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Sat, Jan. 25

My Point column: Tennis quips, wisdom and sayings

When you’re out taking or giving lessons, many of the instructors and players come up with bits of wisdom in short sayings, call them quips of wisdom.  Throughout my career I’ve said everything in teaching the game about a million times, sometimes to the point that you feel if you say it one more time you just might have to hurt someone - but then you remember the person you’re working with hasn’t. 

The sayings can be fun, funny, quick to throw out, easy to remember and, hopefully, helpful.

Here are a few that I’ve heard or have come up with over the years.

• “We have a rule here at the Roughrider Tennis Center ... Nothing hits the net!” Bottom line is that if you hit the net, it’s demoralizing. You have to walk 39 feet up to the net, pick up the ball and all the while thinking about the mistake you made. If you hit it over the net, three things can take place.  1) it may land in. 2) it might be going out but your opponent hits it anyway. 3) It lands out and your opponent has to chase it. Not to mention, in a college setting the net has to last at least 10 years ... so Don’t Hit the dang NET!

• “When playing doubles hit down the middle between your opponents.” Why?  The two partners think the other is going to get it and just look at each other waiting; the net is at it’s lowest point; if you’re a little off, you’re still in the court ... so it’s fairly safe. And one more thing, “Even when the sidelines look open - think about it one more time before going there.”

• “Consistency, placement, and lastly power and/or touch.” This is the order of tennis that needs to take place in learning the game or mistakes will run rampant.

Maybe you think you’ve become a pretty good player, how do you fit the bill on this quote?

• “The mark of a good tennis player is not only are they consistent, but they can keep the ball deep at will.” 

There are a lot of consistent tennis players, but most of them are happy with just doing that; the better ones can also keep their shots close to the baseline, which keeps their opponents much more at bay and without as much of an offensive weapon to reply against you.

• “When someone hits you a drop shot - scramble to it and drop shot them right back.” This turns the table on their advantage where they’re hoping you hit it back near them where you can easily be passed or lobbed ... it works.

• Billie Jean King says, “Pressure is a privilege.” When you think of being under the gun in that manner, you may obtain a feeing of relief.  It’s an honor to be in this position and so enjoy the moment doing the best you can. 

• “Hit the same old boring shot and you’ll be famous by Friday,” was one of Vic Braden’s favorites.  It’s easy to get so ahead of yourself in crazy shots that you end up with a game you can’t win with - no harm in doing what you’ve learned well, where you don’t mess up easily becoming maybe not flashy, but solidly famous like our local Mraz brothers.

• “Step-across and BLOCK.” Probably the best volley advice you can get.

• “No matter the shot, serve/return/groundstrokes/or volleys, keep your head still.”  Get it? Don’t move your head and eyes away from the ball while you’re making contact.

• “The serve is the one shot you have total control over, so take your time for your first and second serve ... no one is rushing you here but yourself.”

• “Instead of trying to rip a winner past your two opponents at the net, try a rolling topspin ‘dipper’ that if successful will probably set you up with a popped up shot.”

• “When playing someone who likes pace and is better at it than you, go to off pace shots and moon balls ... you’ll drive them crazy.”

• “If all four players in doubles get to the net hitting quick volleys - learn to react without over-reacting.”  No backswing and keep your force-field/racquet out in front of you.

• “No time, no backswing.” You have to adjust for the time-frame that you have ... so if you’re in trouble just dropping lower than the ball with your racquet and having a good forward swing will keep you in the point.

• “Every shot hit should be with the intention to advance you in the point if at all possible.”

• Another Vic Braden quip I’ve always liked when confronted with the question, “Am I good enough to play tennis? “If you can find your mouth when eating an ice-cream cone, you’re certainly good enough to learn the game of tennis.”

When you have an idea of teaching your spouse to play tennis - take a moment to think what it costs for a divorce; you’ll be much smarter to get them some lessons with the local pro.

Trust me, when you have a trusting soul ready to learn the game of tennis from you, the last thing they want or need is for you to drone on and on about how smart you are. So, in the words of some famous pro from long ago, “Keep it simple - STUPID!

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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