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Love Means Nothing in Tennis

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Many great tennis players were born in Argentina. Most recently it was Juan Martin del Potro, David Nalbandian, and Gisela Dulko making headlines on the professional tour. Going back in history there were Gabriela Sabatini and the great Guillermo Vilas. But there is only one Argentinean tennis player who was every declared “America’s biggest tennis nut” by Tennis Magazine in 1988, and that is Horacio Tamborini. If you wonder why, just look at his swimming pool in his Arcadia, CA home. It is shaped like a tennis racquet and a ball, created by the same guy who made Liberace’s piano-shaped pool.



The Tamborini family: Christina, Carla, Horacio


Horacio Tamborini is the owner and Director of the Flint Canyon Tennis Club in La Canada, CA, just a few miles north of Glendale. He bought this club in 1999, after a very successful six years of turning the then abandoned courts at the Los Angeles County-owned Whittier Narrows Tennis Center into a thriving tennis community with 3,200 players. Tamborini jumped into this risky business even after tennis honoraries like Jack Kramer and Jim Hillman took a good look at Whittier Narrows and declined to get involved. The “Pied Piper of Tennis” (Tennis Magazine) was guided by his credo “Tennis for all” and by his unconditional love for tennis.


Flint Canyon Tennis Club is a private, member based, facility with 13 courts, recently outfitted with new super bright lights which, according to the club’s web site is “…almost like playing in the daylight.” After successfully fighting a suitor who wanted to buy the club and turn it into soccer fields some years ago, Tamborini turned it into another thriving tennis organization. The club is run by him, his wife and daughter, and another half dozen tennis pros. He states that he is glad he went into the tennis club business, despite a myriad of challenges and lots of hard work.


Tennis Magazine crowned Horatio Tamborini America’s biggest tennis nut for the “…passion with which he plays the game, his exuberance in bringing it to others, and his craziness in devoting much of his California acreage to the sport of tennis.”



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Reviewing “NET NOTES – Common sense ideas to lift your game” by Howie Burnett, Tennis Director of the Island Country Club in Marco Island, Florida.

ISBN 1-4392-6557-7 ($14.50 on Amazon)





Many tennis professionals have written instructional books over time. Well known players like Jack Kramer, Don Budge, Alice Marble and Bobby Riggs come to mind pre-open era. Modern era authors are for instance Vic Braden (“Quick Fixes”), Oscar Wegner (“Play Better Tennis in 2 Hours”), and Dennis Van Der Meer (“Book of Tennis”).


All those books have one thing in common: Trying to establish the author’s authority to teach tennis and then write about it in a systematic and methodical way. And then there is Howie Burnett. Doesn’t own an International Tennis Academy. Isn’t making the rounds on the speaking circuit all over the country. Hasn’t coached a Top Ten player (yet). What establishes this man as an authority in teaching tennis and writing about it?


Howie Burnett is a decorated member of the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) with 38 years of coaching experience. Pro of the Year in both USPTA and USTA (United States Tennis Association) he used to be part of a coaching team on the USTA Player Development Program. His main authority for writing NET NOTES comes from coaching thousands of junior and adult players and college varsity athletes. The intriguing reason for picking up NET NOTES is the fact that he does not write about a systematic approach to learning tennis from ground strokes to volleys and serves. Neither does he put little emphasis on items that have nothing to do with game skills and winning strategy, such as types of grip or open / closed stance. It’s the down to earth, match play based approach and the strategy tips that make this book such an interesting read.


NET NOTES is divided into 5 sections, a compact resource for winning more matches.


  1. Practicing & Work Ethic
    This section contains information about tennis lessons and player expectations, practicing the return of serve, the usage of baseline shots as basis for a solid game, and honing skills from every part of the court. The paragraph What’s in your toolbox? ends with the advice that tennis is “…a game of emergencies… so make sure your practices reflect the concept held as truth by first responders and train until you own it!” 
  2. Doubles Tactic & Logic
    Tactical choices and shot placement are part of this section, as well as keeping the ball out of your opponents’ reach. Interesting paragraphs about overcoming the “…fear of No Man’s Land” and the importance of reading your opponent. The chapter Great players know when they must go on the defensive ends with “If you play low-quality offense when high-quality defense can be employed more effectively, you’re not playing good tennis.”
  3. Basic Singles Logic and Some Technical Essentials
    How do you get from rally to attack mode? What does it mean to have an explosive and immediate first reaction? Brushing the ball for topspin effect. These are some of the items being explained, in addition to the importance of footwork for the “most dangerous of shots”, the overhead. Howie writes “If you attack they will lob as sure as the sun shines in Florida.”
  4. Sportsmanship
    This short section concentrates a little on the Tennis Code of Conduct and the importance of not slowing the match down but keeping the game moving along at a reasonable pace.
  5. Observations
    Howie ends the book writing about trying to never underestimate shots that appear easy and describing that tennis court competence builds confidence, not the other way around. His conclusion is “Doubles is a team sport and demands a firm understanding of good positioning and sound shot selection to succeed at any level. Learn the strategy of the game and you’ll always be in demand.”


NET NOTES is an easy to understand resource for the beginning player starting out and the experienced player wanting to get better and win more matches. Howie Burnett has an excellent comprehension of the importance of court positioning, shot selection and player choices in a tennis match. The compact, 50 page format allows a player to place the booklet in their tennis bag and have it handy as a valuable resource.



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For 60 year old Bob Milligan it all started with bad knees. He knew he needed surgery after playing tennis for decades, and tried to find more information that was both age-relevant and insightful. No such luck. He found the information available to be “fragmented at best, and generally disappointing.” Bob and his wife Lace wanted more. An idea was born. What if there was an organization providing all that information to older adult and senior tennis players, in a comfortable environment, like a virtual club house with many different rooms? And what if there were experts available willing to share their specific knowledge, and let members access rich and original expert commentary on topics that have a positive impact on their enjoyment of both tennis and life itself? The Milligan’s created BoomerTennis in 2010 and secured the active support of 6 big legends of tennis: Stan Smith, Charlie Pasarell, Tony Trabert, Cliff Drysdale, Butch Buchholz, and Donald Dell.




(from left: Butch Buchholz, Lace Milligan, Bob Milligan)



Bob Milligan

After graduating from Yale College in 1972 with a B.S. in Administrative Science, Bob has over the past 38 years served on the boards of dozens of both private and public companies. Prior to founding BoomerTennis.Net, he had been a financial and corporate strategist responsible for the inception, growth, management and eventual sale or public offering of companies ranging in size from $1 million to several billion dollars. He has stepped into the role of interim CEO in several industries including biotechnology, insurance distribution and energy.

Having grown up in a golfing family, Bob didn’t take up the game of tennis seriously until the age of 30 and now, at the age of 60, plays two or three times a week, was a member of a National Championship USTA team, participates in both USTA age group tournaments and on a Senior 4.5 USTA Team, and recently, with his wife, Lace, won the Combined Age 100 National Husband-Wife Championships held at the ATP Headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla.


Lace Milligan

As an experienced tennis teaching professional and coach Lace Milligan is able to deal effectively with a broad base of students, from youth through the elderly, and beginner to expert. Specializing in creating a positive environment for learning through encouragement and diversity in methods, she is particularly adept at assessing a player’s needs and developing an appropriate program to maximize results within a flexible and comfortable environment.


Lace has a proven track record of exceptional interpersonal skills resulting in satisfied and enthusiastic students. Her ability to coordinate nutrition, fitness and instruction into an integrated training regimen makes her a diligent and successful role model for efficient training and nutrition principles.


On the Board of Directors of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, since 2004, Lace has served on the HoF Museum Committee, as wells the Education and Marketing Sub-Committees. She is also a Professional Tennis Registry certified tennis teaching professional at the Casino Lawn & Tennis Club in Newport. In the 1990ies, Lace coached varsity High School Tennis and was voted “Coach of the Year” at Hayfield High School in Alexandria, VA (1995 and 1996).





(Cliff Drysdale)

Bob Milligan states that BoomerTennis.Net has become the perfect vehicle to combine his extensive entrepreneurial business background with his passion for tennis. He says, “Our Mission is simply to provide our members with age-relevant, insightful information in the areas of Orthopedics, Psychology, Nutrition, Physical Therapy/Training, Travel and Instruction through a staff of experts in each field. In addition, we strive to provide our members with a platform to interact with these experts and fellow members through feedback, blogs and an active social network.”

Bob also acknowledges that Baby Boomers are members of the most powerful economic demographic group and thus wield significant consumer power. “Recognizing this, we endeavor to provide our members with meaningful discounts on products they routinely use. The savings in patronizing our partner vendors can result in hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year.”
One of the more significant immediate savings is being provided by Nestle Water, a company trying to utilize BoomerTennis to contact to one of their most interesting demographics, health conscious people over the age of 50. Every time a tennis player signs up for a 12 month delivery contract for Nestle Water, the company not only provides significant savings but also pays for a one year membership in BoomerTennis.
Other savings include air travel, tennis vacations, and spa hydrotherapy equipment. Sponsors also enable Bob Milligan to keep the BoomerTennis web site commerciaol free, so the real interesting content for adult tennis players can stand out. He says, “We hope you find the environment we have created in the clubhouse warm, inviting, friendly and informative. Please enjoy your stay and come back often!”.
One more way of giving BoomerTennis members value for their patronage are regular tennis events as they are being planned right now in Southern California. The first and inaugural event is being planned for Nov 19+20 at the Coto Valley Country Club in Orange County. The event includes Brunch with Vic Braden, plenty of on-court tennis match play, wine tasting, dinner, and socializing with like minded people of similar age in a fun tennis atmosphere.
Charlie Pasarell2.jpg
(Charlie Pasarell)


It seems that BoomerTennis is the only organization of its kind catering exclusively to the older adult tennis player. According to the 6 tennis legends supporting BoomerTennis, this market is wide open and has a lot of potential because of the red hot demographics. BoomerTennis advisor Charlie Pasarell puts it in simple terms: We are targeting a segment of the tennis playing population no one is really focusing on: Baby Boomers. Servicing that population will be very successful.” As an extension of Bob’s work, Charlie is thinking about providing a series of organized events, like a circuit for BoomerTennis players. “This should be a lot of fun. It gives people an opportunity to travel, compete on the tennis court, and socialize.”



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He was declared a “Role model for Latino youth” on an American Latino National TV Show and the County of San Diego declared August 3, 2010 “Angel Lopez and San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club Day” for 30 years of serving the San Diego community. He’s meeting with City Managers to increase awareness of tennis in Elementary Schools, and donating thousands of dollars worth of tennis racquets to kids and schools all over Southern California and the border areas. He’s funding tennis scholarships and organizing free clinics and many tournaments.  Last month he was inducted into the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame. His list of accomplishments and accolades is too long for this article. Who is this tennis professional quietly making waves in Southern California?





Angel Lopez



Jon Muir, General Manager, Racquet Sport for the Wilson Sporting Goods company, says “Angel is a world class coach who continues to elevate his positive impact for our sport and industry. His achievements continue to reflect the high standard he has set for himself and his efforts to positively impact those around him.”  Southern California tennis has for sure been impacted by Angel Lopez. We find him on some prestigious Boards where professionalism, experience, and integrity are no empty buzzwords: United States Tennis Association, Southern California Tennis Association, San Diego District Tennis Association.


When Angel started teaching tennis in Southern California in 1979, no one could have known what path his professional life would take. After playing on a full tennis scholarship for the University of Arizona from 1976 to 1978 he played professionally under the guidance and mentorship of International Tennis Hall of Famer Pancho Segura. Reflecting on the work of his former student Pancho calls him a “…big asset to the game of tennis.” Segura’s friend and San Diego tennis personality Lorne Kuhle says "Angel Lopez is the predominant tennis professional in San Diego county.  His 30 year track record speaks for itself."


Lorne knows what he’s talking about. As former sidekick of the great Bobby Riggs he has come across his share of tennis professionals all over the world. Lorne owns and operates the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Encinitas, CA, and maintains one of the best kept secrets for tennis aficionados on its premises: The Bobby Riggs Tennis Museum. A place for tennis memorabilia, learning and reflection on an exciting era in tennis history.



Gretchen Magers, Angel Lopez, and friends



Lorne knows what he’s talking about. As former sidekick of the great Bobby Riggs he has come across his share of tennis professionals all over the world. Lorne owns and operates the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Encinitas, CA, and maintains one of the best kept secrets for tennis aficionados on its premises: The Bobby Riggs Tennis Museum. A place for tennis memorabilia, learning and reflection on an exciting era in tennis history.

Tim Heckler, CEO of the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), says about his 1995 USPTA Professional of the Year: “Angel Lopez is a model tennis-teaching professional. If you look at his history you realize why people think so. Not only has he been a Master Professional coach, but he has also been a competitive player with a highly ranked playing background. In addition, he has worked extensively to develop tennis in his community, including providing opportunities for underprivileged children to play tennis.


After achieving the certification as USPTA Master Professional Lopez became a top tour coach influencing the tennis careers of dozens of players including international talent like Zina Garrison, Michael Chang, Alexandra Stevenson, and Tami Whitlinger-Jones.

Heckler adds “He is former president of USPTA San Diego and has served his fellow professionals in a loyal and dedicated manner, much as he has the tennis community itself. USPTA is extremely proud of Angel Lopez. He epitomizes what a tennis-teaching professional should be both on and off the court.”


Today Lopez serves as Director of Tennis Operations at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club, where he has taught since December 1979. In 1997 he began operating the Angel Lopez Tennis Academy at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club, where he supervises eight assistant professionals who are all USPTA certified.



Angel Lopez and Raquel Giscafre at the 2011 Mercury Insurance Open



The San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club is one of the largest and most successful tennis operations in Southern California. In an impressive Mediterranean-style surrounding of 10 sprawling and manicured acres, the club provides 23 championship tennis courts (16 lighted), including a Stadium Court complete with gallery seating for tournaments. In addition, the club recently added four permanent Quickstart courts. Pool, weight rooms, 7 indoor racquetball and handball courts, childcare center, and Courtside Grill make this facility highly desirable for a very large member base.


Angel Lopez writes on his web site "The development of the tennis player is the most important part of the Angel Lopez Tennis Academy. Winning is important, second only to the development of the player. We use tennis as a vehicle to also develop successful young people in life in our junior programs."


Honoring him for his work with juniors, Angel received the Southern California Tennis Association Service Award for his efforts in the junior player development department in 2007. The SCTA, one of the 17 national Sections of the USTA, wrote to Angel, “The example you have set by virtue of your exemplary conduct, leadership and expertise, while assisting programs conducted by the Southern California Tennis Association has earned you this substantial honor. Your favorable example has enhanced the level of sportsmanship in the program and has provided today’s junior players with an environment in which they can compete and excel.”


Bill Kellogg, Immediate Past President of the Southern California Tennis Association, says: “Angel Lopez is a true professional among teaching professionals. He is a terrific player in his own right.  He gives freely of his time, talent and money to worthy causes. He is a USPTA Master Pro and talented coach of professional players.”


Bill himself is President of the prestigious La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and an accomplished international senior tennis player. The man who brought Davis Cup and Fed Cup to San Diego adds: “Angel is an excellent and dedicated club manager. He serves on USTA, SCTA and SDDTA boards in a volunteer capacity. And he does all this with a smile on his face and a positive attitude. He truly represents our sport in the best manner possible."


Last month Lopez surprised staff and students at San Diego’s Lincoln High School with a personal donation of 15 new Wilson tennis racquets and six cases of Wilson tennis balls. Carl Davis, a Center for the Arts Math teacher and Boys and Girls Tennis Coach for Lincoln reported about the donation in school publication VOICES OF LINCOLN. “With this donation we will be able to equip more students with racquets who don’t have one and can not afford one. Most students who participate on boys and girls tennis team don’t own a racquet of their own or it's the wrong size,” stated Davis.


Angel grew up in the Lincoln High area of San Diego. He knows about the challenges when it comes to funding tennis programs and buying equipment and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those students.

“I was very surprised because I didn’t know who Angel Lopez was and the tennis team doesn’t get donations very often. I was overwhelmed with excitement, budgets for sports programs are being cut, so this was great news,” added Davis.


Donating generously to tennis programs is one way for Angel Lopez to give back to the community he lives and works in. Last year he made similar gifts to Calexico High School, San Diego City College, Las Palmas Recreation Center, Montgomery High School, and the Mountain View Tennis Club. The kids benefitting from this generosity must have thought an angel was appearing out of nowhere. It sure looks like Southern California is truly blessed having a tennis professional like Angel Lopez in their midst. What do you think? Please comment.



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What do Gustavo Kuerten, Bjorn Borg, Venus and Serena Williams, Vince Spadea, and Paradorn Srichaphan have in common? Those are the most prominent names of thousands of tennis players who have been touched by the teachings of legendary Coach Oscar Wegner. And the master has made the LA area his new basis. His credo: Tennis is far simpler than it looks!


There is no shortage of tennis coaches in Southern California. Robert Lansdorp, Vic Braden, Billy Martin, Angel Lopez, Dennis Ralston, to name a few. One recent arrival, by way of Clearwater, Florida, is Argentinean tennis personality Oscar Wegner. His bio is as impressive as his drive to teach tennis to young and old, beginners and pros. Wikipedia writes He is credited as the first coach to draw a distinction between the way the best players played and the way the game was taught by the governing teaching organizations in the USA”. Wegner used this early observation, that tennis was being taught one way while the pros played in an entirely different way, to create his Modern Tennis Methodology. Brad Holbrook, TV Host and Producer, called Oscar “The father of modern tennis”, a fitting description for a man who switched from engineering to tennis in the sixties and made his profound mark on so many players all over the world.






Wegner's web site statesWhile watching those shows in the early 1990's, a Richard Williams of Los Angeles, California, decided to apply Wegner's teachings on his daughters Venus and Serena. The results were phenomenal, and even without participating in formal competition, the two youngsters quickly showed their championship qualities, securing important financial endorsements that facilitated their future careers.”


MTM Certification

Although Oscar Wegner's methods have revolutionized tennis instruction around the globe they have met with resistance from the conventional teaching establishment in the USA.  Fortunately, that outmoded way of thinking has been gradually changing., wrote in their May 2006 issue: “A lot has been written about the modern forehand with its natural movements, open stance, windshield-wiper swing, and most importantly, tracking the ball and waiting before taking the racquet back. Much of this has been pioneered by Oscar Wegner, who has been teaching this method since 1968. Back then, this was very controversial, however, history has proved him right.”


Wegner says that over the years he has received numerous requests from coaches who teach using his techniques to generate specific certification procedures.  He created a coaching organization called MODERN TENNIS METHODOLOGY (MTM), designed to “fill a void at the grassroots level for simple and easy “Play Like The Pros” tennis instruction”. The certification process, in addition to a database of certified teaching professionals is handled through the web site, home of the Modern Tennis Methodology Coaches Association.


Lucile Bosche´ is the General Manager of Oscar Wegner Enterprises, and an MTM Certified Coach. She says “This system is very different from conventional tennis teaching, with far superior results. It teaches you how the top pros stroke the ball, why and how to apply it to your game. The motto is: Find It - Feel It - Finish"





Oscar Wegner has published three books and a number of instructional DVD’s.



  • “Tennis In Two Hours” was published in 1989
  • “You Can Play Tennis in Two Hours” was published in 1992
  • “Play Better Tennis in 2 Hours” was published in 2005


The astounding number of DVD’s and sets, described as “These materials are very revolutionary and may shake instructions you had reinforced for years”, include titles like

  • Tennis 101/Play Like The Pros (Classic Series)
  • Master Strokes Vol.1 & Vol. 2 (Classic Series)
  • The 10 Amazing Secrets (Classic Series)
  • Advanced Tennis Techniques (Intermediate/Advanced Package)
  • Ultimate Professional Coaching Techniques (Int../Adv. Pack.)
  • Tennis Into The Future Vol. 1 – The Basics
  • Tennis Into The Future Vol. 2 – Modern Footwork
  • Tennis Into The Future Vol. 3 - Coaching Modern Strokes
  • Tennis Into The Future Vol. 4 - Modern Serves and Volleys


Southern California is home to hundreds, if not thousands of remarkable tennis professionals.  True legendary teaching pro’s, however, who made a mark on professional and recreational tennis players alike are a rare species. Oscar Wegner is truly a legend and has evolved from tour player to coach for the pros to teacher for recreational players. He helped Gustavo Kuerten and Bjorn Borg (during his comeback run) to some impressive achievements. He indirectly was instrumental in getting the careers of the Williams sisters and so many other celebrity players to bloom. Now he is ready to apply all this knowledge and teach the recreational players how to Play Like The Pros. Southern California is lucky to have Oscar Wegner as its resident.



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The Los Angeles area is fortunate to be home of not only the Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA), but also to an abundance of tennis professionals. A famous tennis coach once jokingly said Southern Cal tennis pros are a dime a dozen, and there is hardly another area in the United States that is so saturated with ordinary teaching professionals. And then there are those who stand out, who see their profession as more than just a way to make money. Who teach and organize and dedicate their time with a purpose. Meet Nicole Robbins, aka Nikki, leader of Nikki’s Tennis Crew, and outstanding tennis professional at Weddington Golf & Tennis in Studio City.




A local Southern California girl from Los Angeles, Nikki spent most of her life playing tennis in Studio City. Playing number one at Campbell Hall High School in North Hollywood and from there progressing to a tennis scholarship at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff where she played on the Varsity tennis team for four years, Nikki learned the ins and outs of winning tennis matches. But she didn’t stop there. After graduating in 1989 with a degree in Sports Psychology, she returned to her roots, The Racquet Centre of Universal City and started teaching full time.


As Director of Social Activities, running many tournaments and events, she has given trophies to Venus Williams and The Bryan Brothers – highly regarded Southern California tennis celebrities. After taking over as Director of Junior Development Nikki spent the next ten years teaching and playing tennis tournaments. She was ranked number one in Southern California in the ladies 25's singles, mixed 5.5 (with her student Mike Rosett) and number three in 5.5 singles.


After The Racquet Centre of Universal City was turned into a shopping mall Nikki relocated to Weddington Tennis, formally known as Studio City Golf and Tennis, and that’s where she makes an impact in the tennis (and personal) life of so many kids and adults. She says “I enjoy teaching all levels of tennis and specialize in beginners - intermediate, where many students have gone on to successful college careers. I also work with developmentally delayed children.”



Nikki's teaching philosophy is that tennis is a skill that will last a life time, at all levels and can be enjoyed by young and old. She instills in her students a solid foundation of skill and strategy. She says “Every student has a different learning style and I always try to adapt to their needs. That often means to say the same thing many different ways so my students understand what is being taught.”


And how about the private life of Nicole Robbins? When she is not teaching on a tennis court, Nikki enjoys the martial arts (kung fu and tai chi), and skiing. She also speaks Spanish and is attempting to learn how to play the piano and speak French. But tennis is entrenched in her life like no other activity. Her organization, Nikki’s Tennis Crew offers a wide variety of tennis programs for adults and children, such as private and group lessons; Quickstart programs for juniors; Captaining of  USTA League teams; tournaments; special events and camps. Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the major technology companies in the sport of tennis, has asked Nikki to be on their Advisory Staff. She is holding this position since 1989.


Nikki is in good company at Weddington Golf & Tennis. Not only is this semi-public club home of the California Social Tennis Network, but it is also known for a number of celebrities that were seen playing tennis there lately, like Will Ferrell and Jon Lovitz. And one of the most famous tennis players of all time is known to use the golf driving range every once in a while: Pete Sampras.



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The Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) is based at the UCLA Campus in Los Angeles. The SCTA is one of the 17 USTA sections and offers a large Adult League tennis program throughout Southern California. Every year, Adult League players come to USTA League tennis matches with certain expectations that may not be based on the realities of the computerized ratings system.


SCTA League Coord.jpg

SCTA Adult League Coordinators at the 2011 Farmers Classic ATP tournament at UCLA



USTA (United States Tennis Association) Adult League players participate in League tennis matches with certain expectations based on what their individual understanding of the system is. Since many players do not really have a thorough understanding of what’s called the NTRP rating system, this can be cause of conflict and frustration. NTRP stands for National Tennis Ratings Program and is the USTA’s proprietary system of calculating and displaying an adult player’s accurate skill level.


Purpose of the NTRP Tennis Ratings Program
The USTA says on their Tennislink suite of web applications under NTRP: "The primary goal of the program is to help all tennis players enjoy the game by providing a method of classifying skill levels for more compatible matches, group lessons, league play, tournaments and other programs."

The premise is that the powers to be at the USTA want to make the league tennis experience competitive and enjoyable for as many players as possible by leveling the playing field as good as an almost 100% computerized system can allow it. Not an easy task with ½ million players involved. They can’t always make everyone of those players happy. But the number of players who think the system is fair and the matches are competitive and enjoyable is reportedly astounding.



Tennislink NTRP.jpg


SCTA Adult League Coordinators at the 2011 Farmers Classic ATP tournament at UCLA


Computerized Self-Rating of League Tennis Players
The computerized self-rating web application is the first point of contact for a new player or for someone with an expired rating. The more accurate the answers to the self-rate questions are the better the chances that a player will end up with the correct ratings level. Self-rate yourself too high and you may not be able to win very many points, let alone games. One may also find that their opponents are upset because they are not in a competitive match. Players who self-rate themselves too low are in danger of being disqualified for beating up on lower level players too easily. The different play levels within the NTRP ratings system are displayed in an easy to read diagram, the Player Guidelines.

Registration on a USTA Adult League Team
Getting on the correct USTA Tennis League team is an important part of providing a competitive and enjoyable match play experience. Players and Captains know when they are playing at the right level and the problems they can create for themselves and their opponents if they don’t. The player registration process on a League team happens online on Tennislink.

Match Play and Dynamic Tennis Ratings
Dynamic ratings are being calculated nightly for the USTA’s Adult and Senior League divisions only. The ratings of players allow predicted scores. When the actual score of the match differs from the predicted score, the dynamic ratings of all the players are adjusted slightly in the direction of the actual score. This can create situations where players lose a match but their rating increases because the score was close or they actually won when they were supposed to lose.

Tennis Ratings Levels are Based on a Figure in One Hundredths of a Point
Although players usually only see their whole level number, such as 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 etc., behind the scene the computer calculates all ratings in hundredths for the adult and senior divisions. Example: a 3.5 level player may actually have a rating anywhere between 3.01 and 3.50. This shows that a high 3.5 player with a rating of e.g. 3.47 may actually be well on her way to becoming a 4.0 player. Also, a low 3.5 player with a rating of 3.07 may be in danger of slipping down to a 3.0 level.

When do USTA League Tennis Matches Create Conflicts?
The situation is predictable. Players are out of level and may or may not know it. The case where a totally over-level player beats up on lower-rated players is actually quite rare. In a conflict situation one side is often not realizing they are playing at a level higher than their ability and they’re meeting opponents at the top of their level. A reality check is appropriate here and better information would go a long way for these players.

Year-end Ratings for Adult League Tennis Players
Towards the end of the year the NTRP Tennis Ratings Program has, through the calculation of daily dynamic ratings information, a pretty good picture about a player’s rating. They initiate the Year-end ratings calculation, which pulls more data in, adds the results of Championship matches, and creates Benchmark ratings that are filtering down in to the community of hundreds of thousands of tennis players and adding to the accuracy of ratings.
Year-end Ratings are good for 3 years (2 years for those aged 60 or older during the League year).

Is there Room for Improvement for League Tennis Ratings?
There certainly is. Beginning with the accuracy of the self-rating process, following the way daily ratings are calculated, and trying to eliminate sandbaggers and other non-standard match play dynamics, there is always room for improving the computer element in the process. One of the main areas for improvement, however, may just be better information for the average player. Alejandra Ordonez, SCTA’s Section League Coordinator for Adult Leagues says: “Although a ratings appeals process is in place, the more the players understand the system, the better they are able to see the bigger picture and help improve that very process.”






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Sports Explorer broadens kids' minds through athleticism. Southern California tennis personality Ronita Elder says, "Southern California is thirsty for tennis!"




Everyone familiar with tennis personalities in Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California knows Ronita Elder. Ronita is not only a former international tennis professional, but also the current Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for the Southern California Section of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Los Angeles Director for World Team Tennis, life member of both the American Tennis Association and United States Tennis Association, and Board Member of Connect L.A., a virtual organization linking volunteers and community resources around the Los Angeles area.


And then there is another side of Ronita – founder of Sports Explorer in Los Angeles, a USTA Community Tennis Association. The Mission of the organization is to be a “…champion for active and healthy communities of all ages and backgrounds through athleticism and wellness education. “ The founder’s vision for this non-profit organization is to provide a healthy footprint in the community and promote a “conscious pursuit of a healthy lifestyle for all.”


Ronita’s premise is that the L.A. High Schools are not a healthy environment for kids and what is needed are healthy activities to create a positive, nurturing, stimulating, and livable community. Her vehicle for achieving that goal is the sport of tennis. Since 1999, when Sports Explorer was established, the organization has evolved from bringing tennis to kids at High Schools to involving adults and whole families in the healthy tennis lifestyle. Teaching tennis to kids at the Crenshaw High School is still their largest program, but the organization is participating in adult World Team Tennis, organizes its annual “Taste of Tennis” fundraiser extravaganza in May, and is enjoying a long standing partnership with local tournaments.


The annual BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA plays a special role in those partnerships because as the 5th largest tournament in the world it lends itself to playing a special role in the fundraising strategy of Sports Explorer. The local LA tournament, Farmers Classic, is also playing a big role in the programs of Sports Explorer.


Many High School juniors volunteer for “A Taste of Tennis”, Sports Explorer’s Annual National Tennis Month Celebration and Scholarship Fundraiser. They will be candidates for the Sports Explorer Scholarship as members of the Crenshaw High School Senior Leadership Team. The requirements are volunteering and participation at A Taste of Tennis with their family members at the active living community event.


Ronita Elder is also trying to reach adults who want to play tennis. She is quoted as saying “Southern California is thirsty for tennis”. More and more adults see the health benefits of tennis as a sport and a lifestyle. states that “Sports Explorer believes in the power to change lives through sports and nutrition at any point in your life.” If money wasn’t an object, Ronita would carry that message all over the world. Going global is her dream and she has already taken groups of tennis players to Brazil and China, where they played in events like the Bejing Senior Open.


For more information visit the Sports Explorer web site at Sports Explorer.The organization also has a Fan Page on Facebook and an active presence on Twitter.



Do you like this post? Please leave a comment in the comment box. And check out my posts on the LA Tennis Examiner. Thank you.

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Tennis enthusiasts from all over the planet befriend each other on Facebook, thus creating a sub-culture of friendly communities breaking down geo-political and sociological barriers.




It took them a while, but the one group of sports participants that are notoriously slow in reacting to new technology, are getting the hang of it. Tennis players from all over the world are connecting through Social Media Networks, and Facebook is on the forefront of this trend.


Celebrity Tennis Players are Getting Mega Traffic on Facebook


It used to be that internationally popular team sports were the most active on Facebook. English soccer club FC Liverpool led the field for a while with millions of fans on their Fan page. Although their 6.8 million fan base is huge, it is by far not the biggest. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers have 9.9 million fans. US Basketball players like LA Laker's Kobe Bryant (10 mio.), Miami Heat's LeBron James (8 mio.), and ex-Chicago Bull Michael Jordan (13 mio.) are power players in the Social Media field.

But today’s biggest tennis stars are right up there with their numbers. Rafael Nadal: 8.0 million fans, Roger Federer: 8.6 million. While no one can top Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s mega soccer star (over 32 million fans), Roger Federer shows a very impressive presence on Facebook. His Christmas message was “liked” by 29,144 fans, and 4,762 of them took the time to comment.



Southern Cal Tennis Organizations Catching Up With Traffic


The Facebook Fan Page of the Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) represents an organization with a 124 year history and they decided early on in the Facebook game they weren't going to be left behind. In fact they are a front runner in terms of professional approach and number of fans, compared to many of the other 17 USTA Sections. Another organization with a long history that's trying real hard to spread the word via Social Media is LA's own and only professional tennis tournament, the Farmer's Classic, part of the Olympus US Open Series. Played in July at the LA Tennis Center (UCLA Campus), this tournament went through a lot of changes in recent years but is hoping to attract more and more ATP Top 10 players again.



Regular Fans Communicating in Their New Tennis Sub-Culture


Adding like minded tennis players or fans to someone’s circle of friends is mushrooming on Facebook. Any user with tennis affiliation and less than 1,000 “friends” has little social standing in that social network. Examples like Ada Pignatelli from Maniago, Italy, are commonplace. Ada has 2,644 friends from all over the world and communicates daily with many. Tennis is her hobby and the sport is the connector for most of her friends, letting her reach out to all corners of the world and thus greatly enhancing her life. And Ada is not alone in her quest for letting tennis become her community, her “Vienna coffee house”, her town hall meeting. People from the Middle East, Asia, Russia, Europe, Africa, South and North America, Australia are all part of her circle and she has no problem communicating with them in Italian and English. Geo-political and sociological barriers do not exist for her, nor do they exist for anyone else on Facebook.


One curious phenomenon needs special attention in regards to tennis players and fans participating on Facebook. Recently, one nation was overwhelmingly “crowding” the site with tennis people: Argentina. With 6 Argentinean players in the ATP Top 100 and many more in the pipeline to break into that exclusive group, that nation of 40 million appears in a total tennis craze right now. Individuals, professionals, clubs, and organizations alike have realized the value of social networking and social media marketing, and they are coming online in great numbers. Typical example for hundreds of Argentinean tennis fans who joined Facebook recently: Alfredo Barboza from Buenos Aires. He already has 2,717 friends and is connected to a popular Argentinean tennis web site named

Cultural differences are apparently real in the world of tennis. Spain has currently 13 male players with Top 100 ranking, but only a fraction of the Spanish tennis fans are hurrying to sign up on Facebook compared to Argentineans.




Plenty of tennis fans are connecting and it is apparent the tennis community is far away from Facebook saturation. Besides the amazing success Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are experiencing in Social Media right now, people with tennis interest are creating a sub-culture that is greatly enhancing their life and their reach around the world.



Do you like this post? Please leave a comment in the comment box. And check out my posts on the LA Tennis Examiner. Thank you.

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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series


What does it take for an adult tennis player to win matches at any level without having to undo 20 years of bad habits and completely re-learn the game?


Our Scrappy Player has been around for a while. Over the course of the last 25 years he has played USTA League tennis and tournaments, attended clinics and tennis colleges, had private lessons on and off the court, networked nationwide with coaches, pros, players, and organizers. Lately, MrScrappy went on a quest to demystify tennis teachings and look at simple ways to remind adult tennis players what’s really important in order to win matches. To do so he has talked to the best in our sport or read up on their teachings. The following is a short analysis of the bare essence of their philosophy, followed at the end with the concluding down-to-earth advice MrScrappy has for all adult tennis players.


The journey starts in St.George, Utah, at the famous Vic Braden Tennis College.



Vic Braden – Keep your eyes on the tennis ball, bend your knees, and swing low to high


   Vic Braden and Rich Neher


Vic Braden is a tennis legend in the United States. One of the best and funniest keynote speakers for tennis events, Vic has been around for a long time with a very scientific approach to the sport, analyzing the strokes of the best players in the world and sharing his findings with all of us. The two pieces of advice our Scrappy Player took away from Vic’s clinics are:


  1. “Keep your eye on the ball”. Really? Is that simple rule everyone keeps reminding you of indeed a key element of your match? According to Vic it is. He writes on his web site: “If you pretend as though you are watching the ball into the strings, your head will remain quiet and will not disturb your swing pattern”. Here is the real value of that advice: Not watching the ball can make you move your head, which in turn has an effect on your swing and how you hit that ball.
    Note: Roger Federer does this excessively. What a surprise!
  2. Bend your knees and swing low to high”. Whole armies of tennis players hit many groundstroke shots into the net and don’t understand why. Vic explains that bending your knees and trying to get “under the ball” and swinging the racquet up from low to high prevents that error. Too simple? Yes! But tennis is really not a difficult sport according to Vic. A few of those basic rules and lots of practice is all a player needs.
    Note: Doesn’t that sound like Rafa Nadal’s and Serena William's movements and swing? Or just about anyone else in the Top 100?


Hmm, that didn’t really sound too difficult. MrScrappy makes sure he looks at another legend’s philosophy and drives to Encino in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles.



Oscar Wegner – Follow-through with your tennis racquet on every swing



    Oscar Wegner


Oscar Wegner is a tennis legend with international success. According to his web site a bunch of heavyweight tennis celebrities are following his concept: Venus and Serena Williams, Gustavo Kuerten, Vincent Spadea, Paradorn Srichaphan, Marat Safin, to name just a few. Oscar’s teachings of “Modern Tennis” are interesting because they, too, are based on rules that are almost too simple to believe.


According to his web site, early on in his career “…he made the crucial observation that tennis was being taught one way while the pros played in an entirely different way”. His research led him to isolate the actual basis of tennis that apply to any player at any level, whether a pro, an intermediate player, or a beginner. MrScrappy observed how Oscar explained the basics of tennis to a young man who had never touched a racquet or set foot on a tennis court. After 10 minutes that man was able to hit consistent forehands across the net without one unforced error.


One of the basic elements of Oscar’s teachings is the follow-through with a tennis racquet on every swing. Also, the natural movement of a player’s body in order to generate the most efficient strokes is being emphasized.
Note: It appears that just about every player on the Pro-Tour does that. Right?


OK, that was good advice for any player, beginner or advanced, like MrScrappy. Next stop: San Diego.




Brad Humphries – Place your shots and hit it where they ain’t



   Brad Humphries


When you play tennis in San Diego you don’t need any introduction for Brad Humphries. As Director of Tennis at the San Dieguito Tennis Club in San Diego North County (Encinitas), Brad has made a legend name for himself since 1970. Teaching kids as well as adults the lifetime sport of tennis is his passion and his approach is systematic and professional (USPTA P1).


Our Scrappy Tennis Player observed: Brad, too, is able to concentrate his message for adult players who want to win more matches to very basic advice. He says:

Implement any one or all three of the following strategies:

1) Hit the ball over the net three times in a row.
2) Hit every ball to the weak side.
3) Hit the ball where the opponent isn't

Aha, and here is where MrScrappy had an inspiration. “Hit the ball where the opponent isn’t” Hu? Could it really be that simple? There was one last person he needed to observe.  Back to the L.A. area.



Ali Ordonez – Don’t hit to your opponent on the tennis court



   Ali Ordonez


Alejandra (Ali) Ordonez is a legend in her own right. As USTA Section League Coordinator, and Vice President of the Neighborhood Junior Tennis Program, as well as former top tennis player in the US Southwest (ranked #1 for Community colleges in the State of California in 1979 and #1 for Mixed Doubles in the entire Southwest in 1988).


Watching Ali play tennis is like realizing within 5 minutes why she wins matches so easily. She just does not, never, ever, hit to her opponent(s). Be it with a powerful cross-court forehand that lands just inside the sideline and makes her opponent scramble to get a racquet on it, or with a carefully placed soft volley, surprising everyone and just out of reach. Look wherever her opponents are on the court and you’ll see a place where Ali is NOT hitting to.

“Get a solid foundation of ground strokes and volleys and serves, practice lots and then make it a habit of not hitting to your opponents”, says Ali.


OK – it all comes together now for the Scrappy Player. No more guesswork. The quest for finding what’s really important to remember when it comes to winning matches has come to an end. He is able to bring it all down to very basic recommendations.

1.   Keep your eyes on the ball

2.   Bend your knees and hit low to high

3.   Follow through on every swing

4.   Don’t hit to your opponent(s)


Great advice, thinks MrScrappy. Not that he didn’t know all four of those tips for years. But no one has really pointed it out to him so clearly. He has a game plan now and he’s going to try all four from here on. That should help improve his win/loss ratio significantly. He’ll try it out tonight…

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BNP Logo.jpg


Tom Fey called out to the nation of USTA tennis players and 250 of them showed up! His invitation read: “The BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Championships is a doubles competition in which each of the 17 USTA Sections will be provided the opportunity to send a Team representing its Section to compete over the final weekend of the BNP Paribas Open. Each Team will be comprised a minimum of 12 players (6 men and 6 women) providing for one doubles team per gender in the 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 ability levels to a maximum of 24 players (12 men and 12 women).”


What is so special about this event that makes so many players pay a lot of money for registration ($125 per player), transportation, accommodation, and meals? Yours truly was on a mission to find out this year, folks. It was my third time as staff member on the tournament desk together with Tom Fey, Tournament Director of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, his friend Roger from Denver, Ali from Los Angeles, and Charles from Hawaii. From the Thursday night Captains Meeting to the match play, and from the Saturday night Player’s Party to the official Awards Ceremony, everything was carefully planned and executed with the professional routine one can expect from such a grand organization. In between helping at the Tournament Desk I was able to watch a few very competitive Tri-Level matches, had courtside seats at the BNP Paribas Open, played some tennis, and met a bunch of real nice people from 15 Sections of the USTA nationwide.




Some of the photos I took are uploaded to my Facebook page (Rich Neher) at!/album.php?aid=2037657&id=1490713760.

Sorry for the quality, folks. I guess you just can’t compare a Blackberry to a Nikon camera.



Here is my list of reasons that make the BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Championships so special for its participants:



1. Indian Wells Tennis Garden

One of the most beautiful tennis centers in the country with 21 Championship courts and a 16,000 seat stadium – everyone loves to play here! Three of the outer courts were converted to stadiums with anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 seats. Other lower courts have some seating capacity, all in a wide open space environment with snow covered mountains in the background.



2. BNP Paribas Open

Touted as the “5th Grand Slam event”, or the “Grand Slam of the West”, the BNP Paribas Open is the fifth most attended tennis tournament next to the Grand Slams. It is one of the few major events combining both men and women over a two-week period on the ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tours, and it is the only tournament outside of the Grand Slams that passed the 300,000 attendees mark in 2007.



3. Indian Wells

Whether you are local tennis player from LA or San Diego, or you are traveling from snow and water ravaged parts of the country, the desert is a very special place for everyone. Quoting the City web site: “Located in the heart of Southern California’s Desert Resort Communities, the City of Indian Wells is all over the world recognized for its­ tranquil and luxurious resort environment.” March weather here is mostly great – dry, sunny and not too hot yet – with the occasional problem of strong winds like last year. The area offers fantastic restaurants, theaters, museums, and great hotels. For some visitors this is the proverbial oasis of tranquility, for others it’s a party town.



4. Tom Fey

Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s legendary Director of Tennis Tom Fey recently was given two prestigious awards, the USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop Trainer of the Year Award and the USTA/USPTA Community Service Award. Tom is a relentless supporter of Community Tennis, disadvantaged kids, Special Olympics, and all sorts of other good causes. His easy going but professional way of running events, paired with his sense of humor, is a recipe for success and the players know that.



5. Warm-up courts

Have you ever played a league tennis match with Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, and Justine Henin warming up right next to you for their next Championship matches? This can only happen in Indian Wells, and is considered almost a perk for Tri-Level participants. At any given time you may be asked to play on a court adjacent to the BNP Paribas warm-up courts. On occasion some Tri-Level teams are actually bumped off their court by a tennis super star. How cool is that?



6. Level of play

The NTRP ratings levels represented at the BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Championship are 3.5, 4.0, and 4.5. Remarkably, the matches are extremely competitive. No self-rated players are permitted to participate and, because the Tri-Level League is not yet a USTA Program with National Championship advancement, both Captains and players have not seen a need to show up with ringers. No one feels cheated by sandbaggers, no grievances need to be filed, no one is being DQ’d because they’re playing out of level. Makes for a delightful event where everyone thinks they have a good shot at the Championship crown.



7. Compass Draw format

From the tournament invitation: “Each doubles team will compete against the same ability and gender in separate Compass Draws. All matches will be the best of three sets with a Match Tiebreak being played in lieu of the 3rd set. Each match played will count and will accumulate points for the respective Section. Points will be awarded depending on the number of doubles teams in each compass draw.”



So, regardless if you win or lose your first match, your team will still be able to score valuable points for your Section in other parts of the Compass Draw. The Section that accumulates the highest total number of points will be crowned the BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Champion and will be recognized accordingly.



8. Awards Ceremony

This one is huge, folks. Picture this: The BNP Paribas Open Women’s Singles final just finished and the Awards Ceremony is under way. The players from the winning Tri-Level team are assembling in the tunnel, ready to go on the court as soon as Jelena Jankovic has made her speech. Finally you get the sign and all of you trot out to Center Court. 10,000 people in the stadium watching Charlie Pasarell and Steve Simon congratulate you and present you with the BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Championship crystal trophy, incidentally the same trophy presented to the Doubles winners of the Pro-event. 10,000 people applaud you and your team. Sweet!




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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series


I researched a lot of old tennis books, Wikipedia (, New York Times (, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame ( for this Blog post, and tried to get an idea what made those masters of tennis to become so successful that we call them legends today. I had to go back as far as the beginning of the last century and found plenty of individuals so successful, and so dominating in their time, I believe they need to be called true legends. I also found more or less acceptable videos of most players (except Mrs. Lambert Chambers) on YouTube (




lambert2.jpgDorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers (1878 - 1960) 7 times Wimbledon winner.


Although, in 1911, Lambert Chambers won the women's final at Wimbledon 6–0, 6–0 - this was in no way a sign of how her future matches would go. (Btw, the only other female player who won a Grand Slam singles final without losing a game was Steffi Graf when she defeated Natalia Zvereva in the 1988 French Open final). Mrs. Lambert Chambers was a powerful right-handed player from both forehand and backhand, had very accurate passing shots, put up irretrievable lobs, and had plenty of touch on her drop shot. But one of the most outstanding features of this player was her endurance.


In the Wimbledon final of 1919 the sturdily conformed, long-skirted 40-year-old matron, Dorothea Katherine Douglass Lambert Chambers, seven times champion between 1903 and 1914, faced the slim new kid half her age, audacious, skimpily dressed (for the time) Suzanne Lenglen. They battled through the longest final up to that time, counting 44 games. Lenglen's win signalled the changing of the guard at Wimbledon, but everyone who thought Lambert Chambers was finished, was dead wrong. In 1921, at age 41, she was the oldest finalist at Wimbledon and lost to Lenglen again. As Britain's Wightman Cup captain in 1925, at 46, she helped her side win, 4-3, at Forest Hills by beating 30-year-old Eleanor Goss, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. She also captained the team in 1926. She was entered into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.


  • From a Scrappy Player point of view, I have only one comment: Hats off to a woman who was winning so many matches and Grand Slams over a period of over 25 years, with such a power game, and in full length women's clothing. I will never again complain about my tennis outfit and that I could have won that match with a better pair of shoes, and a dryer dri-fit shirt!




Footwork, Balance, Accuracy


Lenglen.jpgSuzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen (1899 - 1938)  7 times Wimbledon winner. 


Suzanne Lenglen was a French tennis player who won 31 Grand Slam titles between 1914 and 1926. A flamboyant, trendsetting athlete, she was the first female tennis celebrity and one of the first international female sport stars, named La Divine (the divine one) by the French press. Right-hander Lenglen was No. 1 in 1925-26 the first years of world rankings. She won Wimbledon every year but one from 1919 through 1925, the exception being 1924, when illness led to her withdrawal after the fourth round. Her 1919 title match, at the age of 20, with 40-year-old Dorothea Douglass Chambers is one of hallmarks of tennis history. During her reign as undisputed Queen of the court she won 270 consecutive matches and gave up only two sets doing so.

Not only her performances on the court were noted, however. She garnered much attention in the media when she appeared at Wimbledon with her dress revealing bare forearms and cut just above the calf, while all other players competed in outfits covering nearly all of the body. Staid Brits also were in shock at the boldness of the French woman who also casually sipped brandy between sets. Some called her shocking and indecent, but she was merely ahead of time, and she brought France the greatest global sports renown it had ever known.



Prior to Lenglen, female tennis matches drew little fan interest, which quickly changed as she became her sport's greatest drawing card. Tennis devotees and new fans to the game began lining up in droves to buy tickets to her matches. Temperamental, flamboyant, she was a passionate player whose intensity on court could lead to an unabashed display of tears. But for all her flamboyance, she was a gifted and brilliant player who used extremely agile footwork, speed and a deadly accurate shot to dominate female tennis for seven straight years.


  • Scrappy Players don't practice shot accuracy and footwork. Heck, they rarely practice, they want to play matches and win. Next time I'm having a not so great day on the tennis court, which could easily be improved by better footwork, I'll remember Suzanne Lenglen's quote from her book "The Right Set": Your feet are the point from which the footwork is done. You must be easy upon them. Do not allow them to hold the ground flatly, for then movement in any direction will not be instant - never run too fast, run with short steps. Wow, I call this profound advice from a Legend who took Ballet lessons as a child!!



Dominence, Influence, Adaptability


billtilden.jpgWilliam Tatem Tilden "Big Bill" (1893 -1953). 3 x Wimbledon winner 


If a player's value is measured by the dominance and influence he exercises over a sport, then William Tatem "Big Bill" Tilden II could be considered the greatest player in the history of tennis. An American tennis player who was the World No. 1 player for seven years, Bill Tilden dominated the world of international tennis in the 1920s. In the United States' sports-mad decade of the 1920ies. Tilden was one of the five dominant figures of the "Golden Age of Sport", along with Babe Ruth, Howie Morenz, Red Grange, and Jack Dempsey.


Nobody had a more devastating service than Tilden's cannonball, or a more challenging second serve than his kicking American twist. No player had a stronger combination of forehand and backhand drives, supplemented by a forehand chop and backhand slice.


There has perhaps never been an era in tennis more dominated by a single player than Tilden in the 1920s. From 1920 through 1926 he led the United States team to 7 consecutive Davis Cup victories, a record that is still unequalled. Among his foremost achievements, he won the U.S. National Championship (precursor to the US Open) 6 times in succession and 7 times altogether (1920-1925, 1929), doubles 5 times, and mixed doubles 4 times. He traveled by ship to England to compete at Wimbledon six times (1920, 1921, 1927-1930) and won three times (1920, 1921 and 1930). He never won the Australian or French singles championship because prior to 1938 (when Don Budge won the first Grand Slam), these were not considered prestigious titles as they are today. Prior to 1938, the most prestigious tennis titles were the Davis Cup, Wimbledon, and the US Championships.


Big Bill Tilden's dominance meant that he was "the gate" for tournaments, clubs, and the USLTA (U.S. Lawn Tennis Association). The crowds came to see him and he knew it very well. That's why he often got away with bullying linesmen and umpires into changing calls - both for and against him. He would stare linesmen down and ask them to change the call. He would threaten to walk out and not come back. Umpires generally gave in at that point because Big Bill walking out would mean considerable financial losses for the organizer. He was also a showman with worldly flair, toying with his opponents to prolong matches, just to give the audience what they came and paid for.


  • While today's technological advances have changed the game so much (see Mac Cam and the Challenge System), as a Scrappy Player I have to admire the sheer brashness of Bill Tilden. He used his dominance and his influence on and off the court. In between all those negative reports about him staring down linesmen and getting the umpires to change calls, there is one positive report that is worth mentioning in my opinion. I am quoting from Frank Deford’s great book “Big Bill Tilden – The Triumphs and the Tragedy”.
  • "However abrasively Tilden might so regularly strike people, however rude and unfeeling he could appear to be, there was always this incredible measure of kindness within him. Years later in Los Angeles during the war, when he learned that a young Mexican-American prospect would not be permitted to use the fashionable Los Angeles Tennis Club courts, it was Tilden who put himself on the line, who told the club manager, Perry Jones, a powerful USLTA official, that he would blow the whistle publicly and pull out a lot of other players if the kid’s ban continued. Only then did Jones bow and let Pancho Gonzales play on his courts."
  • So, what does the Scrappy Player learn from Big Bill? I am choosing the adptability part. When Bill Tilden lost most of one finger on his right hand he adapted, learned how to deal with it, and moved on with determination. He started to slice forehand and backhand shots and drove his opponents crazy until they were able to handle those shots. Be flexible, adapt well to changing situations, and be determined and assertive - the Bill Tilden way.







Wills.jpgWills (Moody). 8 times Wimbledon winner 


Helen Newington Wills Roark (October 6, 1905 – January 1, 1998), also known as Helen Wills Moody, was an American tennis player. She has been described as "the first American born woman to achieve international celebrity as an athlete."

Helen won the following Grand Slam singles titles: 7 US Championships, 8 Wimbledon, and 4 French Open between 1923 and 1938. Including numerous doubles and mixed doubles titles she won 31 Grand Slam titles altogether, in addition to 2 gold medals at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

With a winning streak of 150 matches without giving up one set, Helen Wills was the international star player from California, who was known for her phenomenal concentration on court. Her getting down to business attitude, rarely smiling or showing any kind of emotion during a match, earned her the nickname “Little Miss Pokerface”. It was reported that one Wimbledon final had her play on and attempting to serve after she won the Championship point and the umpire had called her the winner already. She just was way too concentrated to bother with counting her games or observing the score board.


  • 100% concentration is hard for a Scrappy Player. So much is going on in your mind every day. The job, the relationship, tennis elbow, bad line calls, you name it.  When I realize I’m not focusing at all on the game at hand, I follow two masters of concentration. First I remember what David Breslow teaches. He is the famous teacher, speaker, author, and Director of Mental Toughness at the USTA’s National Tennis Center. He teaches how to clear your mind and concentrate only on ONE thing, e.g. your footwork. The second master of concentration I usually follow is Helen Wills. In “The Goddess and the American Girl” Larry Engelman describes how she chanted the words “EVERY POINT” to herself on every shot, in every game she ever played. Very impressive and even Scrappy Players acknowledge that those methods absolutely work..




Perserverance against all odds


PanchoG.jpgPancho Gonzales 



Ricardo Alonso González or Richard Gonzalez, (May 9, 1928 – July 3, 1995), who was generally known as Pancho Gonzales or, less often, as Pancho Gonzalez, was the World No. 1 tennis player for an unequalled eight years in the 1950s and early 1960s. During that period, he played as a professional. Mostly self-taught with some coaching, he was a successful amateur player in the late-1940s, twice winning the United States Championships. Gonzales is still widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game.


Gonzales was given a 51-cent racquet by his mother when he was 12 years old. He received some tennis analysis from his friend, Chuck Pate, but mostly taught himself to play by watching other players on public courts in Los Angeles. Once he discovered tennis, he lost interest in school and began a troubled adolescence in which he was occasionally pursued by truant officers and policemen. He was befriended by Frank Poulain, the owner of the tennis shop at Exposition Park, and sometimes slept there.

Because of his spotty school attendance and occasional minor brushes with the law, he was ostracized by the overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon, and predominantly upper-class, tennis establishment of 1940s, which was headquartered at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and which actively trained other top players such as the youthful Jack Kramer. During that time, the head of the Southern California Tennis Association, and the most powerful man in California tennis (and much of the country, given the way weather gave that region a head start in tennis) was Perry Jones, described an autocratic leader who embodied much of the exclusionary sensibilities that governed tennis for decades. Although Gonzalez was a promising junior, once Jones discovered that the youth was truant from school, he banned him from playing tournaments.

Eventually he was arrested for burglary at age 15 and spent a year in detention. He then joined the Navy just as World War II was ending and served for two years, finally receiving a bad-conduct discharge in 1947.


When Jack Kramer retired from his Pro-Tour, Gonzalez won a tour over Don Budge, Pancho Segura and Frank Sedgman in 1954 to determine Jack's successor. He stood himself as Emperor Pancho, proud and imperious for a long while, through the challenges of Tony Trabert, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Pancho Segura, Alex Olmedo and others. For a decade Gonzalez and pro tennis were synonymous. A promoter couldn't hope to rally crowds unless Pancho was on the bill. The other names meant little. During his reign Pancho won the U.S. Pro singles a record eight times.



  • Scrappy Players like the underdogs and love the stories how someone becomes a Champion against all odds. The all-white elite didn’t want to let him play at the LA Tennis Club until Bill Tilden stood up for Pancho. And he went on to become one of the greatest players of his time. The fact that Pancho Gonzales was mostly self-taught weighs heavily in his favor because Scrappy Players don’t like to spend money for tennis lessons. We do like perseverance and learning by watching other players. That's why you always find us at all the tournaments, watching Tennis Channel, renting videos, and watch countless hours of tennis during the Grand Slams. Of course, how a self-taught player like Pancho Gonzales was able to perfect one of the hardest and most accurate serves of all times is a complete mystery to me. I should be able to do that, too. No?




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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series


I have written about this before, remember? You are playing against a player who holds all the advantages and should be able to beat you comfortably. Finding ways to level the playing field and beat that player is a very interesting undertaking for me. As I play tennis over the years and every once in a while play such a person, it always amazes me how those theories of mine hold up and prove to be right. And I'm continuing to set my sights higher and higher. Very soon I'm going after some players I lost to badly last year.... you know who you are, haha, watch out!



But back to the subject of this Blog post. Jack is about my age, a player who plays 5-7 times a week, and who beat me soundly in two sets last time we played. We met this week and played only one set. It's a long story, but I think Jack acted like a sore loser who gave up claiming the courts were so dirty he couldn't see the ball anymore. I admit the public park court we played on looked like it hadn't been washed in 6 months, and the balls turned a reddish brownish dirt color within 15 minutes. However, I had fewer problems seeing the ball and maybe my new Maxx Cinco HD Sports Sunglasses gave me the edge here, who knows... (I hope the manufacturer sees this Blog post and my plug of their product:



Jack started out strong during warm-up. I served the first game and Jack broke me right away because of my tentative beginning and a service double-fault. He showed me his mastery with one stroke I always have problems to read: ripping a backhand down the line. While I am waiting for a cross court return, the ball goes deep down the line to my right and is unreachable for me, while he moves in behind it, ready to deal with my return.


Then he held serve and I was down 0-2. At that time I was FINALLY remembering some of my writings and Blog posts and thought about how I could possibly level that playing field. I realized I was a little more mobile than Jack, and he had the ability to anticipate my shots very well. Also, he was not wearing sunglasses. I planned a 3-phase strategy. And I decided not to give up and hand him the set. He had to beat me if he wanted to take that set.




Jack had better shots than me, no doubt. But I was playing to his strengths by hitting my shots right at him or close to him near the baseline. That had to stop. In game three, on my serve, I waited for a short ball, came in and hit an angled soft shot, which he didn't even attempt to run down. Two more slow returns from me caught him by surprise and, running them down, he made some unforced errors and hit them out. 1-2.




In the next game he was on the side of the court where looking up made you look directly into the sun. When he came in to return a short ball of mine, I was able to lob him twice deep into his court. He had to look up and was very irritated about my actions. Jack doesn't like lobs, he thinks this is Senior Tennis, haha. He lets the fact that he's being lobbed cloud his vision and distract his game. But I don't care about that, I do what I have to do to win that game. And I embrace lobs in singles and in doubles. When my lobs are on, they can be devastating. I broke his serve. 2-2.




Remember that ripped back hand down the line? I decided to MAKE him do that shot on my terms and be ready for it. It began with me purposely hitting to his backhand. His cross-court slice returns were not too dangerous for me, I could run those down. All I had to do is wait for him to show me through his body motions that he was setting up the down the line approach shot and come in after it. And, there it was. I saw it, was ready to be there, and returned it for a hard, angled cross court winner. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw that ball sailing by. Next time I made him do that shot I lobbed him easily when he approached the net. It was just a matter of seeing the shot and getting it back. And me forcing him to set it up made all the difference in the world.



I think when Jack saw that his best weapon against me lost all its teeth, he gave up mentally. He managed to win one more game because of some sloppy shots from yours truly. I need to learn to stay focused longer and hit EVERY SHOT* alert and with purpose. However, I won the set 6-3.



Now, I do realize that my win would have been much more decisive if I could claim I had taken two sets from Jack. The fact that he gave up after losing the first set stole my thunder and robbed me of that claim. However, on a 1-set basis, with 9 games played, it proved my theory: there are ways to level that playing field.



-      Find one or two weaknesses** in your opponent and capitalize on it.

-      Make your opponent hit certain shots on your terms, so YOU can deal with them.

-      Never give up. Believe in your own abilities. Make your opponent work for every point.



Makes sense? Try it out, you may have found your own ways of dealing with better players. Wanna share some?



* When I used that phrase EVERY SHOT it reminded me of Helen Wills (Moody). She dominated the tennis world long ago. They called her “Little Miss Pokerface” from California. For many years and hundreds of matches, thousands of games, and tens of thousands of shots, she always chanted “EVERY SHOT” silently to herself before hitting the ball. It kept her focused and the rest is history.



** Finding weaknesses is sometimes not easy. As I wrote in my Blog post from July 25 “Need to win that match? Become ruthless! (In a nice way)” sometimes an opponent’s weakness isn’t easily identified. You warm up and can’t find any. But at one point in time you should be able to find his or her killer shot. If that killer shot comes e.g. from the forehand you have to make a conscious decision NOT to hit to the forehand anymore, and then stick to it. By taking killer weapons away from your opponents, you are giving yourself more chances to exploit some of their weaknesses AND capitalize on your own strengths.

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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series


Jason Jamison is a professional tennis coach. I saw him for the first time holding a Recreational Coaches Workshop in the San Diego area many years ago. He has since moved up the ladder of success and works for the USTA now, managing their National Schools Program. In that capacity he travels all over the country to lecture on school initiatives and that's how met him again in Indian Wells 2 weeks ago. He spoke at the SCTA Community Development Workshop, and I gave a presentation about Web Based Social Networks to the same crowd.


The night before the organizer (SCTA's Melanie Bischoff, great as always!) put on a small tennis tournament for two levels of play: 4.0- and 4.0+. It so happened that I signed up for 4.0-, got a great female partner (Mookda West from Balboa TC in San Diego), and we won it. That's just to set the mood for what transpired afterwards. Don't worry, I'm getting to my story right now.


It was dark and it was getting late, but I overheard two women who both played in the 4.0+ division, theat they wanted to to go out and hit some more. Being the cocky myself, right after winning the 4.0- division, I asked them if they wanted maybe a friendly mixed doubles match if I found another male player. They agreed and and I asked Jason, who was standing right next to me, if he wanted to join in and be the male on the opposite team. Jason is the nicest guy and I guess he, too, can't say no to a friendly game of tennis. We walked on the court and started to warm up, when I began to realize I made a BIG mistake. Each one of the two women seemed to be two levels above mine. They hit so hard during warm-up I had my hands full just to return those balls back over the net. I just wished I was back in my hotel room, tucked in safely and reading my book (at the time I read "Wimbledon", written 1947 by the person who ran the club and the tournament in the 1920ies and 30ies). Jason, on the other hand, had no problems returning any shots. He seemed to have a jolly good time.


The two jock women realized the situation I was in and that I was way out of my league in that match. They approached us and proposed to play one set women against men. The way they looked at each other I knew right away this would be a slaughter. I knew as soon as they began concentrating their efforts on me, the scrappy 4.0 player, they had that set literally bagged. When I saw my girlfriend, who would have been the ideal 4th player in that match, turn away and run for the club house, I knew she, too, sensed what was about to happen on court 8 of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.


When Jason took me aside for a little pre-match powow, I was surprised hearing him telling me how we would beat these two advanced female players. Here's how he provided me with a set of instructions before I had the chance to hit my first ball. He said:


1. I know you like net play and volleys. I'll stay back and you'll play your game at the net and jump on EVERY ball coming over the net close enough for you.

2. When I, Jason, hit the ball and you, Rich, see me hitting it, you're not doing your job. Your job is watching our opponents, and especially the net player. NEVER watch me.

3. These are two hard hitting ex-college players. They love speed. We'll take that away from them, slow it down, and make them run and get our angled shots. This will neutralize some of their power.

4. We'll talk about strategy before every point.


I started to serve and lost my service game right away. Not good. My serve was too slow and just not dangerous enough for them. And Jason was still watching them and working on the strategy. They won their serve and we were quickly down 2-0. Jason sensed my mood and kept me positive, telling me how we would win his service game now. He positioned me more towards the inside of my box, much closer to the center line than I usually stand trying to cover the alley. "You'll offer them the alley, which is one of the hardest shots in tennis, but you gain more chances to poach service returns". And that's what happened. Throughout the set they each tried once to return a serve down the alley, not knowing this is one of my favorite shots to put away. The first one I volleyed deep into their court, unreachable. The other down the line service return went way long. They didn't try this one again.


Jason's serves were both well placed down the middle and bounced high. I hit two nice volleys and Jason gave them two lobs they couldn't reach, game over. It was 2-1. Then we broke their serve by again and again taking some pace off and letting them struggle to get drop shots and angled volleys. I won my next service game by hitting the serves down the middle with ehavy underspin and Jason putting away the returns. Then we broke them again.


Interesting on Jason's next service game: Our opponents were able to get us down 15-40 when Jason explained more strategy to me. He said: As soon as my serve hits the opposite box, you move forward one step and raise your racquet. I tell you this little action frazzled our opponents again and again. We won this game and the next one. Set score: 6-2.


What did I learn from this set? A whole bunch of things many of you may already know. Here it goes:


1. Listen to the experienced player. There is a reason why he wins more matches than you.

2. Watch your opponents during warm-up, then develop a strategy. If that strategy works, stick to it.

3. If your opponents are hard hitters who can do baseline shots all day long, slow the game down, give them drop shots, and make them run.

4. If your opponents love hard cross court returns of serve, serve them down the middle.

5. Recognize your and your partner's strengths and include them in your strategy


There is probably more to learn from this experience. I just know I walked away smiling. It was a good night. Yes, I admit we beat two women. But they were excellent players way above my level. Did I mention it was a good night? Thanks, Jason, for the lesson!


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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series


Here is my dilemma: I love more than one Top 5 ATP tennis star. Everyone for different reasons, though...


Roger Federer. Flawless tennis player, one of the 5 greatest players of all time, and a Swiss man. I love Switzerland. My Switzerland Skiing in Interlaken. Hiking the Alps. Great food and big featherbeds in picturesque Alpine Hotels and B&B's. Born and raised in Germany I always loved to travel to Switzerland for short and long vacations, summer and winter. Less than 3 hours by car. I can only remember 4 famous Swiss people: Wilhelm Tell, Ursula Andress, Martina Hingis, and - Roger Federer. (No, Albert Einstein may have lived and worked in Switzerland, but that man was German!) Tennis? No, you didn't go to Switzerland to play tennis.


My Scrappy Player Analysis: Because of his flawless tennis and effortless style, Roger Federer is the World Player of the Decade for me.


Andy Roddick. Outstanding tennis player. Highest ranking American player since Andre Agassi. From Omaha, Nebraska, residing in Austin, Texas. Love his serve, which is about 70 mph faster than mine. It' a shame he only has one Grand Slam Singles title under his belt, despite having been a Slam finalist 7 times. For me, Andy Roddick was always a little bit of a boring player, a baseliner with a booming serve. Those players are a dime a dozen nowadays. No?


My Scrappy Player Analysis: Andy Roddick has rarely lived up to his potential or the experts' expactations when it comes to winning the BIG titles.


Andy Murray. Outstanding tennis player. A Scotsman from Glasgow who lives in London, England (traitor!). Now, I LOVE Scotland. Been there about 10 times. Rough country, fantastic people, great traditions. Love to listen to folk songs about Loch Lomond and that Bonnie Lassie. I stayed at a wonderful hotel near Edinburgh once, Airth Castle. That was quite a spooky experience, mainly because of the female ghost roaming the hallways and keeping me up half the night...

So, I'm clearly biased because of my love of Scotland. But Scottish tennis players? Mhhmmm, I don't know. Ladbroke, the premier UK sports betting business, announced last week that the odds are 6-2 against Andy Murray ever winning a Grand Slam singles title.


My Scrappy Player Analysis: I share the latest analysis with the Daily Telegraph in the UK. Because of continued unrealistic expectations, Andy Murray is in danger of becoming a has been.


Novak Djokovic. Outstanding tennis player. I have a love / hate relationship with the tall Serb from Belgrade. I love his showmanship, which makes watching matches he's involved in often more fun. I hate the fact that he's apparently out there to disappoint his followers just when they need him most. This year he beat top players Federer, Nadal, Del Potro, but he also lost to the No. 95 in the world (Gulbis). You can never rely on Novak to be focused enough to actually wanting to win a tournament. Despite all those matches he played in 2009, two wins (Dubai and Serbia Open) are just not cutting it for me. But, Djokovich has a Grand Slam Singles title under his belt, the 2008 Australian Open. Beating Roger Federer in the Semis was almost a bigger thing than beating Tsonga in the Finals.


My Scrappy Player Analysis: I'm not giving up hope that Novak can win a couple more Slams. However, I just know I'm setting myself up for more disappointment. Almost masochistic. No?


Rafa Nadal. Outstanding tennis player. Born and raised in one of my favorite vacation spots in the world: Majorca, Spain (or Mallorca, as the Germans say it). Have spent some time there, as has virtually every single German individual once in their lifetime. We own that island, haha.


But why do I love Rafa so much? Simple reason: He's playing every point, every game, every set, as if HE were the underdog. And I do like underdogs. They're usually working harder than the others. Like me, the ultimate scrappy player. When I have to play a higher level player, you bet I have to work harder. While my opponent has more fluent shots and executes with correct style and movement, I have to work my butt off to just stay in the match. Rafa does work his (much envied) behind off despite the fact that he is often the true favorite and better player. Fun to watch and easy to love that guy.


My Scrappy Player Analysis: Rafa is a true Champion and fun to watch. However, I wish he would conserve his energy a little and play as smart as Roger Federer, so he'll be on top of his (and our) game for many more years to come. As much as I love his hard working style, he may be setting himself up for more and more injuries...








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