Let Serves In Tennis

Watching college tennis matches on tv recently, the announcers were talking about how the professional game needs to adopt the no-let serve rule.  For those unaware, there is no such thing as a let serve in collegiate tennis in the United States.  I’ve always thought that it’s sort of bizarre to play under one set of rules in the USTA, then change to a different set of rules in college, then go right back to the original set of rules in professional tennis.

I’m not a huge fan of the collegiate no-let rule.  I think winning points on let serves is sort of cheap.  Now obviously there are different types of let serves.  I’m okay with the serves that barely clip the tape as they pass over the net, but otherwise look and act like a normal serve.  The serves I have a problem with are the ones that hit the tape and drop right over on the other side of the net.

How is it fair to win or lose points on that type of a serve?  When you watch tennis and a player wins a rally point by hitting the tape and having it roll over the net, the player who won the point almost always (half-heartedly) apologizes to the player who lost the point.  The reason?  The winning player knows they won the point in a lucky and cheap fashion.  So why should it be any different on the serve?

One explanation I’ve heard for the no-let rule in college is that it prevents cheating.  In collegiate tennis, players are often responsible for making their own line calls, as their is not always an official watching the match.  Now imagine I hit a blistering serve that my opponent couldn’t return.  But instead of losing the point, my opponent called “Let!” and gets back in position for a redo.  I have no recourse to argue, since it’s my opponent’s call.  By eliminating the let serve altogether, my opponent can’t use this tactic against me.  I can certainly understand this explanation.

However, I’ve also heard the explanation that it increases the pace of play.  And to me, this is not a valid reason.  How many let serves are there in a typical match?  And how much extra time does that really consume?  Not enough to be concerned about, I believe.

“But wait”, you may ask, “you just said that let serves aren’t fair, but now you’re saying there aren’t enough of them to be concerned about.  So why do you care if there is a no-let rule?”

The main reason I dislike the no-let rule is that while there may be only a few let serves that drop over the net in an unreturnable fashion, those few serves might drastically change the outcome of an otherwise close match.  Nobody wants to see a match won or lost because of a lucky serve.  I recently watched Andy Murray playing against Grigor Dmitrov in the Australian Open.  On match point Murray clipped the tape during a rally and the ball blooped over the net to win the match.  It brought a very anti-climatic ending to an otherwise exciting match.  Now imagine if that had been a serve.  Under the current rules, it would have to be a do-over, preserving the drama of the match.  But under the no-let rule it’s game over, everybody go home.  Is that really the best thing for the sport and the fans who pay money to watch it?

Now imagine, theoretically, that players became so accurate at serving that they could clip the net on purpose and get the ball to drop over into the opponent’s service box in an unreturnable fashion.  How exciting would that be to watch?  Who in their right mind would pay money to watch an hour or two of that?

My opinion is, do the fairest thing and keep the let serve rule in professional tennis.  I believe the spirit of the game calls for the returner to at least have an opportunity to return a serve.  Lets not sully the sport by rewarding lucky shots!

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Recipes For Athletes – Peanut Butter And Spinach Breakfast Smoothie

Although there are thousands of different smoothie recipes out there, I particularly enjoy this one as an energy booster in the morning.  With just 5 ingredients, this smoothie is very quick to throw together.  I frequently take this to work in a travel mug.  And even though the color may be an unsettling shade of green, I promise you won’t even taste the spinach in it!  Trust me!

Ingredients:

2 cups fat free skim milk

1 handful of baby spinach

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 ice cubes

Instructions:

Toss it all in a blender and blend until smooth.  Simple as it gets!  Although the smoothie will have a greenish tint, as I mentioned above, the peanut butter and cinnamon will be the dominant flavors.

Of course, you can alter the ratios of the ingredients to suit your tastes.  Some people like vegetables more, so might add more spinach.  Others might want more of a cinnamon taste.  You really can’t mess up a smoothie too badly!  And feel free to personalize your breakfast smoothie by adding in other fruits, vegetables, grains, powders, or anything else you like.  It’s really all about coming up with a combination that hits your sweet spot!  Enjoy!

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Be Confident On The Tennis Court

Last night I played mixed doubles with a group of 8 friends.  I drew a partner with whom I’m not terribly familiar, but I knew she had a lot of years of experience.  After fighting through and winning a tough set, we switched to play different opponents (we usually play single set matches during these outings).  I was feeling very confident after our first match victory.  But I wasn’t prepared for what my partner said next.

As we walked to our end of the court right before starting the second match of the night, my partner told me that she never plays well against these two individuals and that she hoped we could just win a single game.

Huh?

I was completely caught off guard.  After winning the first match, I felt that we could take on anyone.  I had worked out the initial kinks that come from playing with a partner I’m not familiar with, and I felt that she was just as comfortable by the end of the first match.  But instead of a boost in confidence, she was already chalking up this next match as a loss!  One game?  I want to win the match!

At the end of the night, we had indeed gone on to win that match and one more match after that.  Yet even after winning the second match, a match that she swore we would lose, she still had a defeated attitude as we entered the third match.  All throughout the night I had to remind her that we are a formidable team and that we can hang in there with any opponent.

On the drive home, my mind wandered back to the tennis matches.  How could someone with years of experience and a solid tennis game keep such a poor attitude on the court?  How could she STILL have a mindset of imminent defeat even after winning the first two matches of the night?

I recall a time early on in my tennis life where I frequently struggled with keeping a positive attitude when things started to go south on the court.  My mind would naturally fill with negative thoughts if something went wrong.  And the match results tended to follow my negative thinking!  It took a concentrated effort to eventually develop the right attitude.

It took time to develop this mentality, but I believe that my attitude drives my results, in both tennis and life.  If I come into a match believing that I am completely outclassed by my opponent, then I am already defeated.  With that type of attitude, why should I bother playing?  But if I come in believing in myself and my skill set, I’ve already taken the first step towards victory.  Of course, I’m not saying that victory will always be the result.  But if I’m about to begin a difficult match against a tough opponent, I want to be confident.  If I come in with a defeated attitude, I’m now playing two opponents: the person across the court from me and my own mind!

Even up those odds and believe in yourself!  Step confidently onto the court every match you play and you may just be surprised how results follow attitude!

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Don’t Make The Same Mistakes Over And Over

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me!  You know the saying.  So what does that have to do with tennis?

The other night I was playing men’s doubles with three friends.  We drew for teams and started our match.  One of my friends on the opposing team, Kelvin, has a killer slice backhand.  A ball hit waist-high to his backhand will get returned with the nastiest slice you’ve ever seen!  That being said, I always try to keep my shots away from his backhand side.  Kelvin is very aware that his backhand slice is a big weapon, so he always chooses to play on the ad-side.

Playing against Kelvin is especially dangerous when I have to give him a second serve.  He cheats towards the center line of the court, forcing me to either hit it down the center, which I struggle to do on the ad-side, or hit a wide ball.  My second serve is not the best (something I’ve strived to improve for many years) so it usually comes in slow enough that he can get to it and return it with his wicked slice.  More often than not, he can hit an outright winner off of this weak second serve.

Time and again playing against Kelvin, I would try to keep it away from his backhand.  Or I would hit to his backhand and try my best to get in position for the return.  Then last night I watched my partner do something against Kelvin on his own serve, and it was so simple that I never even consider it.  My partner hit a light soft serve to Kelvin’s backhand, then immediately charged the net as hard as he could.  In doing so, he was able to volley the return to a very surprised and unprepared Kelvin!

While rushing the net on a weak second serve may not be the smartest strategy, it accomplished one important thing.  It was a DIFFERENT strategy!  My strategy was keep serving my second serves to Kelvin’s backhand and try over and over again to handle his return.  However, my partner decided to give him something completely different to think about.  I was impressed enough to try it as well!

The results were equally impressive.  Kelvin became a headcase the rest of the night.  He never knew when my partner or I might rush the net, so he started to stray from his bread and butter backhand in an attempt to subdue our sudden net game.  He tried to hit a couple down the alley.  He hit a few lob returns.  He even shanked a few returns when he peeked up to see where we were on the court!  While we didn’t win every point against him, our change of strategy caused him to change his game as well.

The lesson to take from this is simple.  Don’t make the same mistakes over and over again!  I was not deploying a smart strategy by serving into Kelvin’s backhand time and again and hoping for different results.  If I’m getting burned by a certain shot, I need to reconsider my tactics.  Maybe my opponent doesn’t like lobs?  Maybe he’s not fast enough to get to a short ball?  Maybe his forehand is weak?  Whatever I do, it needs to be different from the strategy that is causing me pain and allowing my opponent to prosper.  Again, this is a very simple lesson, but one that often goes unheeded due to stubbornness!

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Indian Wells Tennis Trip 2015

After having such a great time at the BNP Paribas Open last year, I’ve decided to take another trip this year!  So yesterday I booked my travel and ordered tickets.  Now I just have to wait patiently until March!

This year I decided to go to the two day sessions on March 17th and 18th.  Last year I went to four sessions in three days, and it was definitely too much!  (But in a good way!)  As I mentioned in a previous post, a day session ticket does not mean that they kick you out once the night session begins.  Day session ticket holders can stay in the grounds, they just won’t have reserved seating in the main stadium.  Last year I had both day and night session tickets for one of the days.  I got to the tennis grounds right away when the gates opened, so by the time the night session started, I was beat!  I watched one match and headed back to the hotel.  My advice is this: If you’re planning on watching multiple days worth of tennis while visiting Indian Wells, don’t try to attend both the day and night session in one day.  It will wear you out!  Pick the day session one day and the night session the next day, so you have some time to relax and recover.  Remember, you’re in the desert so the heat and sun will take it out of you if you’re not careful!  You’ll definitely want to bring a water bottle into the tennis grounds since there are plenty of hydration stations throughout.  And don’t forget your hat and sunglasses.

I booked my trip kind of late, so the prime area that I wanted to stay in this year was already booked up.  I was aiming to stay in Palm Desert, which has lots of restaurants nearby and is only a few miles from the tennis gardens.  Of course, if I was willing to spend a lot of money there are many resort options nearby as well.  But since that’s not an option for me, I’ve elected to stay in Palm Springs again.  Palm Springs is about 20 miles away from the stadium, and the traffic isn’t that bad, so for me it’s not a bad compromise.  The hotels in Palm Springs also tend to be a bit more affordable than most of the options closer to the stadium.

Unless you’re staying in one of the resorts right next to the tennis garden, I would definitely recommend renting a car.  There are lots of things to do in the Coachella Valley, and its pretty spread out so you’ll want to have your own transportation.  Last year I went to four sessions at the tournament, so I didn’t really have much time to see anything else in the area, which I sort of regretted.  This year I’m going to two sessions and leaving myself two extra days to check out some local attractions.

I’m pretty excited to go back again this year.  Nothing beats escaping the cold Midwest winter and watching professional tennis in 80 degree weather!

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Happy 1000th Match, Roger Federer!

Congratulations are in order for Roger Federer.  He just competed in, and won, his 1000th career professional match.  This occurred in the Brisbane International final against Milos Raonic.  I can’t imagine playing in that many competitive matches.  For the last couple of years, I’ve set a goal of playing 100 matches in a single year, and thats counting practices, league matches, and USTA matches.  And I’ve found this goal extremely difficult to reach.  So when I think about the fact that Federer has reached the 1000 milestone in professional matches, many of which were best-of-five sets, I find it incredible!  Congratulations, and here’s to many more!

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