12/u & 14/u Australian Grasscourt Championships

A national championship for an Australian junior tennis player is one of the biggest events in the year. This is the moment you can assess where you stand as a player on a national level.

Many parents and players think that these events are a “be all and end all” as such, however it certainly isn’t the case. In the larger scheme of things, any strong result at a national championship will be remembered as a great accolade on a players CV but other than that, it doesn’t hold much more bearing.

I believe that the purpose of a national championship is to compete against different opposition, many of whom you have never competed against before, gain a new perspective on the game on a national level and to build networks. Eligibility into this tournament is based on prior tournament results and being an invitiational, these players are the best of the best to say the least.

Grass court tennis is sadly a dying art, with approximately 4 professional events held on that surface in the entire year. However, it’s a great surface for junior tennis players to be exposed to because it keeps a player honest, in the sense that there are no true bounces on a grass court as opposed to a hard court. Players are required to stay on their toes just that little longer to accommodate for the unconventional bounces and keep their body weight lower than usual due to the ball staying a lot lower off the bounce.

I was fortunate enough to have a student of mine be invited to the Australian Grasscourt Championships this year. Rahul Desai, whom I have been coaching for a couple of years now, played a very good tournament and recorded some fabulous wins. I only spent a couple of lessons with Rahul where we worked on specific grass court tennis strategy, because I felt that we didn’t need to dedicate too much time on playing with a game style he won’t be using for more than a few weeks. Having said that, his performances during the event proved that it was more than enough preparation time for a player of his standard to adapt comfortably to the surface.

Overall, he came 4th out of 32 boys and his entire team was very proud of how he represented himself and the state of NSW at this national event.

Take a look at Rahul’s journey throughout the tournament here: 12/u & 14/u Australian Grasscourt Championships Tournament Draws

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Back To The Beginning Again

Tennis is one of the toughest sports in my opinion, not just because it is an individual sport, but also due to the fact that there is no set criteria to follow in order to achieve success. If anyone has tried to play tennis at a high level or even a recreational level, it soon becomes evident just how much you dont know about the sport and how little credible information is available to you.

If you are interested and passionate about a specific job, you will be provided with a job description, which assists you in considering your chances of landing the role. If you want to purchase a product, the price, brand and description of the product is given to you prior to purchase. If you want to travel to a certain country, it just takes one online search to find out everything you need to know to proceed. In a way, there is some form of expectation and so working towards meeting that expectation seems plausible. What about tennis? Where are the ‘trip advisors’ or ‘expedias’ in relation to tennis? It’s non existent. You may be wondering why this is the case. I know I have on many occasions.

The biggest reason for that in my opinion is because becoming a professional tennis player is like wanting to be a successful actor/actress, singer, performer, artist etc. Nobody really knows whether or not someone will excel, even though the potential is evident. There are no two individuals who will have the same journey either. Take Venus and Serena Williams for example, who were born to the same parents, raised in the same household, had the same upbringing, but have had very different careers as tennis players both on and off the court. There is no certainty that being taught at a prestigious school, academy or anywhere else and by whom for that matter will result in success either. It’s a matter of trial and error, drawing to a halt and then starting back at the beginning again in order to find what brings out the best in you or your player. The trigger for this process is when you begin to see your results plateau over a period of 6 to 12 months. Flexibility is just the start. Being open to new ideas, innovation and changing routines/processes is what this is all about.

In sport, your biggest rivals are your competition. The key is to be on your toes so to speak, keeping your eyes and ears open, continually studying your competition to understand their strengths and weaknesses. All the while to ensure you HAVE and SUSTAIN a competitive advantage. Differentiating yourself is the greatest asset of all!

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The DNA of a Professional Athlete

I have been underestimated on many occasions due to my background of being a professional athlete. This apparently meant that I have lived a privileged life and knew nothing of hardship, loss, disappointment and pain. It was almost as though people thought I lived a luxurious lifestyle. All they heard was that I was travelling from one city to another each week to compete, but going behind the scenes, it tells a very different story.

In my opinion, a professional athlete has to endure a great deal from a very young age, particularly those who have reached the highest level in their respective sport. Imagine being ‘tested’ for faster times, more repetitions of a particular activity, better precision and refining your technique on a daily basis. There is nowhere to hide, because you cannot escape the truth that lies within a video recording or a time that is below your personal best. The professional athlete learns very quickly that failure and success is part of everyday life. The only thing you can do is accept that fact (which builds resilience and forms the basis of having good sportsmanship), and take ownership over your actions. This then allows you to focus your mind on the job at hand, which is simply being better at your craft. No compromises. No excuses. After all, a slump in form means that its time for you to pay a visit to the sidelines for a duration of time that you have no control over. All you can do is keep showing up and persevere with the hope that you will get that phone call, offering you a position back on the field/team again. And for those professional athletes that compete in an individual sport, any slump in form will result in you simply drifting further and further away from the pack within a few short months. The road ahead seems ever so daunting.

Imagine facing all of the above realities from the age of say 5 or 6 and throughout your adolescence, simply by being exposed to sport at a professional level. The lessons learned can be carried on throughout the rest of your life. There is certainly nothing luxurious about it. I hope that the next time you come across a former professional athlete, the word ‘resilient’ comes to mind as opposed to ‘privileged’.

 

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2017 Nepean Summer Junior Open

What a tournament! Everyone was pushed beyond their limits this week. I feel like the parents and players learnt so much more about the reality of tour life this week than any other week. I had players experiencing how to commute to and from events on their own, multiple withdrawals, changes in the draw, extreme heat that enforced the heat rule which delayed matches for hours, shortened match formats, cancellation of consolation events and competing in twilight matches.

It’s an experience that teaches players, parents, family, spectators, sponsors etc that sport is not just about the technical elements which we seem to critique all to often in my opinion. The physical, mental and tactical capabilities of your player are what set them apart from the rest of the crop because these conditions will arise at almost every tournament. I always try to make my students aware of these challenges during our lessons and what they can do to overcome them if they arise.

Michael Zhang reached the QF of the singles and SF of the doubles 16/under events, which was his best result since we began our partnership. His hard work is paying off and if Michael continues to apply himself on court, these types of results will surely come his way more often in 2017.

Rahul Desai had another great week, backing up his win at the 2016 Gosford Junior Silver 14/under event with a QF singles appearance and winning the doubles event in the 16/under age group. Rahul has only just begun competing in an age group above his own and for him to make that transition as well as he has, is a testament to his patience and focus on steady progressions as opposed to one giant leap.

He Chuan Tee has been varying the age groups he competes in over the past month and competed in an age group above his own this week, the 16/under events. It’s an important learning curve for him and hopefully some of the tough matches he has had this week can inspire him to take his game to the next level. He reached round 3 in the singles and QF of the doubles. Great effort from all boys this week!

And the summer season continues….

Take a look at their journey throughout the tournament here: 2017 Nepean Summer Junior Open Tournament Draws

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2016 Gosford Junior Silver

I associate the holiday season with outdoor sports and travelling with family. After all, this was how I grew up as a junior tennis player in Sydney. My students will also be doing the same by competing in various tournaments this summer season. The first event of any season is a great opportunity for the players to build match fitness and confidence. I’d hope that my players can play a lot of matches against a variety of players, which will allow them to measure the full breadth of their ability early on in the season.

One of my students, Rahul Desai has had a stellar run and tournament by claiming the 14/under singles event without dropping a set. This time last year, Rahul was the 5th seed and lost in the quarter finals, so to enter the event as the number 1 seed and win that convincingly is a tremendous result.

Michael Zhang and James Chen are two of my most recent students who have been working extremely hard for the past couple of months to take on board a new approach to competitive tennis. They performed well in each of their matches in the 16/u singles event and as with any new partnership, it is all about finding out what brings out the best in the player and continuing to made adjustments where necessary.

It should be one great summer season ahead! 🙂

Take a look at their journey throughout the tournament here: 2016 Gosford Junior Silver Tournament Draws

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What Is Your Legacy?

What is my legacy? What will people remember me for? I have asked myself these questions every now and then. Many people have told me that I’m too young to be thinking about my legacy, as a 27 year old, but I beg to differ. It’s important to let things fall into place in life and to follow your heart, but we also need to think about how our decisions will impact others. As a member of society, we have a duty to not only ourselves and immediate family, but to those around us as well. How will our decisions impact our own life and the lives of others? Will it be positive or negative? Are we empowering or disempowering those around us? I find that the impact we have on others shapes our legacy and inspires those around us to become the best version of themselves.

As you all know, I was a professional tennis player for five years. There were so many players that inspired me because of their on court ability and achievements. However, there was one particular player who stood out from the rest. He had a powerful forehand and serve, was charismatic, had a wonderful personality, was highly competitive, fun to watch and had great sportsmanship. He also happened to be my childhood heartthob 😉

This man was the one and only Andy Roddick. He was the US men’s number 1 tennis player for many years, won the US Open in 2003 and reached world 1 on the ATP tour that same year. He also won 32 other career singles titles and held a 74.18% career win/loss record over his 12 year career as a professional. It’s an exceptional record that should be celebrated and applauded. However, many people aren’t aware that Andy did not only have an exceptional on court record, but the decisons he made off court are what helped shape his character and legacy beyond his playing career. It was during the same year that Andy turned professional, in 2000, he established the Andy Roddick Foundation. His foundation sought to provide opportunities to low-income communities through education and sports mentoring. So many tennis players got behind Andy and purchased his ‘no compromise’ blue bracelets (including myself), among other items, with all proceeds from purchases went to his foundation. It is worthy of pointing out that this was prior to Lance Armstrong’s ‘live strong’ brand explosion, which also featured the bracelet but in a yellow colour instead. Throughout his career he was actively involved in various charity events, including hosting an annual gala for his foundation.

Andy’s actions became the benchmark for me as a tennis player and many others as well. It was quite ironic that later on in my career I would begin to use the same racket as Andy, his signature Babolat Pure Drive Plus frame, and a rubber band as a vibration dampener. I also decided to work with one of his former coaches Tarik Benhabiles in the US, who played a huge role in the development of Andy’s game. I should’ve contemplated wearing Lacoste clothing at that time. Now, that would’ve been a dead giveaway that I really wanted to be just like Andy Roddick 🙂

Remember to think about your legacy and how the decisions you make today will impact others. Your actions today will shape your character, be a part of your legacy and inspire those around you to become the best version of themselves.

Andy’s Career Stats

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Face Your Fears

My greatest piece of advice that I could give anyone, especially a younger athlete, is to face their fears. There is no way you can succeed at anything you set your mind to if you are afraid.

I used to be afraid that by my mid-twenties I wouldn’t acquire any other skill than playing the game of tennis. I used to be afraid of becoming a tennis coach, in the sense that it was what someone did if they couldn’t become a great competitor themselves. I used to be afraid that I would never play tennis at a grand slam level. I had absolutely no perspective growing up. I lived in a bubble. It was a world that only revolved around a tennis racket, court, ball, fitness routine and eating plan. Everything else was either taken care of, or was apparently none my business.

The funny thing is that I have lived through all of my past fears in life and realised that I survived through them all. Some of those fears I proactively attempted to face and others just happened spontaneously, nonetheless, I am now fearless and stronger than ever. By placing yourself in a position to face your fears, that fear becomes obsolete in your mind and you are then able to live life to the fullest and excel! Go on, what are you waiting for? 🙂

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