My good friend Vic Braden (http://www.vicbraden.com/) just turned 78 when he visited the last Acura Classic Women's Tennis Tournament at La Costa in Carlsbad. As one of the greatest tennis teachers in this country, Vic is known for good advice that improves any player's game quickly. A few years ago I organized a full day clinic with Vic for 50 tennis players at the beautiful Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe. Vic and 7 Pros organized drills and clinics for all players, and Vic video-taped each player's forehand, backhand, volley and serve. As the organizer I didn't participate in the clinics but had the pleasure of watching Vic as he went through the video footage with each player and gave them the appropriate advice for areas where their strokes needed improvement. And you know what? I got a BIG kick out of sitting there and listening to Vic, who had the same advice for every player! Regardless of age, size, or ability of players, his advice for EVERYONE was "Always remember: play low to high". Amazing, don't you think? He broke each player's stroke down to the lowest common denominator: Your arm/racquet movement has to go from low to high in order for the ball to clear the net. It made so much sense and was so funny to listen to at the same time.
One year earlier I had organized a major tennis fundraiser at La Costa Resort & Spa with the profits going to a battered women's shelter in San Diego North County. Vic was our Keynote Speaker at the Dinner that night, and he delighted the audience with funny tidbits about tennis players, especially his contemporaries like Bobby Riggs (Bobby won a mixed doubles game against Vic and a very good female player while he was tied with a chain to an Elephant!). Needless to say, Bobby, who was 55 at the time, won quite a bit of cash from that bet. Vic's funniest story that night was his experience coming from the National Super Senior Championships somewhere in Georgia if I remember right. He reported watching a match between a 90 year old man and his 94 year old opponent. The 90 year old was in better shape and kept running the older player from corner to corner. Finally the 94 year old player stopped and had to take a break, shouting across the court "Oh, to be 90 again..."
What does age mean in tennis? Last night we saw James Blake almost lose to a 35 year old Fabrice Santoro. Way to go, Fabrice, too bad you cramped up so badly. Don't get me wrong, I'm a James Blake fan. But I looove to support the underdog, especially when he's closer to my age, haha.
We have seen some great players who won big titles late in life. How about Big Bill Tilden, who won Wimbledon at age 37 in 1930? Or Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors who won titles at age 33? None of those former world class players can top Martina Ntratilova, of course. In 2003, she won her last Mixed Doubles title at the Australian Open AND at Wimbledon at age 46!
I know my game has improved with age. I play smarter, try to exploit my oppenent's weaknesses while saving energy. The better I play, the more fun I have. And the more fun I have, the better I play! I love tennis!
TENNIS QUOTE OF THE DAY
*"Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical" The same is true of tennis, only more so. Criswell Freeman, quoting Yogi Berra. The Tennis Lovers Book of Wisdom