Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tennis Lessons

Over the next months (years?) of posting, we will most assuredly discuss all manner of sporting issues ranging from achievement to scandal to Andre Agassi's shiny noggin. There is one sport that will always range above and beyond the rest both in my daily life and in my rooting world, and that is tennis. For some it's soccer, others it's football, for me tennis is the one that can hold my rapt attention and swing my emotions the most dramatically. It's also the only sport that has made me vomit. Discovering tennis as a kid and really applying myself to something, learning how to handle losing (which happened oh so much back in the day), and getting to write about tennis professionally (meeting Agassi in the doing), just beautiful! Rediscovering tennis after my knee healed, taking lessons again and becoming a solid 5.0 player, carefully watching and dissecting matches live on TV, such sublime joy. Add the fact that Jess has become a die hard fan and joins me on the couch or in the stands and damn I love this sport!
Had a lesson with Simon Shen at Pacific Beach Tennis Club today. I make sure that I get at least one lesson during each of my weeks off, so gotta make the most of it. I've worked with a number of coaches over the years, some who have coached pros, some who were pros. I've also met with and interviewed some of the premier names in tennis Brad Gilbert coaching. For my money, and not that much money, I might add, Simon is the best. Now that he's rebuilt my strokes and my serve, we're working on match play and point craftsmanship.
The biggest roadblock in my tennis game is the same thing that has helped me find so much success and happiness in other facets of my life; my mind. Damn thing just won't turn off the negativity. I've always been a great hitting partner, but getting that same ability to come out during a match? Not so much. Until, I think, today.
It's simple really. Instead of plowing through points just trying to get them over with when I'm feeling nervous, we're working on giving each point a life of it's own. Gotta give it a chance to start, so every point starts with a visualization of the first live ball, either serve or return. Now we must build it into something with structure, so unless my opponent gives me an absolute melon to attack, I want to get a rally of at least 5 balls going. This structure helps me relax and settle down without having to do too much, and shows my opponent that he's gonna have to work to beat me. This is the stuff, I'm telling you! I joined the San Diego Tennis League yesterday, which is all about singles match play, so I'm gonna be able to put it to the test soon enough. Will keep you up to date...

No comments: