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From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series



So, you're stuck with your game and can't seem to win against players you think you should be able to beat? I'm not talking about players who are clearly better than you, like one or two whole ratings levels. I mean, come on, when you're a 3.5 and your opponent is a 4.0 it takes an act of God to make you win that match. Does it not? Let's forget the situation where you, the accomplished doubles player who never plays singles, are forced to play an accomplished singles player who is rated higher than you. Out of luck, my friend. You can only pray that guy has a REAL bad day after a long night of partying with very little sleep. It's not going to happen, ok?


Now, you're on the court with that opponent who you always wanted to beat but never could. You're warming up and look for weaknesses. Can't find any? Forehand and backhand look equally strong? Come on, you are not facing a tour player here. In my opinion that NEVER happens. OK, then look at his strengths. Where is the killer shot coming from. Ah, it's coming from his forehand? Here you go, my friend. THAT'S where he's going to really hurt you in the match. The back hand may look good and all, but it's not a killer shot and he's not likely to hurt you with it. Got that? Just the thought of taking an entire killer shot opportunity away from my opponent makes me shiver with anticipation (Oh, hold, that was Tim Curry in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show, haha)...


Now here is something you can practice, btw. How to concentrate on hitting just to one side for an entire set. Once you know how to do this, you'll get a lot of confidence in your shot making and that could make a BIG difference in your game.


Here's me now, playing this guy who I always lost to. Strong serve and killer forehand. During warm-up I didn't see it, and the first game he took to love because I was just happy to return his booming serves and everything landed just the way he wanted it - on his foreand. I had no chance getting any of his powerful cross court shots.


From now on almost all of my serves, returns, and volleys went to his backhand. He couldn't hurt me from there at all. Then he became a little frustrated and began to make mistakes. On the rare occasion of me hitting to his forehand he hit one long, and then one into the net. After I broke him in his next service game I began to systematically dismantle his game and that was the end of it.


What am I trying to say here? When your opponent doesn't show you a shotmaking weakness look for his strong side and then choose the other side. Be ruthless! Hit to this other side relentlessly. Come in after a good approach shot or after a short return and put those volleys away. Then hit to "the other" side again.


It worked for me many times before. I am not known to be a ruthless guy, but when I see a weakness in my opponent's game, I exploit it! But - still be nice to your opponent. He may do the same to you next time. No?



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My new "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series



15 years ago I was a miserable son of a b.... I joined the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in San Diego North County and didn't want to invest in tennis lessons. My game was just awful, crushing my (German Virgo) ego and making my performance go into a spiral downslide. As a 2.5/3.0 player who played on a 3.5 league team and thought he was a 4.0, I was watching all those great players on TV and wanted to be like them soooo badly. I refused advice from friends who offered to go out on the court to hit with me for an hour. I didn't need to hit, I needed to play, was my line of thinking. And every lost match made me more miserable. I was thinking "WHERE ON EARTH IS THE FUN IN THIS GAME? I AM PAYING GOOD MONEY FOR THIS?"


One day I was playing a USTA mixed doubles League match with my girlfriend. The name doesn't matter, although all of my San Diego friend know who I'm talking about. Right? Well, we lost the first set because of me and halfway through the second set I lost it. I got burned by the opposing net player and started blaming my partner. Oh, boy, I should have known better. She looked at me with disgust and then she walked out. Left me standing there and went home. We defaulted the match, of course, and never again played league tennis together.


The next day my buddy Dave called me and said he wanted to buy me a drink at our local watering hole and talk with me. We went and he explained a few things. He said "Rich, I am very sad to give you some bad news first. NO ONE in the club wants to play with you anymore. The good news is, I can tell you how to change that if you want me to." We got very drunk that night and I promised to listen to his advice. Dave put me on a 3-step plan which I didn't embrace at first, but became enthusiastic about very soon. Here is Dave's 3-Step Plan for turning my tennis life around:


1. Practice hitting ground strokes with my buddy twice a week


From the next day on we were hitting ground strokes on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. No games, no points to win or lose. Just hitting. Dave was no high class player, but he had played for 30 years and knew what those ground strokes should look like. It helped me concentrate on the basics without the pressure of wanting to win. I focused on stroke development, footwork, posture, grip, all that good stuff. In addition, I took a private lesson once a month or so, to have a Pro check how I was doing and make sure my strokes were developing the right way.


2. Work on my attitude on the court


Under Dave's regiment I learned how to ... not let me beat up on myself after a bad shot, ... looked for things to improve when I was in a rut, ... clear my mind and focus on my game, ... compliment my partner and create an atmosphere of respect and trust bewteen us, ... have FUN playing tennis.


3. Work on my atitude off the court


Big learning curve for me. I had to start being nice to EVERYONE. Not

just my buddies. That was hard, with my German Virgo background. But,

in the end I mastered that, too. And all of a sudden the sport of

tennis and the interactions with my fellow tennis players started to

look like fun again for me.


You may ask me now how does any of that relate to the headline of this

Blog post? That headline says "How to improve your tennis game 1 whole

level". Well, I went from a 3.0 to a 4.0 player, which is actually a

jump of two levels. And here are my 3 suggestions for you to accomplish

the same:




1. Practicing your strokes regularly improves your tennis game

2. If your tennis game gets better, you'll have more fun

3. If you have more fun, your tennis game gets even better


Can it really be that simple? Yes! Try it yourself, it works... And I can assure you of one thing: EVERYBODY wants to play with me today



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Wow, that's a loaded subject for someone who ran about 1,000 social tennis mixers in the past 10 years. No, we're not talking about singles tennis here. Yours truly is convinced there are few better opportunities in life to meet other singles than on the tennis court. I believe I wrote this in an earlier post already, but in my opinion there are no upsides to trying to meet available singles during social tennis mixers. Consider this: You'll see the potential dating candidate.....


..... with fewer clothes on than normal


..... in a friendly, relaxed, outdoors atmosphere


..... see how he / she moves, walks, talks


..... observe how they handle stress situations



..... watch how they treat their partners and opponents



..... and thus find out about their character and integrity



How can you ever see all those flaws and other character traits just by meeting someone in a restaurant for lunch? Honestly, people. If you have troubles understanding that, just go to any social tennis mixer and start observing people through the eyes of a single person looking for dates.



I can remember lots of single men and women coming to my social tennis mixers during the years, hoping to meet their match. Some were successful, some were not, it all depended on their expectations and attitude. My rule was always as the Leader of the group to never ever date anyone playing with the Tennis Network in San Diego - no exception! That rule served me well for many years for obvious reasons. You can compare it a little with dating amongst co-workers in an office. Generally not a good idea.



There was only one time when I bent that rule a little. I was dating a woman who turned out she had played tennis when she was 30 years younger and wanted to get back into it. Sooner or later, she wanted to play with the Network and I was in a big dilemma. Finally I broke down and the trouble started. Not only did she absolutely dislike to see me surrounded by other female players, but she revealed some nasty character traits to me AND my fellow club members. Quite embarrassing seeing my friends question my decisions and choices when it came to dating women.



I never forget...



...that good looking Russian woman G., who I think was looking for a Green Card holder, heehee. She was a party girl and brought with her the best Vodka I have ever had. G. had no interest in improving her tennis beyond advanced beginner, which proved to be a major handicap for her. After about a year she moved on and is probably partying at a tennis club near you.



... that older British chap, D. Delightful accent, charming dancer and singer (remember "Gay Caballero"?), fantastic tennis player with a little nasty side criticizing partners and throwing racquets. Life of every party, walks in the best circles of Rancho Santa Fe and La Costa. I always enjoyed his company and liked to see his various companions and hear his exciting dating stories. I actually miss his company quite a bit after moving to LA.



... K. was the strangest fellow to ever show up in a tennis group. Insisted he was an advanced player, but couldn't return one ball. Did not want to listen to any advice, tried to always explain why he knew it better. We had a member/guest party at his house one night and he got on everybody's nerves with computer tech talk. When he went downstairs and didn't come up for a while, an otherwise very quiet female member of our group, a 8 times Emmy Award winning TV producer and great tennis player, remarked "I hope he went down and shot himself". K. didn't improve at all and after a while absolutely no one wanted to play with him anymore. Also, no one wanted to go out with him, since he was not able to listen to what other people had to say. After about a year he finally faded away. No one misses him. I think he's quite a lonely man, wandering from tennis club to tennis club in search of ....hmmm?



... C. was a tennis playing real estate agent I met on and had one weird lunch date with. She was one inch taller than me and complained about my height or lack thereof. Then she decided to drink me under the table and started to swear when she saw I didn't wanna play that game. After an agonizing hour and 4 beers later (my one and her three), I tried to make it clear that I didn't see a good match for the two of us. She continued to swear, called me a coward and told me I probably couldn't even play tennis very well, either. I've had enough but she kept calling me and challenged me for a set of singles. I knew there was only one way to shut her up and prevent her from coming to the network's mixers. We met on a Saturday morning at her club in Poway. It took me less than 20 minutes to win that set 6-0 and tell her to never bother me again. That worked.



The couples that really found each other are great success stories for social tennis networks. And we had those also. Like L+S who were the sweetest couple, made for each other. We had great fun playing tennis and partying with them. They got married a year or so later, had a baby, and lived happily ever after. I played tennis with them on a visit to San Diego not too long ago, and am proud that the tennis network had a hand in them finding each other.



I'm similarly proud for L+M, two tennis players who found each other as members of the network rather late in life. A delightful couple and real good players. Took them a while, but they got married a few months ago. You see them on and off the court and you know this is another match made in heaven.



My buddy B. met his girlfriend J. in the Network, as well. Super people, good players, always ready for fun, party animals. I think they are having so much fun together for years now, marriage is not important to them. Gotta respect that, especially since both had been married before. What's the rush?



Yesterday my best friend S. invited me to his wedding in July. He met his match M. on eHarmony. Wow, that was a great surprise, although not unexpected. She plays tennis, too, and somehow my tennis playing friends have a good hand in finding partners for life. I'll be there for the wedding, buddy, nothing can prevent me from coming. And I'll bring my girlfriend and tennis racquets, ok? I heard that resort has 23 tennis courts... And thanks for asking me to leave the tux at home. Appreciate that in the desert in July.



Here are some useful web sites for tennis minded singles:



You can also find me and my writings and rantings on the following Social Media sites:  I am MrTennis on Twitter and run a daily #NTRP Trivia there  I am Rich Neher on Facebook. Check out my group "California Social Tennis Network"  I am Richard Neher on LinkedIn. Check out my group NTRP and its lively discussions



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What is the USTA Tennislink Team? Glad you asked. We are a support team for USTA National and Sectional Coordinators, for tournament directors, coaches, captains, Local Tennis Organizers, and players. The 7 applications we are responsible for are Leagues, NTRP Ratings, Tournaments, Rankings, TDM (Tournament Data Manager software), Flex Leagues, and Team Tennis. The suite of applications is generally known as Tennislink.


In my role of Team Lead and Product Manager for USTA Leagues and Ratings I answer questions on a daily basis, help improve the League experience, and train USTA Coordinators throughout the country on site or via Webinars. I also get to interact with some fine individuals who run the League operations at Section level (Section League Coordinators), at USTA National level, and on the oversight group for NTRP Ratings. Pretty good stuff, these are all very knowledgeable individuals who have one goal in common: Grow the sport of tennis everywhere!


You thought working on the USTA Tennislink Team is all work and no fun? Well, think again. We have had some very funny moments in the past and I want to share a few with you.


Little Old Tournament Director

This lady called our TDM Hotline, explaining she is a Tournament Director, and proceeded to describe the problems she's having making the draws for her tournament in TDM. After about two minutes of talking in a very low voice and quite composed, she'd had enough, said "Oh, f***", and slammed down the phone. Boy, we cracked up listening to that call. I don't ever want to be on that women's bad side...


Flex League Match Time

This player e-mailed us giving us just his name, no more information. I assumed it was Flex Leagues because he was talking about his opponent, obviously a singles match. He just wrote: "I can't play tomorrow. Can you please inform my opponent?"

Yep, we know everyone's opponents (and partners) and when and where they play on any given day. With half a million players in the system, an impossible task, don't you think?


Lifeline, please

Another TDM Hotline call. Unfortunately we don't know a lot about this lady because she didn't leave a message. She just dialed the number, waited a few seconds before she spoke, and than said only one word in a high pitched, pleading kind of way: "Help...". Then she hung up. Wow, this woman was desperate and we wanted so much to help her...


The Unknown Tennis Player

This is by far my favorite e-mail. Various players have e-mailed us with essentially the same question over the years. What do we know about this person? Nothing but an email address. He/she doesn't reveal a name or an address. Heck he/she doesn't even put a subject line in that e-mail. All it reads is: When is my match tomorrow?

Hu? I have to assume this is a tournament player, just because Leaguers are not that dum! Even the youngsters playing Jr. Team Tennis are much too smart to ask such a question. They would know on any given weekend there are hundreds of tournaments with thousands of matches involving tens of thousands of players. Get the picture?


During onsite trainings I often see that people have no real concept about Active and its role in their tennis world. "Are you the people who bought the USTA?" was pretty funny, don't you think. No, dear, I don't think your parent organization is for sale. When people sometimes think Active is a new outfit with 50 computer nerds and a dream location (San Diego) I have to smile. Heck, when I started with Active 2 1/2 years ago we were 300 people or so. Today, we are over 3,000 and have representation in 25 + countries. Hallelujah, can you spell "fastest growing technology company in the sports participation business"?


Other people ask me if I could repair their PC since I am " of those technology gurus". What? Me? My darn video recorder showed a flashing 12:00 for all its life. The reason why my DVD player doesn't do that? It doesn't have a clock, thank God!


The Coordinator who asked me to tell her how to run Tennislink on her '87 Mac Plus was just joking, I guess. However, she was quite happy when I pointed her to a web site that shows how to turn a Macintosh computer (incl. Mac Plus) into an Aquarium:


Pretty funny, eh?

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I used to be old school. Want to get your message out? Create a flyer, do a mass mailing, put an ad in the paper, that sort of thing. However, after I created my first web site over 15 years ago, I started to broaden my horizon and adjust my strategy a little. It was then all about e-mail marketing, web site links, and search engine optimization. While there is still value in all of this today, and - funny enough - flyers and ads are still somewhat in use, new technologies have established a foothold and taken over in areas where other methods just fell short. Today it's all about being connected and getting your message out in a hip fashion - quickly and easily.


How does that all relate to tennis, you may ask. Well, what's good for personal and business connectedness, is certainly good for tennis, as well. Whatever you may do or plan, there's a new media network out there to get you connected. Here are my 3 favorites:


1. LinkedIn

While I regarded LinkedIn for the longest time as a boring business networking community, it was only after I took a real interest and discovered the groups formed inside the Network, that I saw a lot of value. Yes, networking with your peers and their contacts has real business value, and I heard that hr managers now increasingly use LinkedIn to search out and find more about potential candidates, their interests and experience, and how they articulate themselves in public.


Their web site's Meta Name Description reads: "LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts. LinkedIn is a networking tool that helps you discover inside connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners." For me, it meant creating a new network of contacts by becoming actively involved in some if the tennis groups. Most importantly the group "United States Tennis Association" helped me establish great international contacts and gain some credibility as far as showing my expertise and articulating myself.



2. Facebook

One word describes Facebook for me: Fun. While it is likely that LinkedIn connects your professional contacts, meaning present and past colleagues and few personal friends, Facebook is more likely to connect buddies, long time friends, classmates, and maybe a few present colleagues.



The web site describes it this way: "Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, post links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet."



The atmosphere on Facebook is hip and fun. Some of the postings are outright hilarious. I swear one colleague of mine, let's call her A.R., should go into writing for a living. It's like "Sex and the city" meets :Saturday Night Live", but funnier. If she wrote for the LA Times, even yours truly would consider subscribing, haha. But Facebook always tries to provide new and more or less exciting quizzes and games. And there are also plenty of interesting groups to join, including a bunch of tennis groups. I have established a group recently, titled "California Social Tennis Network", with the goal of providing a home and a platform for adult tennis players in California. Eventually I am planning on giving other tennis networks a home under this group heading, and my ultimate goal is to create an organization of 1 million tennis players throughout the country. Maybe I'll call it "U.S. Social Tennis Network", who knows? At this point Facebook is one important piece in my Social Tennis Network puzzle, and I'm having fun using Facebook every day.



3. Twitter* *Twitter's motto is: "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?". A community of "following" and "followers", where your messages (tweets) can only be 140 characters long, is bound to be unique and, at times, outrageous. I've been in Twitter for about a month now and found that people either love it or hate it. For myself, I love it and use it for letting people know what I'm doing, reading, eating, thinking.



All my Twitter connections are tennis related, I won't follow anyone else, especially when they're trying to sell me product. I love tweets from the Brian Brothers or from Andy Roddick. Why? Because they're doing what I'm doing: NOT overloading the system with endless tweets every 5 minutes. I would block those right away. With rarely more than 5-10 tweets a day, I am surely not getting on the nerves of my followers, and that is important for me.



Now, using those three social networking tools, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, is, of course, part of a greater strategy of mine. I have a job (part of the USTA Tennislink Team for The Active Network), and I have a hobby (creating the largest social tennis network in the country and thus connecting one million tennis players). I think my professional and my private game plan complement each other pretty good. Both game plans can profit from each other's connections and both have similar goals. How am I utilizing the three tools to achieve those goals. Cross-marketing is the buzzword. The same way that my blog readers now found out that I'm on LinkedIn (Richard Neher), Facebook (Rich Neher), and Twitter (MrTennis), and that I started a tennis group on Facebook (California Social Tennis Network), my friends, fans and followers will see messages about the Blog, the Network, and my goals. The group will hopefully grow and become strong, Twitter will cause people to look at my other activities, Facebook buddies may be able to give me ideas and suggestions, and so forth. It all goes hand in hand. I have realized that not too long ago and I'm using the system as much as I can. Who knows what else is around the corner and can be utilized to achieve my goals? Whatever it is, I am ready.



See you all soon in TwitterFacebookLinkedIn Land?



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I've seen some scrappy tennis players in my life. To be honest, I am one myself, haha. 90% of the people I have played with or captained and organized in over 1,000 events over the past 10 years are players with no formal tennis training. No significant High School or College tennis experience, never really had private lessons, maybe participated in the occasional clinic at a local club or park. Most of them don't play leagues or tournaments, they just want to get together and have fun. They love mixed doubles and going out for dinner or drinks afterwards. I call this the forgotten majority of tennis players in the United States. There are millions of them (us) and I am working hard on planning to organize their fun under the umbrella "Social Tennis Networks".


Many of those players may not look like Federer or Sharapova on the tennis court, but they have one talent that only comes with experience: They know how to win a match (despite their scrappy game). I want to share with you what I think are the qualities you need to have to win matches. Bear in mind, I am not a teaching pro. I can't tell you how to serve and what airline to chose for your grip (Eastern, Western, Continental ???). Got that? I'm just Mr. Scrappy who just beat his buddy J. 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 - because I know how to win a match!


1. Stretch your muscles

What good does it do you when you injure yourself halfway through the first game (happened to me!)? Honestly, you are wasting time and can't play for days, weeks, months. You want to beat your opponent? Then make it a habit to stretch! 5 minutes of stretching before and 2 minutes after a match go a long way to prevent some nasty injuries. This is no joke, folks!



2. Observe your opponent

Oftentimes you know your opponent real well. Still makes sense to observe his or her game during warm up. Even more important when you're playing against someone you don't know at all. Make sure you hit to their back hands and see what they do with it. Give them a couple of overheads and check their volleys at the net. Then save that information to memory - provided your brain isn't burned out already in the hot Califormia sun, haha. Oh, you don't live in California? Too bad. Then provided your brain isn't washed out by all those rains you had lately, haha.



3. Prepare two game plans

So you saw your opponent moved to the net already during warm-up? He didn't really have any good ground shots from the base line? Oh, too bad, here is your first game plan: YOU WILL OWN THAT NET. Tie your shoe laces and get that passport ready: You'll be traveling to the net A LOT.

In case that plan fails because your opponent is much faster than you and knows how to come in quicker than allowed by the court police: game plan two. Practice those lobs and passing shots, my friend, because it's gonna get nasty. Your opponent will think this is a 4 hour Super Senior League match.



4. Exploit his / her weaknesses

Every one of your opponents has one or two weaknesses. You know it and I know it. We all have those, right? You, my friend, will be the most ruthless tennis player this side of the Mississippi today. No more Mr. Nice Guy. He doesn't really have a back hand but loves those powerful forehand ground strokes that pin you to the baseline? Guess what? From now on ALL you give him are shots to his back hand. Got that? Stay away from that forehand whenever you can.

And then this lady who likes to rush to the net? Remember you are going to own that net? You serve, you move, you pin her to the baseline. She will give you crappy shots from there and you WILL put those away, you hear?



5. Stay focused* *You won the first set despite your scrappy game? Yeah baby, you had a game plan, remember. And nothing deterred you, not even the airplanes flying low over the court, or the grunt noises of the guy on the neighbor court. Now you want to close the deal and win in two, right? Stay focused now. Don't think you got it bagged and can take it a little easier now. Many a thousand of tennis players have lost the second set after a seemingly easy first set. Don't let up. Be on your toes and stay focused, ruthlessly exploiting those weaknesses of your opponent.



See, now you know how to win a match despite your scrappy game. Now go and do it. And don't come back with an injury. Okay?






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I never used to care too much about Junior Tennis programs, had enough on my plate with adult players and building Social Tennis Networks for them. In San Diego the only exposure I ever got to Junior Tennis was at the Barnes Tennis Center with its numerous kids activities, especially their flagship program "After School Tennis". Those guys are doing a terrific job under Keri Blum, no doubt.


In the Los Angeles area I discovered a somewhat smaller program after its name came up a lot when I met some outstanding players and it turned out they all started their tennis careers there. This is the story of a group of tennis players in the San Fernando Valley / Los Angeles area. The year is 1974. They were about 10 kids age 10-15 who had two things in common:


  1. Talent for the sport of tennis (and lots of it!)

  2. They were all taught by the same coach: Paul Arroyo


Paul is a very successful tennis professional who coached top ranked satellite players, and 35 years ago he decided to coach those 10 youngsters for free. He was on the court with them day in and day out, hit hundreds of thousands of balls with them, took them to local and regional tournaments, and taught them how to win and how to be gracious role models in tennis and in life. His strategy worked out great, because all of those players started to win tournaments, became District and Section Champions, brought home trophy after trophy - and all of them received full tennis scholarships to Colleges all over the country.



After college they stuck to their sport and began teaching kids like they were taught before. They kept close contact with Paul Arroyo and in 1993 they formed the "Neighborhood Junior Tennis Program" (NJTP) with one goal in mind: Giving back to the community by teaching the sport of tennis to kids of all ages. Their Mission Statement is short but significant: "Improving our Community through Tennis".



Today, NJTP is flourishing with great programs for all levels juniors 6 days a week. Paul Arroyo still teaches, together with Steve and Barbara Tscherne, and Phil Siordia. Steve Tscherne happens to be the NJTP President, a remarkable individual with outstanding accomplishments. Not only did he receive the "Volunteer of the Year" Award from his employer UPS, but under his stewardship NJTP was awarded "2004 SCTA Member Organization of the Year" from the Southern California Tennis Association, the local USTA Section. And in 2007, Steve was given "The Presidential Service Award" for volunteerism from President George Bush.



On the NJTP web site it states: "We have taught over 10,000 hours of tennis, used 12,000 tennis balls and introduced tennis to thousands of children. Our fundraisers included: 12 Bike and Run Marathons where we had run and biked over 13,000 miles, 5 Pro Showdowns, 30 Lightning and Sanctioned Tournaments. We have attended Davis Cup, WTA Women's Championships and Countrywide Tournaments. Our tennis kids have won City Championships, played at seven different high schools, played college tennis and have become tennis instructors. It's been some ride."



I find this simply remarkable and would encourage everyone in SoCal with kids interested in tennis to look them up. They teach at El Cariso Community Regional Park in Sylmar, and their schedule can be found on the web site



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Has it really been 10 years? Boy, oh boy, I started the San Diego Tennis Network in 1999 - the greatest project I have ever undertaken. Giving a large number of tennis players a platform to play and socialize, and have fun! I can't wait to replicate this process and achieve the same (or even better results) by starting and running the San Fernando Valley Tennis Network.


Reminiscing over the past 10 years I remembered a few interesting anecdotes and moments that may be interesting for some of you. Here it goes...


... 1999 - I was still a member at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Cardiff (San Diego North County). The owner, Lorne Kuhle, was actually Bobby's sidekick long ago, and can be seen on some famous pictures with Bobby and BJK. I worked for a cool little aerial photography business as Digital imaging Manager (Photoshop Guru) and Lorne commissioned us to create 6 life size graphics for his "Bobby Riggs Tennis Museum" at the club. I scanned, retouched, printed, mounted, and hung on the walls 6 ft images of Bobby and his contemporaries, like Pancho Segura, Jack Kramer, Margaret Court, BJK, and Pancho Gonzales. You've got to check this out. The museum holds many of BR's trophies, racquets, literature.


... You think Billie Jean King is the only woman Bobby Riggs played against? Think again. May 13, 1973, a 31 year-old Margaret Court, #1 female player at the time, and the winningest player of all time (62 Grand Slams), lost to a 55 year old Bobby Riggs in Ramona California. It is commonly believed she lost because she didn't take him seriously, haha. In 2001 I met a man in Poway who said he had the original score board of this match in his garage. Too bad he didn't want to sell it. Who knows, I may have donated it to the Bobby Riggs Tennis Museum...


...While I was running mixers at Bobby Riggs Tennis Club the head pro's name was Svetozar (Tole) Marinkovic. His claim to fame - besides not liking Social Tennis Networks - was his short marriage to actress Robin Givens. Wikipedia writes about Givens: "In 1997, Robin married again, this time to her tennis instructor, Svetozar Marinkovic. The match proved even more disastrous than that with Mike Tyson, as Robin and Marinkovic separated the very day they were married, and within months, Robin filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences." While I was running mixers I saw Givens sometimes walking around with a hood over her head and a baby in her arms, waiting for Tole to finish a lesson. I think the baby's father is tennis celebrity Murphy Jensen. That was all really weird.


When Tole canceled my group's Tuesday night mixer at Bobby Riggs I decided to take the San Diego Tennis Network to other venues and expand it, won hundreds of members, and had weeknight mixers at posh clubs like La Costa Resort & Spa and Morgan Run Resort. I guess I should thank Tole for "setting me free", haha.


...But Tole had another impact on my life. I am smiling writing this, you have to take my word for it. Still in 1999 I had this crazy idea that the San Diego Tennis Network needed a celebrity spokesperson in order to become big. Oh boy! Did I have any money? No! Just a lot of enthusiasm and drive. Well, I found out Tole went to school with Goran Ivanisevic in Yugoslavia (now Croatia). I dared him enough and he managed to arrange a meeting with me and Goran at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells, where he played at the big tournament, which was then called Newsweek Champions Cup (later called Pacific Life Open, and today it's the BNP Paribas open).


The morning of our meeting I was waiting in the lobby of the Hyatt, and there he was, just as I pictured him: Tall, friendly, a little shy. He came from the golf course and insisted to speak German with me. When I tried to talk business with him, he declined, telling me he was waiting for his Manager. "Gorian doesn't talk about business, manager does" he repeatedly told me. Finally a younger man in a business suit, and with a French accent, arrived. Goran got up, introduced him as his Business Manager from Monaco, and disappeared. Good lord, I thought, that isn't going well. Little did I know that this man was a master at business talk short cuts. He asked what I wanted. Halfway through my first sentence, where I wanted to elaborate about big tennis stars needing to do something for small community tennis organizations, he stopped me cold with one wave of his hand and said: "Five hundred thousand dollars! Do you have that kind of money, or not?" Before I was able to finish the word "No" he got up, shook my hand and said "It was a pleasure. Call me when you have the money".


Needless to say, I never picked up the phone. Who knows, he may still be sitting by the phone in some condo in Monaco, waiting for my call. And Goran? He got a bye in the first round of that tournament and lost in the second round against a fairly unknown player: the American Jonathan Stark. Too bad, Goran. I hope it wasn't something I said, haha.


...Over the years many different kinds of players joined the San Diego Tennis Network. The youngest I think was about 20, and the oldest was over 70. He, btw, happened to be one of the best players in the Network, former Junior Wimbledon contestant (probably at the height of the Jack Kramer era, post-Bobby Riggs). But we had all ratings levels, basically from 3.0 to 4.5. I never forget this guy who came up to me for the first time and I routinely asked him what his tennis level is. He hesitated and then looked me straight into my eyes and said: "My level is FUN". He turned out to be a terrific guy and we all loved to play with him. How could we not?


I also remember Ken, who could not play diddly squat and wasted so much time explaining to us why our tips didn't work for him. He knew it so much better - until the day came when no one wanted to play with him anymore. That's when he left. Or how about that tennis coach from Venezuela who told us in his home country they call Mixed Doubles "Men's Singles with Obstacles". Boy, oh boy. I wish my current (female) coach would get ahold of this guy. She would make minced meat out of him!


We had good times and bad times. Matches were made in the Network, and happy people played their little hearts out. On the other side of the coin, I saw a player die right next to me on the tennis court, with a doctor present - fatal heart attack. Good times and bad times... At the funeral they asked people to speak and say something about this man, whose name was Jack. People hesitated a little and the mood was soso. I got up and said "Jack, wherever you are, you GOT to work on your backhand now". That broke the ice pretty much and people started to come forward and were in a better mood.


...I had an absolutely fantastic hand in asking the perfect ladies to run the social activities of the Network. Judi and Marti, best friends, charming women, always up to a match, always dressed in the latest tennis fashion, always smiling, and very social. Boy, do they know how to throw parties (they still do it today for the Network). And they arranged outings and bowling, dancing, softball, Christmas parties, Day at the Races - you name it, Judi and Marti do it. Abdsolute gems on and off the court, and wonderful friends.


And there are more perfect ladies that need a mention (In my experience, it is the women who hold such a group together and make it more interesting to join. Seriously!). First of all Sue Spencer, who now manages the Network as co-owner. Fabulous person, experienced manager, very social and knows the importance of adding social components to maintain a lively tennis organization. Then there is Donna Dube, fierce competitor and manager of many tournaments. What do both ladies have in common? Year after year they play USTA Leagues and have tremendous fun doing so. Often you'll see their teams going to local and regional Championships, or even to Nationals. This is the backbone of USTA Leagues. Dedicated. Determined. Loving it!


...And then there was Lori, who everybody adored. Blond, outspoken, California native, and a brave tennis player who knew how to win a match. When she and our member and great buddy Stepan began dating we all thought this was a match made in heaven. A year or so later Stepan told me he wanted to propose and needed the right venue. I arranged a small tennis mixer for him at Rancho Valencia Resort and the rest is history. They got married, have an adorable daughter (Michelle), and live very happily in Carlsbad. Who says Social Tennis Networks aren't good venues for finding a mate? Ha, you can often see members of the opposite sex in rather skimpy outfits. That's an advantage right there, isn't it? It's not like online dating. On the tennis court you can actually see what you're shopping for. LOL.


...And then there were the fundraisers, like the one at La Costa Resort, where Benny Ricardo was MC and my good friend Vic Braden was Keynote Speaker, telling us side-splitting stories about his encounters with Bobby Riggs. Like the one where he and a formidable female player challenged Bobby for a mixed doubles match. On the match day they entered the court only to find Bobby with one foot chained to the foot of a full grown female elephant. Vic explained: "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to lose against a player with an elephant as partner on the other side?" Very funny.


Or the other time when Vic played Bobby at a tournament in the Midwest. Vic felt great and won the first set, feeling he could beat the Champion. When they started to go out and begin the second set their paths crossed and Bobby said calmly to Vic: "Don't worry, Vic, your serve will come back eventually". That did it. Vic did not win one more service game and lost the match. Ah, the power of playing mind games...


...Members of the San Diego Tennis Network remember me as the guy who started it all, who always tried to tell jokes translated from German (never works!), who held mixers with authority and skill (really!), and didn't shy away from banning members for a month if they didn't behave on or off the court. One of my favorite sayings always drew a smile from players standing around. When a new player started to complain that he or she supposedly didn't get the right level matches I took them aside and told them: "Listen, this is not a democracy here. It's a kingdom, and you are NOT the king". That defused the situation and took the wind completely out of their sails. If they were outraged by this remark, we let them go because those people are no fun to play with. Right? Got it?


I think I've got to stop now. Many more stories to tell, but I'll do that another time. Be good and pick up that racquet and play! See if you find a Social Tennis Network to join. It'll be fun!

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I just can't stand still - never ever! Always had ideas for new Social Tennis Networks. So today, 7 months after settling into my new home in the Los Angeles area, I am starting the planning phase for 2 of those ideas. For everyone interested in more current updates about those projects, I suggest to check out my daily messages on Twitter under MrTennis: I'm also trying to get more involved networking through LinkedIn.


My tennis projects have always had four things in common:


1. They have to create new playing opportunities for tennis players, which will ultimately help grow our sport

2. They have to create new social networking opportunities for tennis players

3. I have to be able to multiply my efforts and take the concept into regional or national expansion, if the opportunity arises

4. The project has to be a commercial venture


First project: San Fernando Valley Tennis Network


Similar to my successful first venture into social tennis groups, the San Diego Tennis Network,, the San Fernando Tennis Network will provide tennis matchplay and social networking opportunities for adults, here are the parameters:




  • Play at nice clubs (Host Clubs) at their off-peak hours (weeknights and weekends)

  • Provide a reliable calendar of drop-in mixers, preferrably 4-5 times a week

  • Match up skill levels and captain all mixers with integrity

  • Charge low annual fees and low pay-as-you-play fees, and always include new balls on every court

  • Let the members of Host Clubs always play for free during Network Mixers




  • Appoint one or two Social Directors who play for free and have enough of a following and reputation to organize activities

  • Offer a full social program, from dancing to bowling to softball to tennis trips

  • Never charge for social actiivities if they don't incur any expenses

  • Willingness and openness to fundraising opportunities for local charities


My plans call for exploring local clubs and public facilities in March and April. The first club needs to be signed up by May 1, with at least one mixer per week. This will allow me time to create a basic web site and some simple color handouts, which I will distribute all over the area as soon as the first Host Club is in place. I will also utilize every kind of networking opportunity available to me, and talk to tennis players at clubs and parks regularly. By the end of the year, I want 4 mixers in place every week at different venues. Players will be able to purchase tickets for Network Mixers in batches of 5, 10, or 20 online from Active. Captains who are running the mixers will be able to get a daily report about the eligibility of players and their membership status directly online from an Active registration site.


Second project: Beach Tennis in the Park


Beach tennis is getting real popular and every single player I have talked to in my capacity as Board Member of Beach Tennis San Diego ( has expressed to me this was the best thing that ever happened in tennis. While this may be a little exaggerated, I can always see the excitement when players start playing tennis over that volleyball net. However, since most of the country do not have the luxury of being at or near a beach, and since many "regular" tennis players can't afford to live in a beach town, my idea is to let them play Beach Tennis in the Park, on grass. All we need is some equipment and a grassy area in a public park.




Beach Tennis is strictly an aerial game, so it is played with volleys. The game is a hybrid of tennis, beach volleyball and badminton. Aside from the aerial aspect, the scoring system is the same as tennis. Then you bring in the net, (1.7m or 5 1/2 ft high) which is higher than a normal tennis net, so it is not a wham-bam thing, it is played more with finesse and skill.



You only have one serve. There is no advantage system in the points scoring. Once it gets to deuce, the next point wins. When the ball hits the ground, the point is won by the opposing team.






Beach Tennis is played in many European countries with a special padded paddle. In the United States efforts were made by the Beach Tennis USA organization ( to introduce Beach Tennis with a standard tennis racquet. I want to stick with the paddle in order to eventually (probably years from now, haha) be able to compete on an international level. I know, very ambitious, but where would the world be without ambitious entrepreneurs? Furthermore, the sport is played with low compression balls, and additional accessories include line ropes, anchors, etc.




Exciting? You bet it is! Can't wait to organize the first Network Mixers and start the first demos for Beach Tennis in the Park. Lots of fine players have already committed to helping and participating. Life is good!






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Boy, how did I ever come up with that headline? 1,156 happens to be the number of USTA Coordinators working in all 17 USTA Sections across the United States. How do I know that? As a member of the USTA Tennislink Team I support Coordinators all across the country via e-mail and telephone. In addition, in my capacity as Team Lead for Tennis Leagues and NTRP Ratings, I travel quite a bit and train many of those Coordinators on both subjects. Working for Active gives me a unique perspective and allows me a rather objective opinion about what I see during my travels out there in the tennis world. However, I think it is only fair when I inform the reader upfront that the USTA is one of Active's biggest clients. We have been their Technology Partner for 2 years now and enjoy an excellent relationship with that organization.


Over the years I have come across quite a few organizations loaded with great volunteers and employees, both here in the US and in Europe (mostly in Germany and the UK). What makes the Coordinators of the USTA such an outstanding group of people is their complete dedication to the sport of tennis, despite the fact that their parent organization is large and entrenched in traditions, slow to react compared to smaller organizations, conservative rather than progressive. The latter is not surprising, of course. I compare this to another typical example in the work life, IBM, which happens to be my first employer in Germany many years ago. IBM, too, used to be one of the first in their business, was and still is one of the largest companies in its field, and is still constantly lagging behind the competition. It takes them years longer than any of their competition to bring out a new product just because of their sheer size, and that's why smaller businesses are often so successful in launching new, progressive ideas.

Back to the USTA, though. At the end of October, returning from my last training in Louisville, Kentucky, I was asking myself, what makes many Tennis Coordinators so outstanding? Here is the list of attributes I came up with. Attributes I associate with the words Greatness and Outstanding.


Dedication to the Sport of Tennis



Many USTA League Coordinators are avid tennis players themselves. That doesn't necessarily mean ex-High School, ex-College, or ex-Tour players (although they have those people, too!). I mean the medium to advanced players that make up the majority of the tennis playing community across the country. That demographic is directly reflected in those Coordinators. They love to play competitive tennis, mostly level 3.5 - 4.0, they live it, breathe it, watch it, and play it. They spend their own money for USTA memberships, or to go to the US Open and many other large and small tennis events. They work without small budgets but BIG enthusiasm about the sport, and that sport means everything to them.



Love for the People Playing Tennis



Boy, and they deal with all sorts of people playing tennis in USTA Leagues. For the most part they are really nice, which is one of the things I found out playing tennis in the United States. Reflecting the attitude of 99% of the US population, the overwhelming majority of tennis players are real nice, non-confrontational, loving the sport, loving competition, playing fair and nice with their opponents. USTA Coordinators love their players (and their Captains). They live in the same communities, they know what those players do and think, what concerns them, and what they all want to get out of playing league tennis: Fun, competition, meeting new people, staying in shape.



Inclination for Organizing and Planning



Yes, they are planners, those USTA Coordinators, having to deal with multiple types of leagues, dozens of flight, hundreds of teams, and thousands of players each year. In order to make that well oiled machinery called USTA Leagues work flawlessly, they have to not only plan and schedule all their leagues, but get them done in time for progression to the local Championships, then to Section Championships, and finally to the prestigious Nationals. Coordinators have tools at their disposal to get there and to make their life easier. Sophisticated tools, such as the online functionalities of Tennislink League pages, guiding and supporting them from the first planning of a league to creating teams, automatic registration of players and Captains, to scheduling, score entry, Stats & Standings, disqualifications, Championship planning, and much more. The other types of planning tools are the League Reports, which tell them everything from ratings histories to players playing on multiple teams, from facility usage to disputed matches, and from registrations to member participation and player retention.



I have met some wonderful people in the various Sections I've visited over time. From Kentucky to New York, from South Carolina to Kansas, from Hawaii to Southern California, and from Northern California to Georgia. And I'm looking forward to meeting more of those outstanding Coordinators over time. Next week I'll be traveling to the USTA HQ's in New York, where League and Ratings Leadership discuss and organize the annual NTRP Ratings Calculations for over 500,000 players. Only the most experienced and knowledgeable Sectional and National Coordinators participate in that process. As a league player myself I feel very good realizing that playing on my league team as well as the resulting ratings for my team members are in good hands. Knowledgeable people with dedication and integrity are running the show at the USTA and its Sections. Life is good!



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Oh boy, that is one loaded question! Are you like me watching the US Open whenever you can? I am enjoying seeing the qualifiers giving those Top 10 players a good run for their money. And how about Sam Querry, our Southern California home boy? What a US Open he had this year... took a set from Nadal...


Well, whenever I see the top players hitting their forehands and backhands so hard and oh so accurate, I'm thinking why can't I do that? What the heck is wrong with me? I started playing tennis at the age of 33. Should I not be able to serve as hard as them? Should I not be able to hit those down-the-line shots as accurately as they do? Or should I?


Ok, for the sake of this investigation I'm putting my Engineering hat on, trying to examine what the real difference is between Roger Federer and me (besides the age and the height, of course).


Roger is 27 years of age and started playing tennis at the age of 6. He began playing and practicing seriously at the age of nine. Let's say he picked up a "professional" regiment of at least five 6-hour practice days at the age of 12, about 15 years ago.


Let's start with the serves. 15 years of serves, at least 50-100 balls a day, 5 days a week x 780 weeks = 195,000 - 390.000 serves. How many serves have I hit in the past 15 years? Let me think. Ok, maybe 25,000? And most of them wrong, during match play, without any thorough training and guidance. Except from my buddy Konrad. The one with the 21 miles per hour second serve. Boy, am I in trouble! No wonder my opponents are all over my second serve. Today I have a coach who's trying to undo what 15 years of playing like Konrad did to me. Good luck!


Now, let's look at the ground strokes. Roger probably did at least 500 forehands and backhands a day, 5 days a week, for the last 15 years. That comes to 1,950,000 ground strokes for the man. Almost two million ground strokes practiced! I find that disgusting, folks. At the same time I have rarely practiced any myself, just executed about 250,000 (many the wrong way) during match play.


2 Million correct, coach-supervised ground strokes and hundreds of thousands of correct serves with professional guidance. I would say Roger put his time in. He lost a ton of sweat and missed a lot of play time with his friends, in order to become the world class player he is today. In my opinion, he deserves the fruits of his labor today. Career prize money of $41 million? Plus endorsements? Well done, Roger!



Now, what am I getting out of all these numbers for myself? The one and only logical conclusion for me is to hit more practice balls and play less doubles or singles. And that's exactly what Rod Laver told me during a little private one-on-one at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad (just north of San Diego). I asked him what's wrong with my ground strokes. He told me to hit for about 2 minutes with him. Then we met at the net and he told me: Rich, you need to hit more balls. Forget playing all the time. Practice your strokes. Set yourself a goal, like 100 ground strokes a day. 100 serves a day. Do it consistently with someone who knows what those strokes should look like. I guarantee you you'll get better that way.



Today, after moving from San Diego to the Los Angeles area a few months ago, I haven't lined up that many matches yet. And that's good so, because yours truly is practicing. Four to five days a week I'm hitting against a wall, and once or twice a week I'm practicing with a coach. Admittedly, I will never be as good as Roger, and I will never break into the Top 1000 either. But, I see my strokes developing nicely, my serves come in a little harder, and my overall game improving every month now. It took Rod Laver and my current coach to make me realize how important practice is. And no, don't worry, I'm not trying to qualify for the 2009 US Open (yet).



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What's going on?

Posted by TennisRich Apr 22, 2008

Boy, some nice things have happened since I posted my last Blog. All real positive I may add. Here is a selection:


My Game


I started playing tennis when I emigrated to the United States 23 years ago and did what many beginners do: learned from a friend. My neighbor Konrad, a fellow German, took it upon himself to teach me and let me into his group of 5-6 senior men who played twice a week in the small Pennsylvania community of Downingtown, about 15-20 mile northeast of Philadelphia. Konrad was in his mid-fifties and a pure bread amateur. Never took a lesson, never played leagues, never got rated. Now that I'm involved in USTA leagues and ratings I can determine he was about a low 3.0 player with an underspin serve and a lot of slicing and dicing the ball. I call his level "Courtsmart Doubles" - he was able to hold his own with his buddies and went for a few beers with them after the match.


We played at Kerr Park, right in the vicinity of a factory producing corrugated cartons. When the wind changed, the sour smell of that corrugation process swept over the 4 courts and made us gag. But we didn't care and I was really lucky that those seniors didn't mind playing with a bloody beginner. What did I learn from Konrad? The rules of tennis and all his bad habits. Over the next 22 years I perfected those bad habits and added some of my own. Took some lessons and clinics every once in a while, which helped me improve to be able to play leagues at 3.5 and 4.0 levels. Lately I've had some success playing doubles with top-of level 4.0 men and low 4.5 men. Got my butt kicked mercilessly by a 5.0 and a 5.5 woman, though, which was to be expected.


Why do I see an improvement at the 4.0 level in the past few weeks? Because I have a new coach who is working on some things with me and plays with me in mixed doubles matches. As former teaching pro and almost Professional Tour player (Virginia Slims qualifyer) she has the most beautiful strokes you can imagine. Everything looks so smooth! It's disgusting!


The first thing she did was help me undo my (Konrad's) serve. It was so bad that I could not generate any power, double-faulted a lot and did not create a threat for my opponent(s). I love serve and volley, but rushing the net after a weak serve is just not a good idea. Agreed? Well, the 4+1 most important things she made me memorize about my new serve are:


1. Swing the racquet way over your back (like scratching your back) 2. Don't toss the ball too high (winds used to always devestate my serve) 3. Move your body forward (ready to move aggressively towards the net) 4. Rotate shoulder and follow through with the racquet, across your body (creates more power)

(and 5. Picture yourself as having a great serve, memorize what it feels when the ball goes booming into the opposing service box.)


During rallies and match play she gives me more ideas how to improve my game, such as knowing when to swing at a volley and when not to. Or to bend the knees lower. Or to communicate a lot with your partner. Or how to employ drop volleys. Or that the partner who is hanging back has to command the other one when to "switch" sides. Or when to add power and pace to your shots and when to slow it down. Or how proper stretching can save injury. My right knee is very grateful for that advice, haha.


I can tell you one thing, folks: It feels sooo good when you see a real improvement in your game. I can't wait for the next lesson. For the first time in my life I'm anxious to go on a court just to hit and practice serves, instead of playing matches all the time.


Pacific Life Open


What a great tournament this is. As the 5th largest tennis tournament in the world (after the 4 slams), located in the beautiful Indian Wells Tennis Garden, this is truly a Gem on the ATP and WTA Tours. What made it even more interesting for me was the fact that I worked at the Tennis Garden this year. How did this come about? Here it goes...


The USTA's Tri-Level leagues don't have a path (yet) to National Championships. So Tom Fey, Tennis Director at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, has taken it upon himself to organize a 3.5 / 4.0 / 4.5 Tri-Level Tournament for the Sections. After 9 USTA Sections in 2007, this year he had 12 Sections participating. It was a grand event. You may ask now: What made this a Grand Event? Here's what I came up with:


The format: Having 3 different rating levels on one team is interesting and exciting to watch. The teams were all top-of-level, mostly Section Winners. We saw some good tennis!


The camaraderie: Where else have you seen a team of two male 4.5 players ask where their ladies 3.5 play, so they can watch? Think about this and let it sink in, folks.


The venue: Being at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is excitement enough. In my opinion they have the best courts in all of Southern California. This excitement is being magnified by the Pacific Life Open circus like atmosphere, thousands of spectators, free tickets to see many games in the big stadium, the vendors.



The celebrities: Two 4.0 teams were sent to court 14 to play their Tri-Level match. During warm-up Rafael Nadal and his trainer bumped them because he erroneously thought he had that court booked. They had to play the match on court 13, right next to him and told us all excited about it when they reported the scores. Ah, tennis, it's the little things that make us tennis players happy, isn't it?



For me running around with a grounds pass, free tickets, and access to the Player Lounge and Restaurant was a great perk for 3 days of fun work, yep! I look forward to next year, for sure.



Oh, yes, I almost forgot: Guess who won the Tri-Level Championship for the second year in a row? Yep, you guessed it: Southern California! Way to go, SoCal teams!



Flex Leagues have arrived


An exciting new USTA program is currently being introduced: Flex Leagues.

The web site says: "USTA Flex Leagues are designed with your busy schedule in mind. You make the schedule. You set the time. You play when it's convenient for you. Flex Leagues provide all the thrills of league tennis, built around your busy lifestyle. With Flex

Leagues, you can control everything-with the possible exception of your opponent's down-the-line forehand."



I think that concept has a future that's bright and exciting. And here in San Diego it's our very own Melissa Magat at Active who's organizing a Leage in the Sorrento Mesa area. I've signed up already. Have you? Maybe we can play...







That's it for today. Don't forget: Every day is a good day to play tennis!



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Boy, do I love the Pacific Life Open. Been there many times and can't get enough of it. The drive through the mountains, the desert oasis location, the atmosphere, the stadium, the players - it's the closest you will ever get to a Grand Slam tournament. And for us San Diegans, it's the only one with the top female players within driving distance, after the departure of the Acura Classic from La Costa Resort in Carlsbad.


This year I'll have a special reason for going: helping the Tournament Director run a national Tri-Level League Tournament parallel to the Pacific Life Open. Tri-Level League is a relatively new division within the USTA League system, and it doesn't have a regular path to National Championships (yet). Tom Fey, Tennis Director at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, has agreed to organize a tournament for Tri-Level teams from around the country during the Pacific Life Open's Finals weekend (March 21/22/23). Winners will be able to watch matches for free and rub shoulders with the celebrities. How cool is that?






10. Free admission during Qualifying Rounds March 10 and 11



9. Qualifying Rounds provide a great tennis experience, watch outstanding matches and top players



8. Tennis Shopping at the Tennis Garden Pro Shop and at Pete Carlson's in Indian Wells



7. Watch players warm up on the outer cords - you'll never get to be so close to Top 10 tennis players!



6. Coachealla Valley restaurants! My favorites: and Las Casuelas Nuevas, both moderately priced and in Rancho Mirage.



5. Celebrity watch. You can see them all over town, but most of the top tennis players stay at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells.



4. Pacific Life Open vendors. On the grounds of the Tennis Garden. try new racquets, have a few margaritas, check out the latest tennis fashions.



3. Indian Wells Tennis Garden. In my opinion the finest tennis facility on the West Coast. The Main Stadium holds 16,100 seats. Stadium 1 holds 5,000 seats, Stadium 2 holds 3,000.


2. Top Men's ATP Tour Players *



*               (as of 1/28/08)


Federer, Roger\



Nadal, Rafael\



Djokovic, Novak\



Davydenko, Nikolay\



Ferrer, David\



Roddick, Andy\



Gasquet, Richard\



Youzhny, Mikhail\



Blake, James\



Nalbandian, David\



Berdych, Tomas\



Murray, Andy\



Baghdatis, Marcos\



Canas, Guillermo\



Ferrero, Juan Carlos\



Moya, Carlos\



Robredo, Tommy\



Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried\



Mathieu, Paul-Henri\



Hewitt, Lleyton\



| \</td  </tr>|




1. Top Women's WTA Tour Players



Sony Ericsson WTA


               (as of 3/10/08)


Ivanovic, Ana\



Kuznetsova, Svetlana\



Jankovic, Jelena \



Sharapova, Maria\



Hantuchova, Daniela\



Bartoli, Marion\



Vaidisova, Nicole\



Safina, Dinara\



Peer, Shahar\



Radwanska, Agnieszka\



Bammer, Sybille\



Zvonareva, Vera \



Schiavone, Francesca \



Li, Na\



Bondarenko, Alona\



Razzano, Virginie \



Mauresmo, Amelie \



Kirilenko, Maria\



Pennetta, Flavia\



Medina Garrigues, Anabel\



Mirza, Sania\



Krajicek, Michaella \



Knapp, Karin \



Davenport, Lindsay \








Let me know if you're going!



1,520 Views 0 Comments Permalink

Wow, hats off to Jimmy and Melissa (and her friend Lauren, who ran the drills) for organizing a nice little tennis clinic for beginners last Thursday. And every feedback so far emphasized the FUN those new players had, and the desire for more social tennis. Hey, it can't get any better than that, folks. And as soon as those players realize that tennis is a sport that can be competitive or just social, or both (it's up to the individual), and that you can play the sport until you are super senior level or beyond, a whole new world of fun is opening up for them.


My suggestion: Start a mentoring program where experienced players mentor a beginner.


I have a few words of wisdom for all of you. But not from me, of course, rather from people who made a name in tennis and know (or knew) what they were talking about. Go ahead and smile when you see players like Suzanne Lenglen and the seemingly yesteryear but obvious advice she gave. But this woman really knew what she was talking about. I'll quote from WIKIPEDIA:


Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen (24 May 1899 - 4 July 1938) was a French tennis player who won 31 Grand Slam titles from 1914 through 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.


Here it goes:


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.

Suzanne Lenglen (The Right Set)

31 Grand Slam titles 1914-1926


A good player never misses easy ones. Remember that if you do miss a simple shot you should have made, you are giving your opponent two points. The difference between plus one and minus one.

Bill Tilden (Big Bill Tilden)

24 Grand Slam titles 1913-1935


Your game is only as good as your second serve.

John Newcomb (Ken Rosewall: Twenty Years at the Top)

17 Grand Slam titles 1953-1974


There's always more to learn in this game, no matter how long you've been playing.

Roy Emerson (The Tennis Lover's Book of Wisdom)

28 Grand Slam titles 1960-1971


A tennis match is a thousand little sprints.

Biorn Borg

11 Grand Slam titles 1974-1981


You must come on the court with five game plans and be prepared to use all of them.

John McEnroe (Winning Tennis)

17 Grand Slam titles 1977-1992


In a match, visualize the times you were on the practice court in the same situation. Remove all the other elements. Then hit the ball the way you did in practice when there wasn't any pressure.

Chris Evert (Tennis)

21 Grand Slam titles 1974-1986


It boils down to watching the ball and executing.

Andre Agassi

8 Grand Slam titles 1992-2003


Sometimes you must make errors in order to make progress.

Justine Henin

7 Grand Slam titles 2003-2007






And finally I want to repeat a word of wisdom from my good friend and teacher Vic Braden, spoken when he visited us at in San Diego:

I've never seen a tennis player bend his knees too low!





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Club membership in Tennis can be expensive or not, as evidenced by the following examples:

  • La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club (La Jolla): Initiation for a full membership: $50,000, annual dues $4,650

  • La Costa Resort & Spa (Carlsbad): Initiation for a Tennis/Fitness membership: $16,500, monthly $195

  • Rancho Valencia Resort (Rancho Santa Fe): Initiation $2,400, monthly $120

  • San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club (San Diego): Initiation $990, monthly $135

  • Bobby Riggs Tennis Club (Encinitas): Initiation $300, monthly $70

  • Balboa Tennis Club (San Diego): $155 per year, no court fees

  • Kit Carson Park (Escondido): Free


What are you getting for your money? Well, La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club (with a 10 year waiting list!) and La Costa Resort, as well as Rancho Valencia provide matches with members for you. Rancho Valencia is the prettiest facility (Top 5 in the country) but doesn't have lights. SDT&R is extremely busy all the time, but has a nice big swimming pool. Bobby Riggs, with only 7 courts, is either very busy or totally empty, depending on the time and day of the week. Balboa has 25 courts, and somehow dim lights at night, but you can play pick-up tennis and use the challenge courts there every day. Kit Carson is known for its pick-up games on the weekends, but you have to be at least good intermediate level, otherwise you don't get to play much.


But, don't let your heart be troubled, there is another alternative for San Diego tennis players, especially for those who don't know any other players: San Diego Tennis Network and San Diego Tennis Exchange. Two groups that provide organized doubles and mixed doubles match play on many weeknights and on the weekends, at different facilities, and they are affordable! Another good news: they co-operate with each other and you find many of their members at both organization's events.




San Diego Tennis Network (TN)

Operates mainly in North County. Plays at different facilities, such as Surf & Turf (Del Mar), San Dieguito (Encinitas), Rancho Valencia Resort (Rancho Santa Fe), Morgan Run Resort (Rancho Santa Fe). The mixers are all levels from 3.0 to 4.5 and they match up the levels pretty good. TN has 3 Social Directors arranging all sorts of activities from regular parties to ski trips, dancing, race track and Padres, bowling, softball, etc.



San Diego Tennis Exchange (TN)

Operates mainly in San Diego. Plays at different facilities, such as Barnes Tennis Center, Lake Murray, Downtown Marriott, Surf & Turf in Del Mar, University City Racquet Club. Their mixers are well organized, the owner has been doing this for 29 years!



Both organizations charge about the same. Annual $150, then there is a court fee of usually $5 per night. TN provides new balls. In October, both organizations do a few mixers together, plus a big weekend trip to fabulous Shadow Mountain in Palm Desert, and the popular annual Halloween Party in Encinitas.



If you want to have tennis always organized for you, want to play with and meet new people, want to see different facilities and save some money, and like the idea of social networking, TN or TE are the way to go, for sure. Check them out and say hi from Rich. I play with both regularly once or twice a week. I don't know if they will give you a discount when you mention my name, but it can't hurt, right?



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