The Australian Open 2019 Experience

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open 2019 (AO). I remember training and competing at Melbourne Park as a professional, and it certainly has a sort of magnetic feel about it. I was always there just prior to the event or once the event had concluded, so I wondered just how the event delivered as a spectator.

I can’t believe it was my first time spectating at the Australian Open. There was so much to do, from watching players train on the practice courts, to having a drink or food from the numerous bars available, to watching matches on the big screen at Garden Square or at the Grand Slam Oval, to shopping for some merchandise, to taking some snaps with all of the quirky installations around Melbourne Park (my favourite was the tennis ball installation at show court 3). It was so much fun and a great day out!

A few things really stood out for me as a former player, current coach and spectator.

Criticism

I overheard so much criticism of the players, their form and performance by spectators. This was extremely surprising to me as I didn’t really expect that level of criticism from spectators to overpower the sheer brilliance that was on display. The power, athleticism, energy and passion that every player displayed had me immersed in the actual performance and game itself. This was evident from all players on any court, whether they were competing as a junior, for their college team or the main event. The grand slams are where the most elite in our sport have qualified through to, which takes at least 12-18 months of solid performances against your peers to do so, and every player on those tennis courts have earned their right to be there in my opinion.

Sponsorship

It doesn’t take you very long to realise that the Australian Open is heavily backed by many sponsors. This was evident from the brand signage everywhere, multiple pop up stores, freebies being handed out, VIP access only areas (I was directed to move along about 3 times within a few hours lol I honestly could not tell what area was VIP and what wasn’t). It’s certainly a marketer’s dream to be able to play a role in this event for sure. I liked how brands such as Sheridan and Country Road were behind some of the AO merchandise such as the towels, t-shirts and polos. I’ve always seen those two brands as iconic to Australia and it’s only fitting that they collaborated with the AO. I personally believe more local brands should be showcased at this event, as it is the Australian Open and what better time to do so?

Technology

Welcome to the shot clock! I kind of had to think twice for a second, thinking that I had purchased a ticket to a basketball game (and no, not because Nick Kyrgios was showcasing his new kicks or NBA jersey). It’s not a bad idea, but there are multiple changes that are occuring in the sport due to technology, and I believe the way they perform should be reviewed as well. The shot clock gives players 25 seconds to hit the next serve, but what about after they miss the first serve? Players are taking a further 1o seconds before hitting that serve at times. Let’s talk about Hawk Eye. Hawk Eye has come into effect for a while now but players are still able to challenge the umpires call, which I still don’t agree should be the case. On top of that, should a player make a correct challenge, the umpire then makes a judgement call whether or not to replay the point should they believe a player ‘had a hit on the shot’ or Could not play the ball. If Hawk Eye has the ‘final call’ then why not introduce what we saw at the Fast4 event in Sydney, where there were no linesmen or lineswomen, just an automatic ‘out’ call via infrared sensors on the court, tracking the balls movement and landing, leaving us with no controversy. The umpire does not need to make any active line calls in my opinion. There is still quite a bit of grey area with technology and the sport of tennis and at the highest level it doesn’t take much to win/lose a match. I hope to see less grey area in the future of the sport.

The Australian Open 2020, here I come 🙂

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Macquarie Uni AMT Gold

One thing that has remained constant in my life is how much I enjoy playing the game of tennis. I had been contemplating a return to competitive tennis throughout the year, however I just couldn’t find the balance between feeling physically able to compete, finding the right event and the time.

Along came November and the usual Christmas/New Year rush begins to kick in, with invites to work events, parties, family lunches etc so I decided to get my mind off it all and do something productive in the meantime. I knew that there was no way I’d avoid indulging in way too much food and drink during December, so I decided to workout a few days a week in addition to my usual coaching schedule. I had an epiphany as such, and decided that I would free up my time completely in December and compete again. I thought, what a fantastic way to end a year that has been somewhat tumultuous for me.

My last competitive match was in November of 2013, a pre-qualifying match for a Professional Women’s Challenger event in San Antonio, Texas. I specifically remember completing an intensive on-court and off-court program for 6 weeks before this match, and I was very flat during that performance. There was nothing in the tank sadly. I learnt a lot from that experience and decided that should I return to competitive tennis, I will focus solely on an intensive off-court regime and work my way into form on-court throughout the event.

It may be thought of as courageous, silly or even inspiring to others, but I will attempt to turn back time (like Cher) by spending the remainder of this week competing at the Macquarie Uni AMT Gold tournament against our up and coming juniors throughout NSW.

Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number

I turn 30 in just over 9 months time. I honestly cannot believe how fast my 20s went. I remember being a teenager and desperately wanting to turn 20 and put all the “teenage drama” behind me. There were so many ups and downs, much similar to a roller coaster. I just knew that once I moved past the age of 19 and turned 20, everything will change and it certainly did. I felt a brand new confidence on my 20th birthday, where I was competing on tour in Bundaberg, Australia and on my favourite surface – clay. I had just returned from a European clay court tour and I felt like I finally found my way in the sport.

I was browsing LinkedIn for some daily inspiration and I came across this article written by Business Insider. It’s certainly worth the read.

17 Things to Start Doing in Your 20s So You Don’t Live in Regret in Your 40s

I now look back at my 20s and I can confidently say that I have lived by these tips, however I can improve in many areas. I feel as though over the past 4 years or so, I lost the tremendous confidence that I had in my early 20s. There have been multiple factors of course, however the worst part of that was the negative impact it had on my personal life. The saying “everything that goes up, must come down” certainly hit home hard in my case.

After reading this article, I feel as though it could act as a blueprint towards a happier and healthier life for me and I’ll certainly be mindful of these tips over the next decade of my life, irrespective of my age. I hope that it has a similarly impact on you too.

Lessons From My European Travels

I remember a time when you relied upon people by either a confirmation over the phone, on face value or via email. Days, weeks and even months would go by but it didn’t matter as you gave someone your word. You were only as good as keeping your word.

I grew up with this understanding and it served me very well when I was a traveling tennis pro, moving from town to town throughout Europe for months on end. I would liaise with a tournament director via email with regard to my travel/accommodation arrangements for the week, and that was my only point of contact on many occasions. I didn’t carry an iPhone as I couldn’t afford one so I had to go without a phone contact most of the time. It amazed me how on every single occasion I was greeted with such genuine hospitality and warmth by complete strangers at either an airport terminal, train station or in their home. It was daunting but you just go with it.

Fast forward to 2018, just over 7 years that I ended my competitive playing career and nothing has changed for me. I have continued to believe in the goodwill you acquire when being able to keep ones word. Just as I emailed a complete stranger and requested travel/accommodation arrangements (often sharing a room with others too) I take similar steps to secure employment and request more information about something of my interest. I keep things simple and clear, often using one line of communication, either email or Instagram for example and I go with it.

There are so many lessons to be learned when you are disconnected and have very little to rely on. Your interaction with a complete stranger becomes your only option and you have to react and respond on your feet. It’s make or break. No second chances. I believe it’s survival skills that are the single most important skills to develop and have confidence with above all others in life.

Blacktown Tennis Centre – Stanhope Gardens

It’s pretty amazing what can happen when you take a leap of faith in life. A few months ago, I decided to make the commitment to build my networks within the tennis industry and follow my passion for this game.

An amazing opportunity has come my way which takes me full circle in my tennis career. I have accepted a position as Tennis Instructor at Blacktown Tennis Centre located in Stanhope Gardens Leisure Centre.

Blacktown Tennis Association was the very first that I competed for as a child, over 20 years ago! It was the start of my career that has led me on this amazing journey. I am so excited to give back to my community by doing what I am most passionate about.

If you would like to know more about this amazing facility and the programs on offer, visit Blacktown Tennis Centre Stanhope.

Why Is Clay Court Tennis Different?

Tennis is perhaps one of the only sports that requires an athlete to compete on more than four different surfaces throughout one season. Just off the top of my head, you have Plexicushion (Australian Open), Har-Tru (Green Clay, Charleston Open), Red Clay (French Open and Europe), Natural Grass (Wimbledon, England and Netherlands), Deco-Turf (US Open, Hard Court, USA) and other variations of hard court surfaces throughout the world. The impact on the body and mind in order to adjust your style of play, movement and strategy every couple of months (even weeks if you consider that the French Open is played only three weeks before Wimbledon), makes tennis one of the most demanding and interesting sports in the world.

I would like to draw your attention to clay court tennis, specifically red clay. I personally find this surface one of the best for game development because it teaches players the following:

  • Adjustment: a player is required to make more adjustments with their feet as there is never a true bounce of the ball (the direction changes on each bounce)
  • Patience: a player has to hit more tennis balls in each rally because their opponent can utilise the slide to retrieve
  • Resilience: there is no such thing as winning a point quickly, because the speed of the ball is absorbed dramatically on impact, slowing the ball down off the bounce, giving the opposition more time to retrieve and extend the rally
  • Movement: the slide is one of the most important types of movement for a tennis player to master, as it teaches a player the importance of fluidity of movement whilst transitioning from one stroke to another during a rally (notice how professional athletes are now sliding on harder surfaces as well).

These four areas are perhaps the most difficult to develop in younger players. Having said all of the above, it is important to note that clay court tennis favours a defensive style of play, due to the slower bounces and ability for players to retrieve by utilising a slide. Many players that train in Asia, Australia and the US develop offensive styles of play since they are exposed to harder surfaces much more than red clay. In contrast, players that train in Europe and South America develop strong defensive styles of play and create patterns of play due to their exposure to red clay.

I believe the best way to develop as a player is to strike the right balance between playing on slower surfaces (clay, plexicushion, synthetic grass) and faster surfaces (hard courts, deco-turf) in order to understand how to be both a defensive and offensive player. Once your body develops, you will begin to notice your strengths and weaknesses as a player and only then you can find your game style accordingly.

Alienpros Overgrips Review

I have been extremely fortunate to have caught the attention of Alienpros, a company that produces designer overgrips for sports such as Tennis, Badminton, Baseball and Golf.

I was asked to consider becoming an ambassador for the company in April 2018, and was so impressed by their vision and product that I accepted the offer.

 

 

As part of my position as a Solar Ambassador, I will complete a product review for any tennis fans who are interested to know more about this product.

For more reviews, visit the Alien Pros Official Website.

ALIENPROS OVERGRIPS REVIEW 

UNIQUE DESIGNS + DURABLE + QUALITY PERFORMANCE

The X-Dry overgrip is a non-tacky grip. This type of grip is perfect for a player that wants their overgrip to absorb sweat during play. I would say that this grip is a great option for players who are training/competing in humid climates, such as what is experienced in Australia, South America and Asia. I found the X-Dry overgrip allowing the fingers to have the breathing room desired throughout rallies, in addition to absorbing sweat. The grip itself also didn’t tear or become loose on the handle, meaning that it’s a high quality product and is very durable. The designs of these overgrips are based on themes, such as ‘love’ and ‘food’ (which are my personal favourites) allowing for individual expression.

The X-Tac overgrip is a tacky grip. This type of grip is perfect for a player that wants their overgrip to absorb less sweat during play. I would say that this grip is a great option for players who are training/competing in cooler climates, such as what is experienced in Europe and North America. It is also a great option when playing in the evening where temperataures are lower. I found the X-Tac overgrip to be extremely tacky and provided plenty of absorption to feel as though the handle was glued to your fingers. The grip also didn’t tear or become loose on the handle and most importantly, the tackiness of the grip didn’t wear out with a lot of use. The designs of these overgrips are also themed, such as ‘clouds’ and ‘dragon’ which once again allow for meaning and individual expression.

I truly believe in this product as it combines unique designs, durability and performance. I highly recommend that you try an Alienpros overgrip! You will not be disappointed 🙂

 

 

Fed Cup Preview – Australia vs Netherlands

I’m so excited to be heading south to Wollongong this weekend to get behind the Australian team, as they face off against Netherlands for a place in the World Group.

The teams are being led by Alicia Molik (Australia) and Paul Haarhuis (Netherlands). Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Sam Stosur and Destanee Aiava have been nominated to represent the Australian team. The Dutch team are being represented by Lesley Kerkhove, Quirine Lemoine, Demi Schuurs and Indy De Vroome.

Tie Preview 

There is definitely a lot going in favour for the aussies in this tie. They have home court advantage, so we know that the crowd will be getting right behind them in every rubber. That will also help the aussies lift when it starts to get down to crunch time. Both Barty and Gavrilova are current top 20 singles tour players and Stosur is a grand slam champion on a very similar playing surface. On paper, the Australian team appear to be much more credentialed than that of the visitors.

On the flip side, the Dutch women are ranked outside the top 200 in singles however, they’re journeywoman and no strangers to the conditions of play. The European athletes spend a great deal of time developing their game on indoor surfaces and with Schuurs, a top 30 doubles WTA player on their side, they will be well-equipped to handle themselves on court should this tie come down to a deciding doubles rubber.

It will be an exciting weekend with plenty of spectacular shotmaking by both teams. I certainly feel as though Australia has the advantage coming into this tie, but we will definitely have to earn the win.

Prediction – 3 rubbers to 2 in favour of Australia

For more info, visit Fed Cup – The World Cup of Tennis

NSW Age Gold JT

The tournament season continues with my students James, Jordan and Jayden Chen and Sonia Joudo competing at the NSW Age Gold JT.

After another great effort in his last tournament and a fantastic session with me, James is continuing to develop his all court game extremely well. The process of developing your game is a long one and he is certainly showing more patience and confidence during the “bigger points” on court. He has won his first qualification match and will continue to battle it out on court tomorrow at the Blacktown Leisure Centre in Stanhope Gardens NSW.

Jordan and Jayden also had a great session with me, where we are continuing to improve their court positioning, awareness and reading play. They have competed in the 12/under event and have lost their pre-qualifying matches. They will face off against one another in the consolation event. This is another important learning curve for them and I’m sure that they will be eager to make the improvements necessary going forward.

Sonia Joudo has had a great day of tennis, winning her first round match in the pre-qualifying event and falling short in the final round of pre-qualification. She was able to gain a lucky loser position into the qualification event, which is a great opportunity for her to gain confidence as a competitor against other seasoned players. As one of my newer students, we’ve focused on developing her strokes and playing with more intention. The commitment she has shown to improve has been fantastic and today’s result is a testament to her effort and willingness to learn and develop as a player. Her tournament continues tomorrow at Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush NSW.

Track their progress throughout the tournament here: NSW Age Gold JT

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