First, tennis fans had to absorb the retirement of Kim Clijsters; perhaps one of the most popular pro tennis players in the history of the game. Then, a few days later as he celebrated his thirtieth birthday, American tennis standout, Andy Roddick announced his retirement – effective at the end of the US Open tournament. In the age of declining American pro tennis stars, Roddick stood alone at the top for the better part of his entertaining career. During one stretch, he led the American Davis Cup team to a title as he went undefeated for the year. Roddick is a highly intelligent, brash, dynamic blend of John McEnroe and Andre Agassi:
His on-court persona was often fiery and confrontational but off-court possessed outstanding leadership skills blended with a wicked sense of humor. With so many young tennis stars walking a firm straight line, Andy Roddick blazed his own trail as he was a talented tennis player and performer. Is he leaving the game too early? Winner of two ATP Tour titles this year and playing outstanding tennis at this year’s Wimbledon and still surging at the US Open…There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Roddick could continue to play on Tour for a minimum of two more years but he would have to endure more losses to lower ranked players and learn to cope with nagging injuries.
When top athletes reach the end of their careers, they face so many different challenges; can they leave their sport on their own terms or are they holding on too long and wish they had the guts to depart at the right time. Clearly, Roddick knew that he no longer was consistently performing at the high level and now was not able to eat, drink and sleep tennis. If not for the high backhand volley error against Federer during their epic Wimbledon final, who knows how different his career would have been? To me, his career was a huge success and he will be known for his gigantic serve and forehand drive as well as his ability to motivate and mentor many of his Davis Cup teammates. No doubt I will miss his on-court antics as he constantly entertained audiences throughout the world with his quick wit and combative diatribes with tennis umpires.
Last week, my article about ‘practice makes perfect’ focused on the importance of doing specific training in order to thrive during match play. In particular, I outlined the importance of doing on-court specific drills to enhance your groundstroke and volley play but did not go into detail about serving. Far too often, recreational tennis players serve baskets of balls with little purpose. I urge all tournament tennis players to practice their serves with specific guidelines that include pressure situations utilizing the ABC’s of serving.
For example, a coach will set up a realistic scenario; the score is thirty-all and the student must hit a first serve to the A or alley corner. If the young improving student fails to hit the exact target, the serve is a fault and must now serve their second serve to another specific target or perhaps a B serve or body serve or possibly the most difficult target the C serve or center line (Texas T) spot. If tournament players practice their serves with a well-thought out plan simulating game time pressure, they will undoubtedly perform well in their next tournament match.
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.