Friday, September 18, 2020

An afternoon stroll at the International Hall of Fame

Father and son play on the grass court at the Hall of Fame. Submitted photo

Father and son play on the grass court at the Hall of Fame. Submitted photo

The drive along First Beach was in itself incredible. As we moved along Memorial Blvd. towards Bellevue Ave., we were only moments away from one of the most historic treasures in the sport of tennis.

Nestled in the city of Newport, Rhode Island, and only minutes away from area beaches, it is startling to see this amazing tennis facility?perfectly manicured grass courts dominate the look of this tennis Mecca. It is so inviting that you must quickly unpack the bag and start hitting balls. Although almost nine years have passed since my first visit to the International Tennis Hall of fame, the experience was so memorable that it remains one of my favorite tennis moments.

If it is your first time playing on grass, brace yourself for an entirely different experience. Prepare by doing deep knee bends in the parking lot because one must stay low to cope with the erratic but exciting bounces. Unlike most surfaces today, big servers still rule the day when we play on the phenomenal grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Without a doubt, the hard-serving slice is tricky to return and effective. As the slice moves through the air, it often does not rise up to meet the returning player and this nets great results for the server. Ironically, one of the most dangerous serves in our sport is the American Twist. However, the ‘kick’ serve will hang in the air and not necessarily have the same bite as the slice. Players who can hit the big cannonball or flat serve will be delighted with its effectiveness.

Given my Florida tennis influences, I recommend that grass court players learn the art of hitting big ground strokes. Do not be fearful of the court surface and feel compelled to ‘chip and charge’ as the sport continues to evolve in the new millennium. With the advent of new powerful rackets and scientifically engineered strings, players are hitting big ground strokes on grass. The real key is to know when it is appropriate to wind up and crack a big ‘groundie’ past your charging opponent.

If you face a talented server, I highly recommend condensing your backswing. Once the server tosses the ball, begin to move your feet and try to get a ‘read’ on the direction of the ball. Most importantly, keep your game fundamentally simple until the right opportunity arises. If the return moves low to the opponent as he charges the net, you may face a weak volley and then utilize a bigger backswing and thus more power. If players learn to pick their spots, they will adore their experiences on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Doug Browne is Director of Tennis at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island. He has been playing, talking and teaching tennis for most of his life. He may be reached at DBrowne912@aol.com.

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