Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

Friday, July 29, 2005

No tennis!

Well I suppose a blog about tennis from a club level player about has to reflect their playing, and that is why I have been quiet this week, and will be next week too. No blog, no play.

Work, work, work.....

Next week I am in South Africa on business. In Johannesburg. It's my second time in South Africa. In 1971 I was in Cape Town when apartheid was a fact of life. It will be interesting to go back to this great country.

It's strange that this week, when I have not been playing, the tendinitis in my hand and wrist has been really bad, and so has the pain from golfers elbow. What is going on? It can't be the tennis.

In my previous blog I reported that I had purchased the book The Inner Game of Tennis. Well this week I lost it by leaving it behind in a hotel I stayed at in Cornwall. I had read about 80%. I have not contacted the hotel so it will be interesting to see if they contact me or just add it to their lounge collection.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Club night (11), mixed with a difference

Interesting club night. Played the usual mixed doubles, average quality where the 'rules of mixed' apply and my partner and I were fortunate to win 7-5.

After that we played mens doubles versus ladies doubles, where my regular male partner and I took on two ladies. The two ladies wanted some practise for a competition they had entered. One of them is a local club coach for the juniors so they play at a reasonable standard, but probably lack match practise. Of course my partner and I also really lack match practise, although we seldom get beat amongst the circle of players we associate with.

The 'rules of mixed' were not applied, by us.

The game see-sawed back and forwards, with the ladies gaining an early 3-1 lead despite the fact that I didn't think they were playing very well. We clawed it back to 4-4 at which point I thought we had the upper hand and went ahead 5-4, then went down 5-6 and eventually lost the set 6-8. (We don't always play a tie-breaker in practice when there is time to continue.) There was a mixture of good rallies, and some unforced errors, from both sides, and that's what got us in the last deciding game.

So how do I feel about being beaten by a ladies double team? Well not good. But should it matter? Probably not although it's not something to shout about, and also something not to get upset about. We plan a re-match in two weeks, and somehow I think the outcome will be the same.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Inner Game

I have just bought The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey. I bought it in a bookshop almost on a whim as it is rather expensive at £6.99 for only 128 pages.

Although I have not yet read it through a couple of sections that I did read in the bookshop rang a bell with me which is why I bought it. Two examples:
  1. One time I had an important evening match and would like to have had a good night's sleep the night before with a restful day to prepare. However it was not to be and I was up early, around 5 a.m with just over 4 hours sleep and then a frantic day at work. I arrived for my match feeling quite tired and expected my timing to be off and focus gone. In fact what happened was that I played 'in the zone' where it seemed at the time I just let the unconscious part of my mind and game take over and play. I played brillliantly.

  2. Another time I played really well, in the zone, I remember being in some sort of strange focus where all I was really conscious of was a ring or halo around the ball and tennis action. There were no other conscious thoughts of, "must step in, racket back, high to low, move feet," etc,

The book seems to explore these psyche's calling them Self 1 and Self 2 whereby it is normally the dominant and conscious Self 1 that interferes with the unconscious spiritual Self 2 and messes up our game. If only we could recreate the 'in the zone' state at will or get someway towards it.

More on this in the future after I have read the book and tried to put into practise whatever its recommendations are.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Tennis injuries, past and present, and their cure

I really don't think this applies to me! :-)

The book I use as a reference for most of the injuries I get is this one by Allan Levy but I see that he also has one specific to tennis. As well as the book I use the previously mentioned Primal Pictures at Anatomy TV, and have bought my own set of CD's.

So as mentioned in my last blog here is a list of all present and past injuries, from head down, the cause where known and the treatment I undertook. In a later blog I describe my approach to treating injuries.
  • Torn contact lens
I wear glasses for short sight when not playing tennis after wearing contact lenses full time for many years. Since I switched to glasses I started using disposable daily contact lenses for tennis, since in the UK, in winter, I have not found how to prevent glasses misting up when playing. Disposable contacts are thinner and more fragile than regular contacts, and shortly after I started using the disposables I had a lot of difficulty in getting them out.One time I ripped one in half leaving half in the eye which promptly disappeared under the eyelid. Hospital eye nurse got it out.
  • Cricked neck
Past injury. Think I did this serving and it lasted several months. Performed neck stretches, rotations and shouder rolls until it cleared.
  • Sore inflamed shoulder
Past injury, well maybe. Shoulder problems started when I started to use the same Prince Warrior racket as Pat Rafter. Great racket but I ended up with a sore shoulder caused by serving with a strain of the deltoid muscle and subscapularis and eventually tendonitis of the biceps tendon. This lasted a couple of years, even after I stopped using the Warrior racket.I started doing shoulder strengthening exercises, experimented with changing my service action and it eventually cleared. In fact, interestingly, it cleared soon after I had a coaching session with Brad Langevad, and the main thing he did was to correct my grip when serving.

Update: having suffered from a chronic sore shoulder caused by serving, I eventually sought some help. The physio told me that since there are several muscles involved with shoulder movement: lifting, rotating, abduction, etc, it is usually best to get the specific muscle or tendon injury diagnosed before starting a course of rehabilation. In my case I had a sore supraspinatus and there is a specific exercise for that: stand with arms down at side, rotate arm so that the thumb points into the side, now lift the arm - not straight in front or out to the side but at 45 degrees using a weight or band to provide resistance. That used to hurt! Other useful exercises for me are the so called pendulum as a warm up and internal and external rotations. I now do all of these as part of a general exercise routine.
  • Tennis elbow
Past injury. It was a couple of years after I first started playing that I got tennis elbow. I had it for 2 or 3 years and tried lots of things to get rid of it. It was tolerable after doing regular strengthening and stretching exercises, and playing with a grip slighly larger than I would normally choose, but always present. I changed rackets twice. Eventually I found more by chance than anything that playing with a head light racket was the answer, and ever since I have always used a head light racket and no longer suffer from tennis elbow. I still keep up with the exercises though.

The usual suspect for tennis elbow, if the above things don't apply, is poor technique on the backhand. Usually hitting the ball with a bent wrist. See your local pro for advice.

Interesting articles on tennis elbow treatment that I have found amonsgt the many out there on the Internet: Introductory, introductory with exercise recommendations, a report on the use of NSAID's, steroid injections and physical therapy, and an in depth report that includes all of them including Acupuncture, Extracorporeal Shockwave Treatment, Magnetic, Orthotic, Physical and other forms of treatment.

Try using an EpiSport CLASP. I found it definitely helps and is much better than many of the softer braces.
  • Golfers elbow
Past and new injury. I have spoken about this before and described it in more detail here. I think I'm on the mend again, using an older head light racket that weighs 11 ounces which is heavier than my usual racket. It's the extra weight that helps with this injury, or the use of a not too stiff graphite racket.

The usual suspect for golfer's elbow, if the above things don't apply, is poor technique on the forehand, especially a topspin forehand with western or semi-western grip. See your local pro for advice.

The reports I link to under the section on tennis elbow apply here too.

Try using an EpiSport CLASP. I found it definitely helps and is much better than many of the softer braces.
  • Wrist fracture
Past injury. I fractured the trapezium in the wrist from a clash of rackets playing doubles. It was a hairline fracture that was not initially detected by x-ray. My wrist was not put in a plaster cast but a plastic splint for four weeks. I could not hold a racket for 6 weeks, and had pain serving after 8-10 weeks, before it eventually settled down. I did intensive hand and wrist physio, strengthening and stretching, and the last thing to hurt before it finally cleared was the wrist snap associated with serving.
  • Wrist tendonitis
Current injury. This comes and goes almost at will. Since I use a computer a lot I've switched to using the mouse with my other hand, that helps. Also I do not use a mouse-pad or trackpoint that comes with most laptops or IBM Thinkpad's, and instead I use a proper mouse. At the moment I strap my wrist every time I play using cohesive strapping.
Current injury, probably associated with the wrist tendonitis. I have a ganglion on one of the flexor tendons in the forearm. It sometimes impacts the Palmar Carpal Ligament and affects the whole hand. I'm waiting to see if it subsides before seeking medical treatment.
  • Hand blisters
Past injuries. I'm sure everyone gets blisters when they play or practise a lot. My own prevention is to ensure I have a good padded grip that's not too worn, file down excessive hard skin calluses, and use surgical spirit to toughen the skin. I always remove the grip from a new racket and file down the edges of the octagonal frame-grip. Why do they make rackets like that? I don't remove the octagonal shape but do remove the corners.
  • Hand soreness
Past injury. Strange pain in the the back of the hand where the little finger bone runs. Never satisfactorily diagnosed, but I think it was caused by the racket slippping or twisting when serving, especially when trying to get a kick topspin serve.
  • Finger ganglion
Past injury. Had two ganglions in the past on the forefinger knuckle joint, both caused by violent racket twist on forehand volley of a hard shot. At the time I found partial loose taping of the forefinger to the next finger would add some support. These ganglions were around for several months before subsiding.
Past injury, but recurs. For 45 years I never had any back trouble, until the day I hurt it serving. I always had a very twisting arched back serving motion, and eventually I damaged something. At the time I had the classic symptoms, sciatica, couldn't bend, muscle spasm, difficulty turning over in bed, difficulty getting in and of the car, and so on. When it's acute you have to rest, in fact you can't do anything else because of the pain and stiffness. I personally have not tried an osteopath or chiropracter but have tried physio. I also tried Pilates but did not find that useful, although I hear lots of success stories. I started stretching exercises, also stomach and back strengthening, and now it's mostly under control. Oh yes I bought a recliner chair for home instead of slouching in a sofa or couch, and regularly hang by the hands from a chin bar, just hang for 30 seconds or so, no chins-ups.
  • Jumpers knee
Past injury. Patella tendonitis, This came on insiduously. At first I just noticed pain going downstairs the morning or day after playing. Eventually it got so bad I couldn't play. I don't really know what caused it. Maybe because my right leg is the main push off leg. I rested it for 6 weeks and had physio but it came back. I started knee strengthening exercises to balance the muscles around the kneecap, stopped jogging and cycled instead for aerobic exercise, and swam regularly. Eventually it cleared, and I think it was the cycling that helped. Now I'm back to jogging but keep up the knee strengthening exercise.

Interesting report on Jumpers knee here and a further discussion on treatment here.
  • Sore achilles

Past injury, but recent recurrence. This was probably my first injury after I took up tennis well into middle age. When I started I dug out an old pair of plimsoles (plimsolls) from the early 70's that I had managed to hang on to all these years. Sure enough my feet started hurting but most especially the right achilles tendon. I soon realised I needed proper tennis shoes for the hard courts I was playing on and everything got better. A few months later, and some new tennis shoes and the achilles soreness was back. I had it for quite a while until by chance I added some soft heel supports to the shoes, because of a heel problem, and the achilles problem was cured. These days I always add one or two heel cushions in addition to a full length Sorbothane sole to any new trainer, details in previous blog, as well as slitting the back support with a sharp knife as shown in the photo.

  • Sore heel
Past injury. Felt like a bruised heel at the bottom of the heel bone. Added extra heel cushioning to my tennis shoes.

Luckily I have never had plantar fascia for which treatment is described here and stretching exercises here. Update: I suffered symptoms of plantar fascitis this year that wasn't bought on by tennis but was quite unpleasant with a sore arch on one foot. I iced it regularly, stretched, and started using Sole ultra footbeds, which provide arch support, in my normal day shoes. The tricky bit is finding a level of support that helps without irritating an already sore arch, and I did notice, but didn't try, the Scholl gel arch support comes with a range of three differerent grades of support that you can choose to suit your need. My condition cleared after about 2-3 weeks.
  • Ankle sprain
Past, but lingering injury. I turned my ankle over on the outside stepping on something. At the time it didn't hurt much, but there was a lot of fluid swelling, and still is several months later. It gets stiff sometimes, but mostly I ignore it. That's the main reason I bought the wobble board in my previous blog. I expect it will have cleared completely in another six months. Oh to be young again when these things cleared up in days or weeks. An alternative to the wobble board is standing on one leg for several minutes at a time. Try starting with just 5 minutes and you'll be surprised how tough that might be for the lower leg/ankle muscles.
  • Big toe
Past injury. I'm sure many of us have done this or something similar: I walked into a doorframe in bare feet! Hurt like hell at the time but then I discovered I couldn't play tennis either. Tennis is very harsh on the feet with the constant changes of direction and stops and starts; and the toes, especially the big toe take a lot of the stress. Lucky I didn't break the toe.

Sore (Hallux Rigidus):
Possibly a sign of old age in my case, the main big toe joint started playing up when I walked a lot in my normal day shoes. Nothing to do with tennis. Eventually the pain got so bad I googled it and found it's a well known condition 'Hallux Rigidus'. The fix is to get a new pair of shoes with a stiffer sole, and it worked. Easy. I now ensure there's plenty of firm support under the front part of the foot in all my shoes, including tennis shoes.
  • Groin injury
Present injury, and new for this year. I hurt something in my groin area for the first time this year, and it's been off and on since then. I don't really know for sure what it is, my guess is the Adductor longus or Iliopsoas. When it flares up it hurts to bend or lift the leg to go up the stairs. I think it was caused by the rotation from an open stance forehand and not bringing the right leg round as part of the follow through. At the moment it's OK and I just try to take care off it by taking small steps when playing with no lunges or stretches. If it continues to flare up I will have to investigate some stretching and strengthening exercises in that area.
  • Collar bone
I sufferered a muscle pull in the front of the chest where the muscles attach to the collar bone as described in this blog entry.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wobble board, knees ankle and feet

I've had one of these for a few weeks now. Ever since I turned over on my ankle after treading on a stone using the practise wall. I do use it occasionally, standing (wobbling) on it for 10-15 minutes in the evening whilst watching the news on TV.

It is meant to aid the Proprioception of the ankle and knee. Certainly you can feel the strain around the lower leg after 10-15 minutes if you deliberately wobble and recover.

I mention it now because I've thrown my old trainers out and switched to a new pair. As well as all the other injuries I've mentioned to date, I now have sore achilles! I usually get this with new trainers anyway, and add two or three carnation skippies heel pads, as well as full strike sorbothane insoles.

On my next blog I will list all my present and past injuries and their treatment (will be a big blog :-)).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Club night (10)

Enjoyed club night mix in yesterday. One of the club coaches warmed us up first with a singles 'king of the court' across several courts. The coach joined in, and I was pleased to win a couple of points against him.

Later my regular doubles partner and I teamed up to play two sets of mens doubles which we won, but not easily. I was playing solidly, not outstanding but with few errors.

Today I can feel a new injury. The front of my shoulder is a bit sore. I've had this before, and suspect the old racket that I'm using to help recover from the golfers elbow as explained in previous blogs. Well, it is helping the arm but I am suspicious that it aggravates the shoulder when serving, because I've had the shoulder problem before when it became quite acute with some form of tenidinitis along the biceps tendon and lasted for many months. At the moment I think it's only a muscle strain and nothing associated with the joint, but it gives me a dilemma on whether to continue with my old racket which I'm really enjoying using, or revert to my usual racket and hope the golfer elbow does not recur.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Club night (9)

Still fairly quiet at club night. Says something about British tennis I suppose, since people must prefer the beach, barbecue or whatever's on TV to playing tennis. Still a couple of us keen regulars turned out with a few others. I was playing pretty well again, following on from earlier this week. Wish I knew what the secret was so I could turn it on at will.

Still one Brit is doing really well, or as he might let you know himself he's a Scot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Club night (8)

Low turn out again yesterday at the club mix-in despite, or pehaps as a result of, the glorious hot and sunny weather. Unfortunately I was hobbling around having pulled an adductor in the groin yet again on Sunday night. Anyway we had a pretty good quality mens doubles, and although my partner and I lost I took comfort in the thought that it was only because I was impaired through injury. Hah!

The other injury, golfers elbow is holding up quite well. It hasn't gone completely but is no longer extra sore after playing and recovers to near normal by the following day. I'm still playing with my older heavier racket and took the opportunity to weigh it: dead on 11oz or 313 grams on my scales, so probably quite light compared to rackets the pro's use . My normal racket is 10.25oz or 293 grams and that's with lead weighting added by me. I also checked the balance and although both my rackets are head light the older, heavier one, is more head light than my regular racket whose belance is close to even. I'm gonna stick with my older racket for now until I'm sure my arm is healed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Odd numbers

Only three turned up last night at club night. We usually play two against one for three games, then rotate round so that everyone gets a go at being the single. Of course the lone person plays in the singles court with the doubles court their target against the other two, and everyone gets to serve once. It's not to everyone's taste as neither situation is ideal: the singles player is not constrained to a singles court target and the doubles players are constrained to a singles court target. I find it OK to practise serve and volley when one of the doubles. We sometimes have variations on this, such as for example the non-serving doubles player is not allowed to intercept at the net on the return unless of course the ball comes to them.

An alternative is to play singles, best of three, or three games, and rotate. I personally don't like that so much , especially in winter, when it can get cold.

We also have a pattern for when five turn up, either a singles game and a threesome as described, or more usually a doubles with one sitting out for one game and a continual rotation of players. This works fine for 30 mins or so when we need to break the pattern of usual couples, servers, returners, that has developed. We have not found the easy answer to that except for someone sitting out twice or reversing the direction. Again we have variations for this pattern, for example, a sudden death point on the second deuce in a game, so that the player sitting out in not left waiting interminably on long deuce games.

I have noticed that coaches have developed different strategies for dealing with groups of odd numbers, examples are king of the court, or the game 'winner', or they join in to even the numbers. It would be interesting to know how other clubs deal with odd numbers of people turning up. Maybe people just sit out?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Taking a backseat

With events in London, work and family distractions, I have not had much time for tennis or blogging. In fact a blog about tennis really seems quite meaningless and irrelevant at the moment. As an avid reader of a lot of geek or nerd blogs I notice a predominance of the British attitude is to go a pub and have a drink and get on with life. Personally I don't enjoy drinking, except the proverbial cup of tea. Oh I used to drink, a lot, in my youth but that's a long way behind me. I also used to feel quite embarassed about my non-drinking until I discovered I was in the excellent company of the late Richard Feynmann. My equivalent, I suppose, is to hit a few balls or go for a run. But hitting balls is great, other tennis players will know what I mean. So I've been doing just that, against a practise wall. I usually lose.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Club night (7) and rackets

Mix in club night last night where I played both singles and doubles. It was going quite well until I broke the strings on my racket. Since we were in the middle of a game I borrowed a Volkl Catapult 8 V-Engine racket. I found the weight and balance to be OK, but the power level was a bit too lively for my liking. Of course this could have been the strings.

After finishing the singles I used the spare racket I keep in the car. This is not the same as my regular racket which I keep a spare at home, but an older racket I used to use: the Prince graphite classic mid-plus. The Prince classic is heavier than my regular racket and generates lower power. At first I was struggling a bit with the extra weight, but since this used to be my regular racket I adapted pretty quickly. In fact I was quite pleased with it and played pretty well from then on.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Wimbledon round up.

I have already commented on the success of the womens singles with both Venus and Lindsay being winners. I also managed to correctly predict the mens winner, boy that was a tough call . Worth mentioning is the mens doubles winners Huss and Moody, also a fantastic achievement. The ladies doubles winners fared better than their experience in Eastbourne.

The surpise for me however was the smooth charm and ease on camera, as well as well as the intelligent and articulate commentating of Jimmy Connors for the BBC. John McEnroe watch out, just like old times.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wimbledon predictions

So my predictions for the ladies singles at Wimbledon was off, since we have an all American final. That's really well done to Venus for coming back so well after a couple of years injured, and Lindsay for the drive and motivation after the low point of last year.