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Without a doubt, the biggest complaint about the professional tennis circuit is that it runs far too long. The Australian Open starts the year in January and we still have the Davis Cup Final in December. And now, we have the current professionals participating in the London Olympics which will add yet another tournament to their current schedule. Back in 1992, the United States wanted to prove their basketball dominance so they assembled the “Dream Team” and they completely destroyed everyone on their way to the Gold medal. Now, 20 years later, it seems foolish to continue the dominance with our pro basketball players. I feel the same way about the ATP/WTA pros participating in the Olympics as it would be far more interesting to see the amateurs or at least the semi-pros going for the Gold. Not only would we focus on the best of the NCAA tennis players but we would have many others from all over the world. With the current format, the same champions will probably dominate the 2012 field in London: Serena Williams, Roger Federer and the other usual suspects will move far into the draw. I just feel there would be so much more suspense (without the ATP/WTA pros) and viewer interest with new players on the rise.
Is the current Hawkeye system fair to all of the players in the draw? Unless we are talking about Larry Ellison’s Indian Wells event, then no, the Hawkeye system only benefits the top stars of our game. Just last month at Wimbledon, there were only three or four courts equipped with the Hawkeye cameras so the majority of the players in the tournament do not get the same benefit as the high-seeds in the draw. In my opinion, it is crucial for the officials of the game to spend the additional money and have the Hawkeye system on every court used in the event.
For the last few years the WTA Tour has experimented with on-court coaching. To me, this is a great new rule and could be a boon to the game and the men’s tour should adopt the same format. Ironically, in high school and college tennis, on-court coaching is allowed and the best coaches take full advantage. Last March, I joined my close friend, Dr. David Geatz and we teamed up to guide the UPENN Quakers to a big road win against Florida Gulf Coast University. On this particular warm south Florida morning, coaches from both squads were active with their players offering enthusiasm and strategic instruction. At one particular juncture, I was able to tell the UPENN number one player to look for the wide serve in the Deuce court, so he quickly re-positioned his feet to cover the angle. Later in the day and after several failed drop-shot attempts, I was able to tell my player to eliminate ending the point too soon and to abandon the ‘dropper.’ In most cases, coaches offer good observations which will only improve the quality of the match and everyone gains from this perspective. I strongly encourage both the men’s and women’s tours to embrace on-court coaching and it will add more suspense to the matches.
Not too long ago, John McEnroe dominated the game of tennis with his incredible serve and volley strategy. His clever serve and quick moving feet moved closer and closer to the net and then his fast hands controlled the volley. Now, the only time we see players coming to the net is when they have to shake hands. As much as I absolutely love watching Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal ripping baseline ‘groundies’ at one another, it would be a little more interesting if the guys could come to the net more often. After much thought, I believe the real reason most players do not come in as often is due to their poor volley technique. Clearly, most coaches agree that today’s players hit their ground strokes with so much spin and power, it is far more challenging to volley. However, it is high time the best players work on their net games so they can approach and finish off the point. Andy Roddick is one player who has tried to venture into the net but his volley technique is just too flawed. In particular, Andy under-cuts his volleys and has too much spin and when the ball lands, it stays up too long and his foe has too much time to pass. As awesome as his serve and forehand strokes are, his volleys just don’t cut the mustard and this weakness has moved his ranking in the wrong direction.
Next up: 2012 US Open predictions? Stay tuned.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.