Cairns International Tennis Centre
JDS Finals 2016
Title: The Dream: How badly do you want it ?
Zane recently played in the JDS Finals tournament at Cairns International Tennis Centre. He came third in his age group (with the top two players being chosen in the Representative team to go to Rockhampton later this year ). The top two players are one level higher than Zane.
The question presents: can Zane rise to that higher level ? What would Zane need to do to improve his game enough to make that big step up ? It is an interesting and complex question.
Zane is a very good hitter of the ball, and being a lefty he creates many angles with his crosscourt forehand.
He has a very good serve for his age.
He is also one of the nicest kids playing the JDS circuit, and 100% fair with his line calls.
So one would think that Zane , with work, could lift his game.
Will he ?
And that leads to trying to look into Zane’s head and mind.
I am inclined to think that Zane would like to be a champ, but has not actually made that decision to take action and do whatever is necessary to rise to the next level.
And does he believe that he can do it ???? At this stage, I think not.
This is the difference between dreaming of being a good player versus wanting it so badly that you hop in and do the work and make the changes.
I feel that Zane has not made that decision. He would like to be at the top (dreaming)…………but he is almost too nice a guy and does not want to be seen as “hungry” or “someone who will claw their way to the top even if it is at the expense of others.”
His dilemma is…….to do or not to do.
To make up his mind to hop in and follow through with all items which have to be attended to OR continue dreaming about being a good player…..but then doing no more.
And it is his choice and only he can be the one to make it.
It is not an easy decision, especially for someone with Zane’s personality.
However I will point out to Zane and the reader the advantages of making a “let’s do it” decision.
If you give something your best shot and go All In , as I have previously described in my tennis books, you will be at peace with yourself. You will actually have gained confidence as well even if you did not make it to the top. You will have learnt many things about yourself. You would have realized that you can work time management, you can pay more attention to detail, you would have realized that you can make better decisions on which things are important in your life and which things to give up (you do not really need those last things anyway).
And I believe that Zane is not currently capable of dreaming or imagining how successful he could be with his tennis. His stroking technique, his tactical play, his shot selection in point play, his ability to concentrate for lengthy periods and fight like a crocodile, his fitness and his footwork would all rise to the next level.
He cannot imagine the inner peace and confidence he would acquire if he went All In. He would not have to tell anyone or show anyone…………..he would simply just know.
Currently Stanislas Stan the Man Wawrinka is a beautiful example of someone having that inner confidence and self belief.
If you do not go All In you will always have that nagging thought in the back of your mind……”I wonder if I could have made it ? I wonder how far I could have gone on the tennis ladder ? “
Zane’s technical and tactical weaknesses are :
Zane does not pay enough attention to detail.
I think part of this problem is because he is such a natural hitter and swinger that he has not had to think or learn about a stroke. Do not get me wrong, this artistic talent is eagerly sought by many pupils. But that alone will not let you walk out of bed, onto the court and hit perfect shots, shot after shot. Not at the level we are talking about anyway. He has to be able to look at his mistakes and analyse what went wrong (like not taking enough little steps).
If he is hitting crosscourt, he cannot say “anywhere crosscourt will do”. He can do better than that…..if he pays attention to detail.
If he is making too many unforced errors, he cannot just ignore these mistakes and sweep it under the table.
Zane is not fully consistent. This is a bit of a tricky one. I have seen him have rallies of 15-20 shots……….but then from time to time he makes a horrible mistake. To me this does not marry with his ability. I am sure this false consistency is tied in with Zane’s lack of hunger, lack of determination and lack of perseverance. All connected to his mental approach, his decisions with his pathway in the world of tennis
Zane definitely needs to be more hungry to win the point.
He needs to fight like a crocodile, to the end. To the end of a point, to the end of a match. Again we go back to his original choices. Does he want it enough ? How hungry is he ?
Zane I believe has not thought all that much about his game plan.
To me there are 3 things he should develop.
- Hitting more forehands sharply This will eventually open up the down the line shot with his forehand.
- He needs to develop a better slice serve, especially for his first serve. And especially on the backhand side. This would open up the court as in item 1. An extra on this sequence would be the possibility to then drop shot behind his opponent. This wide swinging serve would also give him the possibility of serving and volleying and getting an empty court for his first volley (cross court).
- To back up the above he must master the volley. Currently his net game is a real weakness. In the main he has to learn to block his volleys. See sketch below.
This sketch is showing a player blocking their FH Volley. An analogy would be someone hammering on a door. The door being in front of them. Blocking implies stopping the racket swing at impact (or having very, very little follow through after impact). Zane is currently playing with his volleys. He needs to learn to block and learn that the feel of blocking is totally different to the feel of playing with a volley. Picture a ball hitting a wall. What would the wall feel ? (If it could feel).
The below sketch is taken from an actual match play forehand volley by Serena Williams. If it were a door in front of her, the racket would be forced to stop, very similar to a Karate chop.
I am a great believer in juniors copying some of the pros. Possibly some pros who are pretty much 100% complete. If you like go to the players who have won the most Grand Slams. (They are quite complete !!). Or copy a player who excels at a particular component. Recently in a presentation at Innisfail organized by Baseline Tennis I used Rene Lacoste and Lleyton Hewitt as examples of tennis players fighting like crocodiles, fighting to the end in their tennis matches.
For Zane I would ask him to copy………Neale Fraser.
Now probably most of you have never heard of Neale even though he did win Wimbledon once and the US Open twice.
But his game is perfect for Zane to copy. Neale was also a lefty. He had a good forehand, good volleys, excellent serve………but a very weak backhand (slice only). By the way, Zane’s current backhand is better than Neale’s backhand ever was. Because Neale’s serve and volley was so great it was difficult to break his serve, so all he had to do was break your serve once a set.
But it was his serve that set him apart. For starters he had perfected the slice serve to the ad side, taking the opponent off the court. He also had mastered the kicking topspin second serve again to the ad side, BUT down the middle kicking back to the deuce side. I saw him ace many players that way. On his second serve the receiver would be inclined to try to cover the slice serve to their left AND move left; however sometimes he threw in the kicker down the middle and that was often an outright ace.
But his greatest strength on his serve was this.
He had developed infinite variety with his serve.
That means you never knew which serve was coming next, including change of spin, change of pace, change of placement.
I know this well because I played Neale several times. The first time I played him was in an adult Interstate Match Vic v SA. I was still at University and had not yet travelled overseas, but somehow managed to win the first set. I lost in three sets, but that gave me a big boost of confidence (not to mention all the extra publicity).
Now I am taking a bit of time over this section, but for a reason.
I believe that Zane can easily copy those great assets of Neale Fraser. And Zane already has a better backhand.
BUT we come to the original question. Will Zane do this ? Will Zane decide to go All In. Is Zane hungry enough ?
The sketch below shows a champion NFL coach, making sure his junior tennis player is All In.
One section of being All In is making sure every item in your game is being looked at and analysed properly. Not ignored and not swept under the carpet.
Hence the junior player should be making lists of every single item to be discussed, learnt, practiced, analysed and worked on.
I believe Zane can do it and get to a higher level of tennis.
But what will Zane choose ?