Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shahin Jahromi -- It's Never Too Late to Pick Up a Racquet

         Here at Tennis League Network (TLN) we have a never ending supply of quality tennis players living and playing in Los Angeles. And with the fantastic California sunshine, this comes as no surprise. Today we want to feature one of the up and coming players out of this city, Shahin Jahromi. Shahin recently earned Veteran status here at TLN after having a busy 2015 and playing 25 matches.

         Shahin hails from Iran where he first got his start in tennis. But after coming to the US for school, he stopped playing and has only started playing again in the last few years. Because tennis is a sport that you can play at nearly any age, there's no excuse not to start up again like Shahin.

Here's more about Shahin:

Which league are you a member of? 

Tennis Los Angeles /Valleys Competitive 3.5 Division.

How long have you participated in your league? 

I joined Tennis Los Angeles in 2012, but didn't really get into the league until 2014. I've played 3 seasons since then (took one season off when my son was born).

How did you first learn about it? 

An old class-mate who used to play tennis with me told me about the website and the league.

How often do you play? 

Twice a week - Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sometimes I play outside of the league with friends, but that would be on top of the Tue-Sat schedule.

What do you like most about the league?

Variety. I feel like having to play against different players with different styles has enhanced my own game (vs. having played against the same couple friends that I used to before the league).

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).

I really needed one last win last year to get to the playoffs, and I was able to schedule an evening match. My shoes were worn out so I decided to buy a new pair for the match, and I did so over my lunch break. My car broke down on the way to the courts, and I desperately asked my wife to switch cars with me.

I barely made it to the courts only to realize I had left my shoes in the other car. I played with my work shoes, and I still won!   Admin's comment: Now that is dedication!!!

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why? 

I like quite a few. It's tough to name one favorite, as I take something away from almost every match. I could tell you that I don't enjoy slicers, i.e. it drives me crazy when all my opponent does is return my shots with slice forehands & backhands.

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

Observing players out-of-game habits is a favorite hobby of mine. How they greet me, their attitude when they lose, win, or during the short breaks. I often try to guess my opponents profession and life-style outside of the courts.

How did you get started playing tennis? 

My dad took me to the courts to watch him play since I was 7, shortly after I started taking lessons.

What level player are you? 

I'm currently rated 3.5. 

What do you love about tennis? 

It's an excellent work-out, and it also acts has a venting session for me. I find the post-game exhaustion extremely relaxing.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

I grew up in Tehran, Iran and that's where I learned how to play tennis. I got to be pretty good during college, almost beating all the players I knew around me; I moved to the US to for graduate studies in 2000, and have lived in LA since then except for short breaks.

Upon immigration I took a 10 year break from tennis, and now work full-time, married and raising a 10-month-old. I'm trying get back in shape; maybe I'll be able to play as well as I used to, maybe I'm too old now; either way I can sincerely say playing tennis is one of the most joyful activities of my week, every week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What can we learn from the Epic US Open Finals between Roger and Novak?

What can we learn from the Epic US Open Finals between Roger and Novak?    by Yann Auzoux

       When Federer and Djokovic compete, you are certain to be in for a treat. The two players performed at the highest level possible for over 3 hours and mesmerized us with magical plays, extraordinary angles, and fascinating trajectories.  The two players in the end were only separated by 2 mere points (147 for Novak to 145 for Roger).
       Besides the obvious exhilarating tennis excellence that was on display on Sunday night, the final score really boiled down to one simple number: Break Point Conversion. 
       Djokovic converted 46% of his break point chances and Federer fell short in that department with only 17% winning just 4 or 23 break point chances.  The final score was 6/4 5/7 6/4 6/4 in favor of Novak who broke Roger 6 times in 17 chances.
       Obviously, breaking Novak at his best is not the easiest task to complete but what Roger had to decide each time is the same process all tennis players go through when in position to close a game.  Here are the three top scenarios to choose from:
Take a chance, Wait it out, Challenge the most obvious weakness
Take a Chance:
       Taking a chance when you have several break points is a great strategy because the pressure is on your opponent.   You can go for a winner early or rush the net to force a passing shot. This strategy assumes that you get the chance to return the first serve in and last night Novak did a great job serving big first serves when he needed to get out of a sticky situation. He only had 3 aces but all three came at the perfect time.  That being said, Roger did have many other opportunities where he returned the ball in perfectly.  What happened?  In my estimation, Roger relied on the same patterns each time by trying to get into a rally and waiting for the right time to attack.  He never used his SABR attack once on break point or took a chance on the 2nd serve return. Rogers winner/unforced error ratio was +2 while Novak’s was -2.  In the end the “Patient choice“ did not work in his favor.
Wait it Out:
       Waiting it out simply means to be solid and hold your ground.  You would return the ball in and play a patient rally without taking any blatant risks. This strategy assumes that our opponent would feel nervous and give away an opportunity to attack or make a mistake.  For us mere mortals, this strategy often works because we don’t handle our nerves as well as Novak.  Djokovic on the other hand is probably the best “Clutch” player the game has ever seen and waiting it out against him has never been a good choice.  Roger probably remembers well the last two times they faced each other in the US Open semis where he was up 2 sets to 0 two years in a row and saw key points in his favor disappear both times.  Looking at the stats, Novak won 54% of his own 2ndserve points and 54% of Roger’s 2nd serve points clearly showing that the Wait it out game was a better option for him.
Challenge the obvious weakness:
       Off all the strategies available on break point, this is probably the smartest one of all.  Players at all levels have areas of their game that are less reliable than they would like.  For most recreational players, the backhand would come to mind.  Over the years, Federer had suffered some major losses because his opponents would challenge his backhand. Recently, Roger has closed that gap and turned his backhand into a very solid weapon.  Novak on the other hand has never been a natural net player and even though he is no slouch in that department, you always want to challenge your opponent with the least natural shot in their arsenal. The one strategy I wish Roger had used more was to force Novak to come to the net with a slice approach.  We all know how multi-directional and multi-dimensional Roger’s slice backhand is but I only saw him once force Novak to come to the net with a slice backhand which he capped with a beautiful down the line passing shot (with a little help from the net).  Looking at the stats, Novak won 66% of his net points which means that Roger won 44% of Djokovic’s net points.  By using these stats, Roger would have won 10 of his 23 break points turned the tide in his favor.
       Next time you face a similar situation, make sure you keep in mind these three options and remember that your ability to win or lose is based on how well you convert.
Check below for all of the stats from the final.

Written Yann Auzoux

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Develop the Right Mindset for Tennis

After you’ve completed your warm-up it’s go-time. You should be feeling ready physically, but you also need to prepare your mind for the match ahead.

Sports psychology is an interesting subject because our minds have such an important impact on how we play. For example, there was a recent incident when tennis-pro Nick Kyrgios muttered some profane lies to Stan Wawrinka during one of their matches. Kyrgios’s comment hit a nerve, and Wawrinka subsequently lost the match. While this is an example of bad sportsmanship on Kyrgios’s behalf, it’s also an example of how much the mind affects our game.

When playing your matches, you need to make sure you mindset is dialed in. Or as others say, 'Get Your Head in the Game'.  Focus is highly important, but there are also a few different ways to approach your mindset.

To Be or Not to Be Competitive 

Like all sports, tennis is competitive in nature. Although many of us play tennis simply as a leisurely activity, we’re always keeping score. Nobody likes to lose, and even if were playing with a friend or family member, we’d rather win. This can cause some to develop an unpleasant mindset.

What ends up happening is that people get so consumed with winning that they let their emotions take control of their game and their actions can often frustrate others. It’s important to find the right balance between being motivated enough to perform well in your matches and controlling your outbursts.

When in doubt, stay calm. For example, never smash your racquet or curse. If you’re playing in the Tennis League Network or with friends, then you don’t want to isolate yourself from potential partners with your poor behavior.

Have Fun 

It may sound cliché, but you have to remember why you’re out on the court in the first place: To have fun!

If you didn’t have fun playing tennis, then you probably wouldn't play it would you? Having fun and your ego go hand in hand--you have to put one aside to experience the other. Choose fun.

Don’t Criticize 

If you find yourself playing a doubles match, there’s going to be times where your partner slips up. Whether it’s a double fault or a missed shot, errors happened. Even the pros aren’t immune to this.

Highly competitive players tend to jump all over these errors. They will berate their partners and criticize them, often without even being aware of this.

It’s best to avoid criticism on the court. People are not likely to change their technique, and have no way to enhance their agility and speed within a matter of minutes; criticism accomplishes nothing on the court.

If you really want to help a partner improve their game, save the constructive criticism for after the match. Tel them that you noticed they have a specific weakness that could definitely be easily improved. Offer to help them out as well.

Learn From Your Mistakes 

Just as it’s important not to criticize your opponents, it’s important not to criticize yourself. If you hit a bad shot, it’s easy to focus on that error. That’ll only get you down.

Instead of dwelling on mistakes, take a mental note of them. After the match you can rethink your mistakes and make an effort to correct them during practice or lessons.

So the next time you step on the court, keep these in mind to play your best tennis ever!