Phil Hughes. Little Aussie Battler

27 Nov

Phil HughesWhile those of us in the tennis industry sometimes get carried away and talk about tennis as our national sport, and as Tennis Australia will tell you on every piece of collateral that comes out of Melbourne Park – “Tennis – Australia’s Favourite” ,  the simple fact is Cricket in this sports-mad nation – is, was, and probably always will be “Australia’s favourite game”. Look at the out pouring of grief over little Aussie battler Phil Hughes. Hughes, just 25 years of age, was struck on the back of the head by a fast ball on Tuesday, fell to the ground, and despite surgery and an induced coma, died. The country is in mourning. Loss. Young talent, gone. While playing the game he loved. Phil Hughes hailed from a banana and cattle property in Macksville – population 2,000. A country boy, who grew up in the rough and tumble farming community. He hit cricket balls dangling from a sock on the farmhouse veranda, and played mock “test” matches with his brother in the paddock by the house until night fell. He was a tough nut. Loved rugby league and had a penchant for tackling boys twice his size – just as well because he was small in stature. A tough, pesky left-handed batsmen from the sticks who relied on his reflexes and instinct to score. And score he did. He was a prolific run gatherer – so much so that his form demanded he be selected for the national team. Hughes became an Australian test cricketer at the tender age of 19. A proud moment – for Hughes and for his hometown. The local pub got behind him – free drinks for as long as Hughes was in batting. Poor bloke almost went broke as Phil Hughes, in his second test, slayed the hostile South African attack to centuries in both innings of the match. Hughes had arrived. All who knew Hughes describe his “boy from the bush” nature, his love for the game, his street smarts, his ability to light up a locker room, his work ethic, but over and above all: his courage. He was the ultimate Aussie battler, the Little Lleyton, the Phar Lap, the Lionel Rose. Phil Hughes didn’t know how to take a backward step. The PRO

Pushy parents. Tennis anyone?

25 Nov

Player Coach Parent

What a subject… It’s with trepidation that I touch on the tennis fraternities taboo topic – the tennis parent. In fact when you reel off the names you start to see the reason for the “ugly parent” syndrome. Pierce, Capriati, Seles, Graf, Tomic, Dokic, Williams, Philopoussis, Agassi – and these are the ones we hear about. Driven, hungry, perhaps “outsiders” all trying to break into the glamorous world of tennis. The vast majority of pushy parents aren’t at the top end of the pyramid – they are out there in the 12 and Unders, the Saturday morning inter-club and even in the semi-pro money tournaments.

At what point do we take a step back? – release the vice like toxic hold over your kid. Trust the coach, trust the player to self-manage. Why is it so hard to let go? I still see parents getting fired up watching their children and getting involved in arguments, coaching from the sidelines, mouthing off to anyone who could be in earshot about the draw, the line calls, the schedule. Actually cheering double faults, backing up dodgy line calls, abusing officials – and what for..the kid’s 17, almost a man – stop holding his hand and let him grow up.

Interesting, but after witnessing several childish outbursts from one of our local tennis fraternities notorious parents, I thought back (a long way back) to when I was a leading junior. I recall wanting to play in the equivalent of a state level junior tournament – and being the self motivated soul that I am, bought my own stamp and posted my own entry form. The event was the other side of town, at least 1 and a 1/2 hours away from our suburban neighbourhood. Mum, whilst a great supporter of my tennis, did what I think all practical Mum’s should do. “That’s fine – you entered, go for it. Here’s a street map and a train timetable. Good luck”. I was 11. That’s what I call learning to stand on your own two feet.

There are too many negatives around sports parents in general. Hopefully soon we will be able to share in great stories of fraternity, brotherhood and support. From grass roots, to community and club level we need some good news. Tennis in Australia, in fact, across the globe, has lots to ponder, lots to be wary of, and still more to look forward to. We are on the cusp of reversing the trend, with the likes of the Kyrigos’s and Kokinakkis families breaking into the limelight – all wonderful people. Proud and supportive parents, strong sibling connections – now there’s some tennis families we should be hearing more from.

The PRO

Davis Cup. Could this be a Swiss master stroke.

20 Nov

Roger rips BHand

Roger Federer in full flight, ripping into a backhand earlier in 2014.

It will be interesting to see if the so-called spat between team mates (and good      mates) Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka has any implication for team harmony   in the Davis Cup final which starts tomorrow in Lille, France.

The tie will be played indoors on clay – a choice made by the home French team –  who probably feel they need to slow things down to negate the Stanimal and  Roger’s weapons. Should be an amazing atmosphere – a 27,000 seat indoor  stadium full of parochial French, with the 4th ranked Swiss looking to topple the  2nd ranked French team.

122 nations contested the Davis Cup in 2014, and now we are down to the final two. This will be a great clash. The French have a long and proud history in Davis Cup. Equal 3rd on the all-time tally with 9 victories, whilst Switzerland are yet to win the Davis Cup. It is one of Roger Federer’s stated remaining goals in the game. The Swiss did make the final back in 1992 – but ran into something of a USA Dream Team – Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and John McEnroe!

The French will probably go with Tsonga and Monfils in the singles, but could surprise with either Gasquet or Simon – nice to have those selection issues.. The Swiss are a little more straight forward – Federer and Wawrinka – and hang their hopes on gaining 3 singles wins.

The PRO

MC a finalist in NZ

10 Oct
For those who know me well, you’d understand that this page is not meant to be a vehicle for chest beating. However sometimes you just need to share the good news. Just got a call from Jamie Parrott Tennis (JPT) International player MC straight off the court from his ITF 18/Under singles semi final in New Zealand.

Michael, a first time semi finalist has gone one better today, beating the top seed Kirrapal Pannu – a player who beat Michael 6 weeks ago in Fiji. MC learnt a lot from that match and we have been working on his aggressiveness and ability to “finish what he started”. Today he did it. Fighting back from a set down to win 6/7, 6/4, 6/2.

Here’s hoping for a photo tomorrow night of MC holding the silverware just like Stan the Man Stanislas Wawrinka here with the 2014 Australian Open trophy.

Great job MC!
The PRO

No pain. No gain.

8 Oct

Tennis has become a performance athlete sport – gone are the days when you could rely on court craft, guile and cunning. The typical tour player is a professional in all regards. And the off-court component of any training schedule is vital to your success.
When Nick Kyrgios and his team decided he was ending his 2014 campaign due to fatigue and to rest a troublesome left arm injury the key point to take from his lay off was that, yes, he is returning to Canberra to rest…And then will take a seven-week break from tournaments to focus on building more strength and fitness to help him make the next step in his career.
So do like JPT player Marcus is doing here at Bentleigh, and Nick Kyrgios is doing in Canberra – make on court gains with off court work. Set goals, measure them. Aspire. Achieve. And do your best every day. The PRO
MW court fitness

Switzerland powers past Italy to go into the Davis Cup final.

16 Sep

A great clip here of a jubilant Swiss Davis Cup captain, Severin Luthi and Swiss # 2 Stan Wawrinka chairing Roger Federer around the stadium following his win over Italy’s Fabio Fognini which clinched the semi-final tie for the Swiss team.

Federer has made the Davis Cup a priority this year, and has 5 singles straight set wins in a row to his credit. The Davis Cup has eluded Federer and Switzerland, and this year with a team that boasts the world # 3 (Federer) and # 4 Stanislas Wawrinka they stand just one really tough match away from adding the prized “salad bowl” to the trophy cabinet.

That one match is a tantalising Davis Cup final against France, in France, late November. The French, whilst not boasting the same firepower as the Swiss big guns, are still in with a real shot as they bat very deeply. The team could include any two or three of Tsonga, Gasquet, Monfils, Simon – and even down to Benneteau and Chardy – have all given both Swiss players trouble in the past. Should be a great final and one the Swiss and, in particular Federer, will not want to let slip away.

The PRO.

 

 

Omar Jasika – I kept fighting.

11 Sep

Omar Jasika US juniors 2014

Melbourne junior Omar Jasika has joined the ranks of Pat Cash and Bernard Tomic by winning the US Open Boys Singles. Omar even went one step better than those guys by also winning the doubles title with Japan’s Naoki Nakagawa. In the singles he defeated players from the USA, Germany, France, Korea and Cyprus – again a reminder of the cosmopolitan nature of the sport.

Jasika, whose whole family are members of the Melbourne suburban Bentleigh Rec. and Clarinda Tennis Clubs, went into the event unseeded and along the way to the title defeated 3 players ranked in the top 8 seeds. In the final he managed his first win over world #4 junior and European Champion, Frenchman Quentin Halys. Halys is a powerful ball striker and has plenty of big game experience, but lefty Jasika was able to quell Haly’s power and fought back from the brink of a straight sets loss to take out the title in a gutsy 3 set win.

Great to see Omar is another in the “I started playing tennis by hitting a ball against the wall” production line. He regularly practices with Kei Nishikori, who he describes as a mentor figure. Pat Cash remarked “Jasika reminds me of former world #1 Marcelo Rios, a lefty and whilst not tall, hits the ball hard and fast”. Hopefully Cashy is on the money. Omar kept it simple in his press conference after the final. “I hung in all week and kept fighting”. Omar Jasika is a player to look out for over the next few years.

Congrats to Omar and the Bentleigh corner shop Jasika family!
The PRO

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