Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Samanta Fernandes: Hitting with the Men out in Orlando

We checked in with Samanta Fernandes out of the Tennis-Orlando league. Here's what she had to say:

How did you get started playing tennis?  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.)
      My name is Samanta Fernandes and I am 19 years old. I played tennis when I was younger because of my father. He loves tennis and put me and my sister in tennis classes when we were 7. We used to live in Brazil back then. Afterwards, we moved to Switzerland, Roger Federer’s and Martina Hingi’s country. There they have a great structure for tennis classes and tournaments. I played a lot and got really passionate about it. However, I stopped when I moved back to Brazil at the age of 14. 
Which league are you a member of?
      I started playing again here in Orlando in the Orlando Tennis League.

How long have you participated in your league?
      I have been playing for 3 seasons already.

How did you first learn about it?
      I learned about the league through google, doing some research on where to play tennis here in Orlando. When I read about the league I thought it would be interesting to play different people but I did not expect it to be as fun as it is.

How often do you play?
      I usually play 2-3 matches a week.

What do you like most about the league?
      At first, I thought I would be scheduling matches with people and that was it. But there is more to the league and as I learned more about it and how it works, it became more and more interesting. I realized that with a certain amount of wins (Usually 5) you can participate in the playoffs and if you win, you get prizes, entry to other tourneys and go up to a higher division. All of this motivated me to improve my game and get more involved in the league. I got more competitive and improved my mind game.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).  Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
      I learned that the game is not decided until it is over. Two games that helped me to understand that were against two players; Regan Stevenson and Gary (Giri) Shankar. With Regan, I played at 4pm during a very hot day and I was exhausted. I was losing 5-0 in the first set and playing horribly. Normally, I would think that I had already lost that game and would play just to finish it or I would just give up. However, I told him to have patience with me because of the heat. I drank a lot of water and we waited a bit until it got cooler. We finished the set and I actually won in a tie breaker. 
      With Gary it was different. I won the first set and I was pretty confident. However, he started getting better and actually won the second set. We went on in the tie breaker, I believe he won 12x10. That opened my eyes to never relax and give my best until the end, because in tennis, anything can happen.
Gary is one of my favorites rivals, since he has won two times already. He challenges me with his game and it is really fun to play against him.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
      Playing in the league has helped to meet new people, improve my game and get me out there for new opportunities. As mentioned before it improved my mind game and it also improved my game. 

      At first, I thought there would be more women in the league, but since there were not many, I started playing against men. I am actually doing well playing against men and I think this is helping me to push myself more.

      One day I was playing at Lake Cane Tennis Center and they offered me to participate in a doubles tourney, which was really fun. Another day, I was talking to the receptionist in Lake Cane, waiting for my opponent to arrive and he told one of his coaches about me. The coach went and watched me play a little bit and actually decided to put me in a team, which is awesome. I appreciate the opportunities that came for me while playing in the league and I hope there will be more. Soon I will be transferring to UCF and look forward to trying for a scholarship there. The league is providing me with a lot of opportunities, experience and fun. I have been playing for three seasons already and I see more and more people participating and getting more involved. Also, many women are encouraged and participating more and doing well. I love to see the league grow and become more fun every season.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
      I started as a 3.00 and now I am currently rated as Women’s Competitive 3.75.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The World of Strings - written by Jeff H.

Strings are half the racquet in tennis. They are like the tires for a race car and can dramatically alter how your racquet plays.  With hundreds of strings to choose from, tensions, and gauges, which string is the best string for you?  Before you make a selection, let’s go over some basics of strings.
String Types:
There are three main types of strings:  Synthetic Gut, Polyester (Poly), and Natural Gut. 

Synthetic Gut Strings:
Synthetic gut is a multi-filament string comprised of very thing fibers that attempt to simulate natural gut.  These strings tend to be softer and flex more easily when striking the ball.  Synthetic gut strings are not made with the intention of durability, but instead made for feel and playability.  Players who play doubles exclusively, serve and volley or attack the net frequently in singles would benefit from the feel of synthetic gut strings.  These types of strings tend to also be more forgiving on the player’s elbow and wrist since they absorb more of the impact energy than stiffer polyester strings.  The downside to synthetic gut strings are they do not generate as much spin or power as polyester strings.  The player needs to use his/her stroke and body to generate big power and big spin.  Certain synthetic gut strings are a little stiffer to help add power and spin, but nothing compares to polyester strings.  As synthetic gut strings are used, they will begin to fray like an old rope.  This is completely normal and caused by the friction of the ball and strings rubbing against each other.  When this occurs, it’s time to restring your racquet.  One advantage to the fraying is you can see where on the string bed your strings are fraying.  If the fraying is in the sweetspot, then you know you are predominately hitting the sweet spot on the majority of your shots.  If not, then that’s good information too.

Polyester Strings:
Polyester strings, often referred to as “polys”, are very stiff strings.  The playability is horrible with these strings.  But for a baseliner or power hitter, they are a dream come true.  Despite the lack of playability, polys are made for power and spin.  As the ball hits these strings, they bite the ball much more effectively than synthetic gut or natural gut and snap back much faster, creating excellent spin and power.  Due to polys being stiffer, they absorb less of the energy from striking a ball and can be more impactful on the elbow and wrist.  One option to increase the feel with polys is to use a different gauge string.  A thinner poly will increase the feel slightly but still provide excellent power and spin.  See below for a description of the different gauges and their pros and cons.  Polys are very, very durable strings and most players will not break these strings.  It’s important to remember when to restring your racquet when using these strings since they will not fray like synthetic gut or natural gut.

Natural Gut Strings:
Natural gut strings are made from beef intestines.  In order for them to be strings, they are dried considerable and vacuum sealed for shipment.  Never put a wet towel, socks, or any moisture near natural gut strings since this may cause them to stretch or break.  Nothing beats natural gut in terms of playability and feel.  Many players use a hybrid where natural gut is in the mains or the crosses and then a poly in the other.  These strings are expensive and can break if the universe is not aligned properly.  But seriously, natural gut strings are not meant to be durable.  Just like synthetic gut strings, these strings are for players who want extraordinary feel and playability and players who create their own power and spin.

String Gauges:The smaller the gauge, the thicker the string.
The standard gauge (g) for a string that most players use is 16g.  Strings come in all kinds of gauges or thicknesses.  15g, 15Lg, 16g, 16Lg, 17g, and so on down to a 20g, which is a very thin string.  The “L” means that the string is just a bit thinner than the associated gauge number, 1.25mm (16Lg) versus 1.30mm (16g).The thicker the string, the more bite on the ball which results in more spin.  But a thicker string is harder to flex and much stiffer, which affects playability and the impact on the player’s wrist and elbow.

How Often Should You Restring Your Racquets?
The general rule of thumb is however many times you play per week is the minimum number of times you need to restring your racquet per year.  Three times per week = At least every four months.  If you string you racquet and never use it, keep it in a climate controlled room, your strings will lose their tension in 12 months.
Signs you need to restring your racquet:
  • Your strings do not snap back in place after hitting the ball.
  • The “crackle” or make noise when you move them with your fingers.
  • You hear a thud rather than a ping when you hit your hand with your strung racquet.
  • The strings are fraying (synthetic/natural gut)
  • It has been at 6 months or longer since you have had them restrung

String Tension:
If you change the string tension and use the same strings, the strings will play differently.  The higher the tension, the less power.  Too low of a tension, no control.  Deciding which tension to use for your strings depends on the type of strings, the type of player you are, and when you are trying to get out of the strings.  Think of a trampoline, if the trampoline is pulled very, very tight you will not be able to bounce very high.  If the trampoline is loose, you will bounce high but you might bounce off center and have little to no control to which direction you bounce.Generally, you need to alter your tension at least 3-4 pounds in order to notice a difference.  If you have not had your racquet restrung in a long time, a freshly strung racquet will feel much different than your used to since your stings were at a lower tension.
For players looking for more power and spin, generally speaking a string tension between 50-55 is recommended.  For players that generate their own power and spin or just want more control, a higher string tension is recommended.   If you notice that all of your ground strokes are just going past the baseline by 6 inches or so, increasing your string tension 3-4 pounds will bring the ball back into the court without having to change your stroke.  The opposite is true as well.  It may take a few attempts to find a string or strings you like and the tension that works best for you, but once you do it’s amazing!

All of this information is pretty general and can be as complicated as you want it to be.  This article is just a general guide with the hope that it will help players find the best string and tension for their playing style which will hopefully improve their game.  I hope you enjoyed the read.

-          Jeff Heuwinkel

Monday, September 19, 2016

Parrish Sligh: Making Great Friends through Tennis

Parrish Sligh  thanks for joining us. We want to share your thoughts and experiences playing in TennisNewYork.com, the New York City Tennis League.

Parrish has been playing with us since 2013 and has played 159 matches over the past 3 years. Parrish's Profile.
Firstly, how long have you been playing tennis? What got you started and what has kept you going?
I started playing tennis on the grass courts in Sylacauga, Alabama as a teenager. My Park and Recreational Director happened to live in my neighborhood growing up. One day he was chalking off a tennis court on the grass, put up a net and starting teaching his daughter how to play tennis. So one day I asked him if he could teach me how to play tennis. He said yes. The bounces on grass are very unpredictable.  I played sparingly until age 45 when I found out about Tennis New York online. I love the game of tennis and the competition that goes with it. I love the fact when I play better players I can evaluate my game and improve my strengths and work on my weaknesses. I'm working on strengthening my serve right now. I exercise at the gym, play handball and basketball as well.

Which league are you a member of and how long have you been participating in it? Also, how did you end up finding out about us?
It was difficult to find partners to play with. I am a member of Brooklyn-Queens Competitive Division.  I participate in both the ladder and the league. It allows to be get the most out of Tennis NY. Tennis NY offers an inclusive way of playing different people.  I was looking for more consistent opportunities to play. I like to play 2-3 times a week.  I also like to play a lot of matches each season.

Parrish, You are a peerless veteran, Who do  you consider your Tennis New York opponents/ rivals?
My toughest rivalries are with David Romero and Tom Frederickson.  They bring out the best in me.

What do you like about the Tennis NewYork?
I've had many positive experiences in the league.  I've found life-long friends. Some of my best buds are Artie Wood and David Romero. I've made a connection with people who share my love of tennis. I love the competition and social aspects of meetups in which we participate in round robins. We get to compete and catch up with each other socially. I loved qualifying at the last meetup for the Summer league playoffs in front of my Tennis NY friends. Tennis NY allows me to play tennis on a regular basis, as often as I like. There is nothing like competing in tennis when all your shots are clicking and you are competing to the best of your ability.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).
My favorite match was against Peter Richter because he a good player and hard to defeat. I also enjoyed several 3 set matches against David Romero and Tom Frederickson.

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
I am old school when it comes to pro players. I admire Arthur Ashe for his class, sportsmanship and his commitment to humanity. I also admire John Mc Enroe for his tenacity on the court. I am both an emotional and tenacious player.  My favorite current player in Novak Djokovic because of his style of play.  He has the ability to adapt to what's going on in the game.   I also strive to do that in my game.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nate Pualengco: Adjusting to Tennis in Miami

We checked in with Nate Pualengco whose playing out of the Miami League.

Which league are you a member of?
I am currently a member of the Tennis-Miami League.

How long have you participated in your league?
I found out about the league through a web search earlier this year.  I started out as a novice in the partner program and the tennis ladder to get a few matches going and I eventually signed up for the competitive league in March 2016.

How often do you play?
I am quite active in the league and try to play three to four matches a week.  I am also strength training as part of my fitness routine so typically I’d play tennis Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and work out on Tuesday and Thursday.  I rest during the weekend (body needs some R&R, too!)

What do you like most about the league?
This is the first competitive tennis league that I’ve joined ever.The guys I’ve played are competitive and they also have fun at the same time, and to me, that’s the most important thing.  Win or lose, it’s all about having a great time and improving your game.  The system is pretty organized and the variety of programs offered through Tennis Miami appeals to all levels.  There’s something for everyone who are looking to play the sport!  Also, I really like the incentives that are offered such as the playerof the year program, referrals, partner contest, etc.  Great motivation to continue to be an active member of the league.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es).
I’ve had a few memorable matches since I joined the league in March.  The most notable match I’ve played was against Pablo Lorenzana.  Prior to our match, he had a 5-0 record and I was coming in at 2-3.  I was in a slump at that time having lost 3 in a row.  For a newbie, that losing streak was tough.  I have heard about Pablo from other players so I was a bit apprehensive that he would give me my 4th loss, especially he was undefeated at that time.  We started the match and right off the bat, I had trouble adjusting to his style.  He’s a lefty with a nasty slice serve that is very difficult to return.  Took me a few games to figure out how to work around his game.  Surprisingly, we found ourselves in a tight first set.  We actually went to a tiebreaker that fortunately went my way.  Huge relief having won a set, more so against a darn good player. I started off the second set very strong.  I remember I was up a couple breaks and if memory serves me right, I had him at 5-1, and all I had to do was close it out.  Then I lost focus and he started to rally back. Panic started to set in and he did manage to tie me at 5-5.  I knew I had to regain concentration so I played the last two games one point at a time.  It was quite a struggle but the tennis gods favored my game more and I picked up my 3rd win.  Pablo was a very tough player and he showed great sportsmanship. This match was memorable for me not only because of the level of competitiveness, but also because it gave me the confidence I needed to keep playing.  Plus, I was the only player that Pablo lost to during the spring league.  I kind of played the role of a spoiler for him.  J

Who are your favorite rivals in the league? Why?
Right now, my favorite rival is Miguel Morejon.  This guy is so passionate about tennis and plays so much.  We’ve met a few times in the spring and summer seasons, and our matches are becoming more and more competitive.  He has figured out the weakness in my game so now it’s up to me to turn things around and keep the friendly, yet competitive rivalry going.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
Having lived in Chicago for 20 years, the transition to the heat and humidity of Miami has been a bit challenging for me.  I’m still trying to figure out how to best accommodate playing under these conditions without cramping and getting dehydrated.  This is why I joke around my opponents before we start the match.  I tell them that I’m not a big fan of the third set.  It’s either I win in two, or lose in two. The shorter the match, the better (at least during the summer)!

How did you get started playing tennis?
My brother and I used to watch a lot of tennis when we were younger.  We grew up watching Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Chang, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario just to name a few.  We loved these pros.  We would watch tennis matches during the day, then we’d go to a nearby court and imitate the pros!  That’s pretty much how I started out with tennis but all of it was just recreational matches.  The Tennis Miami league gave me the opportunity to play at a much competitive level, which I have never ever done before.  When I started playing with the league, I knew I had so much to learn and improve upon in order to compete.  I didn’t want to make a fool of myself on the courts.  The more I play with people, especially the ones better than me, the more I learn and pick up tips/techniques on how to become a better player.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
Started out as a 3.5 player in the spring#2 league and now I have a TennisLeagueNetwork player rating of 3.75. 

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
I’ve always admired pros because of their skills and intensity.  My favorites right now are Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.  I think they are exceptional players and are so tough, both physically and mentally, both of which are very important elements of the game.  I enjoy watching Rafa and Serena play their matches and I always look for opportunities to incorporate bits and pieces of their style into my game. 

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 35 years old, lived in Chicago for 20 years and relocated to Miami with my fiancĂ©, Danny, last year.  I work for Allstate Insurance as an education consultant.  Besides tennis, I love to run.  I’ve been running (racing) for about six year now and since 2010. I’m one of the crazies that run those ultra-marathons (races longer than 26.2 miles.)I have two 50Ks, four 50-milers, and seven 100-milers under my belt since I started running ultras in 2012.  I am a huge Cubs fan!  I have three fur babies at home, two senior female Pugs, and a male domestic short haired cat.