Khon Kaen Futures #1

Khon Kaen courts.

Khon Kaen courts.

March 29, 2011

The first tournament of the three-week circuit in Khon Kaen, Thailand has started and finished for me. After a first round win in the singles qualifying over fellow American Amrit Narasimhan, I was ousted in the final round by Frenchman Thibault Venturino. The following day my partner Matt Simpson and I competed in the main draw of the doubles event, and lost in the first round to the #3 seed, Rupesh Roy of India and his partner Chris Rungkat of Indonesia in a match-tiebreaker for the third set.

I felt good about the singles competition, meeting my performance goals (being strong mentally and serving a high first-serve percentage) and improving with every match I play. In the first round against Narasimhan, I was broken in the first game of the match, broke back a few games later, and exchanged holds until late in the set. I squeaked out a tough hold to go up 6-5 in the first, and then managed to break my big serving opponent in the next game, taking the first set 7-5. The next set held a similar theme, as I was broken once again in the first game of the set, immediately broke back in the next game, and exchanged holds until late in the set. I buckled down in the eighth game of the set to get another break of serve, and held my serve to close out the second set 6-3 and take the match.

My biggest priority going into the match was my mental toughness, playing each point focused and tough and not letting previous points affect me, and it turned out to be the key in the match. If I got down early in one of my service games, instead of getting frustrated and throwing away an additional loose point to put me in a deep hole in the game, I slowed down between points, focused in, and played a tough point. In my return games, I was getting aced frequently by my big serving opponent and was not getting many looks at returns. Instead of getting frustrated, I stayed patient, waited for my opportunities, and took advantage of them at crucial moments in the match. This was a big win for me, not only putting my first singles win of 2011 on the board, but in the manner I got the victory, with good patience, focus, and mental toughness.

In the next round, I faced a tough opponent in Frenchman, Venturino. I struggled early in the first set, getting impatient in rallies and making far too many unforced errors, and dropped the first set 6-2. Like the previous day, I didn’t let the shaky start bother me, and I came out tougher in the second set, making more balls and being more aggressive and assertive in my service games. We held all the way through the second set until I was broken at 4-5 to drop the match, 6-2 6-4.

My doubles partner, Matt.

My doubles partner, Matt.

In the doubles, my first serve percentage was dreadfully low in the first set, which cost us two breaks of serve and the set, 2-6. In the second set, my partner and I both returned more effectively, breaking Roy’s serve twice, and I righted the ship in my service games as we took the second set 6-3. As is the rule with all doubles matches now on the pro tour, we played a deciding 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Matt and I made a couple crucial errors early in the breaker, which we never could recover from, and dropped the tiebreak 10-4. The match was equally a confidence builder and a disappointment, as we by no means played our best tennis, but still had our chances to win the match against a very good and experienced team. With the no-ad scoring and the match tiebreaker for the third set, anything can happen in doubles at the pro level, and matches can turn very suddenly. You have to be ready to take advantage of opportunities, as they come and go quickly, and play high-percentage tennis on the crucial points to put pressure on your opponents to come up with the goods. Unfortunately Roy and Rungkat did this a little bit better than us, and that was ultimately the difference in the match.

Following the busy Monday where I played my doubles match and practiced for an additional three hours, I took a day off today from tennis. I had been feeling rushed ever since I had started traveling almost a week ago, constantly being on a schedule and a slave to time as I constantly have to be aware of what time I’m going to sleep, waking up, eating, practicing, and playing my matches.My  body and mind become the main priority; fine tuning it so that I’m feeling my best when I need to compete. When I’m not competing, I must find a balance of making physical gains (on and off court training, stretching, doing what I need to do to be fit and fresh) and also staying fresh and rested mentally in order to be sharp in matches. When I eat, when I sleep, when I practice – everything has to be calculated and well-timed.

So the day off today was nice, relaxing, and much needed. I still stayed active with a tough gym workout this afternoon, but the rest of the day has been very low-key, sleeping in, spending time in Starbucks on the internet, and giving me the chance to plug away at the book I’m currently reading. Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll look to practice twice a day, once early in the morning before players start warming up for their matches and once following the conclusion of the day’s matches, all while hitting the gym in the middle of the day. I’ll then taper Friday, practicing once, and prepare for the next tournament, which starts Saturday. The positive aspect of the early exit from the tournament this week is that it enables me to put in extra practice time on the court and go hard in the gym.

Stay tuned for updates from Thailand as I train and prepare for next week. Thanks for reading!

-AG

After two days of traveling…I’ve arrived!

Andy in Khon Kaen, Thailand

Andy in Khon Kaen, Thailand

March 26, 2011

Khon Kaen, Thailand

After over 36 hours of traveling I have finally reached my final destination of Khon Kaen, in the northeast of Thailand. My day and a half of travel was exhausting, taking 5 flights and waiting over 12 hours in an airport, 10 of which were spent in Bangkok waiting for my last flight. I arrived late Thursday night, met with my roommate/doubles partner for the three weeks (New Zealander Matt Simpson) and crashed the instant I laid down in bed.

I practiced twice yesterday (Friday) in order to adjust to the humidity of the Thai summer. The dense, wet air makes you sweat a ton and makes breathing sometimes a bit of a struggle, but each day I spend here I am getting more and more accustomed to the change in weather. I’m pounding tons of water and electrolyte-replacement drinks because the most important thing in a climate like this is to stay hydrated. As soon as you get dehydrated on the court your energy is zapped, your muscles stop working, and you can even get heat exhaustion and collapse. So it’s lots and lots of water for me!

Feels nice to be back in Thailand and around this beautiful, easy-going culture. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles because of how happy, welcoming, and relaxed the people are. It is the only country in Asia to never be under foreign reign, and because of that you can feel the history and originality of the culture and the national pride of the people. It is important to “save face” in public for the Thais, and it is looked down upon to raise your voice, make a scene, and create a confrontation in front of people. They are care-free and relaxed. They drive like no one is around and walk like they have nowhere to go. And of course the food is absolutely incredible…personally my favorite cuisine in the entire world.

When I’m not on the court, eating, or sleeping, I’ve been spending my time walking the streets, reading my books, and watching BBC and soccer with Thai announcers on TV. This morning I woke up and hit the gym early to get in a light workout, did a number on the hotel’s buffet breakfast to fuel up for the day, all in preparation for my first round qualifying match this afternoon. I haven’t seen the draw yet, so my focus for the match is to keep a high first-serve percentage and play each point tough, regardless of what happened in the previous point. I don’t want the past or the future to affect the point I’m playing in the present.

Stay tuned for updates from the first of three Futures in Khon Kaen, Thailand…thanks for reading!!

-AG

Got Grap?

As far as I’m concerned, Yonex Super Grap lives up to its name.

No, not the grap part. I’m not even sure what grap is? I’m talking about the super part. Super Grap is simply a super grip. Not only does it absorb sweat well, it offers some nice tack and is pretty durable for an overgrip.

Plenty of grips have come along to imitate Super Grap, such as Wilson Pro Overgrip, but Super Grap will always be the original, and in my opinion is still the best.

It offers just the right amount of thickness for an overgrip. There’s enough material for some cushioning and comfort, yet not so much that I lose bevel feel. Super Grap over a leather grip is about as good as it gets for racquet feel for me. As tennis players, we feel everything through our hands first, and that feel of a Super Grap over a leather grip immediately improves the feel I get from any racquet.

There’s pretty much only one scenario that has me straying from Super Grap as my first choice. When I’m playing in really hot, humid weather, nothing beats the absorption of a Tournagrip. I used to be a Tournagrip guy through and through, but once I discovered Super Grap, I was converted for all but the hottest and stickiest days.

Super Grap doesn’t just impress on the performance front, it also offers visual appeal with the large variety of colors available. Depending on my mood, I can throw on a bright, contrasting grip, or go darker or more tonal. As I write this we have 9 different color options of Super Grap available. With so many color choices, I’m going to have to buy some more racquets just to keep up!

Cheers,

Chris.

Game on!

They say having a child changes your life. And my daughter has. She’s beautiful, and she’s everything my husband and I dreamed she could be and more. She was born in December, and I’m just now returning to work.

Future TW playtester

Returning to work for me also means returning to the tennis court. My doctor cleared me for exercise six weeks after she was born, so I could have played before I came back to work, but I didn’t. It’s not that I hadn’t wanted to get back out there earlier. Rather as a new mom, I just was not yet ready to leave her in someone else’s care while I went to play. Instead, I took my baby girl on daily walks, and my route inevitably would swing by the tennis courts. Trying to entertain my little one, I would tell her about tennis and how mommy liked to play for fun and to stay fit.

Now it’s time for this new mommy to make good on that and begin playing again — and regain some level of physical fitness. My fitness has taken a big hit. I played until the start of my third trimester, but honestly those last few weeks of playing were not intense. I exercised to the end, with my doctor’s permission, lightly using the elliptical machine and walking. Since the baby’s birth, I’ve been walking and going on small hikes. My body has changed, and so has my mindset as a new mom. No longer do I want to get in extra exercise after work. My No. 1 priority is to get home to spend the evening with my family. That, however, is no excuse.

So, today I put on my new shoes, the adidas adiPure Pro, and went down to the TW tennis court to play. I’m on the playtest squad for the Yonex V Core 100 S, so I took that down as well. I borrowed a racquet from Brittany, a fellow playtester and much better tennis player, and she had it strung up with Adrenaline. I prefer multis to begin with, so returning after about six months off, the poly setup was a little brutal since I was shanking more than I’d like to admit. Initial impressions are that I’ll like this stick as a Yonex fan, but I am going to have to try a different, softer string setup.

My timing was slightly off; I was catching balls late off both sides, but I noticed an improvement toward the end of the hitting session with some good rallies. Though what’s painfully obvious — and I do mean painful as I’m fully expecting to be aching tomorrow — is that my footwork and stamina have fallen off dramatically.

Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters are moms who can really kick butt on the tennis court. I don’t have their games, but I am inspired by them. What I don’t have in tennis skill, I have in determination.

Happy Hitting!
Tiffani, TW

Quick turnaround…heading back to Thailand!

March 21, 2011

Redondo Beach, CA

The theme for this past week for me has been traveling, as I worked my way from Rimouski back home to Redondo Beach, while also preparing to leave tomorrow for another trip to Thailand. It took two days on a train to get back to Toronto from Rimouski, where I managed to lose my debit card for the bank account that contains all my travel funds. I then flew back to LA from Toronto, where I ended up leaving my wallet in my friend’s car as it slipped out as I arrived at the airport in Toronto. I got back home Thursday night, where I washed and switched all my dirty, cold weather clothes for my tank tops and shorts as I prepare to leave Tuesday afternoon for another trip back to Thailand (my third trip there in the past 15 months). The past week has been hectic, but it’s nice to be back in LA for a little bit, and I’m very excited for another journey to southeast Asia.

I felt I played my best match of the trip in the singles qualifying in Rimouski, but unfortunately came up short against Igor Bujdo, a tall, lanky left-hander hailing from Poland. The first set was a serving fest, as we both held serve relatively easily all the way to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreak, one loose point on my serve to give him a mini-break was the difference, as he used his huge lefty serve to close out the first set 7-6(5).

I came out focused in the second set, but once again it was just a couple loose points on my serve in the first game of the set that allowed him to get an early break and gain an upper hand. I started to get more looks in his service games in the second set as his first-serve percentage dropped, but failed to convert any of my opportunities. The early break relaxed Bujdo, and he started playing more aggressively, putting the clamps down on the match, and taking the second set 6-1. I was pleased with the way I played the first set, staying mentally tough and executing well in my service games, but once again was displeased at my lack of focus in the second set.

Though the Canada trip was in a sense a bit of a disappointment because of the results, it was a huge positive because I was able to learn a lot and grow from the experience. It exposed me to some extremely quick indoor courts that I had not played on before, and improved my ability to travel somewhere, judge the playing conditions, and quickly adapt my game in order to succeed. This skill is very important on the tour as the conditions are constantly changing every week as you move from place to place, and the players that adapt the best and the quickest are the ones that are doing the best. In addition, the losses exposed areas in my game that I need to improve, which I can now focus on and improve before my next match.

My mental toughness, which I feel is normally a strength of mine, was a liability in Canada, and this will be my primary focus for the coming weeks. Improving my mental toughness will come from prioritizing the time between points in matches, and my ability to let go of what happened in the previous point/game/set, refocus and determine how I want to play the next point, relax and step up to serve or return with a clear and calm mind. The points in the past and the results in the future cannot affect the point that is about to be played. I want to play every point tough, clear-headed and focused. This is more important for me than anything about strokes or strategy that I can focus on.

These past few days in LA I’ve been trying to hit as much as possible in between the spring storm we have had in the area over the weekend. While it’s raining I’ve been hitting the gym, staying strong and preparing my body for the heat and humidity in Thailand. Stay tuned as I prepare for my next circuit…Thanks for reading!

-AG

Head WingTennis

Tennis on the Wings of a Biplane

It all began when a HEAD Tennis Facebook fan posted an old photograph on www.facebook.com/headtennis and asked: “Has anybody ever tried this?” In the black-and-white picture two dare-devil men can be seen playing tennis on the wings of a biplane. HEAD took up the dialogue with its Facebook community and promised to try the experiment with one of its tennis pros. Novak Djokovic agreed to do it: “I asked myself: ‘Is this really possible? Playing tennis on the wings of an airplane?’ And I decided to accept the challenge,” Novak said about his extraordinary stunt.

Here are the first four video clips:

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Leading into the fifth and final video, HEAD racquet rebel Novak Djokovic and HEAD Tennis have produced a spectacular short film featuring the new YouTek™ IG Speed racquet played by the Australian Open and Davis Cup champion. Novak and his new chosen weapon go airborne to play tennis on the wings of a legendary Antonov II biplane to bring to life the concept of “Ultimate SPEED” in dramatic scenes.

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Check out Novak Djokovic’s comments after his epic flight.

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There is truly no shortage of powerful players and talents supporting HEAD in this endeavour: In addition to Novak Djokovic, Robin Söderling and Andy Murray are two other players in the ATP Top Ten under contract with HEAD. And only recently, sports and fashion icon Maria Sharapova joined the team of stars equipped with tennis racquets, bags and accessories by HEAD coming out later this year.

Novak Djokovic

Here is a list of the different versions of the new YouTek Speed IG Series:

- YouTek IG Speed MP 16/19: The Speed MP 16/19 is the perfect combination of power and feel in a slightly longer version to accommodate a wide range of players.

- YouTek IG Speed MP 18/20: The Speed MP is Novak Djokovic’s racquet of choice. It comes with an 18×20 string pattern and appeals to a wide range of players with its perfect combination of power and feel.

- YouTek IG Speed 300: The Speed MP 300 is the lighter, yet more powerful MP version which makes your shots faster with less effort. With its weight of 300g, this racquet offers ultimate power and control.

- YouTek IG Speed Elite: A Tour Light version providing complete tour performance with greater manoeuvrability. The slightly wider beam gives it even more power.

- YouTek IG Speed Lite: This is the lightest racquet in the Speed series. A great tweener providing the perfect combination of power, maneuverability, control and feel. An excellent tour racquet for players with a moderate swing style.

Ad Out,

Brittany

Team Unity

As I woke up Sunday morning and went to hike Bishop’s Peak, I was thinking about how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and do something I truly love. The season is already half over and could not be going any quicker. It was just six months ago when I met our five incoming freshmen, and I have seen them transform into much more confident tennis players and people.

They came in as timid girls with different personalities, cultures (one is from Belgium, another from Israel) and interests. Yet they have created such a strong bond with each other and have become the closest of friends. This is one of the rewarding parts of coaching: watching the girls grow into their identities and coming together as a team. When I was a player, I never really noticed these subtle changes that I or my teammates made, but now that I am outside the box, everything is much more clear.

Hiking to Bishop's Peak

On Friday after practice, I decided to do a fun activity to keep up the team morale. Because it has been a hard week with finals, Hugh and I have tried to make the last 15 minutes of practice really fun and different. So far we have played a competitive doubles game, a game of tag, a relay race and made sure there was lots of laughing and joking around. This way they can come to practice and use it as a release (from studying) rather than finding it a burden. Our hope is if we make it fun in practice that they can head back to study in better moods, be relieved of stress and feel confident about their tennis games.

For my activity, I had the girls sit in a circle, and I picked someone out. I said something I admired, was thankful for and how she has been a positive influence in my life. She then picked another girl on the team and complimented her. The girls kept doing this until everyone on the team had received and given a compliment. It was pretty emotional, and the girls left practice in a better mood, while feeling positive about themselves and their teammates. As simple as it sounds, it really works. Hearing something nice or saying something positive about someone you care about is really refreshing and rewarding.

The girls carried this positive energy and momentum to our Saturday morning match. We played an easier team in our conference, so we were able to mix up our line-ups and give other girls on the team an opportunity to play. It is good to give everyone a chance (especially the ones who normally cheer) so they continue to stay inspired and eager to improve. The girls are very selfless in this sense that they support whoever is out on the court. It is fun to watch the leaders on the team sit out and support the girls who are at the bottom of the line-up and are normally the ones doing the encouraging.

The girls finished the dual match with great vocal support, lots of energy and improved team unity. I see us continuing to improve and striving to reach our goal of becoming the most improved team in the country!

Living the Dream,
Suzie

Gamma Zo Magic 16 String Review

The Gamma Zo Magic 16 gauge string is advertised to be a very soft co-poly with very good tension maintenance. Sounds like a good combination to me…and so I gave it a try!

I strung up the Gamma Zo Magic 16 in a Prince TT Warrior MP at my standard 56 lbs for a polyester string. The string was very soft and stretchy for a polyester, and thus it was a little easier to string than most polys.

My first impression of the string was that it was extremely soft, almost “gummy” feeling. Since it was so soft it was very arm-friendly for a polyester, and thus very comfortable to play with. It also provided me with a lot of touch and feel on my shots, which is not always typical of a polyester.

With that said, the Zo Magic did not feel great hitting off the ground. Since the string was so soft and gummy, it did not pocket the ball well and did not have very much “pop” or spin potential. I felt that my groundstrokes floated off the racket a little too much and did not have the heaviness that my shots would normally have.

On serves and volleys, the softness and feel of the string gave me lots of control, especially on touch volleys. However, I was not able to generate very much spin or power on my volleys and serves. This was the general dislike I had for the string.

The string’s tension maintenance was excellent. I played with it for a few days, and then went on a two week long trip. Upon return, the tension had dropped slightly but was very similar to its original tension, which is pretty impressive for a polyester.

With that said though, I did not particularly enjoy playing with the Gamma Zo Magic. It was very arm-friendly, but did not provide me with enough power or spin for my liking. If you have the desire to play with one of the Gamma polyesters, I would suggest instead trying the Zo Power, which is soft and has a little more pop than the Zo Magic.

AG

Gotta Want It- Season 3

This season of Gotta Want It followed my last two weeks of training for the BNP Paribas Open Pre-Qualifier tournament.  With Chris as my coach and hitting partner, each episode in Season 3 focuses on different singles and  point play drills to help me prepare for the competition.  The last episode features my results in the tournament.  Click on the images to view the video.

Thanks for all your support!  I had a lot of fun and get ready for Season 4!

Ad Out,

Brittany

Click on Image to View Episode 1

Click on Image to View Episode 2

Click on Image to View Episode 3

Click on Image to View Episode 4

Click on Image to View Episode 5