Another beautiful day in Texas – and I feel good! Before the morning matches, Owen (Davo) Davidson talked about some key pointers to focus on:
1) A major key to the pros ability to hit the ball consistently is to “keep your head still”.
2) The new warm-up technique of playing “small ball” (hitting short balls at the net) is a good way to “know where your racquet head is.” In what started on the women’s tour is now being done by the men too.
3) As an active coach of junior players in Texas, none of them are anxious to go out and practice their serves. Everyone wants to drill on ground strokes and volleys; but just do not go out and practice the serve. If you can “improve your serve by 20%, you will improve your game by 40%.”
4) Why so many of the top female players are having problems double faulting? Davo had three reasons:
– Because they do not practice their serves enough. He said when Australia was going to play Sweden in a Davis Cup final, Emmo was going to play #1 singles against a player whose weakness was his add court backhand return. So their legendary coach, Harry Hopman had Emmo serve and volley to LEFTY Tony Roach’s forehand in that court for one and a half hours! So when the match came, it was just second nature to make that shot and play that point.
– The women have gotten “too mental” and really need to go see a sports psychologist to give themselves a better view of what needs to be done.
– Their coaching is bad. He was at Wimbledon this year and went down to watch Dinara Safina practice to play on the grass, where she has a real problem with the low balls. Her coach stood at the net and bounced HIGH balls to her and she would attack the ball. Davo said, “that was a shot she would NOT see or need playing on the grass.”
After that, we went off to play our morning matches against the Dunnies (coached by Fred Stolle, Dick Stockton, and Mark Woodforde), some of us playing singles and others who have opted to play “doubles only”.
Our #1 player was in fact out with his bad back; so we defaulted on the first court and I played #3 against a 52-year-old camp rookie, Tom David from San Antonio. Emmo had scouted him the day before and said that he had a real big first serve, but his forehand “was a little dodgey”.
We started out with Tom serving, and serving very well. I was struggling just to get the ball back in play. After seeing it for three service games, I decided to stand in tight, take the ball early, and block it back in play. Once I was able to do that, my steadier groundstrokes were able to prevail and I won 6-3, 6-3.
Dick Stockton came up to me after the match and paid me the nice complement of, “Congratulations George. You are a real pain in the ass to play!”
Our #2 singles also won; and on the fourth court next to me, good friend Lenny Saltzman was locked in a very tight match with the Dunnie’s Marty Judge (one of my regular contributors to the blog). Marty cruised in the first set 6-1; but lost the second 3-6. With about ten of us watching, they played a ten-point tiebreaker to decide the match (and maybe the morning’s play for us). Lenny lost two match points and survived one on a missed overhead, to prevail 13-11.
That match helped us have 7-4 match lead going into the afternoon doubles (with Pelican Bay’s John Berry playing doubles-only for the Dunnies and losing to our team in a ten point breaker; and Rich Tarantino losing a marathon singles match for our Wanker team).
After a huge lunch (soup, big salad, big sandwich, and chocolate brownie), we moved into the afternoon’s doubles play, needing three of seven matches to win the day against the Dunnies.
Our #1 player, Jimmy Miller convinced Emmo that he was OK and willing to give it a try at #1 dubs; so I played #2 dubs with Tom Sansonetti from Wyoming. Even though we lost our match, I thought we played well; but Marty and Daniel played better for the opposition.
A lesson learned: Emmo had us switch to play Aussie against them on my serve; because even though I was serving well, they were returning better cross court. It helped; but afterwards he said I was serving to the wrong location: Emmo says, “when playing tandem (Aussie), you serve WIDE in both courts to
a) take away their favorite cross court shot and
b) to make them hit over the high part of the net down the line.
Another Legend-interaction highlight for me: during my match, opposing coach Fred Stolle was standing in the back of the court with Emmo and said to me, “George, how much weight have you lost? (15 lbs) You look in great shape!”
After that, I showered and changed (for the second time today) to play my THIRD match of the day: just one set with Legend Owen Davidson against my dubs partner Tom and fellow Australian Ross Case (who is still relatively young and an excellent player) – they won.
The final outcome for our Wanker team for the day: we won big in the afternoon (six matches out of seven). The Kanagroos upset the defending champs of the Musclemen (coached by Davidson, Case, and Woodforde); so we will play the losers on Wednesday.
Dinner was Italian night, followed by another Legend panel discussion. Well, off to bed and a night’s rest for round two of the team matches on Wednesday (with the threat of rain looming).