Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tennis League Network Hits the Airwaves.

We’ve Hit a Winner on Tennis Channel

What do David May, John Geary, and Maria Vargas have in common? It’s this: all three participate in the Tennis Los Angeles League. But now they are also tennis “stars” in one of the regular Court Report features aired on Tennis Channel. The video is narrated by Cari Champion, one of Tennis Channel’s regular hosts for Court Report.
If you didn’t see it or you don’t get Tennis Channel, you can view it online on the tennis Channel Web Site. Here’s the link.
This video runs just under a minute. This is tremendous publicity for Tennis League Network and a big upside for you as a player. The more people who see it and become interested in a local league means a greater potential for bringing more players into your leagues, and thus more people for you to play with. Here’s a brief review. The online video caption is:

The Tennis League Network is a great way to find a local league.

Cari Champion (left): Are you interested in playing tennis but having a hard time finding a local league that fits your schedule? Well the Tennis League Network is a 7 year old web site devoted to connecting players. It’s grown to include 34 cities and almost 24,000 players nationwide.
Now shift to David May, an advanced player…

“If you’re not a member of a club, like I’m not,” says May, “it’s just really good that you’ve got a community of people that are the exact same level.”

As two women rally, Maria Vargas takes the screen and says:

”Everyone I meet says they really want to play tennis, but no one is ever ready to hit the courts, so I know that I can go online and someone is always ready to make a tennis date.”

John Geary, in the League for a third season:

“I love it that you get to play people that are on the same level. You get a variety of people. Each season I meet new people. And you pick and choose the schedule you want.”
So, cross court, down the line, volley or serve, Tennis League Network is the winner on Tennis Channel.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Like Oil and Water, Tennis and Rain don't Mix

US Open rain delay: what’s a girl to do?

From Jean Kirshenbaum: I wrote this story about the rain delay at the 2009 US Open for last September. That tennis website folded last December and I now contribute articles to and Although I am eagerly awaiting the French Open, this US Open update of that article will have to do for now.

It has happened to me three times – rain delays at the US Open. Two years in a row it rained all day and not a single match was played. We couldn’t leave early because we were on a bus trip and the bus wasn’t leaving until 6:30. If you think it’s rough to keep children occupied in bad weather, it’s no easier for adults. There is only so much coffee or iced tea that you can drink. It’s not like we had books with us. It also rains when we recreational players are scheduled for a match. Very disappointing.

The question is, what do you do when it’s raining and there are no matches to watch, even on television? Beat up on Zeus, god of rain? Is it all doom and gloom? Looks that way.

When there is a long rain delay, the matches already played will likely be televised just to fill scheduled air time, but who wants to see those again? I was there in person on two days and watched most of the others at home. I stayed tuned for some of the matches I missed — those that I am really interested in, such as an encore of the Bryan brothers loss to Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy, which was fast and exciting.

I was there to see it but I left Arthur Ashe Stadium before the Yanina Wickmayer-Kateryna Bondarenko match to soothe my disappointment with the PG50 match on court 4, where coaches Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl coached a team tennis format with such old timers and middle timers as Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas, Todd Martin, Luke Jenson, Tracy Austin and what I call the Wizards of Ez — Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, and Conchita Martinez.
With the rain in New York and at home, I couldn’t play tennis or watch it. So what’s a girl to do? I’m not working so I could go shopping, but there is absolutely nothing I need or want to buy and I couldn’t afford it anyway. Grocery shopping? Nah, my husband does that.
What about cleaning the house? Nah, I keep it messy during the majors. Read a book? Good idea. I recently finished "A Terrible Splendor", Marshall Jon Fisher’s outstanding account of the tennis history and outstanding tennis players and matches during the Hitler era and earlier, and I am part way through the Monica Seles book, "Getting a Grip."
I could do that. Although in the summer I do most of my reading on the beach or at the pool. It’s raining, so I can’t do that either. And we have no leaks in the roof (patched those several years ago) so it’s not raining in my living room! Looks like there is no excuse. I could read sitting in the armchair, which is where I usually watch tennis.

What nerve I have to groan about the weather! Think of what it’s like for the players, as well as the tournament director, who has to figure out how to salvage the schedule, taking into consideration the players, television schedules and executives, ticket refund policies, and all the other intangibles that make up the nightmare of rained out matches during THE US OPEN — one of the biggest tennis events of the year — if not the biggest. For sure there are protocols and backup plans. But it’s those intangibles that would make you want to hurl tennis balls at the gods.

And the players. What about them? They come first, of course. Most of them have already washed out of the tournament. However, of those who are left — what do they do when it rains? That’s what I would really like to know. Work out, practice at the indoor courts or go shopping? I have always wondered why in their interviews the women say that one of their favorite pastimes is shopping. What could they need to buy? They wear mostly tennis clothes and it’s doubtful they buy those in stores.(By the way, all the Wizards of Ez were wearing pink and black, which suggests that they might have gone shopping together.)

With all the traveling and playing time, the female players have few occasions to wear civilian clothes. Maybe they shop for gifts for their friends and families. Once in a while, a player will admit to reading a book. They also have regular interests such as music and movies. Some do media and marketing stuff such as interviews and commercials. These pros travel to the great cities of the world. Rain would be a good time to go to a museum or take a guided tour. Or sneak a piece of chocolate, and be the envy of Dinara Safina (left), who did a great ad about her weakness for chocolate in the series of "It Must Be Love" TV spots.
Speaking of tennis ads, I like not only the Safina ad, in which she demonstrates her dilemma over choosing chocolate or tennis (she chooses tennis), but also the Venus Williams spot about Harold, her dog, "who doesn’t even like tennis." He just "waits for me to get off the court." He didn’t have long to wait this year. And Roger Federer is simply charming in his "what they call me" spot. He settles on "just Rog." On the other hand, I really detest the Andy Roddick Lacoste ad, with Ivano Icardi’s s driving, irritating "Go For It" music, and the not-so-attractive stick figure models strutting down a not-so-visible runway. I just despise it, not only for the anorexic look of the models, but also because it’s shown so often that the music gives me an irritating ear worm. What agency dreamed that up? Relief from this ad is the one upside of the rain-out.
And just maybe the players are as perplexed as I am when the weather wrecks the day’s tennis plans. What I find really aggravating is when it begins to rain in the middle of my match, although not nearly as aggravating as the suspension of the Rafael Nadal-Fernando Gonzalez match. When we last left Ashe stadium, Nadal had the edge. The break may help him get a more solid footing for a sprint to victory. But somehow I think that the rain and wind will blow this one Gonzales’ way. Given his knees and his stomach strain, Nadal does not seem to be up to par.

I hate thinking about all this. Zeus be damned. I’m off to the armchair with my Seles book. It’s near a picture window where I can watch to see if it’s still raining.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Kickoff Day is Coming Soon.

Kickoff Day

Players in many of our leagues are filled with anticipation as the season approaches. They just can't wait to meet up with last year's opponents and to meet new players. How do we know? Some have written to us asking when they would receive the kickoff email. The answer? Well, it's here. The kickoff email went out the week of April 12. If this is your first season in the tennis league network (or even if you are a veteran), there are a few things that you need to know. First, how do you get started? Here’s how:

On the start day of the season, we break down the committed players by geographical location, gender and skill level. We try to keep the distance between two players reasonable and make divisions based partly on travel time. The start day of the season, players receive a kickoff email that contains important information about the league, the link where your league standings and players contact information.

We guarantee 6 playing partners at your playing level, but have been averaging closer to 15+ dedicated tennis partners in most cities. We can tell you that players in many of our leagues are filled with anticipation as the season approaches. They just can't wait to meet up with last year's opponents and to meet new players. How do we know? Some have written to us asking when they will receive the kickoff email. The answer? Very soon.

Your Task - "Flexible Scheduling”
After this kickoff email is sent, it is the player's task to communicate with each other. Players should work with their partners to find an agreeable time and location to play the match. While TennisPhilly doesn't mandate your playing schedule, it is recommended that players schedule at least one match per week. By request of the players in 2008 we started to allow players to play 1 rematch during the season.

Here’s some common sense advice:
Make sure that technology—telephone and email-- works for you, not against you. Email has by far become the most common communication tool. But you can get tripped up! Sometimes people don’t look at their messages very frequently, or they are out of town, or their addresses or phone numbers have changed since you received the players roster.

If you don’t get a response after a couple of tries, why not just pick up the phone and call? Try both home and cell numbers. At this point, of course, you may confront technology once again--voicemail! So leave a message and wait for a return call. If you still haven’t made a connection with the player, try again in a couple of weeks. Or contact the league administrator (me) to find out whether the player is still in the league or if contact information has changed.

Where to Play?
The league strongly suggests that players jointly try to pick a tennis court location convenient to both. We provide an extensive list of tennis courts for each area, including details such as number of courts, lighting, hitting walls, etc. We strive to keep this list fresh and up-to-date; players are encouraged to pass along any updated information. Your league website has a link to the courts in your area. These courts have been evaluated. They are accessible to you and in good condition. If you know of any courts that are in bad shape or are not playable, please let me know.
Tennis Orlando, Tennis San Antonio and Tennis San Diego will all have leagues kickoff in the near future.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who's who in the TLN Community.

Player Profiles...

More than 7,000 players are part of our tennis league network. Some people have been members of their local group for several years and may have played each other several times by now. It’s always nice to know something about your opponent. From time to time we’ll post profiles of members in the various online communities. Even if they are not in your local league, they may have something in common with you. Or something they say about their own tennis game may resonate with you. What's certain is that you will learn something positive about Tennis League Network. Amy Kraus, who plays in Boston Community, is our first profile.

TennisNorthEast Helps Amy Kraus Improve Her Game
Amy Kraus (left, with Venus Williams) had been playing tennis for five years when she saw a flyer for Tennis League Network’s TennisNorthEast online tennis community posted at a court near her home in Boston, MA. She’s been a player with TennisNorthEast ever since—and that was five years ago.

Although she started out as a doubles player, she has been playing mostly singles for the past three years. “I am a better singles player,” says Amy, “since, unlike in doubles, I am the only one on court and I have to get every ball. It’s just me. I don’t have a partner to rely on.”

Amy has not only found other singles players, but enjoys playing “the same people year after year, and developing relationships with them.” So, Amy, do you have any League rivalries?

“My rivalries are essentially with those people I play most.” More important than rivalry, however, is that “there is always a challenge, no matter how good you think you are.” One of her most memorable League matches was with a player she has played quite often. Here’s that story:

“We were both short on time, so we decided on a 10-game pro set. It turned into longest match we ever played. We were both late for our next appointments. But the score was so close we continued to play. It turned into a long match of more than 2+ hours. I won but can’t remember the score.”

Her least favorite match was the one against a doubles teammate. When they played as singles opponents, she didn’t win a single game. Clearly it was a case of knowing each other’s game too well. “Every time I tried to do something to throw her off, she was able to compensate.”

So what’s the best thing Amy’s gotten from TennisNorthEast? Playing in the league “has done a lot to improve my game over the past 5 years. From April through October, there is a constant supply of singles players. It’s also a good workout and a lot of practice.”

Amy does make the most of it. She plays tennis two and sometimes three times a week. “It’s made me a better all around player,” says Amy, who currently plays at 3.0 level, but hopes to become a 3.5 player.

If you are interested in playing more tennis, Amy recommends both the Partners and the League groups, although she plays League matches more often since she is “not as proactive with the Partners group.”

Overall, it’s clear that Amy Kraus finds many positives in TennisNorthEast, not the least of which is the improvement in her game. As she points out, it’s not just local neighborhood program. “Most people don’t know that Tennis League Network is national with leagues in 34 cities and metropolitan areas. “I would urge everyone to join.”

Amy’s favorite moment outside the local league was attending Tennis League Network’s 2009 national tournament last year at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, FL. That’s where she met Venus Williams, who was making a Tide commercial, and also doing an interview for one of the “athletes going green” spots. “We were only allowed to watch, but I did get to meet her when we left the court. By the way, she is really tall.”