Holiday Weekend at the US Open

US OpenI know many of you will be spending the Labor Day Weekend at the US Open – lucky you! It’s such a fun time to see the Open – the crowds, all the “extras” going on around the grounds, and, of course, some amazing tennis! In case you’re new to the Open or just need a refresher, I wanted to list some of the things you can see and do while you’re on site this weekend.

  • Watch the pros practice: The practice courts are right inside the West Gate next to Arthur Ashe Stadium. The practice schedule is posted on a big board next to the courts, but you can also find it on the US Open app. After they practice, most of the pros are very gracious and will sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. There is a roped-off area where you can wait for them. Honestly, when my son was younger, this was his favorite part of the Open!
  • Junior US Open Qualies: The top junior players in the world will be on site starting today, practicing and playing for a spot in the Main Draw of the US Open Junior event which begins on Sunday. These are the stars of tomorrow. If you look at the list of past winners, you will see names like Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Victoria Azarenka, CoCo Vandeweghe, and Kayla Day who won the Junior event in 2016 and is still in the Main Draw Women’s Doubles this year with partner Caroline Dolehide.
  • Follow the NextGen players: Tennis is on the brink. Our top players, especially on the men’s side, are well past 30 years old, and we have a deep cache of Young Guns waiting to take the reins. Among those still in the US Open this year are Sofia Kenin (age 17) who faces Maria Sharapova tonight on Ashe in Round 3, Andrey Rublev (age 19) who took out Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets yesterday and faces Bosnia Damir Dzumhur tomorrow, Canadian Denis Shapovalov (age 18) who defeated Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the night match on Ashe 2 days ago and faces Kyle Edmund today, and Borna Coric (age 20) who beat fellow NextGener Sasha Zverev in the 2nd round and faces former University of Illinois standout Kevin Anderson today on the Grandstand.
  • Follow the college players: I love how many former college players are still in the Main Draw in both singles and doubles! Representing my alma mater UCLA is Jennifer Brady. Jen beat the 23-seed Barbora Strycova 6-1 6-1 yesterday and will play Monica Niculescu tomorrow. On the men’s side, in addition to Anderson we also have UGA’s John Isner playing on Ashe tonight. In doubles, watch out for Jen Brady who is playing with Allie Riske, Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs who is playing with Julia Boserup, former Stanford star Kristie Ahn playing with former Georgia Tech player Irina Falconi, and former UNC star Nick Monroe who is playing with former Tennessee star JP Smith.
  • Player Meet-and-Greets: Each day the Open hosts meet-and-greets with several players. Today you can meet NextGeners Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe. Check the US Open app for up to date information on these and other interactive events.
  • Shopping & Eating: There are several booths, kiosks, and full-on stores on the grounds to do some major shopping. If you have an American Express card, you can register it through the US Open app and get a $20 credit when you spend $100 on site. Chase Bank is offering Charge & Watch, a device that will charge your phone while you watch exclusive live event coverage. There are also several charging stations around the grounds that you can use while taking a break from the tennis (though I don’t know why you would ever want to do that!). As far as eating goes, the US Open takes stadium food to a whole new level! There are even gourmet vegetarian, gluten-free, and kosher options for those with dietary restrictions. Of course, if you want a hamburger or hot dog, you can get those, too. And, for those in the over-21 category, be sure to try the US Open’s signature cocktail, the Honey Deuce.

For more information on the best way to visit the Open, check out my friend PJ Simmons’s in-depth blog here.

Have a great weekend at the Open! I’ll be there starting Wednesday and look forward to meeting up with you then.

Seeds Announced for 2017 US Open

SeedsSo, in case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m kinda in US Open mode right now and will be for the next couple of weeks. This will be my first Open since 2014, and I’m super excited to spend some time there this year. My focus will be on the Junior and the College events, but I will also be writing a bit about the Main Event as well.

To that end, I wanted to let y’all know that the seeds have been published for both the Men’s and the Women’s draws. The following is from a USTA release sent out yesterday afternoon:

The USTA today announced that world No. 1 and two-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal and 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray have been named the top two seeds, respectively – with five-time US Open champion Roger Federer seeded No. 3 – in men’s singles at the 2017 US Open. The 2017 US Open will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The US Open Men’s Singles Championship is presented by Chase.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who has won five ATP singles titles this seeded fourth, while fifth-seeded Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, joins Nadal (2010, 2013) Murray (2012), and Federer (2004-08) as the former US Open champions seeded in the Top 10. 2017 French Open semifinalist Dominic Thiem, of Austria, is seeded sixth. Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who last week won his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the US Open Series’ Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, is seeded seventh. Three-time US Open quarterfinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, is seeded No. 8.

Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the 2009 US Open, is seeded No. 24.

Nadal, 31, regained the No. 1 ranking this week for the first time since June 2014. He won his tenth French Open singles title this year and also reached the final at the Australian Open. Murray, 30, comes into the US Open after reaching the semifinals of the French Open and quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year and holding the world No. 1 ranking for all of 2017 until Nadal recaptured it this week.

Federer, 36, is competing at the US Open to become the first male player to win 20 Grand Slam singles titles. By winning his sixth singles title in New York, Federer would also break the three-way tie between him, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras for most US Open singles titles won in the Open Era.

Three American men are seeded at this year’s US Open—No. 10 John Isner, No. 13 Jack Sock, and No. 17 Sam Querrey.

Defending US Open champion and world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka will not be competing in this year’s US Open due to a knee injury, while two-time US Open champion and world No. 5 Novak Djokovic will not be competing to recover from a right elbow injury. 2014 US Open finalist and world No. 10 Kei Nishikori will not be competing because of a right wrist injury, while No. 11 Milos Raonic has withdrawn due to a left wrist injury. [Note: USTA also announced yesterday that Raonic’s spot in the draw will be filled by a Lucky Loser from the Qualifying draw. There are 5 US men left in the Qualies, 2 of  whom play each other in today’s final round.]

For 2017, the US Open followed the Emirates ATP Rankings released Monday, August 21, to determine the men’s singles seeds. This is the 17th consecutive year that the US Open will seed 32 players in singles.

The USTA also announced that world No. 1 and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has been named the top seed in women’s singles at the 2017 US Open, while world No. 2 and 2016 French Open finalist Simona Halep is seeded No. 2. 2017 Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza is seeded third, and 22-year old world No. 4 Elina Svitolina is seeded fourth. The 2017 US Open will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The US Open Women’s Singles Championship is presented by J.P. Morgan.

The Top 10 women’s seeds at the US Open mirror the current Top 10 of the WTA rankings. Following the top four are No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, a two-time US Open finalist; No. 6 Angelique Kerber, of Germany, the defending US Open champion; No. 7 Johanna Konta, of Great Britain, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist; No. 8 and 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia; No. 9 Venus Williams, a two-time US Open champion, and No. 10 Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland.

In last year’s US Open final, Kerberwon her second Grand Slam singles title at the US Open, defeating Pliskovain the final, and becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Four American women are seeded at this year’s US Open — No. 9 Venus Williams, No. 15 Madison Keys, No. 20 Coco Vandeweghe, and No. 32 Lauren Davis.

Eight-time US Open champion and former world No. 1 Serena Williams, who is currently ranked No. 15, will not be competing in this year’s US Open after announcing her pregnancy. Victoria Azarenka, who would have entered with a protected ranking of No. 6, withdrew because of a personal issue. World No. 28 Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, will not be competing due to a left leg and right hand injury. 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, of Australia, withdrew due to a right hand injury. [Note: There are 8 US women in the Qualies final round with several playing each other today.]

The US Open followed the WTA rankings released Monday, August 21, to determine the women’s singles seeds. This is the 17th consecutive year that the US Open seeded 32 players in both singles events.

The singles draws for the 2017 US Open will be revealed live during an official draw ceremony, which will be open to the public for the first time, on Friday, August 25, at 12 noon ET at the US Open Experience at the historic Seaport District NYC. The ceremony will conclude with an appearance by defending women’s singles champion Angelique Kerber and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, as well as other special guests.

2017 US Open Men’s Singles Seeds

1. Rafael Nadal, Spain
2. Andy Murray, Great Britain
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland
4. Alexander Zverev, Germany
5. Marin Cilic, Croatia
6. Dominic Thiem, Austria
7. Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France
9. David Goffin, Belgium
10. John Isner, United States
11. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
12. Pablo Carreno Busta, Spain
13. Jack Sock, United States
14. Nick Kyrgios, Australia
15. Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic
16. Lucas Pouille, France
17. Sam Querrey, United States
18. Gael Monfils, France
19. Gilles Muller, Luxembourg
20. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Spain
21. David Ferrer, Spain
22. Fabio Fognini, Italy
23. Mischa Zverev, Germany
24. Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
25. Karen Khachanov, Russia
26. Richard Gasquet, France
27. Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay
28. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
29. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
30. Adrian Mannarino, France
31. Feliciano Lopez, Spain
32. Robin Haase, the Netherlands

2017 US Open Women’s Singles Seeds

1. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
2. Simona Halep, Romania
3. Garbiñe Muguruza, Spain
4. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
5. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
6. Angelique Kerber, Germany
7. Johanna Konta, Great Britain
8. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia
9. Venus Williams, United States
10. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
11. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia
12. Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia
13. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
14. Kristina Mladenovic, France
15. Madison Keys, United States
16. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
17. Elena Vesnina, Russia
18. Caroline Garcia, France
19. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia
20. Coco Vandeweghe, United States
21. Ana Konjuh, Croatia
22. Shuai Peng, China
23. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
24. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands
25. Daria Gavrilova, Australia
26. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
27. Shuai Zhang, China
28. Lesia Tsurenko, Ukraine
29. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia
30. Julia Goerges, Germany
31. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia
32. Lauren Davis, United States

Only 2 More Days at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Atlanta OpenFriday was another great day of tennis at the BB&T Atlanta Open – Quarterfinal Day did not disappoint, even though we had a short rain delay in the first set of the first singles match of the day.

Tommy Paul came out swinging in his match versus tour veteran and Rafa-Slayer Gilles Muller, holding his own through the first few games. But, then the Weather Gods decided we all needed a little break to grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping around Atlantic Station, and when the match resumed, Tommy didn’t have quite the same firepower.

Muller went on a rampage, showing why he’s had so much success this summer. To Tommy’s credit, he kept a very positive attitude out there and battled through to the bitter end. USTA coaches Diego Moyano and Brian Boland remained

Diego Moyano & Brian Boland

positive as well, encouraging Tommy to keep going for his shots. They both seemed pleased with their young charge’s performance against the veteran Muller, pow-wowing throughout the match about what to work on moving forward.

Next up was former Georgia Bulldog and 3-time Atlanta Champion John Isner who always has tons of support at this event. As he came on court, you could hear the fans Woof-ing at the Big Dawg, which John acknowledged with a big smile and waves to the crowd.

Even though there was only one break of serve by Isner in each set, he never seem too bothered by Lacko and went about his business in less time than it takes to drive from Atlanta to Athens. Isner did face a break point in the first set. “Yea dangit that was a horrible service performance today [laughing]. No I served well. He was for a good portion of the match on me a little bit. He returned well. He takes the return early, and he hit quite a few good returns quick and right at my feet. I stayed calm at that breakpoint; hit a great serve, hit three great serves. Got out of dodge there and then was able to play a great game at 5 all to win the first set.”

The third quarterfinal of the day was perhaps the most anticipated: 25-year-old Louisiana native Ryan Harrison versus 21-year-old Atlanta native (and rising Georgia Tech senior) Chris Eubanks. Chris has had a dream run this week, using his Wildcard to its full advantage while taking out fellow NextGen players Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson in the first two rounds. Ryan Harrison proved too tough for the Yellowjacket, cruising to an early 5-0 lead in the first set before Chris finally held serve to get on the scoreboard. Harrison held to close out the first set 6-1 then kept his foot on the gas throughout the second set to win it 6-2.

At the end of the match, the announcer handed Chris the mic so he could talk to the very supportive crowd. He was very gracious, thanking everyone for their support, acknowledging that this was a great experience for him and gave him a chance to see what he needs to work on as he finishes up at GA Tech and prepares for life on the pro tour.

Ryan was complimentary of Chris’s play. “Chris was pretty aggressive early, and he was making a few errors,” explained Harrison. “So I was trying to focus on keeping my first serve percentage up. I know he’s got big weapons, especially with that forehand. I thought if I made first serves it would be difficult for him to control the point with it. I was really emphasizing on trying to make those. Then just you know I usually do a good job of making a lot of balls back and kind of putting that extra ball back in the court.”

The last Quarterfinal match pitted top-seeded Jack Sock against UK standout Kyle Edmund. Edmund, the twenty-two-year-old British star and Davis Cup player, seemed ready for aggressive play from Sock. He remained steady with his serve and returned the firepower with fire of his own, to come out on top. After winning the first set 6-4, Edmund took advantage of a weakened Sock – who requested a medical timeout but never seemed to recover fully despite massive crowd support – and dominated the second set, which ended quickly at 6-1.

RESULTS – JULY 28, 2017

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals

[3] G. Muller (LUX) d [Q] T. Paul (USA) 6-3 6-1
[2] J. Isner (USA) d L. Lacko (SVK) 7-5 6-4
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) 6-1 6-2
[5] K. Edmund (GBR) d [1] J. Sock (USA) 6-4 6-1

Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals

[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d H. Chung (KOR) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND) 6-1 6-2

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

[4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Not Before 3:00 pm

[3] G. Muller (LUX) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)

Not Before 7:00 pm

[5] K. Edmund (GBR) vs [4] R. Harrison (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) vs [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA)

AJC GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon

ALTA AA-3 CITY FINALS MIXED DOUBLES

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com

Young Guns at the 2017 BB&T Atlanta Open

BB&T Atlanta OpenListen to this week’s podcast here:

I will once again be covering the BB&T Atlanta Open, the kick-off men’s event to the US Open Series. This year’s tournament will be held at Atlantic Station in the heart of Atlanta’s Midtown district July 22-30, 2017. For more information on the tournament, go to http://www.bbtatlantaopen.com.

At this year’s Media Day, I had the opportunity to chat with Young Guns Chris Eubanks and Trent Bryde (who is coached by Viv Chhetri and Will Wright) about their tennis goals and the role tournaments like this one play in their overall development. I also had the chance to talk to Trent’s dad, Bruce, not only about Trent but also about the other two Bryde children, Karlee and Kyle, and how he and his wife, Kathi, balance the various interests of their offspring.

Be sure to enter the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In tournament(s) before the deadlines! For the Atlanta event (July 17-19) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261. For the Baltimore event (August 12-13) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/. If you’d simply like to make a donation to our fund which will provide grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut, you can do so via check made payable to The Sol and sent to 70 1st Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30317 OR you can now donate via Venmo to lisa@parentingaces.com. Thank you for any support you can give!

This is also the last week to take advantage of the ParentingAces discount on Match!Tennis App. If you haven’t downloaded it and taken advantage of a 30-day free trial, what are you waiting for???? For more information, visit http://parentingaces.com/tennis-parents-gotta-get-app/.

Check out our latest podcast!

BB&T Atlanta Open Welcomes Venus Williams

Image result for venus williams
Image courtesy of CBSnews.com

The BB&T Atlanta Open is a men’s tournament. It is the kickoff to the annual Emirates US Open Series. So why is Venus Williams coming this year?

Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez has worked hard to set this event apart, striking a deal with Atlantic Station, an Intown Atlanta mixed use development that builds center court smack dab in the middle of the city with an incredible skyline view. The players comment each year how much they love staying on site, riding in the golf carts to and from the courts, having so many options for dining and entertainment at their fingertips. For the 2017 tournament, he’s taken things a step further, investing in shaded seating (for those of you who have attended the BB&T in the past, you know how stinkin’ hot it can get out there!) and more on-site dining and entertainment for tournament patrons.

One additional step Gonzalez has taken this year is to include an exhibition match between Venus Williams and Canadian Genie Bouchard. This morning, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Venus – what a treat! Here’s what she had to say about coming back to Atlanta for the first time in many years . . .

“I can’t believe I haven’t played more in Atlanta in my career! And Atlanta’s such a huge tennis town that I know the love will come from both sides, with me being excited to play there and from the fans getting to watch some great women’s tennis.”

I asked her if she’s going to have a chance to do any youth outreach while she’s here. She said, “I think that’s a great idea. We definitely should look into that! We have a really full schedule but maybe during the day before the match – I would love that!”

I followed up with a question regarding Venus’ role as a role model for young players coming up. She reminded me that she’s been involved in several programs that work with kids and other programs that work specifically in tennis. She said she sees herself marrying those two types of outreach to show kids how great tennis can be and how they can benefit from it.

When asked about the young up and coming American players, Venus said she’s excited about the great players on the rise. “It’s a learning curve”, she said, “and they need time to develop and enjoy the game. They have plenty of time since people are now extending their careers well into their 30s.”  Regarding French Open Juniors champion, Whitney Osuigwe, Venus advises that she should give herself time to develop her game. “Winning the Jr French Open demonstrates that she definitely has the tools!”

If you’re going to be in the Atlanta area July 22-30 (you could just hang out after your junior plays in #theSol!), please be sure to come out to Atlantic Station and watch some amazing pro tennis. For more information on the BB&T Atlanta Open and to get tickets, click here. Hope to see you there!

 

TeamUSA Forum on College Tennis

Logo courtesy of USTA
Logo courtesy of USTA

 

Earlier this week, the TeamUSA division of USTA Player Development held its 3rd quarter online forum entitled “College Tennis: A Pathway to the Pros”, and I was able to sit in for the entire session hosted by USTA National Coach Kent Kinnear.

Speakers for the webinar included UCLA Women’s Head Coach, Stella Sampras-Webster, USC Men’s Head Coach, Peter Smith, and USTA’s head of collegiate tennis, Stephen Amritraj. You can click here to watch the forum in its entirety, but here are some of the highlights that I tweeted out yesterday:

From Stella Sampras-Webster:

  • Coachability & being willing to do what’s best for the team are key factors in recruiting.
  • Coaches have to be careful when signing athletes because most have a 4-year scholarship agreement. Editor’s Note: This is NOT a widespread practice, except for the very top recruits.
  • College coaches have to put pro events on the calendar now so their best players have an opportunity to play pro events in between college events and schoolwork.
  • There is now pressure on college coaches to sell the fact that their program can help players transition to the pro tour.

From Peter Smith:

  • How does a player treat his parents? This is an important factor during the recruiting process.
  • Recruiting is a very inexact science.
  • “A complete person makes a great pro. A complete athlete makes a great pro.”
  • Recommended reading for all parents: CHANGING THE GAME by John O’Sullivan
  • Tennis is tennis. Playing college tourneys is just as valuable as playing pro tourneys for overall development.
  • Tennis is a brutal, tragic personal sport. Players need to learn how to lose, especially if they are planning to turn pro.
  • There really aren’t many recruiting rules for kids. Coaches are the ones who have rules to follow. Kids should be reaching out to coaches!
  • The NCAA limits practice to 4 hours/day. Smith says kids have to do additional work on their own if they want to reach the next level.

From Stephen Amritraj:

  • The increased cost of pro tennis changes way we need to approach turning pro.
  • If you’re not financially ready to take on the cost of the pro tour, then college is right path.
  • Players have to go through the proper progression. There’s no easy way to the top.
  • The Collegiate National Team is a great transition opportunity for college players to get pro experience during the summers.
  • The new USTA Pro Circuit Series offers a cost-effective way for college players to dip their toe in the pro pool during the late summer/early fall.
  • USTA has put together an 18-month transition program for players meeting excellence grant criteria that includes coaching, strength/conditioning, and physio services.
  • USTA has put together a 3-part webinar to aid in the transition to the pro tour. Click here for the link.

The next forum is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9th, 8pm ET, and will focus on Mental Skills. All of the TeamUSA Forums are appropriate for parents and coaches to attend. Click here to register.

Steve Johnson, Sr: Tennis Parent & Tennis Coach

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson
Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson

The following interview originally appeared in print on Frank Giampaolo’s website. He asked me if I’d share it with y’all, so, of course, I said yes! I’ve also included my interviews with Steve Johnson both on the ParentingAces radio show and at the 2013 US Open. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Frank’s Interview with Steve Johnson, Sr

Tell the readers about your background as a tennis parent & full time tennis coach?

I feel privileged to have a beautiful family and a career that I love- I have been teaching tennis for 33 years throughout Southern California-  making my tennis home in San Clemente, California at the Rancho San Clemente Tennis Club running the Steve Johnson Tennis Academy .  I am living my dream- I am married to my high school sweetheart, we have two beautiful children and I have made a career out of my love for tennis.  My parental goal was simple- love and enjoy my children!

 

Tell us about Stevie’s junior career?   

  • At what age did Stevie begin to play tennis?     As a parent, I was constantly playing with Stevie. He was interested in anything that involved a ball. At age two, I put a Mickey Mouse tennis racquet in Stevie’s hand and showed him how to hit a beach ball with it.  He played beach ball tennis throughout the house all day long. “Stevie was a natural competitor warrior. He competed at everything.”
  • By the age of 4, Stevie could rally on the tennis court.  I would take him with me to local tournaments to watch my players and he couldn’t wait to compete. One day he begged to play a tournament- so I told him if he wanted to compete, he would first have to learn how to keep score (He had to learn to play a real match versus just rallying.) and then I would let him play a tournament. So Stevie took on the challenge and learned how to keep score on the practice court with my wife.
  • By age of 5, Stevie could keep score and so we entered him into his first event- 10 and Under Satellite Tournament. He lost 6, 0- 6, 1.
  • By the age of 6, Stevie could win rounds in the Satellite Tournaments- loving to compete.
  • By the age of 7, Stevie won the local 10 & Under Satellite Tournament. A few weeks after that, we entered him into a local Boys 12’s Satellite Event and he won it- at age 7!      FUN FACT: Some juniors enter the game for fun and then later develop the competitive fire. Others enter into the sport with their competitive flames fully raging.  Some children have to spend many hours learning how to cope with their fear of competition, lack of competitive fire, fear of gamesmanship…
  • What other sports did Stevie play? Stevie played every sport with a ball.  He was innately competitive from a very young age.  He even needed to compete during his tennis lessons- just rallying back and forth was too boring for him. He wanted to know how he could win.  His practice needed to be structured so that he could compete – even if it was against himself.
  • When did the family decide to have Stevie focus exclusively on tennis? Stevie was such a natural at the game of tennis and because it was my business, it was easy to focus his efforts at playing tennis.  His mother and I never had to bother him to practice- he wanted to play tennis from the time he held his first (Mickey Mouse) racquet. Tennis was his sport.


What are your thoughts regarding the 10& under campaign?  

I teach strokes for a lifetime. I don’t teach 10 & Under Tennis.  Ideally, it would be great if every 10 year old had their strokes established so their tennis game could be developed.

 

10’s through 14’s: What is your primary focus? 

My primary lesson goals for the age groups 10-14 stresses techniques and doubles strategy.

  • Techniques:  In my lessons, I focus first on defensive skills because I believe the best ball to hit is based on where the player is on the court. So I teach players both fundamental and secondary shots based on court position.  I teach how to hit rollers, slices and transitional shots- such as and how to get out of the corners.  I also teach girls or boys the same.
  • Doubles:  Many tennis parents don’t support playing doubles- whether they believe doubles practice takes valuable lesson time away from singles or because doubles requires more time be spent at tournament sites, it is the players that are missing out.  Doubles teaches many essential tennis skills, especially for college. I suggest doubles be played before all single events to encourage more players to get involve- especially because the parents can’t back out if they have to play doubles before singles …


16’s through 18’s: What is your primary focus? 

I believe fitness is the most important game component as players reach their late teens. Especially because most college coaches begin making their recruit pick at ages 16 and 17. So it is essential physical training begin by at least age sixteen.  The game has changed and fitness is huge!  To quote a Division I Level Coach, “Most junior players cannot even make through the first day of College Tennis practice because they are unfit!”   

Stevie’s junior tennis success may have even been greater if he had been fitter sooner. His slightly skewed winning Gold Ball ratio of 1singles title to 10 doubles titles was likely due to his lack of adequate fitness. Stevie lost many matches just before the finals because he was out of energy. When Stevie was 16, I was told Stevie was very talented but not fit enough.  So we (Stevie and his team of coaches and trainers) began including fitness into his tennis training regime.  Stevie trained 1 hour off court to 3 hours of on court from the age of 16 ½ on.

Even though Stevie had started off court training from the age of 16 ½ – Division I College fitness was a whole different level-  Stevie lost 20 pounds the first semester in college.    By age 18, extreme physical fitness is mandatory. Stevie’s commitment to fitness in college afforded him huge success at USC.  He is still working even harder to get even fitter as a professional- loving it along the way. Now as a Pro, Stevie trains 1 hour off court, 2 hours on court hitting, lunch, 2 hours hitting and 2 hours training and stretching off court.  Of course during tournaments, Stevie’s off court training is adjusted (periodization).

 

What would you tell other parents about their child’s gamesmanship tolerance/ competitive nature?

As a coach, I have always been very honest with parents with respect to their child’s tennis aptitude.  Some players are just not competitive by nature and I tell their parents that the sport is going to be a little more difficult for them. Tennis is as mental and emotional as it is physical.I coach the players to play the game of tennis and that may require their tennis lessons to include a variety of teaching techniques – such as ball machine drills, playing points with other player etc. Some parents only want see  X number of ball baskets emptied during a lesson but that is not what tennis development is … So to those parents, it is their choice to choose a coach that just wants to feed balls- but that is not how to develop a full game- in my opinion.

 

What would you share with parents about playing their children up, as opposed to keeping them in their own age division? 

The method I used with Stevie is not a blueprint for all players, but I believe tennis teaches responsibility and leadership.  It is very important for players to compete against their own age group and to learn to be “The Big Dog” – which is a very different kind of pressure that builds character.  “Playing up before they have won consistently in their own division sends the message that losing is acceptable.” Stevie played in his own division until he reached #1 and then he stayed in that division for 6 months- building character along the way.

 

Do you have a win/loss percentage you recommend players follow before moving up to higher division? 

Ideally a player should have a win /loss record of 3: 1 or 4: 1 before moving up to the next level.  (I would recommend at least a 50/50 win/loss record.)  A natural progression would be to attain a winning percentage in satellites tournaments, then open tournaments, then designated tournaments and then on to Nationals…As I said previously, encouraging your child to only play up teaches them that losing is okay.  Note:  Different USTA divisions may have different names for their tournament levels.

 

Can you share with the reader’s insight and/or advice regarding the tennis parent’s role?  

Tennis is a full time parental job if you want your child to be good.  This means a player that wants to be good should be playing sets, clinics, privates, hitting serve after practice, lessons etc.  It is the parent’s role to support the child with these activities.  In other words: “Tennis must go on the calendar first and then life goes in later.”

 

What is your emotional communication strategy?

With regard to the emotional components of tennis, I was always very calm. I tried to make tennis fun so that Stevie would continue to love the game as I did.  Before a tournament, I would tell Stevie, “Whether you win or lose your match today, we are not done working on your game. Come Monday, I will take you to school and after school Mom will bring you to the club and we will continue training your game”… I wanted to take the pressure of winning off of Stevie and keep his focus on improving.

“Parents and coaches make tennis events such a big deal that they often sabotage any real chances of success.”