The morning started off at about 70 and very breezy; but the temperature warmed up to the hi 80s for our day of training, positioning, and drills. After breakfast, Roy Emerson, Marty Reissen, and Brian Gottfried gave a short clinic on how to play better doubles:
• Emmo: Never miss a return of serve!
• If the serve is too good, hit a lob
• Hit the return of serve to just the other side of the center net strap and low at the server’s feet (better than high and hard)
• On your second serve, it is 85% in the favor of a good returner; so take something off and get your first serve in
• When returning a second serve, really attack the ball and come in behind your return
• Brian Gottfried: think about your court position a lot…
• At the net, you are both responsible for the balls on your left and right side, but also over your head; so don’t play so tight to the net that the other team can easily lob over your head.
• When they do successfully lob over your head, your serving partner should take it; and you come back to at least mid-court to see how well your partner is playing the next shot
• Generally speaking, the team should be staggered, with one player slightly closer to the net and the other player slightly back to be able to cover the lob.
• In today’s modern pro doubles, many players are staying back on their second (and sometimes first) serves. This is due to the change in string technology and poor volley training.
• Communicating with your partner is very important; but according to Emmo they really overdo it today and “transmit germs after every point.”
• The most difficult doubles return of serve is the “off backhand” for the righty in the deuce court. For that, you have to shorten your backswing and cut it off, coming in at a diagonal.
• Early in the match, drive a couple at the net man. It will hold them in that position for the rest of the match.
• And early in the match, when you lob, lob long … to be sure not to give your opponent sitters to build their confidence.
Then the teams went off to our courts to play some doubles, with different pairings to see how we match up together. It looks like I could be playing anything from #2 doubles for the Wankers, teamed with Mike “Rambo” Rennells from California (he and I were undefeated at #2 last year) or at #3 or 4 with some other players.
We played for almost two hours; and then watched an exhibition match between Murphy Jensen and camper Wes Cash vs. Rick Leach and this year’s “camp ringer,” Tobias Svantesson (49 year-old from Sweden, who was at one time #98 on the pro tour). Murphy quipped, “I will have my bagel toasted, please,” after they received a 6-0 drubbing
We had lunch and individual pictures with the pros; and then went back for another session of doubles pairings and practicing. I played a couple of sets; and then Brian Gottfried volunteered to hit groundstrokes with me and hit me serves, so I could work on getting the timing on my return.
The choice was to go to my room and rest at 4:15 or join in Emmo’s clinic on forehand and backhand volleys. I did that for another hour… and had the highlight of my week already: Emmo fed me volleys and said, ‘George, your forehand volley really HAS improved!’
I can go home now.
Thanks to my practice partners (especially Bob and B) who put in hours and hours with me on the practice court for the last four months.
Some of Emmo’s volley tips were:
• The backhand volley should be one of the easiest shots to hit; because you are forced to turn your shoulders to start the shot
• Then come forward with your left foot to step and hit at the same time
• Do not hit down; but hit forward, parallel to the court
• Keep the racquet head at the same level as the ball
• And hit the ball out in front of you
• Do not look to over-hit the ball, but place the ball
After what I figure was about five hours on the court, I went for Happy Hour beers. Dinner was barbeque chicken and ribs; and after dinner, Doc Eden made his “grand entrance” to set the rules for the upcoming Australian Boat Race (drinking contest). Howard Rogg gave a tribute to the late Mike Lahon and original artwork to Newk and Steve Contardi.
Then there was a five-minute video message from Ken Rosewall, apologizing for not being able to make it back for the 25th anniversary and congratulating all who did make it there. That was followed by a panel discussion about “Muscles” and the era of Aussie tennis greatness.
Afterwards, while others went to the bar for more drink and talk, I went off to my room to try watch the end of the Presidential debate and get a decent night’s sleep before the team competition, with singles in the morning and dubs in the afternoon started on Tuesday (wondering if I actually worked too hard on Monday).