Sunday, July 12, 2020

Player Profile: Stephen Slater - The flexibility of scheduling matches is what drew him in

We caught up with Steven Slater out of our Virginia Beach tennis community and this his tennis story.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I grew up in Stockbridge, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. It was a fine upbringing, but I longed to get to a bigger city. I started playing the French horn in 8th grade and I knew early on that it was what I wanted to do. Music has taken me to 4 continents and I've lived in 13 cities around the world, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I moved to Virginia Beach in 2018 as a French horn player with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. I got a cute tiny home 2 blocks from the beach, and I've loved living here. I never knew I was a beach bum, but here we are. The tennis community here is large, which has been a wonderful surprise for me. My family live up and down the East Coast (minus my brother's family in Texas), so traveling up to New York to visit my sister and drives down to Atlanta to see the parents are easy and convenient.

Which league are you a member of?
Hampton Roads, which encompasses a lot of cities in and around Norfolk.

How long have you participated in your league?
This is my third session and I started last summer, 2019.

How did you first learn about it?
Honestly, I did a web search. I was looking to join either a league or team in my area, and TLN seemed like the best fit - and it was.

How often do you play?
I try to play at least 3 times a week, but would love to play everyday. My body says otherwise. I've unfortunately been plagued with a few back injuries, but it has been getting better with regular play.

What do you like most about the league?
I love the flexibility of scheduling matches and meeting all the people. It truly feels like a community with everyone in the league.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).
Really any match with my hitting partners Masayo and Durrell are memorable, both for their play and companionship. The time in between changeovers brings a great deal of happiness and laughter.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
I really questioned whether or not the league would be a good fit for me, considering I worked in the evenings and on weekends as a classical musician. But it was soon clear that the flexibility of scheduling your own matches was its greatest asset. Having that flexibility was key to the success of this league for myself and for those I've played with.

How did you get started playing tennis?
I got started while in grade school. My father has always been a competitive table tennis player, and I got hooked on tennis at an early age. I took lessons, joined my high school team, and even dreamt of making it professional, but music took over my life. My events with tennis and music clashed far too much, so tennis was left behind. Unfortunately I didn't really play again for 23 years, and just picked it back up this past summer. It was NOT like riding a bike! I had to relearn so much and it's still a struggle, but the passion came back immediately. It's a new-found obsession, and I'm extremely thankful to have tennis during this quarantine. It's been a savior for me.

Do you play to compete, or for fun?
Appropriate answer is fun. Honest answer is both. Being in the competitive world of classical music where I have auditioned hundreds of times while only landing a handful of jobs in my lifetime (statistics show that it's harder to get into a symphony orchestra than it is to get into the NFL) has only helped me with matches. It's funny how angry I can get with myself during a match where I'm making dozens of errors, so I just have to keep telling my musician self that this is fun! Of course competition can be fun, but enjoyment should be paramount when playing recreational tennis.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
Just hit 3.5 yesterday. I started this league last summer at 2.5, so improvement has been great to see. I would consider myself an aggressive baseliner who loves to take huge swings deep into the court.

What do you love about tennis? 
There's plenty to love, but I guess I love the athleticism of it. I've never been one to "work out", but tennis is the perfect sport for all ages. Something in tennis just clicked with me, and it's hard to pinpoint what. It may be the competitive nature of it or how much of a challenge to your psyche it is. I sometimes believe tennis is 20% technique and 80% mental. That challenge in tennis can help you in your day-to-day life greatly.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
I grew up obsessed with Monica Seles. I still think she may be the greatest player of all-time, even though her career was forever changed by a terrible act. I also have a two-handed forehand that I couldn't get rid of, so I saw myself in her game. Currently I'm a huge fan of Del Potro (hope he comes back), Halep, Andreescu, Kvitova...really any player with an incredible passion for the sport and a huge heart for their tennis community. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Pacing Yourself - By Adam Cooper

We are all incredibly fortunate that tennis is one of the few sports that can be played in reasonable safety during this surreal limbo. Ever since the courts in the DC/metro area reopened, there have if anything been more players than usual out, perhaps as newcomers embrace the sport as their traditional exercise outlets (indoor gyms, team sports) are still not available.

As I returned to playing after hunkering at home for over two months, it was difficult to resist the temptation to immediately schedule as many matches as possible and basically go from 0 to 60 in my eagerness to be doing something other than sedentary Zoom calls and watching Netflix (original series Star Trek, anyone??) But after having spent much of the past couple years managing injuries and playing in starts and stops, I knew it would be wiser to come back gradually and deliberately.

For anyone else trying to return after a layoff, or just trying to stay active in middle age and beyond, I thought I’d share a few tips. They are all fairly self-evident, but still practical, and they all come down to pacing yourself.

Space your matches out. Whether you play three times a week or three times a month, make sure you take enough time between matches for your body to recover. As you grow more accustomed to playing this time can be made shorter. For me, I always try to have at least a day of rest in between matches.

Keep a consistent schedule. Once you have a routine,don’t change it up without a good reason. If you tend to play in the evening rather than the morning you should think twice before altering the pattern.  I know it takes me while to loosen up over the course of the day, and I try to protect myself by not playing too early.Also, try to aim for roughly the same number of matches from week to week or month to month. Playing too much before your body is ready is just asking for injury.

Warm up before you play. I try to go for a gentle half mile run, including side steps and jumping jacks, followed by a short walk of about as long before I even show up to play a match. Once my body is warm, I also take time to stretch. Stretching when you’re totally cold is no longer recommended.

Play smart. It’s hard in the heat of competition not to want to give 100% on every point. In general, you should, especially if you’re young. But I know if I go full out chasing down a lob or drop shot that even if I win that point I may end up losing the next two or three because I’m out of breath. So, if it’s2-2 in the first set and I’m up 40-love, I might let that lob go. Keep an awareness of the big points and make sure you’re 100% committed physically for them, but if you’re coming back, prone to injury, or just older, you may want to be choosy about expanding your maximum effort.

Playing tennis, especially on what is essentially concrete, is tough. We ask a lot from our bodies to make it happen. Don’t do too much too soon or you may have to ask your body for forgiveness.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Player Profile: Brent Yancey - Playing a ton out of

 We caught up with Brent Yancey out of  Make that two Cincy players in a row.  He's played an amazing 41 matches in the short period of time that he's joined. Here's his responses.

Which league are you a member of?

I am a part of the Cincinnati Tennis League.

How long have you participated in your league?

Since the Fall of 2019, so nine and a half months.

How did you first learn about it?


How often do you play?

Two to three times a week on average. 

What do you like most about the league?

Flexible schedule, I can play on most courts, also my opponents are friendly people and are of a similar skill set. 

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)

My very first match because I won and I knew I would be able to compete in a competitive tennis league. Also my first playoff match since it was an accomplishment to make the playoffs. Another memorable match is when I came back down four games to one after losing the first set and went on to win the set and match.   

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?

Josh Maggard, Nathan Hertlein, and Nick Graham because I have played them multiple times plus split matches with each of them. 

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?

This league makes for a great experience and hobby, it’s a great way to meet people and have something to look forward to. 

How did you get started playing tennis?

I have been playing with friends for around a decade and decided to step it up and compete in a league. 

Do you play to compete, or for fun?

Since I am a competitive person by nature I play to compete. 

What level player are you?

(NTRP rating) 3.5

What do you love about tennis? 

It is highly competitive, makes for great exercise, and it’s always possible to come back at any point during the match.

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 in the automotive industry and I grew up in central KY. My other hobbies are exercising, watching sports, and going out with friends.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tennis Tips for Beginners: Play Like a Pro - David Lee

Rebroadcasted from David Lee at Tennis Focus On

Tennis is a wonderful sport for strengthening your body, relationships with fellow teammates, and reinforcing the mind’s focus. If you are looking to master a new sport and gain some exercise, use this guide to understand every hack and avoid the rookie mistakes.
Tennis tips for beginners will cover subjects such as:
  • Equipment Required 
  • Types of Racquets (& How to Choose the Right One for You)
  • Types of Strokes & How to Serve
  • Mastering the Court
  • How to Keep Track of Scoring
  • And Much More
Use this guide as your one-stop-shop to all thing’s tennis. This quick read will offer you a beginning basis that will allow you to play the game considerably better than your average beginner.

Equipment Required to Get Started
An advantage to tennis is the minimal amount of equipment required to start. A checklist for beginners to utilize while shopping for their gear includes:
  • Racquet – These are also called rackets, depending on if the game is Tennis, squash, or related matches. We will cover each type of racquet, but as a beginner, you will lean towards a wider head (which simply means you have a larger racquet to hit the ball more easily while you’re learning).  You can read more about Best Tennis Racquet For Beginners.
  • Tennis Balls – These are incredibly affordable, but you may need a lot of them.  Read our full article on Best Tennis Balls.
Your only rule of thumb when it comes to tennis balls is to avoid a dead ball, which will be too flat for a proper bounce. You can test this by bouncing the ball before your swing. If the ball is ‘dead,’ it shouldn’t bounce higher than your hips. 
  • Proper Footwear – Your attire should allow you to:
    • Move quickly
    • Stop quickly
    • Bounce slightly
Most tennis-specific footwear will offer you:
    • Flatter soles
    • A studier base than a running shoe
    • A non-marking sole that won’t impact indoor tennis courts with skids
The most significant component of your footwear should be that they are comfortable and fit.
  • Tennis Clothing – Your outfit, similarly to footwear, should be comfortable above all else. If your clothes and shoes are too snug, you can damage your feet and certainly won’t enjoy Tennis. Your clothes should possess the characteristics of being: Read our full article on What To Wear To Play Tennis.
    • Breathable
    • Easy for large body extensions and rapid movement
    • Full-length with shorts if it is a skirt
  • Gym bag – Unless you have a court at your house, you’ll need something to transport this gear in. You can read more about Best Tennis Bags.
  • Water – The most important thing besides your racquet and tennis balls will be hydration. Not only are you sweating profusely as you run at full speed up and down the court, but your performance depends on it. As USTA Sport Science claims:
Dehydration of as little as 1-2% of body weight (only 1.5-3 pounds for a 150 lb. athlete) has been shown to reduce performance. Dehydration of 3% or more of body weight increases a tennis player’s risk of heat-related illness (heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke).”

Types of Racquets (& How to Choose the Right One for You)

Your racquet dictates the quality of your game more than you might believe. 
The age-old question of what type of racquet you should purchase will depend on what’s best for your body type and needs. The main categories to choose from will be:
  • Power Racquets
  • Player’s Racquets
  • Tweener Racquets

#1 Power Racquets 

Also called ‘Game Improvement Racquets,’ these will be suited to beginners that have shorter swings and want a racquet that strengthens their swing. These tend to be a bit larger and offer a wider net that allows for more balls to be hit. Other characteristics of these racquet are that they tend to be:
  • More lightweight
  • Larger-Framed
  • More flexible for novices
  • Heavier near the top (top-heavy racquets will pull your weight forward, making your swing even more powerful due to the kinetic energy. This will help you maintain your balance and swing with greater ease).

#2 Player’s Racquets

Also called ‘Control Racquets’ are best for more advanced players. These tend to offer you less flexibility and less power than a beginner-level racquet. Notably described as ‘unforgiving,’ a Control Racquet is called so because they enhance your control but don’t increase your power. Characteristics of Player’s Racquets include being:
  • Smaller
  • Heavier (often around 12 ounces)
  • Less Head-heavy and more evenly-keeled or handle-heavy
  • Heads are typically 85-98 sq. inches
  • Thinner-framed
  • Used by Professional Tennis Players for advanced tournaments
Notably – You must be physically-fit and inclined to the sport to utilize this level of racquet. If you attempt to use this as a beginner, you may find the game considerably more difficult than it needs to be.

#3 Tweener Racquet

Known as the blend of the previous two, your Tweener Racquet is a wonderful median-step to take before upgrading to the Player’s Racquet. As an intermediate balance of control and weight, the qualities you can anticipate from this variety include:
  • Ideal of low-medium or medium-high swing power
  • Head is slightly larger, usually surpassing 100 sq. inches
  • Average weight of between 9 to 12 ounces
  • Quick
  • Easily controlled
Although these are made for distinct levels, there are exceptions to the rules. You could experience trouble with a beginner level and require an intermediate, or any scenario due to factors such as your:
  • Initial athleticism
  • Body type
  • Height
  • Comfortability with a certain racquet weight
Bottom Line – You can try any of these three racquet types, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Experiment with all and determine the right fit for your swing. 

Strategy Behind How to Hold Your Racquet
Just as with racquets, there are also various methods for gripping your selected racquet.
It may seem monotonous to study the grip-technique, but a proper grip will allow you to utilize your tools to their fullest abilities. An improper grip will ruin your swing, so you must learn each step in its natural order.
What you need to know beforehand is that:
  • Your racquet’s handle is octagon-shaped (meaning it is 8-sided)
  • These eight sides are known as bevels.
  • Players use the bevels to understand where to grip the racquet
The three basic grips you can choose from will be:

The Continental Grip 

This one will also be known as the ‘Hammer Grip,’ or ‘Chopper Grip,’ as you are using those movements. 
When You Use It – Primarily while:
  • Serving
  • Volleys
  • Backhand Slices
  • Drop Shots
Why Use ItBecause it allows for:
  • An opened-facing racquet that swings outwardly easily
  • A forceful swing grip that increases your swing’s strength (ideal for serving)
  • Quick control when in need of fast defense
How to Do It –
  • Look at the 8-bevels in your tennis racquet’s handle. Looking at the bevels with your racquet perpendicular to the ground, number your bevels 1 to 8 with the sky-facing bevel as #1.
  • The base knuckle of your index finger and your heel pad should sit on bevel #2.
  • Swing outwardly and use the chopping or hammer movement.

The Eastern Grip 

Subtly similar to the Continental Grip, this racquet handle will be held in a similar feel to shaking someone’s hand.
When You Use It – Primarily for:
  • Forehand Strokes
  • To flatten your ball swing
  • To spin the ball
  • To swing it at a lower height
  • Increasing difficulty level on your opponent
Why Use ItBecause it allows for:
  • Fast shots
  • Flat shots
  • Versatility
  • Adaptability
  • Advanced swinging that feels very comfortable and natural to most
How to Do It –
  • Place your hand to where the index finger’s base knuckle and heel are on bevel #1.
  • Swing as feels natural.

The Semi-Western Grip

Giving you similar benefits as the Eastern Grip, the Semi-Western Grip adds the benefit of increased control.
When You Use It – Primarily while:
  • Swinging with aggressive shots
  • Also for forehand swings
Why Use ItBecause it allows for:
    • Higher swings
  • More control
  • Ideal for closed racquet faces
How to Do It –
  1. Some describe it as the way your hand moves as you fist pump.
  2. The experts say you should seek out a natural position by placing the racquet on the ground and determining the most comfortable technique for picking it up. The only rule here is that your index knuckle and heel should be placed on Bevel #4.
Practice these grips before you hit the court as you don’t want to risk getting hit with a ball while you’re figuring out how to hold your racquet. 

How to Discover Your Most Natural Grip 

The steps are to simply:
  1. Utilize your non-dominant hand (meaning if you are right-handed, use your left hand).
  2. Turn the racquet perpendicularly to the ground (not parallel to the ground but turned 90-degrees from here). 
  3. Place the hand that is dominant (if you write with your right hand, it is this one) on the strings of the racquet’s head. 
  4. Move your hand down until it naturally wraps around the racquet’s handle.
  5. Using the space between your thumb and your index finger on your dominant hand, point that as a V-shape aimed to your shoulder. 
  6. The natural form you take when selecting a grip will indicate what feels right. Practice with a tennis coach or receive direct mentorship for customized adjustments to your grip. 

Types of Strokes in Tennis

As your rally (which is a game in which there is a steady flow of shots between two tennis opponents), you will need to use what you’ve learned from your grip and apply it to your swing.
The most popular types of swings to be aware of (also called strokes) in Tennis are:
  1. Forehand
  2. Backhand
  3. Volley
  4. Serve


Hitting the tennis ball with the dominant side of your body.
How to Do It –
  • Determine which side is your dominant side.
  • Twist your body this way to where you are facing the right if you are right-handed.
  • Twist your body back to openly swing forward, while keeping your feet, shoulders, and hips pivoted in the direction of this dominant side.
  • Swing starting low and move it upwards.
  • Follow-through (meaning finish the stroke) angling towards your non-dominant shoulder.


Hitting the tennis ball with the non-dominant side of your body.
How to Do It –
Same method as forehand but opposite. 


You’re likely gathering that things are named appropriately, proved by the fact that a Volley Stroke will be utilized when by the net for close-range swings.
How to Do It –
  • When the ball is falling close to the net, you will need this swing; however, it can be done from anywhere.
  • Take rapid steps
  • Move on the balls of your feet
  • Keep your shoulders squared
  • Hit the ball when it’s about 3-feet from the net or near hitting the ground.
  • Avoid swinging. Instead, think of a volley-ball technique. It requires little follow-through but will be more like a rapid punch or rapid tap.


Every tennis player will have to serve eventually. Serving is done to get the game going!
How to Do It
  • Toss the ball into the air about 1-3 feet above your maximum reach. You don’t want to go further than comfortable but you are:
  • Tossing the ball up
  • Waiting for it to come down into reach
  • Swinging in your most comfortable stroke style
Most stroke will be overhand and quite high, keep this in mind while deciding when to swing at the descending ball. 
  • An approach commonly taught by instructors is to imagine as you begin to swing that you are scratching your back.
  • Then, extend it above your head.
  • Swing to hit the ball in whatever technique feels most natural that allows you to extend upwards. Beginners can select to serve overhand or underhand, whichever is most comfortable. Men will be more comfortable swinging overhand while women experience an easier time swinging underhand. This distinction is due to the shoulder alignment in connection to the arms:
  • Women’s arms externally rotate, being more opened for vulnerable forearms.
  • Men’s shoulders internally rotate their arms, causing them to be more closed-off and pre-disposed for overhand swings.
  • Follow-through for extra force and power.

Tips for All Swings

  • Your ball will go in the direction that the racquet is facing. 
  • Try not to snap your wrists. Not only can this cause damage, but your wrists are not the strong or secure part of your arm and you should not be using them as a source of power. 
  • Instead, use your body weight to drive through with your bodily force 
  • Always be aware of your feet to keep them just behind the baseline. You don’t want to cross the baseline or extend any outward lines or net lines. 

Understanding the Court 

You must understand your new domain so that you are capable of ruling the court.
The key attributes to understand your court are:
The Surface Material – Can range between:
  • Grass (Used at Wimbledon)
  • Clay (Used at the French Open)
  • Hard Courts (Most common and used at the Rogers Cup)
The Lines – Will include:
  • Two lines down each side of the court
  • Four service courts (the four boxes closest to the net, two on each side
  • Two baselines (the boxes furthest from the net, one on each opposing side of the court)
  • If playing a singles game (between two players) – You must keep the ball in the inner lines
  • If playing a doubles game (between four players) – You must use the entire court
  • Any ball exceeding these boundaries is considered ‘out’ or ‘out of bounds.’

The Net – Your knowledge of the net should include:
  • Don’t touch it with your racquet 
  • Shake your opponent’s hand at the net at the end of every match as a sign of good sportsmanship
Benefits of Playing Tennis
The average tennis novice may not understand the level of dedication and practice it takes to improve at Tennis. You could have a knack for it, or it may take time. Regardless of how long it takes you to master, there are so many benefits to the game of Tennis, including:
  • Practicing strategic problem-solving
  • Increasing your heartbeat
  • Increases agility
  • Increasing your capacity for stress and emotional challenges
  • Social sport to spend with friends or family
  • Overall fitness and stress reduction
The research you do beforehand can make all the difference in your game since theory and strategy are large components of the game.
Final Tips for Beginners
A few final tips for our tennis novices are:
  • Make mistakes – They are integral to life, and they are how you will learn. Use them as a tool to improve, not beat yourself up for early errors that we all make when new to a sport (or new to anything!)
  • Use grass courts if available – Hard courts will be more common, but they are also much harder on your knees and joints. Seek out a softer surface if possible. Even clay will have slightly more bounce and ‘give’ than a cement court.
  • Master the Grip – If you feel that you’re failing at Tennis, it’s likely because your grip is incorrect for your body type. You might consider paying for at least one lesson to have a professional coach you one-on-one. You can decide from there if you want to keep paying for lessons, This will make the game easier for you, and you will enjoy it profoundly more than if your grip is robbing you of success.
  • Practice – You will see the most improvement if you stick with it and create a weekly routine to practice.