-bound cover
What was in front of me was an authentic replication of primary source content from the New York Times. In essence, this beautifully bound book held the actual printed copies (not newsprint) of every U.S. Open Men's final since 1925. I was captivated. While I certainly have not lived long enough to have experienced all of these dates, with over 40 years on a court, I have seen many. The photos are as telling as the writing, and the ads that appear on pages as a part of this time capsule are precious. Who knew for example that in the same year that Fred Perry beat Don Budge for the trophy, one could get their spark plugs cleaned-while you wait-for 5 cents each at a registered AC Cleaning Station. The year was 1936.

US Open Champions at a glance
I have only begun to uncover the gems yet to be found in this compendium of tennis history, and in particular, US Open lore. But I certainly look forward to sitting with a hot cup of coffee, held far away from the book of course, and taking a time-machine trip that will no doubt inspire me for the coming tennis year. Earlier this holiday season, I blogged holiday gift ideas for the tennis player on your list. Guess what I will be including as a part of next years' recommendations.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NEWS: More Americans (and kids) than ever before are playing tennis

The sport of TENNIS is growing at a rate that would surprise most people and perhaps even enthusiasts of the game. According to an annual participation survey conducted for the USTA and the Tennis Industry Association byTaylor Research and Consulting, tennis participation overall grew 4 percent this year of 2012. For the first time since 2009, there are over 28 million players in the U.S. I'm one of them, and in addition, I can claim my fair share of the increase in youngsters age 6-11 resulting from my very own group tennis programs held in Gloucester Twp, NJ throughout the year. Perhaps most impressive from the study is the 13 percent increase in participation in this age group from just one year ago. The data also showed African Americans and Hispanics have sharply increased in the tennis ranks with the former reflecting a 10 year high and the latter showing its third-highest level in the past decade. A

The data was gathered in a phone-conducted survey which included over 7,500 U.S. residents and claims the top spot for largest group ever surveyed in sport. "We are very gratified that our efforts geared to young players are paying off," said Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President.  "We want to grow the game and make it look like America, and therefore we find it very encouraging that we are seeing growth among young players and in diverse communities."

On a personal note, I have seen some of this growth reflected in the numbers of students attending my group lesson programs. But I believe now more than ever that a much greater number of kids would benefit from participation in this sport of a lifetime if more parents would give it a try. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the concept that, since tennis is not the same kind of team sport that kids have come to experience in the past, it cannot be as much fun. I can tell you from decades of personal interaction with kids on a court that enjoyment is one of our primary goals. My three rules of the court are: Be SAFE, because without safety, nothing else matters; Have FUN, because without fun, there will always be better things to do; Learn a NEW SKILL, because the better you get at something, the more you enjoy it.

As we move into 2013, and begin the year of the ATP TOUR (Association of Tennis Professionals) tennis calendar with the Australian Open-a tournament that in 2012 witnessed an almost 6-hour battle between the world number 1 and 2 players-may we provide our children the chance to participate in and enjoy an alternate and low-barrier-to-entry sport in which the whole family can enjoy together!

Statistical information and quotations were taken from an article written by E.J. Crawford, USTA.com. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

REFLECTIONS: The last hit of the season

There is a song entitled "The Last Game of the Season" from the 1970s, and the lyrics speak of a boy on the local high school football team whose father diligently listens each week for his son to play. He listens because he is blind, and he will never be able to see his own boy give his all for the team. But not being a star player, the boys options were limited–until the last game of the season. The home town was all but down and out at half-time, and unknown to anyone else, the boy receives the phone call that his father passed away that very evening. In an effort to show his father what he is truly capable of, the son plays his heart out and helps the team come back and win. The boy becomes the star player his father always knew he could be, and the son believes his father saw him on the field for the first time that night. 

Tonight I thought about this story. You see, this was probably my last hitting chance for 2012, and I wanted to do well. The wind swirled at 12-14 miles per hour, the temperature was about 45 degrees, and only half the lights were switched on at the local public courts. No worries I thought, because I was determined to be at my best. Each and every year at this time, I always wonder if I will be able to once again hit at this level the following year, continue to cover the court like a blanket, and make the quick and correct decisions tennis required from shot to shot while maintaining healthy joints, cartilage and muscle.

After about 1 hour and 15, my partner and I were in another heated and toughly contested rally. The groundstrokes lashed out like a snakes tongue, and the court coverage was nothing short of spilled water. Finally, Freddie hit a drop shot drawing me to the net. Using smart tactics, he followed in behind the shot looking for a weak replay from an expected overly-extended stab at the ball. He of course anticipated an easy volley put-away. But you see, it was the last hit of the season and my father was also watching. Twenty-two years ago, he died early Christmas morning. And even though he never got to see me on the court while alive, now he got to see me dive for the ball, tuck and roll, and hit a chip lob over the head of the net-rusher for a clean winner. 

I will never be the star of any team, and I certainly had nothing on the line tonight. But like any son, I wanted my dad to see my very best. It was the last hit of the season, and think I may have made my dad proud.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012
Tennis & The Laws of Nature: Prof. Stephen Hawking Explains

Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world's greatest scientists, explains how tennis…read more

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Saturday, December 1, 2012
Body Language vs. Facial Expression: What Gives Away Your True Colors?
In a study published in the journal Science (Nov. 29, 2012), researchers found that body language, more than facial expression, is far more revealing of person's true feelings and emotions...read more