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Sun, Oct. 13

Column: The old fashioned way to brush up on tennis

In our quest for tennis knowledge in today's world, we just click onto the Internet and type in the information we'd like to have arrive at our fingertips. Literally hundreds of websites pop up for you within seconds.Add in the aspect of being able to receive and watch The Tennis Channel that now gives us coverage 24/7, and between the two you can obtain more knowledge than you'll probably be able to absorb.But for some reason, I still tend to go to my antiquated library of tennis books to grasp ideas and concepts that have evolved and been refined over decades, but will never totally change.Tennis books were written soon after Major Wingfield patented the game in 1874, but only a handful of tennis instructional books have become well known over the years, even though almost every tennis player of note has written at least one.The first bible of tennis was written in 1924 and published the following year by one of the most famous tennis players ever, William T. Tilden, and was called "Match Play and The Spin of the Ball." It may be hard to imagine now, but Bill Tilden at that time was as much a celebrity as Babe Ruth.In this 351-page book, Tilden covers grips, footwork, singles, doubles, strategy, playing an "all court" game, and then almost every important situation that a more advanced player will encounter. In the foreword of his book, Bill states, "Only an amateur who has been through the mill of championship, competitive tennis, can tell the inside story of tennis, its fine points, its science and its art. It is something of the inside story of match play, from the technical angle, that I am writing."A coach who was never much of a player surfaced by the name of Mercer Beasley. Born in 1882, Mercer coached for Princeton and won 84 national collegiate titles through the '30s and wrote a best seller, "How to Play Tennis." Unlike a future book that would be written ("Inner Tennis") Mr. Beasley worked the aspect and benefits of constant focused attention with his students. He continued in the world of tennis pioneering synthetic string, composite racquets, ball machines and no ad scoring until his death in the mid 1960's.During the 1950's Bill Talbert and Jack Kramer wrote some good tennis books, but by the mid '70s, and with the tennis boom in full force, a couple new books hit the shelves that many tennis players still refer to today: "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Timothy Gallwey, and Vic Braden's Tennis for the Future."Gallwey tapped the unconscious mind and coined the phrase "just let it happen", while Braden used fun humor, great photography and a scientific approach for players to learn the game. Both went on to write many more successful books.Patrick McEnroe took the simplification a step further for tennis players with "Tennis for Dummies." Written in 1998, it pretty much has anything you want to know about the game of tennis.And if you're really interested in learning how tennis has evolved from the end of the last century and into today's, a must read is the "Bollettieri Classic Tennis Handbook."Nick created a 576-page volume of work that shares his experiences over a 50-year career. It describes concepts on teaching players of all levels, from beginner to No. 1 in the world. It's a must read for the serious player who wishes to excel, as well as coaches and administrators ... definitely the cutting edge of what tennis has become.So for those of you who are into high tech, this column probably won't mean too much. But I'll leave you with one thought ... books are a lot easier to take along with you when traveling, especially into the bathroom.(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or choward4541@q.com)
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