Friday, February 17, 2017

Greg Jarucki: Getting back to the courts after 10 years with

Which league are you a member of?
I am a member of San Francisco league.

How long have you participated in your league?
I started in 2012 and just recently played my 112th match (as of Feb. 17th, 2017)!

How did you first learn about it?
I moved to the Bay Area and decided to take advantage of the all-year great weather and get back to tennis. I haven't really played in 10 years, so at first I started hitting at my local park. As soon as I started feeling comfortable, my competitive nature prevailed and I looked out for a league. TennisSF caught my eye because of the flexible schedule.

How often do you play?
My goal is to play twice a week as long as the weather permits and I am not traveling. As much as I love to travel, not being able to play tennis is one of the few downsides.

What do you like most about the league?
I love playing against different styles and meeting new people. Long time rivalries are even better because you really get to know the other person and eventually make friends. I have made several breaks from the league, but always came back due to my competitive nature.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
One of my most memorable matches was in the semi final of the playoffs in 2013, against an opponent who beat me pretty easily in the regular season. I managed to win in 3 close sets and it was my first win against a truly 4.0+ player! I was really glad I could see my game improving and I remained unbeaten in 3 set matches. I went on to win my first 4.0 championship and the semi final win against a really good player was a milestone and a confidence booster.

Do you have any other interesting comments about your experiences with the league?
Playing on different courts is a great way of exploring the Bay Area! I think it is a perfect option for people who just move to the area and don't have tennis partners. But once you start, you're hooked up!

How did you get started playing tennis?
I started playing when I was 12 and played until I was 16. Then I had some injuries and focused on my education, and somehow haven't played for almost 10 years. I was shocked when I realized it's been almost 10 years and I decided to get back to tennis, because I remembered I really liked it as a teenager. TennisSF was a great way for me to get back to playing regularly.

What level player are you? (NTRP rating)
I am 4.0.

What do you love about tennis?
I love the 1 on 1 combat aspect of it. You are by yourself and you have to figure out a way to win or at least do your best.  

Who are your favorite pro players? Why?
My favorite player is Rafa Nadal. I admire his ability to adjust his game during the match, his competitive spirit and passion. I've tried to imitate his style on the court.

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 grew up in Poland where soccer is by far the most popular sport. I loved playing it as a kid. One of my friends at elementary school used to train tennis and it was very impressive to me that he was the only person I knew who played tennis. A few years later I decided to sign up to a club. From the get go, I realized I was really good at it, as I was catching up much faster than my peers. I started watching tennis on TV and Agassi-Sampras rivalry got me really hooked. In Poland I played on clay or indoor carpet, so hard courts were new to me after I moved to the Bay Area. I guess I still have to master grass to become an all-court player!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ari Chasnoff: 213 Matches Played. Wow!

 Checking in with Ari Chasnoff out of the tennis league.

How long have you participated in your league?
I’ve participated in TennisSF for almost five years, starting at the 3.0 level and working my way up to the 4.0 division.

How did you first learn about it?
I did some research online and found that it was the quickest and most affordable way to get out on the courts and start playing competitive matches.

How often do you play?
I’ve played 213 (as of Feb. 7th, 2017) matches over four and a half years, and only missed three or four seasons along the way. That means about once or twice per week. But who’s counting? My rule of thumb is that as long as I can lift my arms I try to play every few days.

What do you like most about the league?
I like the scheduling flexibility and getting to know people who are also passionate about tennis. But it’s more than that. It also provides a reliable framework to pursue personal goals, like improving focus, living in the moment, and controlling my emotions in stressful situations.

Tell us about your most memorable match(es)
Unfortunately every match is a little too memorable. The night after a match I often find myself going over certain points in my head as I’m trying to fall asleep - my best shots, my opponent’s best shots, and what I should have done better. Back when I started in the league I remember long 3-setters against Kwok, Bryce, and Rahul. Those guys forced me to play at a higher level. Then of course there was the championship match one season against Demetrius. We had played each other several times already at that point and had gotten to know each other, so we both were very relaxed and having a lot of fun. He won in a close 3-setter, surprising me with backhand chip shots down the line, but overall the match was played with excellent sportsmanship and competitive spirit.

How did you get started playing tennis?
I never played on a team or in any organized fashion before the league. Up until my late 20’s it was always a matter of getting a cheap racket and hitting around with friends. I had taken some lessons while in highschool, but since I grew up in Chicago it was hard to maintain a steady practice. When I moved to San Francisco in my early 30’s I was determined to play more. Recently I took some lessons from Coach McClane, the legendary San Francisco tennis instructor. He’s the guy on Yelp that turns up at the top when you search for “tennis lessons” in San Francisco. I was curious what the hype was all about. I was about a 3.5 at the time, pushing 3.75, and I told him my goal was to get to 4.0. He got me there in six lessons. He not only taught me important skills, but he revived a joy of tennis that I had momentarily lost in my drive to improve. That’s what ultimately helped me raise my game.

What do you love about tennis?  
One of my favorite things about the sport is that you can improve quickly if you put in the time and practice the fundamentals. Watching the ball and building consistency will go a long away, even against superior players. The mental element of the game also fascinates me. Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open was an interesting look at the psychological hoops even the pros have to jump through. The Inner Tennis books by Timothy Gallwey explore this topic and offer some useful exercises along the way. I’m at the point that even when I pick up the occasional book on Zen I read it like it’s a tennis manual!

Tell us a little bit about yourself, for example: What do you do? Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies (besides tennis)?
For the past four years I’ve been a marketing and communications manager at Stanford Graduate School of Business, specializing in web design, social media, and video production. My office is across the street from Stanford’s Taube tennis stadium so I often eat lunch while watching the Cardinal practice or play their collegiate matches. I’ve learned a thing or two just watching these incredibly talented students and their amazing coaches, among them former pro Paul Goldstein. My wife of eight years isn’t into tennis, so I do get some variety in my life. She’s an artist, painting large-scale oil paintings that show in galleries and museums. Check out her work at!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Significance of Racquet Construction

There are numerous factors that go into choosing the best racquet for any given player.  Weight, balance, head size, stiffness, etc.  One piece that is often overlooked or not known is the frame construction.  How the frame, more specifically the beam and throat, is constructed plays a significant role in how the racquet will play.  Let’s get geeky with beam and throat shapes.

Oblong beam:
The oblong shape, similar to an oval, is the strongest design.  When the ball strikes the string bed, the string bed and frame flex from the impact.  The stronger the frame, the less the frame flexes which results in the string bed flexing more and producing more power.  The thicker the beam, the less the beam will flex.  (The beam is the “oval” part of the frame.)  The ball leaves the string bed before the beam returns to its original position, therefore no power is produce from the “snap back” of the beam.

Elongated oblong beam:
The elongated beam is still strong but slightly weaker than the standard oblong beam.  This means the elongated oblong beam will flex slightly more than the standard oblong beam.  When the ball hits the string bed, the beam flexes more, preventing the string bed from flexing as much as it would if it were the standard oblong shape.  This beam shape produces slightly less power than the standard oblong shape beam.
Square-ish beam:
The square-ish beam is the weakest beam design.  The beam will flex significantly when the ball strikes the string bed, preventing the string bed from flexing as much.  Due to the beam flexing more, the string bed flexes less, which results in less power being produced by the strength of the beam.

The same information is true for the throat of the racquet.  The weaker the throat, the more the racquet will flex/bend on impact, which will result in less power being generated from the frame.

 Which frame construction is the best one for me?  This depends on how you play, what you’re looking for out of a frame, whether you only play doubles/singles or both, and your playing style.  For the frames that flex more, or are weaker, the player must generate more power on their own using their body.  If you hit the ball very hard and can produce a lot of power but are experiencing difficulty keeping the ball in or controling the ball, a racquet with a weaker frame (elongated oblong or square-ish) would give you the control you’re looking for.  Most players who try out a racquet that produces less power say that they gained a lot of control, when compairing to their racquet that has stronger construction and produced more power.  What is really going on is that their power was reduced slightly and they were able to control the power they produced much better, resulting in their game improving.  Doubles players would love a racquet with the square-ish beam and throat since these racquets provide the ultimate feel and touch.  The player decides how far a volley or half-volley will go.  With a stiffer/stronger racquet, the volleys will always be more powerful even if you don’t move the racquet.  Players that might want to try a racquet with a weaker beam and/or throat include:  doubles players, serve and volleyers, attackers, and power hitters that are looking for more control.

The racquets with a oblong beam and throat, such as the Babolat Pure Drive, are stiffer and will produce more power due to the string bed flexing more upon impact.  These types of racquets are for the player that has difficulty producing big power.  Using their same stroke, more power will be generated with a racquet of this type.  If a player is able to produce very high topspin, then that player might be able to control the power produced from a all oblong racquet.  For example, Rafa Nadal produces up to 5500 RPMs on the ball which allows him to hit the ball with a lot of power but still be able to have the ball drop in the court.  Players seeking more power should try out a racquet that has an obling beam and throat.

The elongated oblong racquets are a mix of the two types previously discussed.  They range in flexability and try to harness the best of both worlds, power and control.  These racquets will vary in how they feel and perform, so try out a couple different models from different companies to find the best one for you and your current playing needs.  If you play mainly singles but also play doubles every now and then, this might be a good option for you.

Whenever seeking a new racquet, always try them out before you buy.  I hope this information helps you find the best racquet for you.

-Jeff Heuwinkel