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Posts Tagged ‘Novak Djokovic’

PostHeaderIcon Ask Marla #8 – Tips for the Off-Season (Pt. 2 Off-Season Training)

Novak Djokovic stretching

This is the second of a three-part series (Take Stock/Take Time Off, Training Tips for Upcoming Season, and Equipment Changes) that will focus on things you can do to help your game during the off-season.

Sam Stosur jumping rope
Nadia Petrova stretching
Marion Bartoli drilling her groundstrokes
David Ferrer working his core

Question: Do you have any tips/suggestion for off-season training? What should I focus on to help improve my game for the upcoming season?

Answer: Here are three (3) things to remember as you start training in the off-season.

1. Set goals!

Give yourself specific goals for the upcoming season. Whether it’s serve consistency, playing more doubles, or working on your fitness, etc. Just remember to keep them simple and attainable, with a mix of both short-term and long-term goals. If possible, try to set goals that you can measure and track as you go along.

2. Work on your game!

Pick one or two things you want to work on in the off-season, and take the time to work on them. Getting together with friends for practice drills is an excellent way to work on your game. It’s okay to play occasional practice sets, but try to keep the focus on drills. If all you do is compete year-round, it’s easy to develop bad habits that will keep you from improving.

3. Work on your fitness!

This is the perfect time to strengthen key muscle groups that can help your game AND prevent injury. Take the time to develop your rotator cuffs and surrounding muscle groups in your shoulders. Work on your core to help stave off lower back issues. And stretch, stretch, stretch! Working on your flexibility is also a great way to help with injury prevention.

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 And the winner is… Head Youtek Speed MP 315 18×20!

finalThat is certainly a mouthful, right!

I went into this demo process knowing that I wanted to make a decision quickly in order to get the new racquet and start going through the funky transition process.  Already feeling pretty good about the Head racquet I had demoed the previous weekend,  I knew I had a good starting point for any new demo variations.  I went back to SFTC to pick up the Head again for more testing, and also to give the Wilson K Blade 98 a try.

I had reservations about the K Blade.  If you read my last “demo” post you might remember that Wilson racquets and I don’t tend to play nicely together.  And of all the pros I would ever think my game could favorably compare for racquet use, Roger Federer is definitely the low man on that mini totem pole.  But there I was, on Saturday, hitting with the K Blade 98.

The  racquet felt really good in my hand.  The head seemed a little small, but overall the feeling was a good one.  After some “shortball” warmup, we moved to the baseline and started hitting.  The first shots came to my backhand.  WHOA!  Hitting backhands hadn’t felt so nice and sweet in quite some time.  These were some of most solid backhands I have ever hit.  The sound off the racquet, the pace and depth.  It was very nice.  Then I tried to hit forehands… and the budding love affair quickly vanished.

I hit my forehand with a fair amount of topspin.  I need a racquet that allows for that kind of sweep up the ball without also needing pinpoint accuracy in order to hit the sweet spot.  THIS is not that racquet.  The sweet spot is just about the size of a tennis ball (or at least it feels that way).  If I hit the ball squarely it was okay.  If I hit the ball slightly off, it was a shank of epic proportions with shock down my arm to match.  Back to the racquet bag.

I picked up the Head and was immediately back in love, but with a slightly different twist.  The Speed MP 315 I demoed the previous weekend was a 16×19 string pattern.  This time, Lynnette at the SFTC pro shop gave me the 18×20 so I could see the difference, however slight, between the two.  It was pretty much perfect.  The 16×19 string pattern was good but this one felt ‘just right’.

Serves, forehands, backhands… all good.  It’s still a pretty big adjustment from my current heavier and more head-heavy Volkl racquet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  This racquet requires technically sound and relaxed strokes.  As soon as you attempt to “hit harder” or go for the kill shot, it’s easy to over-swing and either shank the ball or meet the strike-zone ridiculously early (sending the ball straight to the bottom of the net).  With only a good relaxed stroke, all the rest falls into place.

I never imagined having something in common with Novak Djokovic’s tennis game, but I guess I do.  The millions of dollars and grand slam titles would be nice, but I’ll settle for a good racquet instead!  Now to order them, get them strung, and start getting ready for the 2012 USTA season. 🙂

PostHeaderIcon Sharing My “Racquet Demo Hell”

I typically suffer in silence when going through the process of demo’ing racquets (wherein as you are trying to find your next racquet your game slowly starts to deteriorate because of all the changes until you can’t even hit a decent shot with your old racquet). But one of my hitting buddies persuaded me to share my experiences here on my blog so that it might help someone else who is also suffering through this process (thanks Patrick). 😉

I’ve used a Volkl Tour 10 V-Engine since it first came out several years ago. Back then I needed a racquet that would force me improve my stroke production and technique. It was perfect. Well-balanced and good power/control with proper stroke production. It was the racquet for becoming the better player I wanted to be. But as I have gotten older (almost 48) with shoulder/knee surgeries in the past 4 years (both on my dominant hitting side) plus other various injuries, I need a racquet that suits my current game and body. I find myself struggling with both power and control as soon as I lose even a single pound of tension in the strings. After a rough USTA season I decided to suck it up and start the process of finding my new “The One”.

First up was the Wilson Blade 98 BLX. It’s the racquet seen in the commercials with Federer, Venus, and Serena. They push a couch onto court to help counsel a struggling player, telling them this racquet will help them get more feel. It’s great advertising! I especially like the Roger commercial. Who doesn’t like a commercial with two cute guys, right? Anyway… it was a no-go for me and my game. The racquet gives a solid feel on groundstrokes, but is much more head-heavy than my current Volkl. So I felt a distinct lack of control on all shots when I was pressured, especially coming in for short balls. Serving was difficult as well. Too much vibration, and no control on serve placement. If the serve landed in it was usually a good one with lots of weight behind it, but I couldn’t tell you how I did it. Not the feeling you want in a racquet. NEXT!!!

Next demo test racquet was the Wilson BLX Pro Tour. I was told it is the racquet used by Juan Martin del Potro. A quick trip to Wikipedia showed that he switched to The Wilson K Factor 6.2 after coming back from his wrist injury. I won’t give any commentary on the reasons why he may have switched from this racquet, but after hitting with it for 5 minutes I hated it on all fronts. Bad for my backhand, forehand AND serve. NEXT!!!

I’ve never owned a Babolat racquet, but after hitting with a friend’s last week I decided to demo one. I picked up the Babolat GT Pure Storm, and I hated it. Racquet felt pretty lackluster on the backhand, and every forehand hit the back fence behind my hitting partner. I didn’t even bother attempting other strokes. NEXT!!!

After round 1 of demos, I went back to the pro shop to get some more demos based on my feedback from the first batch.

I came out with two Volkls and a Head. The Volkls were updated versions of the racquet I have been using. They were the PB9 and PB10 racquets. I had high hopes for these. The pro at the shop mentioned that most people who play Volkl don’t really find satisfaction with other brands. So I thought these two sticks would follow in the same tradition and work perfectly on first contact. Result: not so much. The PB10 felt heavy from the first ball strike…much more than my current racquet. And stiff.

My hitting partner could only focus on how bad the vibrations felt from this racquet more than any other aspect. Also, if my goal was to find a maneuverable and forgiving racquet, this was not going to cut it. Didn’t even wait to try serves before switching to the PB9. It was better than the PB10, but still didn’t feel right. Forehands were tough to control, backhands had no feel. The weight didn’t feel good in my hand. It went back into the bag. NEXT!!!

Having suffered a major Volkl letdown (my last 3 racquets have been Volkls), I tried the last of the demos: the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315. Novak Djokovic uses Head racquets. I wouldn’t pretend to think that my game is anywhere near comparable to his game. And I have never owned a Head racquet. So my expectations were pretty low for this racquet.

However, on first strike it felt surprisingly good. Really good. I have a long but quick stroke (too quick at times). This racquet allows for that kind of wind-up and still keeps the ball on the court. It feels good off both sides, and gave me good feel and depth on both wings. Serves were a dream. I felt like I could maneuver the ball all over the box with a ton of added slice. Volleys felt solid with good control, short balls felt good too. It didn’t take long to make up my mind on this Head racquet… I pretty much had what I was looking for.

Of course rallying is a very different experience from set or match play. The weight difference between my current Volkl and the Head is significant. The light weight caused some problems. Playing a set was a challenge in slowing down a swing speed that’s been programmed over 7 years. When the adrenaline starts pumping during match play, it’s easy to swing too fast putting the contact point way far in front of you (which sends the ball straight to the bottom of the net). That’s okay though. I should be able to adapt with time, right? 😉 Bottom line: I’m still stoked by the potential of this stick!

I will demo a few more models and report on those within the week. But the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315 is definitely the frontrunner!
(SPECIAL THANKS to Lynnette and Keri at the San Francisco Tennis Club pro shop for their help in finding a racquet that suits my game.)

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