Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Billy Kirland: Getting better match by match

Billy Kirland, plays out of TennisLosAngeles.comA little more than two years ago, Billy was looking for a new fun workout. Running distance was growing a little stale and wasn't competitive enough. The more he thought about it, the more appealing tennis became because it was a sport that he would be able to play for the rest of his life. Tennis Los Angeles helped add a new lifelong hobby. Billy has compiled a 122-84 record and won his first championship with the Spring Season 3.5 division.

Which league are you a member of?

How long have you participated in your league?
I started playing the league in the fall of 2015, shortly after I started playing tennis. I started in the lowest division and have somehow worked my way all the way up to the highest. I definitely still have a lot of work to do to get better, but it's been a fun ride so far. 

How did you first learn about it?
I heard about it when I was doing live ball at the Santa Monica Tennis Center from one of my instructors. 

How often do you play?
I like to play 2-3 times a week if possible. It's a lot more fun than running or doing a boring work out. 

What do you like most about the league?
What I like most about the league is its flexibility. You can play when you want and where you want most of the time. It's great. 

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
There are so many great players in this league who have been playing a lot longer than I have. I already have a lot of good memories. But I think the most memorable is winning a championship. It was a cool culmination of starting to figure out how to play smarter tennis. Plus I was able to buy a new racket with the gift card I won.

How did you get started playing tennis?
I played recreationally once in a while as a kid. Not a lot though, just enough to get my butt kicked by friends who took lessons. I really only started to play more seriously and consistently a little more than two years ago. It's been a blast. It's a great way to stay in shape while also getting a competitive activity in weekly. I grew up playing football, basketball, and baseball, so it's been fun to get back into a competitive sport as I get older. 

What level player are you?
NTRP rating 4.0

What do you love about tennis?
I love how any one player can beat another player on any given day. Everyone has different styles of playing. Any style can win on any given day. The game is as much a mental workout as it is a physical one. It's cool that you can continually learn ways to improve and develop your game. 

 What are your favorite pro players? Why?
Again, I really only started playing about two years ago, meaning I've only been watching tennis for about two years too. If I had to pick a favorite player though, I think it might be Andy Murray. I love how competitive he is with himself and how he wears his emotions on his sleeve. Most of the time, he's able to use those emotions to elevate his game too. He plays tennis like a football player. It's cool.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bimal Patel: We checked back in with Bimal after crossing 200 matches played.

We checked back in with Bimal Patel out of He's now played an amazing 200 matches in the program.  200, can you believe?   Back on Aug. 2016 we profiled his playing 100 matches: 

 Playing competitive tennis in the league gives me an extra good feeling of competition as opposed to having my exercise centered solely on fitness and conditioning. As I have gotten older, the fitness and conditioning aspect becomes more important in continuing to play tennis.  Playing in the league has let me experience, in a small way, 
what the professionals go through day in day out.  When I hit my goal of playing 200 matches in less than three years, I felt little like a professional tennis player myself.  

Which league are you a member of?

How long have you participated in your league?

3 years, played my first match on 27-SEP-2014

How often do you play?

2-3 times a week.

What do you like most about the league?

Flexibility in scheduling matches, convenient easy-to-use internet platform, meeting new friends.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)

My recent matches with Ted Nguyen  - we played back to back long and close matches which lasted nearly 5 hours.  Neither of us knew we could have lasted so long and still play good quality tennis.  Though I lost both matches, we both agreed, we would remember this for a long, long time.

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?

I have many: Ted, Yogesh, Prasad, Arun, Deepak, Mark, Joe.. They all bring the best out of me.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league? has provided me with an an excellent platform to motivate and push myself to get better. I am a 56 years old, who took up regular tennis much later in life.  I've had two knee surgeries (ACL and MCL reconstruction
on my right knee), and have endured extended sickness which had left me weak and out of shape. I joined the league hoping to improve my fitness and endurance.  Initially, I could barely play one match without feeling gassed, but this only improved as I kept playing more and more. Playing 2-3 matches every week gets harder and harder as I grow old and have an extremely busy work and social schedule.  In order to keep playing tennis, I find myself working out on a regular basis, on a much more regular schedule than before I played the league. I've learnt to 'manage' my body (and mind) - thanks to competitive,  but friendly nature of the flex league. My fitness regimen now consists of:

  • - daily 1.5-2.0 mile brisk walks or 20-30 minute stationary bike ride 
  • - followed by 5-10 minute stretching (quadriceps, hamstrings, Achilles, shoulders, upper arms, and back stretches)
  • - Weight training 1 to 2 times a week, nothing major - just light to moderate weights to help major muscle groups
  • - decent diet, and ample sleep, specially the night before the tennis match, whenever possible

All of the above is nothing major, just normal fitness routines, I feel we should all incorporate in their lives
as we get older.  Thanks to participating in the tennis league, I feel more disciplined and honor my commitments to my opponents.  Due to league participation, I don't feel forced or compelled, on the contrary I find myself enjoying the whole process.

I hope my experience help others in their tennis, fitness, or self-improvement goals.  

How did you get started playing tennis?

Started hitting on the wall to get some exercise.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)


What do you love about tennis?  

Tennis provides a complete mind and body workout.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?

Rafael Nadal - plays every point as if it were a match point.  Gives it his all and remains humble after all his

Tell us a little bit about yourself, for example: What do you do? Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies (besides tennis)? (Feel free to share any interesting details about your life.)

I work as a software engineer in Silicon Valley.  I grew up in India, besides tennis, I love outdoors - hiking, spending time with friends and family.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Michael Hughes - He has so many passions, we're happy tennis is one of them

Micheal Hughes out of TennisStLouis took the time to submit a player profile. We're excited to present his story to you.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, for example: What do you do? Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies (besides tennis)? (Feel free to share any interesting details about your life.)
I’m an industrial designer originally from Nashville, IL, now living in St. Louis. I love to draw cars and furniture and one day hope to design furniture for a living. I also sing and play guitar and trombone, the latter of which I play in an LGBT concert and marching band. My other interests include cooking, cycling, cars, trivia, travel, and Yelp-ing.

Which league are you a member of?
I am a member of Tennis St. Louis.

How long have you participated in your league?
I joined the league this year and played the spring, summer, and fall 2017 seasons.

How did you first learn about it?
I moved to St. Louis about a year and a half ago and had never lived in a major city before. I googled “St. Louis tennis leagues” and this was the first result.

How often do you play?
Before joining the league, I’ve never really had someone to play with consistently, and I always wished I could play more. Since joining, I average 1-2 matches a week and would play more if time allowed.

What do you like most about the league?
My favorite thing about the league is getting to play so many different kinds of players. In the past, I have mainly played against my best friend and got a little too comfortable with his game. In contrast, every person I have played in this league has a different style, and I love it. There are strong servers, serve-and-volleyers, counterpunchers, baseline bullies, and more. It is incredibly fun not knowing what kind of game you’ll be facing with each new opponent and having to adjust your game on the fly.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
Spring 2017 was my first season of TennisSTL, and my game was definitely a little rusty. I struggled early on, and I lost a lot of matches I might have won had I been a little more confident. Still, I managed to get four wins and make the playoffs in spite of my losing record. Only three players in my division qualified including myself, and I lost to both the other guys who qualified during the regular season. That being said, I had my doubts going into the playoffs.

In my semifinal, I came out strong and won five of the first six games, but I abruptly started feeling sick. (Side note: do NOT eat at an Indian buffet on a match day. You will regret it.) I started to falter, and I dropped the next five games to force a tiebreak. Luckily, I switched into nothing-to-lose mode in spite of my churning stomach. I told myself I would not waste that set after fighting so hard in the first six games. The tiebreak was close, but I managed to pull through. I surprised myself and ended up winning the match 7-6 6-3.

At that point, I was happy just to make the final. My opponent was a great player who hadn’t lost a match all season, and I assumed my journey most likely ended there. As the match began, I was unbearably nervous. I knew it was just a recreational league and it was all for fun, but boy did I want to win. My focus and form were nowhere to be found, and I went down 0-5 in what couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes. My opponent--seemingly sympathetic--eased up slightly, forfeiting two games before closing the first set 6-2. It was one of the worst sets I had played all season. My boyfriend, Derek--who came to watch me for the first time--sent me sympathetic glances. Even my opponent’s friends encouraged me, saying I could still come back. We started the second set, and it looked to be just as bad as the first. Shot after shot flew long, and I went down 0-2. Then, just like the semifinal tiebreak, something in my brain clicked and I knew I had nothing to lose. Everything started working. My shaky serve solidified. My loose cannon of a forehand started painting the lines. I hit several nice drop shots which pulled him forward, consolidated with perfect lobs which sapped his stamina. After being down 2-6, 0-2, I somehow powered through and won the second set 6-4. I was ecstatic. After that first, atrocious set, I was just relieved that Derek got to see me play my best. My cynical internal dialogue said I would still lose, but at least it wouldn’t be in straight sets. As we started the third, I still played well, but he raised his level. His stamina returned, and he started moving me around the court better than I had done to him the set before. I once again went down 0-2, and from there I thought I would certainly lose. I didn’t. I came back again with the best tennis I’ve played in my life. My serve was on fire, and my service games lasted fractions as long as his. Everything was going perfectly. Then, I was at 4-2 30-0 on my serve and got tunnel vision. “Only two more games and I win.” The realization was poison. My serve broke down, and I hit several, signature, shaky double faults. He broke me and got back to 3-4. Once again, I uncharacteristically cleared my mind and found some deep, hidden confidence. The next two games were a little harder, but I managed to push away my self-doubt and break him to serve for the match at 5-3. This is where I would usually fall apart. I seemingly had an out of body experience, serving as well as I ever have with multiple service winners, closing the final set 6-3. We shook hands, and I walked over to Derek to gather my things. The ending was so casual, he looked perplexed. “Did...did you just win?” he whispered. I smiled meekly. “Yep.”

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
My first favorite rival in the league would probably be Michael Feger. We have played three matches including the aforementioned final from Spring 2016. He is a finesse player who specializes in moving you around the court, resulting in a lot of cat-and-mouse play. Our matches are always exceedingly fun.

My other favorite rival is Chris Jones. It’s hard to call our matchup a rivalry since he has beaten me soundly both times we’ve played, but our matches are a treat. Chris is very balanced off both his forehand and backhand wings whereas most players heavily favor their forehand which makes it quite a challenge to get him out of position. He is a very solid player with great shot selection and variety. Playing with that kind of variety is what really makes tennis fun.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
If you have any hesitation in joining, don’t! This league has been a godsend for me. I have always wanted more people to play with, and that desire has been wholly satiated.

How did you get started playing tennis?
In high school, my best friends would play tennis from time-to-time but I rarely joined them. I was very overweight and didn’t enjoy sports as I couldn’t really compete. One day during my sophomore year of college, my friends were going to go play and I decided to tag along. The few times I had gone before I hated it, but something about this time was different. For the first time, I really enjoyed the challenge the sport presented, and I went with them every time after that. I started to enjoy playing so much that I became determined to lose weight to become more competitive. Since then, I have lost over sixty pounds. Tennis was the first physical activity I ever enjoyed, and I couldn’t be more thankful for how it has affected my life.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
3.25 on a good day, but usually closer to a 3.0.

What do you love about tennis?  
To me, tennis is the perfect test of physical and mental stamina. It is a chess game played in real time, with each different shot like a different piece to move around the board. I love seeing the right move illuminate in front of me, watching the ball hit the court and the plan I devised in less than a second play out successfully before my eyes. I love trying to solve my opponent before they solve me, even if I’m not always successful. That feeling of perfect symbiosis and necessity of both mind and body is what makes me love this sport, and I hope to experience it for the rest of my life.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
I hate to be cliche, but it is Roger Federer, hands down. I have watched more hours of pro tennis than I would care to admit, and there is only one player I will go out of my way to watch, night and day. In an era of homogenized, baseline power players, Federer is unique. Yes, he can still beat almost anyone in a blase baseline rally, but he usually doesn’t have to. He has an infinite variety of shots in his arsenal, allowing him to end a point from anywhere on the court when other players would continue grinding from the baseline forever. Federer’s brilliance is a huge inspiration for me to improve, and I weep at the thought of his eventual retirement.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tennis League Network: Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace

Author Notes: Wesley Wiggins, member of the 3.5 TennisHamptonRoads The Virginia Beach & Norfolk tennis online flex league since the Summer 2017 season. Tennis Hampton Roads inaugural year was a screaming success where we had large divisions for Spring, Summer and Fall Leagues. 

Have you ever gone looking for something that you thought you could find easily, but ended up feeling like you were in search of a needle in a haystack?

That was my mindset until I stumbled upon TLN’s website while browsing

I’m what you would call a “vet” in the tennis world, having a resume that includes almost 3 years of playing experience, attending group clinics, and hitting against the wall…or backboard for the tennis pundits out there. However, while each of those activities were enjoyable, it was actual singles match play that I had been looking for as well as the chance to put into practice what I had learned. Thus, came the time for me to don my internet detective hat and begin the search for a league.

Enter Attempt #1: United States Tennis League (USTA)
Seems the obvious choice, right? The main overseer of tennis for the United States. They would definitely have a singles league that I could sign up for and get playing time!

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case as the majority of their leagues were doubles only aside from World Team Tennis (WTT) which only had one set of men’s singles once per week.

The USTA site also had an option to sign up for a flex league but apparently (as of this writing) there are only 2 available flex leagues in the state of Virginia at the moment and they are both in Fredericksburg; that one was a miss!

Enter Attempt #2: Local Tennis Association
With the USTA being a no-go. I narrowed my search to local clubs around the area and came across a group that sponsored local tournaments. These were my bread and butter for the past year and a half, with numerous, well-organized and competitive weekend tournaments being held from May to October.

However, due to them only being on the weekend and some of them being held a decent ways away from where I live, there were many instances where I was unable to attend them.

Enter Attempt #3: Tennis League Network
The local tournaments were where I got my competitive match play experience, that is, until I discovered the TLN flex leagues.

It was like a whole new world! A brand-new tennis site I never knew! No one to force where or when, or if play should end, they just give you reminders and suggestions…those Aladdin references.

In all seriousness though, TLN was exactly what I had been looking for in a tennis league.

In Price, Competition, Flexibility, Organization, and Comradery, it ranks at or near the top.

$20 for a season with referral and early signup bonuses that reduce the price? In the words of Donnie Brasco, “Forget about it”.

Competition and Flexibility.
With TLN, you have 15+ different opponents to choose from on any day of the week at any agreed upon time. It’s always nice not being limited to one match once a week like other standard leagues. Not feeling so hot one week? Take it off and come back the next. No penalties or forfeited matches.

Furthermore, TLN sponsors an end of the year tournament for league winners (of all TLN leagues throughout the coast) and avid players, providing an end goal for the more competitive and casual player alike.

You’re given a list of names, numbers, and e-mails of everyone in your league as well as the ability to send a mass e-mail to all participants via the website. You are also given the e-mail of a very responsive league organizer.

Finally, and most importantly, you can meet and build friendships with a variety of different players that love the sport of tennis, essentially expanding your network of tennis players…Tennis League Network?!? I see what they did there.
If you’re looking for a fun, flexible, and affordable league, whether you are a casual or competitive player, then I highly recommend you give this site a try and, if you are ever down in the Hampton Roads area, I’m always up for a match!

Till next time, may your first serve be in! 

Author Notes: Wesley Wiggins, member of the 3.5 TennisHamptonRoads league since the Summer 2017 season.

Here is a video of one of my matches from the Summer 2017 season!