In my first article I recommended watching, listening and learning from the tennis commentators on television. Following my own advice, I spent many enjoyable hours watching the 2015 U.S. Open.
I watched and listened to a pre-match discussion with Roger Federer. The focus of the interview was on how Federer, now at 34-years-old, was playing some of the best tennis of his career. During the interview, Federer made the comment that “change and choice had become a strategy.”
A year or so ago, Federer made a decision to change to a larger head size racquet, and to bring Stefan Edberg into his camp. These two major changes were vital to Federer being able to return to playing his style of game, and to continue to dominate at the top of the game. Federer’s decision to change to a larger head size racquet has provided him a bit more power and control on his backhand, and along with the advice of the great serve and volleyer Edberg, Federer has redeveloped his confidence and comfort at the net.
As a 50-something player, I have realized and accepted the fact that I simply can’t do things physically the same way I could when I was 20-something. I am now a step or two slower, I am visually challenged and must wear glasses in order to see clearly, and my reaction time is just not what it used to be.
I learned how to play the sport of tennis in more of an old-school tradition of serve and volley, chip and charge style of play. As I have matured in age, and have become a step or two slower and my reactions not as sharp as they once were, I found that my serve and volley style of play was becoming ever-increasingly challenging. My comfort, and my confidence, in my style of play was just not at a level where I wanted or needed it to be.
While I am not in any way attempting to compare myself to Federer, I have realized that as he said in his interview, “change and choice” became a strategy. I needed to reevaluate my capabilities at this point in my life, and change things in my game to accommodate them. So following Federer’s lead, I decided that “change and choice” was going to be my new strategy. I needed to regroup, reevaluate and reequip my game.
I have recently changed tolarger head size racquet that is a bit stiffer than the racquet I used to play. This change has provides me with a little bit more pop on the ball, and provides me a larger sweet spot for my volleys. I am now, once again, confident and comfortable with playing my style of game.
As a coach and instructor, I too often observe players showing up to play with the same racquet they have had for 20+ years. Many years ago, technology changed the sport of tennis, going from wood to graphite/composite racquets when Prince came out with the first 110” racquet.
However, technology in everything nowadays changes quickly. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of racquets by many different manufacturers on the market today, which can cause confusion in trying to decide which racquet may or may not be right for you. With some sound advice from a qualified instructor, and the luxury of internet shopping, it is really quite easy to narrow it down to just a few racquets to choose from. Most online stores, such as www.tennis express.com and www.tennis warehouse.com provide search options that allow you to input pertinent information such as head size, weight and stiffness index, and it will select racquets that meet your criteria. You can then order a few demos to test hit, and decide which one is best for your individual needs.
My grandfather once told me “the only constant thing in life is constant change.” Old habits are hard to break, but forcing ourselves to adapt and improve, like it or not, is good for us. So seek out a qualified instructor that can advise you on which type of racquet may be right for your game. Figure out which one you like best, and splurge on yourself. Invest in a new racquet. You deserve it and your game deserves it.
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 23 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at the Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Marco Island Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis Juniors Program runs year round, and has classes for players from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email WClark@cityofmarcoisland.com, by phone or text at 239-450-6161, or visit his website at www.marco-island-tennis.com.