Blog Archives

Forehand Footwork

This simple footwork pattern is a game changer.  Seriously.  After my tennis lesson with Jeff last week, I tried out out and it just felt so much easier, efficient and smooth.  I know I don’t have Roger Federer’s forehand, but when I did everything the right way, it literally felt like I was hitting the ball like Roger.  I know that sounds stupid, but that’s how good it felt.

Check out the video:

[tags] tennis, forehand, footwork, usta, instruction, lesson [/tags]

Lesson #002 with Jeff – The Horse Stance

I had a great tennis lesson Jeff Salzenstein yesterday.  We covered a variety of topics including fitness, nutrition, the mental game and of course THE FOREHAND.

I’ve had some problems with my groundstrokes lately and wanted to get Jeff’s thoughts on what I’m doing wrong.  I knew that part of it was that I wasn’t keeping my head on the ball long enough, so after hitting a few balls, he was able to diagnose the problem: my finish was way out of whack.  Plus, I wasn’t balanced and I wasn’t in a position to hit the next shot.

Here’s a video of Jeff teaching me something called the “Horse Stance”.    Have a look:

Jeff’s advice to me moving forward is to actually stand in this Horse Stance position as part of my fitness routine.  He wants me to get comfortable with it so that I will naturally just start to finish my stroke that way.  It’s an awkward position because us Americans have such bad posture.  Give it a try.  If you upper leg muscles aren’t burning after about a minute, you’re not doing it right.

We also shot another video on the footwork that gets you to this position.  I’ll have that ready in the next few days.

First Lesson with Jeff

As I announced a few weeks ago, I have started working on my tennis game with Jeff Salzenstein.  Jeff is without a doubt, the best player to come out of the state of Colorado and has become one of the most respected coaches since he ended his professional career.

Jeff teaches tennis differently than any other coach I’ve worked with.  Most coaches use practice as a drill session.  Jeff has a different approach.  We did a bit of hitting, but more talking – which is great with me.  I can always go out an hit, but I can’t always talk to someone who been through the grind, received great coaching/instruction and spent thousand of hours on the court themselves.

Here’s a recap of our first lesson.

Lazy Tennis

I played a USTA tennis tournament down in Colorado Springs this past weekend.  Won my first round, lost in the quarters.

My wife came out to watch and I had her shoot some video on my iPhone.  It appears I might need to give her a quick tutorial on how to shoot video on an iPhone, but she did manage to get one particular point.

When I reviewed the footage after the match, something really stood out to me: I look lazy in all of the points.  My serve is lazy, my ready position after my serve is lazy, my footwork is lazy.  Everything looks slow.

In my match the following day, I tried to play faster and more aggressive, but it’s not that easy.  That seemed to throw everything out of whack.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but I can tell you that I’m not going to reach my goals playing this lazy style of tennis.

By the way – the indoor tennis facility at Lifetime Fitness down in Colorado Springs is phenomenal.

1st Real Workout: That Sucked

About a month ago, I joined the neighborhood gym, 24 Hour Fitness.  Yea, the same people that sponsor The Biggest Loser. Seems apropos, huh?

Part of the deal 24 Hour Fitness offer you when you join is a 3-pack of personal training for a discounted price.  Since I don’t really know how to use the gym, I thought this would be a good investment so I could actually get my money’s worth out of the monthly fee.  If I just went on my own, I would just do what I know, which isn’t much:  20 minutes the elliptical machine minutes, 5 minutes on the rowing machine and call it good.  That’s not gonna do much for my tennis game.

My first training session was this morning.  They start you off by talking about your diet, your goals and your current training regiment.  It’s kind of like going to the doctor for your yearly checkup – no sense in lying because they’re going to figure you out at some point.  Then they take some measurements.  The interesting ones for me were:

  • Body fat %: 26.8%! – Ouch.  That’s supposed to be below 22%, but honestly, I thought I would be north of 30.  So, I’m ok with that.
  • The real waist line: 40 – Double Ouch.  The real waistline is at the belly button, not the size of jeans.  That’s cheating because we wear because we wear our pants below our gut.
Then the hard part.  After warming up on a bike for 5 minutes, the trainer wanted to get a feel for where I was fitness-wise.  We jumped right in with 10 Burpees, 20 sit-ups and 30 squats.  Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to the squats.  Those Burpees (squat-push-up, jump-thing) knocked me out in round one.  Sad.
But the first workout is the worst right? (Please say “yes”)  I know, I know… that’s BS.  But that’s what I’m telling myself, ok?

Every shot counts

I stopped by and caught some of the Men’s Open Finals action at the Colorado State Open yesterday.  The final match pitted Jan-Michael Gambill (former ATP Top 20 who has beaten Sampras, Agassi, Federer) and a guy named Brian Battistone.  If you thought Gambill would roll this no-namer, you’d agree with almost everyone who was there watching the match.

But think again.  Battistone won 7-6, 7-6.  And he’s no such a no-namer after all.  He’s a professional who has patented a two handled racquet for his company, Natural Tennis.  Check it out here.

Aside from the uniqueness of Battistone’s equipment, there is something to learn from his serve and it’s not the fact that he hits it like a volleyball player hits a jump serve.  It’s the fact that he puts so much into each and every shot.  Take a look:

I know that as a rec level player, I occasionally fall into a rut and just try to get the serve in.  This typically happens when my serve isn’t clicking and I’ll give up and try to win another way.  As I was watching Battistone and Gambill battle it out today, the thing that jumped out at me was how much they put into each shot – the serve in particular.  Yea, it’s true that a rec level player can wear themselves out and serve their way right out a match, but that’s where fitness comes in.

There has been too many times where I’ll take points off or lay off on my serve to conserve energy.  That doesn’t work.  What does work is getting in shape and getting invested in every shot and that’s my new goal.

How to beat the pusher

John McEnroe was one.  So is Andy Murray.  They win a lot of matches and most tennis players hate playing them.  Of course, I’m talking about THE PUSHER.

For those of you new to tennis or less familiar with the game’s jargon, a “pusher” is a player who focuses more on consistency, less on power and mechanics.  They do whatever it takes to get the ball back and beat down their opponent.  At the rec level, the focus on consistently “lobbing” the ball back can be much more pronounced.  A 3.5 or 4.0 Pusher usually hits the ball with very little pace, puts all of their focus on consistency and could care less about mechanics.  They tend to frustrate the hell out of the classically trained Tennis player with their slow, methodical junkballing.

There is nothing wrong with being a pusher.  I totally respect a player that can grind it out and outlast their opponent.  I remember playing in high school and realizing that I could win a lot of matches by simply not missing – so yes, I WAS a  Pusher at one point in time.  I don’t play like that anymore, but I still respect those players that do it well.

Now, Playing at the 4.0 level, I run into my fair share of Pushers, so spent a little time tonight researching how to BEAT THE PUSHER.  I’ve boiled it down to three main strategies that can beat them:

1. Beat them at their own game and out-push them.  This one is dangerous.  An experienced pusher’s primary objective is to pull you into their game.  If you’re a solid player and believe you can out push the Pusher, got for it.  But unless you like the feeling of cutting your toenails too short, I’d ask “Why?”  Executing a better strategy is the best way to beat a better player, so I wouldn’t even mess with it.

2. Attack the net.  You can expect a lot of short balls from a Pusher, but if you’re not placing your approach shots in the corners, you can also expect to chase down a lot of lobs.  But keep in mind, the Pusher likes to have time and the more you can get in to the net, the less time you’re giving them.

3. Maintain your rhythm and dictate the pace.  A benefit of the Pusher conning their opponent into their game is making them play at their pace.  They want to take the air out of the ball and make their opponent generate all of their own pace.  The typical result is missing shots from over-hitting.  This video from Fuzzy Yellow Balls does a good job of showing how a focus on footwork can help you maintain your rhythm and dictate the pace on YOUR terms.

Winter Tennis Plan, Part 1: It’s not crazy, it’s Tennis.

It’s September and the Summer is close to an end and it came to an abrupt end here Colorado as we literally went from 90 degree heaters to a chill in the air in one day.

With the end of Summer comes a change in how much tennis people get to play. Some people pay the premium fees for an indoor club memberships while others just put the racquets away for several months and pick it up again when the weather warms up. And then there is the dedicated few who keep the racquets so they can hit some balls on an occasional nice day. I fall into that last category.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have an indoor membership, but the reality is that I would probably drop $300 a month to get on the court 4 times a month. Although I can’t blame someone for paying it, $75 per match or practice session is just a little bit too much to swallow. But if you have the means, go for it.

So here’s my Winter Tennis plan:

  • Play Winter tournaments when available
  • Play outside as much as I can
  • Get in shape
  • Go play tournaments where the weather is warmer in the winter.

Yes, I’m going to go play tournaments in the warm-weather states. That feels a little crazy, but I keep thinking of those ESPN commercials that show some of the crazy things people do, all for their love of sports. And then I think about the time and money people spend on going to see their favorite band play. So for those people that say it’s a little weird to fly somewhere to play a stupid tennis tournament, I say that they probably spend their money on their passions that I would consider every bit as weird.


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