Friday, August 28, 2015

Robert Pierce -- Tennis Down in Sunny LA

Robert Pierce, has now reached 100 games as a player in Tennis LA. After starting out in a rough patch, Robert has greatly improved his game. His consistency in the league is most admirable.

Here's a little bit about Robert and his thoughts on the league so far:

Which league are you a member of? 
Los Angeles Valley's 3.5.

How long have you participated in your league? 
Since 2013.

How did you first learn about it? 
Google. I was playing USTA but only a couple matches a season were available as there were only 7 guys in it.

How often do you play? 
Try for over 20 matches a season.

What do you like most about the league?
The availability to play as much as possible with the freedom to reach out to players at a higher level and all over town.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es) 
My first win ever was over Valentin. I was 0-13 I believe, as I had never played a match before the league and serving was a foreign concept. Was great to get a first win after such a long losing streak. When I was 0-13 I have never had so many match invitations from other players.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
A fantastic organization! Great format and a great group of players that for the most part just like to get out there and have fun on the court.

What level player are you? 
3.5 but looking to advance.

What do you love about tennis? 
Competing against oneself then trying to compete with your opponent.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
I like Djokovic, not that he is my favorite player but I enjoy the fight he gives going after every ball making the opponent hit another shot.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Was born in Canada, I like playing with my kids, and inventing stuff.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Warm-Up for a Tennis Match

When you step on the tennis court, racquet in hand, there’s nothing else on your mind, but crushing forehands and serves. Though we can’t deny our love for the game, before we start a tennis match, or even practice, we have to warm-up.

Warming-up is a part of any sport, and tennis is no exception. Going through a comprehensive, dynamic warm-up allows a player to:
  • Prevent Injury 
  • Move Faster
  • Improve performance 

Just to name a few benefits...

Also, tennis is a full body sport and the body should be worked from head to toe during the warm-up. Tennis players need to prepare the body for quick sprints and stops, jumping, reaching and swinging.

Before we jump into the warm-up, first thing’s first: Show up early! Not only is showing up early a part of good tennis etiquette, but it allows you 10-15 extra minutes to get prepared. By the time your opponent arrives they’ll see you’re anxiously waiting and will get the match started ASAP, giving you a competitive advantage.

First, Get the Heart Pumping 

The first part of any warm-up should consist of an exercise that increases the core body temperature such as running or jumping jacks—you could even bring a jump rope with you.

This exercise should be done for several minutes, to the point where heart rate has increased and the body is starting to get warm. This helps to get blood flowing, loosen the joints and warm the muscles to prepare them for strenuous activity.

Novak always makes sure to stretch first
Move Your Feet 

Next you want to specifically work on footwork and short bursts of speed. Not only does this help the body warm up, but it prepares the lower body for the match ahead in terms of coordination and movement.

Consider using these agility exercises for several minutes. You can also use techniques like carioca, high steps, and hops, for example.

Lower Body Warm-Up 

The goal here is to specifically target and loosen up the ankles, calves, hamstrings, quads, and hips. All of these muscles and joints deserve attention on their own.

To do so, use a combination of static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is where you stretch and hold. For example, reaching down to your toes and holding the position.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, involves movement during the stretch. So instead of holding the position when touching your toes, you would reach down once, come back up, and then reach down again.

Both forms of stretching have their own benefits, which is why both should be used. For joints like the ankles and hips, you’re going to need to use mobility drills. A mobility drill is when you take a body part and put it through it’s natural range of motion.

For example, a good mobility drill for the ankles and hips is to move them both in circles.

Upper Body Warm-Up 

The shoulders and arms work on every stroke you hit, which is why they require plenty of attention during your warm-up.

Again, it’s a good idea to focus on both static and dynamic stretching. For static stretching, make sure to stretch your triceps and shoulders. For dynamic stretching, do plenty of arm circles: Forwards and backwards, big and little. This takes your shoulder through a wide range of motion, preparing it for the match ahead.

Warming-Up With the Racquet

If you’ve been playing for some time now, it’s likely that you begin your matches by hitting back and forth with your partner. While this is no substitute for a full warm-up, it is an essential part of preparing for your match as it acclimates your mind and body for the match ahead.

Begin by playing ‘mini tennis’, that is, playing within the two service boxes on each side. This forces you and your opponent to hit softly from the start. It also prepares your body to react and reach for balls.

From there, make sure to practice volleys. It can be one person hitting from the service line, or both players at the net.

Then, move back towards the base line. Don’t start crushing balls yet, but do make sure to get a deep, full range of motion on your shot.

It’s also a good idea to practice serving. A serve requires a lot of exertion muscles, and it’s something that should be eased into as opposed to 100% power from the get-go.

Get Started!

Although warm-ups may seem time consuming, they will pay off well during your matches. If you take 10 extra minutes before your match to warm-up, you will not only prevent injuries and enjoy the health benefits of tennis more, but you’ll develop an advantage of your opponents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Improve Your Backhand

Although the backhand is a fundamental stroke in tennis, it still gives seasoned players a lot of trouble. Because it requires the use of our non-dominant hand for power and control, the backhand often pales in comparison to the forehand.

Though like any other shot in tennis, whether it be a serve or a volley, a powerful backhand is a learned skill. You should always be practicing your technique and practice hitting plenty of backhands with a partner.

Here a number of tips to keep in mind to improve your backhand.

Find Your Weak Points 

The best place to start with your backhand is to analyze where your weaknesses are. For starters, try and notice whether the majority of your backhand shots that don’t go in either go long or into the net.

If you find your shots going long, make sure to keep the face of your racquet closed during the backswing. Also make sure you’re using proper grip (See Below).

If your shots are going into the net consistently, it means you’re not getting you racquet under the ball enough. This means you need to drop your racquet lower.

Proper Grip 

Notice the grip on both hands
There really isn’t a definitive grip to be used on backhands, as it depends on what feels most comfortable for the individual. This means you should experiment with different grips to see which one is most effective for you.

However, most people will feel comfortable with a backhand grip that utilizes both hands, specifically one where the right (dominant) hand uses a continental grip and the left (non-dominant) hand uses an Eastern grip.

Preparation for the Backhand 

One of the reasons people have weak backhands is because they’re not active enough in getting to the ball: Their footwork will be slow, the racquet will not go through a full range of motion, and they won’t get a jump on the ball.

As soon as you recognize the ball’s position and you realize you’ll need a backhand, start moving your feet to where you need to be and adjust yourself. Then make sure to take a full swing back using the above-mentioned grip.

Have An Aggressive Mindset

Because most people don’t feel as comfortable with their backhand as they do their forehand, they tend to use the backhand as a push shot. This means that there isn’t much power on it; it’s simply a tool for getting the ball back over the net.

While the backhand isn’t usually as powerful as a player’s forehand, it still deserves as much attention. It should also be treated in the same manner such that more power should be put into the shot. By doing this, your opponents won't be able to anticipate your backhand as an easy shot.

And perhaps most importantly is that if a player only uses the backhand as a push shot, their stroke will never improve. This is why each backhand shot should be hit with focus and power.

Add caption
The One Handed Backhand 

The majority of tennis players use a two handed backhand. This is because it generates more power and people often feel like they have more control over the shot. It’s also less likely to give you tennis elbow.

That said, the one handed backhand is an acceptable shot. It is often more useful for chasing down balls, whereas the two handed backhand has a limited reach. What it really comes down to, however, is what you feel most comfortable with.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Keiji Tomita -- Work hard, play harder!

Keiji Tomita, is a 4 year veteran of the league, playing out of LA. Although starting tennis at a late age as a way to curb his 'bad habits', he has honed his skills and has become a true competitor on the court.

He is a restaurant manager of a Japanese restaurant, and also a guitar teacher. Here is a little more about him and his experiences with the league:

Which league are you a member of? 

Tennis Los Angeles.

How long have you participated in your league? 

Since July 2011

How often do you play? 

I try to set up 2 to 3 matches a week.

What do you like most about the league? 

I like our league because there are so many good players and different style of tennis, and we can play with anyone with anytime, and as many as I want. At tennis leagues I played before Tennis Los Angeles, an opponent was already assigned, and only once a week.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)

It's a tough question, because there are so many matches I remember and that are memorable in many different ways. I'll just pick one, a match played one evening sometime ago. I lost the first set easily, and the beginning of the 2nd set, I injured my left leg, and I couldn't run. But I hate quitting for any reason, so I kept playing with one leg. At the end of 2nd set, the sun went down, it was getting darker, but the lights on our court were off!

Since it's dark and I couldn't see the ball, I suggested we stop playing and resume a different day. Knowing I couldn't move, my opponent rejected the offer and insisted he wanted to keep playing. So we kept playing, and somehow I took the 2nd set at 7-5. Again I asked if we should stop here, and his answer was "No". So next I asked if we can play a 10 point tie-breaker, his answer was "No". So I was forced to play whole 3rd set with one leg in darkness.

I was determined to play the whole 3rd set, I focused, refused to give in, and ended up wining the 3rd set at 7-6. He was furious after the match, saying, " I wanted to stop playing!" It was funny and comical at this moment. He really wanted to win. I am proud of this match in terms of my determination.

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why? 

This is another tough question, because I have many favorite rivals. I feel it's unfair to mention just a few names here since I equally respect them, but if I have to pick one, I have to pick Valentin Ionescu-Tiba. We've played 34 matches so far, and will keep going.

One of the things I am proud of between us is that we've had no problems at all so far. I don't think we've had any disagreements at any single point. I accept his calls and he trusts my calls; it's a mutual respect.

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

I have to say I love our league; I've met many good players and great people in this league. I am blessed.

How did you get started playing tennis?

I started playing tennis a little after I turned 30 years old. My boss initially taught me. He had experience teaching tennis in Japan, and one of his students was a coach of Kimiko Date, one of the top women pros back in the 90's. But I really got into tennis after I joined Tennis LA.

What level player are you?

I am currently playing at 3.5.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?

Kei Nishikori! If you are Japanese, there is no other option. Anyone in Japan recognizes his name now, he is a hero.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

I was born in Japan and grew up there. I came to the USA for my college, and ended up staying here. I am now a US citizen. I also play and teach guitar professionally, and have worked at a Japanese restaurant as a manager for many years.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What You Should Know About Sportsmanship and Courtesy on the Tennis Court

Whenever somebody wants to improve their tennis game, let alone any sport, they take plenty of time to research and learn all the different techniques, tips and tricks. Though what often flies under the radar is basic sportsmanship and courtesy.

If you play recreational tennis, chances are you want to enjoy yourself—your opponent does to. Although you likely already exhibit sportsmanship, it’s always good to remind yourself of what you should be doing before, during and after your matches.

Here are a few different things you should keep in mind for your next match:

Show up on Time

Because tennis is usually a 1 on 1 sport, it’s essential that you show up on time because the game can’t start without you. This is the case for Tennis League matches as players can choose their own playing times to fit their busy schedules. So any delay is going has the potential to throw a person’s schedule off and may leave them a bit frustrated, and probably not make them want to play with you again.

Don't do this
Restrain your Anger

Whether it’s a double fault or a missed volley, tennis can often leave us frustrated. You may have seen pros on TV smashing their rackets, yelling, or launching balls into the crowd, for example. While this makes for good television, you should never do these things on the court.

Refrain from Arguing

One of the unique aspects of tennis is that the points are often subjective, in that it relies on a player to make the call whether a shot was in or out. Plus, the scoring can often get muddled. Both of these factors contribute to confusion, and often disagreement.

Although we may get frustrated at a bad call, it’s not likely that the other person will suddenly change their mind. Accept the point, and move on.

Call the Score

Going off of the last point, an easy way to avoid arguments is to make sure that you’re calling the score out loud after every service point of yours. And when you’re not serving, don’t hesitate to ask your opponent the score to make sure you’re both on the same page.

Win with Humility

Coming out on top in a lengthy 3-set match is a sweet feeling. It makes you feel good and you want to let your opponent know—bad idea. As good as you’re feeling they’re probably feeling the opposite. Simply congratulate them on a hard fought match and save the bragging for family and friends.

Lose with Grace

Whether you lost a nail biter, or got crushed in both sets, losing is never easy. Some people can’t accept a loss, especially when they feel like they had a better shot. They may walk off the court without saying anything, or complaining about the score from the previous set—this accomplishes nothing.

Even the pros don’t win all the time. It stings for the world’s best to lose, especially when they were the favorite, but they accept their loss, shake hands and prepare even harder for the next match.

Just Have Fun

Sure, it’s cliché, but that’s why you’re playing tennis isn’t it? It’s okay to be competitive and want to win, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you love the game of tennis and want to savor every moment you spend playing it.

Next time you’re on the court, make sure to keep these things in mind. It’ll likely make your matches more enjoyable, and your opponent will surely be glad too.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mark Winkelstein -- Tennis in Charm City

Mark Winkelstein, has been playing in Tennis Baltimore for several years now, having just hit the 25-match milestone--with a winning record to boot. He's a marketing specialist by trade and spends a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the city of Baltimore and it's beautiful harbor.

Here are some of his thoughts and experiences with the league:

How long have you participated in your league?

On and off for 3 years.

How did you first learn about it?

Referral from a colleague.

How often do you play? 

I try to get out at least 2-3 times/month.

What do you like most about the league?

I love the ability to set up my own matches and work them around my hectic schedule. Everyone I have encountered has been responsive and friendly, and the matches are usually competitive.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).

I have had a couple of really good 3 set matches, especially in the playoffs. Most players in the league appreciate a good close match and are gracious in victory and defeat.

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?

I have had some of my best matches with Michael Gries, Colby Catania, and Jon Chalik. No real rivalries yet as I haven’t really played anyone more than twice.

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

This league provides me the opportunity to play with a great mix of players with many different strengths and styles. It has challenged me to improve parts of my game that I was able to get away with just playing with the same friends over and over. Overall, everyone I have played has displayed great sportsmanship and camaraderie. There have been very few of my 25 matches that I felt like I wasted my time.

How did you get started playing tennis? 

I started playing high school and played through college. After college, I took about a 5 year break to focus on racquetball. In 2012, I decided to get back into tennis and start to shake off the rust. This league was a perfect avenue to do that.

What do you love about tennis?

I love that it is an individual sport that tests your mental and physical strength. I love that you never have anyone to blame but yourself for a loss, or nobody to credit but yourself for a win.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?

I am a big Roger Federer fan, mostly because of his unshakable demeanor and the way he carries himself in defeat.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Senior Marketing Specialist for a specialty insurance company. I spend a lot of time traveling to trade shows and events around North America (which is why I love the structure of this league so much with being able to schedule my own matches).

I grew up in Syracuse, NY and am an avid Syracuse Orange basketball fan. I have lived in Baltimore for about 15 years now and love this city, especially the Orioles. My hobbies outside of tennis include golf, cooking, and frequenting my favorite Baltimore bars and restaurants.

Monday, August 3, 2015

How to Master the Net: Volleys, Poaching, Lobs and more!

Tennis players devote plenty of time to practicing their ground strokes and serves, but oftentimes neglect working on volleys and playing at the net.

Although playing at the net is a fundamental part of tennis, it has fallen out of favor among many pros and is deemed aggressive by some experts. That said, it is still an indispensable part of the game that needs a lot of focus and attention.

Also, tennis players often avoid practicing volleys and overhead slams because they assume that volleys and overhead lobs are easy.
When they miss a volley during a match, they chock it up to bad luck. The reality is that volleys and lobs are strokes that deserve plenty of attention and require just as much technique as serves and ground strokes.

Dominating the net during your matches will put you on another level compared to your competition. Being able to respond to and perfectly place balls is a surefire way to get more points every match. 

Here are some things to take into consideration:


There’s nothing more frustrating than having a shot hit directly to you at the net, only to have it hit your racquet and then drop like a dud into the net.

The common approach to learning volleys is to use the ‘punch’ method, that is, using a direct, forceful punching motion when attacking the ball at the net. This is an effective means for getting the ball over, however, it’s important not to punch too hard as that will likely throw off your stroke.
Make sure to get a good feel for the stroke as that will do a lot more for accuracy.

Start by practicing basic forehand and backhand volley with a partner at the net. Once you can consistently get the ball over, work on placing the ball so that you can hit it to a spot where your opponent won’t be able to track it down.


Approaching the net when your opponent is in a weak position is a good idea. This is because they are likely to hit a soft shot, so you can easily hit a volley to where they won’t be able to track it down. However, what ends up happening often is that your opponent hits a lob overhead.

The overhead lob is such a tempting shot. It flies high, moving slowly, just asking to be smacked. Most people fall into this trap and try and crush these lobs, only to end up not getting it in.

Getting a solid return, perhaps even a winner, off a lob requires a few things including proper footwork, agility, and a smooth stroke. And of course, don’t try to kill it! Make sure to hit it hard, yes, but when people put 110% of their power into the shot more often than not it ends up out of play.

Have a partner with a few gentle lobs a few feet over your head. Don’t try and crush it, but hit it firmly enough to where you can put the shot away.


The Bryan Brothers Poaching
This is a technique that is used in doubles matches where the partner of the server moves towards the opposite end of the court in anticipation of the serve’s return. This is an aggressive tactic and is a great way to get easy points off of soft returns.



A lot of pro tennis players get to the top through their skills at the net. Maybe yours will take you to the next level too. Always make sure to practice volleys and hitting overhead lobs, the latter of which rarely gets practiced. Then during games, be aggressive and don’t hesitate to put your new skills into practice.