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PostHeaderIcon Calling Foot Faults in Social Doubles


I play social doubles with a group of guys pretty much every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in SF’s Mission District. And though I love playing with these guys, our sets sometimes provide perfect fodder for discussions of “Tennis Etiquette”! Today was one of those days.

While serving at 5-4 for the set, the receiver said, “Hey Kevin, you should watch your feet on the line.” Bugged by his intrusion, I responded, “Hey…everybody out here’s been on the line.”

The fact of getting called out for a foot fault doesn’t bother me. In fact, it’s something I’m well aware that I need to watch for whenever I step up to the line (because of my bad knees and wonky toss). What bothered me was that the guy who said that had stepped on the baseline at the start of every serve he hit in the set. I also felt like this was only an issue because he couldn’t get a racquet on my serve. I’m all for playing by the rules with respect to foot faults, but not selectively.

I stepped backed, then proceeded to hit my hardest serves “just because”, ending the set with an ace that sailed under my opponent’s racquet. Not quite vindication, but definitely a step to take the bad taste out of my mouth from his comment.

Was I wrong for being peeved at (selectively) being put on foot fault notice? Should foot faults even be called in a social doubles match that’s supposed to be fun? Let me know what you think by answering this two-question survey. Thanks.

Question 1

* Do you think foot faults should be called in social doubles?

Page 1 out of 2

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: Two Frustrating Days with the HEAD Graphene Speed Rev


Recently, I had a chance to hit with some of my co-workers. Since I hadn’t packed a racquet for the trip, I had to borrow one. That racquet was his spare HEAD Speed Rev.

Though I went into the hit knowing fully that this racquet was lighter and stiffer than my current Speed MP 315, with an open string pattern, I figured that it probably wouldn’t be too dissimilar from my own for a decent hit. I was wrong.

To be fair, this was a shotgun wedding of sorts. I needed a racquet, and this was the only one available, open string pattern and all. (Note: open string patterns and I don’t get along.) Still, it was a frustrating two days of tennis, with singles on the first day and doubles on the second.

Read why in my thoughts on the HEAD Graphene Speed Rev.


This racquet is light and stiff. When you combine those attributes with an open string pattern (16 x 19), you get a solid choice for a player with a slow to medium swing, and one that allows for someone with a flatter stroke production to create more spin.

I am NOT that player. The Rev’s light weight made it feel like a toy in my hands. Slowing my swing with such a light stick was nearly impossible. Additionally, the stiffness of the frame never allowed the ball to stay on the strings long enough for good ball control. And as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of “open string pattern” racquets, I struggled to find any semblance of control with my normal topspin-heavy stroke production.

After an hour of (singles) hitting, I managed a trace amount of control, but no more. That went away, however, when I played doubles and swung as I typically would during competitive play. It’s no exaggeration to say that I never knew if my shots would land in, or hit the back fence. Even when shots did stay in, they had no depth as they landed near the service line.


Volleys were “hit or miss”… mostly “miss”. Without sufficient punch volleys died into the net. Even with decent volley technique, I struggled for placement and deliberate depth of shot.


My serve is probably the strongest part of my game. With that knowledge, I will admit that I double-faulted (long) whole games away in doubles. There were occasional aces and mishits that landed in. But for the most part, it was simply embarrassing to witness such basic lack of control from my best weapon.

Overall Impressions
The fellow official I borrowed this racquet from is a teaching pro who hits a ton of balls every day over several hours. By his own admission, this racquet makes it easier for him because of its’ light weight. And because it’s made his job easier, he’s readily adapted his game to the racquet’s capabilities.

I’m not quite that adaptable. But even if I were, this racquet wouldn’t make my game better. In fact, it might make it a whole heckuva lot worse! The loss of serve, shot depth, and general lack of ball control would remove this racquet from any serious consideration for purchase.

So there you have it. My friend the teaching pro likes it very much, but I would never consider it for my game, or recommend it to anyone who craves better ball control. So what’s my advice on this frame? If you’re looking for a light racquet to give you easy pop, spin, and maneuverability, give it a shot. It’s a solid racquet from a solid company. For all others, I’d suggest looking at the Speed Pro or MP.

HEAD Graphene Speed Rev Specs

Head Size: 100 sq. in. / 645.16 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 9.2oz / 260.82g
Swingweight: 300
Stiffness: 63
Power Level: Medium
Stroke Style: Medium
Swing Speed: Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 19 Crosses
String Tension: 48-57 pounds

PostHeaderIcon Tips for Better Tennis Fitness from Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Jackson Bloore, a personal fitness trainer here in San Francisco at DIAKADI Body.

Besides the obvious (stunning good looks with an Adonis body owing to his work as a fitness model), Jackson is one of the nicest, most approachable guys you’ll ever want to meet. He’s also in the best shape I’ve ever seen from someone who’s not a dancer or professional athlete.

I’ve watched his workouts at my gym over the past several months, and have been tremendously impressed by their caliber and quality. Though he has the muscular physique of a bodybuilder, trust me when I say that his workouts are about more than simply lifting weights.

It’s also clear from watching him (and checking out his training videos) that he has a core belief about how to train others that he applies equally to himself, and his own workouts. This is fairly notable at a gym where you rarely see trainers “practice what they preach”.

Jackson demonstrating reverse crunches.

Jackson demonstrating reverse crunches.

While chatting, I mentioned that I’ve been struggling lately with on-court injuries. Though I’m in great shape by most standards, I’m pretty much at a loss on how to best train my 50-year old ex-dancer body for the rigors of my tennis game. After all, core work and biking only go so far.

We set a time to meet so that Jackson could offer some suggestions on how I could better use my gym time to prepare my body for tennis. What followed was a mind-blowing 10-15 minute chat, with specific exercise suggestions, that gave me great hope for lessening injuries while improving my tennis fitness in 2014.

I asked if I could share some of his insights with my readers, and he agreed. So as his time allows, I’ll share occasional training tips to help you all with various aspects of tennis fitness.

I know this won’t have the same impact as ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’, but I can’t say enough about Jackson’s knowledge, professionalism, and easy-going demeanor. You can contact Jackson for consultation/training at jackson@actionjacksonfitness.com. He does in-person training as well as Skype consultations. If you’re struggling with injuries and need help with your training regimen, give him a shot.

Until next time, enjoy these two training vids featuring Jackson doing his thing.



PostHeaderIcon Ask Marla #10 – Get a Grip On Your Racquet Grips!


Whenever I post a racquet demo video, I get questions about the grips shown on the demos. After asking Marla about the grips on the last set of demos I tried, we ended up having a larger conversation on grips that was pretty enlightening, and well worth sharing.

Question: What kind of grips do you use on your demo racquets?

Answer: Some have overgrips, and some have the actual grip of the racquet.

askmarla-gripsQuestion: Which do you recommend: actual grip or overgrip?

Answer: I suggest that people try using the actual grip before going to an overgrip. Many grips nowadays are very good and have the qualities that the overgrips used to provide (tackiness and “feel”). But some people sweat so much during a match that they need to change their grip quickly during a match. Overgrips are good for those types of situations.

Question: How often should you replace your grip?

Answer: Overgrips can be replaced at any time. As for the actual grip, I’d recommend replacing it at least twice a year for maximum comfort and cushion. Otherwise, the grip loses cushion and hardens, making it tougher for your wrist and arm to handle the vibration. The loss of cushion also causes the grip to flatten, which can affect the racquet’s grip size.

Question: If someone is interested in using an overgrip, what would you recommend?

Answer: I can tell you what’s popular. The Wilson Pro overgrip does well because it’s tacky, and is also very thin. This keeps it from adding size to your grip. But generally, they’re all pretty similar. The one exception is a more cloth-like grip such as Tourna Grip. It’s not as tacky, but is more absorbent for people who sweat a lot. There are also many “old skool” recreational players who simply prefer the cloth feel to the newer types of grips.

No matter what kind of overgrip you try though, remember to give your racquet’s actual grip a try before adding on an overgrip. And change it twice a year for best results.

(SFTF Note: Beyond the issues of tackiness and absorption, brightly-colored overgrips are also a way to express your mood/personality. And remember that once you use an overgrip, you’re pretty much stuck. Removing an overgrip will strip away the top layer of your actual grip, rendering it useless.)

Got a tennis question? Send it via email or tweet for “Ask Marla”, a (hopefully) weekly (or biweekly) question-and-answer with Marla Reid of San Francisco’s City Racquet Shop.

About Marla

Marla Reid is a respected tennis pro/coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s coached nationally-ranked teams and players, and has over 15 years of experience at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. Marla owns and operates City Racquet Shop in San Francisco CA.

About City Racquet Shop

City Racquet Shop offers, superior products/services, outstanding customer service, and a community-oriented destination for tennis players to shop, hang out and talk about tennis.

City Racquet Shop online: www.cityracquetshop.com
City Racquet Shop on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/city-racquet-shop-san-francisco
City Racquet Shop on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cityracquetshop

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review Wednesday with the Wilson Steam 99 & 99S (VIDEO)

The Wilson Steam 99 and Steam 99S

The Wilson Steam 99 and Steam 99S

steam-sideI’ve never been a huge Wilson racquet fan, but wanted to spend a couple of days with the Steam 99 and Steam 99S to see if they could change my mind. No dice! Still not the sticks for me. But I did find lots to like about the Steam 99; less so with the 99S.

Check out my preview video above, then check out the full reviews by clicking the links below:

The Wilson Steam 99: A Solid Choice For Power, Spin, and Control

The Wilson Steam 99S: Promises Spin But Delivers Frustration

Racquets provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.

Racquet Review Overview Video

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: The Wilson Steam 99 Is A Solid Choice For Power, Spin, and Control

The Wilson Steam 99

The Wilson Steam 99

Unlike its’ counterpart the spin-oriented Steam 99S, the Steam 99 is an all-around solid racquet. Notably used by Kei Nishikori and Petra Kvitova, and immortalized in their infamous “cheating” ad campaign, the Steam 99 provides decent spin and power without the loss of control seen in the 99S. It’s not perfect, but there’s certainly a lot to like about this racquet.



The difference between the 99 and 99S was palpable from the first ball. Though not necessarily designed for spin, the 16×18 string pattern of the Steam 99 allows for a nice combination of spin and control. It felt solid on my forehand shots, and gave me the depth and placement that was lacking in the 99S. I could have used more spin in general, but was very pleased that I could go for my shots with a lot less worry about missing than with the 99S.

My backhand didn’t feel quite as solid because this racquet is slightly lighter than my current stick. Lighter racquets generally cause me to swing too fast and mistime my shots, and that was pretty much the struggle with the 99. Fortunately, I was able to work it out after a bit and even managed some winning serve returns.

The only real issue I had with this racquet was an inability to hit aggressive forehand service returns. That may not seem like much, but it’s one of my biggest weapons. I struggled to keep shots from flying long with the Steam 99, and also felt an uncomfortable amount of vibration. I figured it out eventually, but still not at the level to which I’m accustomed.

Players with flatter shots will likely see more benefit from this racquet in their ground game. But aggressive forehand returns notwithstanding, it’s still a decent stick from the baseline.


This racquet excelled from the service line, allowing me to easily hit slices out wide (both ad and deuce court), flat shots up the T, and strong body serves. In fact, the second doubles set that I played was ended with an ace down the T on match point. Not too shabby!

The only problem with this racquet on my serves came when I tried to inject pace. The struggles began, and all of my earlier control suddenly went flying out the window. Even after about 30 minutes of work, I never figured out how to hit my biggest serves. But that’s okay. My biggest weren’t needed to still have a positive impact on my service game.


The Steam 99 gave me decent control on my volleys, and a surprising amount of feel. Even though I don’t have the greatest hands, I still managed to pull off some nice touch volleys. Open string patterns usually make it tough to keep volleys from popping up, but not the Steam. Volleys stayed nice and low. And any racquet that doesn’t hurt my cause at the net is alright by me!


Though I probably wouldn’t buy this racquet, I still felt strongly enough about its’ performance that I would recommend it to someone who’s interested in decent spin and control WITH accuracy.

It would be great if the Steam 99 took more of my natural spin. It’s also not as versatile of a stick as my current racquet, and is also a little light for my tastes. It didn’t give me quite the solid feel I would have liked, especially on my weaker backhand side.

Seemingly small items such as that are important to note when trying out a new racquet. It’s easy to get excited about a racquet that plays to our strengths. However, it’s much better to be excited about a racquet that plays to our weaknesses, and helps to lift our overall game.

This racquet didn’t quite do that for me. But if you’re a flat-stroke player who’s on the lookout for a racquet that can up the ante of your game in terms of spin and power, take it out for a hit and see for yourself.

Note: If you’re interested in this racquet, take it out for a hit and judge for yourself. Racquet specs and marketing-speak are no substitute for knowing the strengths/weaknesses of your game, and how a racquet might help or hurt your goals.

(Racquet provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.)

Racquet Specifications

Head Size: 99 sq. in. / 638.71 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.3oz / 320.35g
Balance: 3 pts HL
Swingweight: 328
Stiffness: 70
Power Level: Low-Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 18 Crosses
String Tension: 50-60 pounds (demo strung at midrange)

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