Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Club night (18) losing with style!

Club night attendance was down again last night, possibly because of the football. I played a mixture of singles and mens doubles for two hours which was enough for me as my foot starting hurting towards the end (sore toe, don't ask).

Although I was hitting the ball and moving well, I didn't win any of my singles matches. The problem was that despite hitting good shots and covering the court quite well, the ball kept coming back! Time to learn how to play tennis rather than just hit great shots.

It reminds me of the time Agassi dropped back into the Challengers in an attempt to recover his game after a slump in the mid 90's. I saw him on TV play Becker on one of his first regular tournaments when he was regaining some of his form, and trying to re-establish his ATP rankings. Agassi was playing great, with the terrific groundstrokes he has and pounding Becker. But Becker kept getting the ball back, and sometimes with more than he had received. Then Agassi would pick the wrong shot, still terrific stroke and technique mind you, but the poor shot selection was enough for Becker to finsh it off.

In other words, you can have great shots and technique but you need to learn the tactics of the game of tennis and how to exploit your opponents weakness. Just what Brad Gilbert says in Winning Ugly. I've been concentrating a lot lately on improving my groundstroke technique, and worrying about injury niggles, and I've let that side of my game go a bit. Except in doubles where I like to think am still very tactically astute.

Tags: , , ,

Monday, September 26, 2005

Club night (17) mixed doubles

Played mixed doubles last night at the club mix-in. My lady partner was nursing an injured leg so I was doing a lot of covering and running, which was great. My form carried over from Friday and I was seeing and hitting the ball quite well. We clawed it back from 3-5 down to win 7-5.

Iced my arm when I got home, and it's not too bad today. Still sore but nothing new as far as I can tell. I've been saying that for weeks though.

Croatia v Slovakia in the final of the Davis Cup. Amazing and with such good wins over Russia and Argentina. I once sat next to Dominik Hrbaty, I think it was at either London Olympia or Docklands when there used to be an ATP event in London other than Wimbledon. In fact he came and sat next to me as he watched his compatriot Jan Kroslak lose to either Tim Henman or Thomas Johansson, or was it Krajiceck. I really don't remember as it was a few years ago now.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Played again, inspired by Andy Murray

Played again yesterday, for the first time in a nearly a week after resting my arm. Five days rest is probably not long enough, but today it has not reacted too badly. Some slight tenderness over the medial epicondyle but no stiffness or undue soreness.

I went back yet again to using my old Prince Triple Threat Graphite racket, which I find quite comfortable and the extra weight compared to my regular racket is hopefully better for my arm while it heals. I hit with one of the club coaches and we played a few games. My form was quite good, and my arm did not hurt whilst we were hitting or playing except on two occasions, a high volley and a mishit serve.

I am due to play again on Sunday, but might give it some more rest. We'll see.

I did watch the Davis Cup doubles on TV, and for the first time out of the few occasions I have seen him, was quite impressed with Andy Murray. He was very solid and capable all round even in front of Roger Federer. In fact he seemed to show up some weaknesses in Federer's doubles game on occasions, passing or beating him regularly. I don't think Federer played that well, but well enough to win I suppose. To say that future tennis hopes of a nation rest on Murray is really quite unfair, and for the media to expect him to win in the opening singles was optimistic given the rankings of the players.

I have seen Murray in person, at the Superset tennis in London Wembley Arena last year. He played and lost to McEnroe 6-1, and that was quite an opener. In the very first game with Mac serving, Mac initially stayed back and it was clear that Murray's groundstrokes would overwhelm him. So McEnroe switched to his normal game, at the net, and that was the end. However McEnroe was quick to heap praise on Murray and has continued to do so. There's quite a few useful male teenager tennis players around, Murray, Monfils, Gasquet, Berdych, Nadal, Mathieu; who have I missed?

What did happen to Superset tennis? It certainly seemed to fill Wembley Arena with a non-traditional tennis crowd, mostly full of exuberant youth that the LTA seems to want to encourage to take up tennis. I was quite an 'oldie' amongst the crowd but thoroughly enjoyed the event as well.

Tags: , ,

Friday, September 23, 2005

Under siege in the Davis Cup

Well I suppose it was to be expected that without Tim Henman, and with Greg Rusedski being tactically rested, it was going to be a mountain to climb.

2-0 down on the opening day of the Davis Cup is the worst we could have expected and it's happened.

Let's hope that for Andrew Murray it's all good experience for his future, and I am sure Alam Mackin will have enjoyed the masterclass lesson from Roger Federer and it may help his own career.

Do we really have a chance with the doubles? As an enthusiast I'll be watching on TV.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Forearm and Wrist exerciser

I have got an exerciser like the one shown which is from Gripstik. The one I have is several years old, and is called 'The Advantage' but I cannot find the original model or manufacturer on the web.

I remembered I had it after searching for wrist and forearm exercises to help my recovery from golfers elbow and came across wrist roller devices. I was just about to go and make my own wrist roller, from a broomstick and weight when I remembered that I had the Gripstik type device stored away somewhere.

I have started using it and it sure makes the hands sore which I'm going to have to watch, but in no time at all it pumps the forearms up, so I hope that means a good blood flow with improved vascularization to my injured elbow tendons.

It should supplement my Powerball which has fallen into disuse lately.

Tags:, ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Resting and thinking of the Seniors.

I have only played a couple of times lately because I am trying to rest and recover from some of the current injuries, golfers elbow and chest strain, and just general soreness. In fact the rest is only from tennis as I use the time to do recovery stretching and strength building. I will blog about my own exercise routines sometime.

I do hope Jim Courier makes it to the end of year Masters tournament, following his win in Paris, since I have tickets for the semi-finals day at the Royal Albert Hall. I have been going to this Seniors event, now called the Delta Tour of Champions for several years, and saw Courier defeat McEnroe last year.

I have also seen other players including Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg, both against McEnroe (he won), also Boris Becker, Peter Korda, Pat Cash, Guy Forget, Henri Leconte, Yannick Noah, Mansour Bahrami, Ilie Nastase, Mikael Perfors, John Lloyd, Jeremy Bates, and others.

I have not yet had the pleasure of watching Sergei Bruguera or Thomas Muster. I used to be a fan of Muster, despite his grinding style of play. I remember watching on TV a hardcourt tournament in the US, where Sampras defeated Muster in the finals, and amazingly Sampras played mainly from the back of the court instead of his usual serve and volley. At the time it seemed as if Sampras was saying I'm the no.1 and can beat you at your own game.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Club night (16) quiet again

Despite the new injury, which I iced on and off for two days after it occurred I went along to the usual Tuesday evening club mix-in. I held back on serving and mostly used my (flat!) topspin second serve.It was a bit sore, and still is but it's healing.

What was surprising was the low turnout, only five of us. I wonder what was going on in the UK on the evening of Tuesday 13th September that kept so many folks away? Maybe it was the hangover from celebrating the previous days sporting success.

Also seems quiet without the US Open, it's like somethings missing.

Tags: ,

Monday, September 12, 2005

Resplendent Roger

Unfortunately I have not had the privilege of watching Roger Federer in person so this photo comes courtesy of the BBC and ATP. What an inspiration to all us club hackers and dinkers.

Special mention too of the achievements of Andre Agassi in reaching the final, and beating some good players on the way. What an inspiration to older players like me!

Tags: ,

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kim Clijsters US Open champion

Well it was nearly a prediction that Kim Clijsters would win the US Open, and she has. What a story!

I took the photo in Eastbourne where she was also the winner of the tournament this year.

Tags: , ,

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Another injury, oh boy!

Had an excellent hitting session with a coach today, working on movement, depth, short balls. I'm still trying to improve power on the backhand with a full eastern grip and and fix the forehand contact point. We played three games at the end where I won one, and took one to several deuces. I didn't get a single point on his service game though.

Unfortunately I pulled a muscle serving. It feels quite deep and just below the collar bone in the front center of the chest. Based on this anatomy chart I think it's either the Subclavius or the Supraspinatus or the Pectoralis Major muscle.

Clicking on the link for the Pectoralis Major leads to this drawing where I have circled the point of pain which is where the muscle attaches to the head of the Clavicular.

I applied an ice pack when I got home, can't compress the area but will skip my regular Sunday club session since it's quite painful (after saying that I never rest too!).

Waiting for the US Open ladies final and watching the live scoreboard of the Federer - Hewitt semi. I'm rooting for Kim and Roger.

ATP tour proposed doubles changes

The proposed doubles changes on the mens ATP Tour have caused quite a storm with some players suing the ATP, and that includes winners from the mens doubles and mixed doubles at the US Open.

Jon Wertheim discussed it in his mailbag here and here . I think he has it pretty much about right. At club level in the UK most of us play doubles most of the time and we certainly don't want to change the game scoring format. Let's hope the WTA do not come under similar pressure from the tournaments to propose similar changes.

However I can see the point of view from the tournament directors if they perceive that doubles is a drain on expenses and not the same revenue earner as singles. In business however, although we try to cut expenses, we also try to improve the sales or marketing of the end product first. So for those reasons I hope the ATP changes do not endure and some alternative comes to the rescue.

Update: Just found this site in support of the players.

Tags: ,,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two pro rackets compared

I had the chance to hit with two pro rackets, the Wilson nSix-One Tour as used by Roger Federer and the Prince O3 tour as used by Guillermo Coria. The two rackets are very different.

The Wilson is quite heavy at 12.4ozs/352gms, solid and chunky and I would never buy or use one as I don't have the strength, strokes or skill to handle it effectively. I can see why the pro's use it though so if you are an advanced player and have the strength, strokes and technique then you should try it. I think I understand now what they mean by a 'players racket'.

I have raved at a distance about the new Prince O3 rackets when I also wrote about the Head Flexpoint Radical. The O3 Tour weighs in at at 11.6oz/319gms so is quite light for a male pro's racket. Compared to the Wilson I preferred it, but am surpised that Coria uses it as I would not have considered it to be a 'players racket'. It is not as heavy, or as strong as the Wilson and has more power. Maybe Coria strings it really tight? I certainly liked the O3 Tour and when I have some cash to spare will consider taking one out for an extended trial.

Just for a laugh I got out my collectors wooden Dunlop Maxply Fort Tour racket (link is to a great great web site by the way!) and weighed it. Strung, it weighs 14.5ozs/412gms and the head seems tiny! See here for a discussion on using wooden rackets.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

British wheelchair tennis champions

Probably not a well know fact but in the UK we have a number 1 world ranked tennis player in Peter Norfolk who plays in the Wheelchair Tennis quads.

We also have Jayant Mistry in the top 20 singles rankings hoping to do well in the US Open following his success at Wimbledon this year.

I have seen the occasional wheelchair player at our local indoor tennis center. The rules are slightly different and the local players I have seen all have good shots, mainly slice. with excellent hand to eye co-ordination and of course outstanding upper body strength and athletic ability. The players I have seen usually play doubles alongside legged players and are quite capable of holding their own. Their wheelchairs are the very essence of technology and not the sort of thing to run around town in and do the shopping.


The winter season approaches

School has started after the long summer break, it's nearly dark at 8 p.m, court prices have gone up at the local public tennis center and David Lloyd, and the summer club schedule has given way to the closed season schedule. Gloomy thoughts of approaching winter. But at least the weather is bright and sunny, 23 degrees. Oh, maybe it's the global warming, gloom again.

Played at the club mix-in last night. Trying out my new full eastern backhand grip , not very successfully. Not sure whether to persevere with this or not. It gives me more power for a topspin backhand but so far less control. Also trying to improve my forehand with earlier take back and fuller swing. This was partially successful and I hit a couple of outstanding shots. Yes I know it should be more than a couple, but my forehand is usually pretty solid anyway, I just want to make it a weapon.

My long shot picks for the US Open have gone, Patty Schynder, Richard Gasquet. The others, who were more or less favourites anyway are still there. The surprise is James Blake. What a story that would be, to go with Kim Clijsters, if they were both to win. If Kim gets past Maria Sharapova in the next round then you really have to fancy her chances. James has to get past Andre, and of course Roger is still working his way to the final.

Just found the revolutionary tennis site.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Treating injuries

This is how I handle moderate injuries, like strains, sprains, muscle and ligament pulls and tendinitis, etc. At 50+ I seem to get a lot! I use the I.C.N.H method adapted from R.I.C.E since I almost never rest or stop unless the injury hurts sufficiently whilst playing to stop me from enjoying playing. I have stopped on occasions for a sore back, jumpers knee and wrist fracture, and more recently for golfers elbow. The N stands for NSAID or alternatively Novasonic and the H stands for Heat. So, Ice first, then compress, then apply an NSAID externally, then in the later stages of healing use Heat, but see the link below on cool packs for a further discussion.

The application of ice immediately after an injury occurs, and for the next 2-3 days is aimed at reducing inflammation, and this does reduce short term stiffness, swelling and pain. I have a stock of cool packs that I keep in the freezer, much to my wife's annoyance, and often make use of them after playing.

To keep playing with small injuries or niggles I swear by the Movelat and Voltarol gels. Other players at the club say that the various Ibuprofen gels, an example is Ibuleve are effective. The sports injury book I use from the U.S recommends BENGAY and I remember the smell of Tiger Balm, still available in the UK, from my youth. The drugs or active constituents in these are NSAID's. It is not clear if the external application of NSAID's actually aids healing, and most strain or sprain type of injuries will heal themselves if you rest. The ointments I mention do appear to ease the pain in my case, possibly by reducing the inflammation or maybe just by the massage effect of rubbing it in.

However there is a school of thought that suggests the reduction of inflammation inhibits healing and instead recommends the deliberate aggravation of inflammation using a technique called prolotherapy. This is possibly more suitable for long term injuries which are not responding and the inflammation has become the cause of some debilitation. I have never tried prolotherapy since AFAIK it is not available in the UK. For long term chronic injuries I have been to see physiotherapists for help.

Some physios, including in the UK, are now offering variations on forms of Extracorporeal Shockwave Treatment for tendon related injuries. For example Marat Safin's website talks about his treatment for Jumpers Knee. However the American Academy of Family Physicians has published some papers in 2003 and 2005 that discount the effectiveness of this form of treatment. I have no personal experience of the effectiveness of this but would be prepared to try it if other forms of treatment were unsuccessful.

Whilst on my recent four day non-stop tennis vacation at Windmill Hill, my arm already suffering from golfers elbow got quite sore. One of the other players introduced me to BIOFREEZE. This is marketed as a cooling analgesic gel and not as an NSAID although it does contain herbal anti-inflammatory extracts from a Holly plant. I have to say it seems to be quite effective as a pain killer. After application it does not work immediately but I noticed reduced pain in my arm 30-40 minutes later, certainly enough to continue playing. My view is that it can be used as an aid to healing, by reducing pain sufficiently to allow normal movement, rehabilitating stretches and moderate exercise. I strongly believe in strengthening the muscles in the area of the injury, especially if a joint is affected by using eccentric muscle exercises.

Although I own a Novasonic device and occasionally use it, I am not yet convinced of its therapeutic value. I got one because the physiotherapists I have visited used an ultrasonic device, so I assume there must be some benefit. I also noticed that the physios use some sort of electrical stimulation device, rather like but not the same as a TENS device, which is instead aimed at pain relief. There is a list of the types of electrical simulation therapy here but the actual article is off topic for tennnis.

I did once borrow an infrared lamp for the heat phase of treatment, but usually just use a hot water bottle. Update: I have just discovered Helios heat pads, useful both at home and away. As a contrast to BIOFREEZE cooling gel there is Fiery Jack cream which is a warming muscle rub. It's a bit too smelly for my liking but it is good to use if you play with a slight injury and put a neoprene wrap over it, for example an arm band or knee support; then it really fires up and soothes away the pain.

Most chronic injuries I have had in the past have been related to some form of tendinitis, for example: Jumpers knee, wrist RSI, tennis and golfers elbow, and head of the biceps. There is a useful and interesting article on the treatment of tendonitis by the American Academy of Family Physicians here.

The Physician and Sportsmedicine Online is another excellent resource for research and articles covering sports related injuries.

In an earlier blog entry I discuss typical tennis injuries that I've had and their treatment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 03, 2005

US Open thoughts

Unfortunately since I've been on vacation I have not had much chance to watch the US Open on TV. I did manage to see parts of a couple of matches at Windmill Hill, in the bar with a drink in hand amongst a group of rowdy fellow players. For example Rusedski against Blake and Murray against Pavel. Rusedski was unlucky to hit an in-form hot Blake, and Murray showed real toughness and spirit especially in the fifth. It's funny how none of the re-runs on Sky, BBC and Eurosport show the projectile vomiting incident!

Regretfully I don't have Sky Sports but do have Eurosport who are able to show some of the matches not on the main billing. Since I always said that my style of play is like a (much weaker version of) Fabrice Santoro, then I was pleased to see some of the highlights of the Federer v Santoro match. Wonderful entertainment.

My picks are still in there, Patty Schynder, Richard Gasquet, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clisters, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Anna Myskina. Oh, and Roger Federer.

The only Grand Slam I've been to is Wimbledon. Since I have been to NY State many times here then one year I must save some money and make the effort to attend the US Open. A dream for the future.

Whilst thinking of the US Open my thoughts and yours should go towards the people of the US states hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Tags: ,

Windmill Hill

Enjoyed an excellent 4 days at Windmill Hill tennis and golf academy. The weather was unbelievable for the UK, sunny 27 degrees Tuesday, 30 Wednesday, 23 Thursday and again on Friday. It caught me out a bit Tuesday afternoon, with no hat or sunscreen and I suffered slight de-hydration and fatigue. Drank lots of water and orange juice that evening and was still dryish the next day.

Interesting mix of about 22 players of all ages and both sexes. I was in the 'club players' group, where 6 of us concentrated on tactics and movement rather than re-learning the strokes, although Brett the coach was very good at pointing out things to improve. It included video analysis of forehand and backhand ground strokes and I have a couple of things to try that should lead to better shots.

I stayed in a standard room with shower in the mansion. Accomodation was quite basic, a bit like a 2-3 star hotel in the UK, and there was a letter from the management apologising for the 'tired look of our rooms'. I found the rooms to be OK, after all you're there for the tennis not the luxurious accomodation, although I would prefer better sound proofing as the person next door to me over indulged in the late night poolside bar and woke me one morning around 05:30 with the sounds of their vomiting. There is another option of a more spacious room than the one I had, and going the other way cottage rooms with shared bathroom facilities; OK for families or groups. The Windmill Hill grounds set in rolling East Sussex downland with a view to the sea more than makes up for the rooms, which are undergoing refurbishment anyway. Excellent buffet style food at breakfast, lunch and dinner, all included in the price.

Then there's the tennis, with around 4 hours coach led tuition or practise each day, and free use of the courts in your own time. We used the 4 astro-turf courts since the weather was good. There are 4 indoor courts that get used when it rains, 2 hardcourts, and several grass courts which were closed for the season. The coaches were excellent, friendly, knowledgable, and with great practise drills some of which I had not come across before. A mix of serious with fun. I played a couple of doubles matches outside of the coaching sessions, and was amazed by one players kick serve that forced me to return the ball from above my head.

So overall, good fun, good holiday, good value, although I think the weather makes a difference, as I am not so sure how pleasant it would be if it had been raining, damp and cold. Then you would be stuck in the cramped rooms when not playing tennis. Would I go again? Yes, and some people do go every year. The refurbishment programme should be finished next year too.

Tags: ,