Myths

THE TEN BIGGEST MYTHS IN TENNIS

1.The players of the past were as good or better than the players of today, really ?!
This is equivalent to saying : the runners years ago were faster then today’s runners, or
Mark Spitz could swim faster then Michael Phelps, or the Olympic gymnasts of the nineties
could out perform the gymnasts of the present, or the weight lifters today aren’t stronger then their predecessors and so on.Not only that it is far from the truth, it is unfair to make this comparison. Every sport is constantly evolving and unlike years back, science is incorporated in every aspect
of developing better, smarter, faster and stronger athletes. We all have our heroes from
the past: Rod Laver, John Newcomb, McEnroe, Borg and many others. They
all deserve our respect for their great accomplishments and place in tennis history,
however, lets not let our nostalgic feelings distort common sense. The players of today
are faster, stronger, fitter and better trained than the players of yesterday. It’s has been
said that the “cream will rise to the top”, it is possible that if the old time players had
the modern training available to them they would still be among the best, we’ll never
know. After listening to interviews with Borg, McEnroe, Laver and Becker it is clear
that they unanimously agree that today’s game is played on a higher level, and when
it’s coming from the “horse’s mouth” it is good enough for me.
Unfortunately this can’t be said about women tennis players. It seems that ever since
Serena and Venus were sidelined because of injuries women’s tennis came to a halt,
there are quite a few good players out there but none of them posses the Williams
sisters’ presence, athletic ability, shot making, competitiveness and confidence. They
were the most feared players on the tour and ahead of their time.
2. The players of today are superior to their formers because of the modern rackets – not
so. It is true that new technology and advanced materials (tungsten, titanium, ceramic
and graphite) have made the tennis rackets stronger longer lasting and more powerful
and the same can be said about the strings, however, most professionals prefer rackets
and strings that provide more control rather then power. Today’s players are more
powerful because of their training and not so much because of their equipment.
Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, two of the best players of all time, don’t use over
size rackets or wide frames. Their choice is thin rackets with conventional head size
that provides control like in the “good old days”.
The equipment has evolved in every sport. For instance, swimmers use full body
swimsuits that are slicker and runners use lighter running shoes. To attribute their
performances only to their equipment would be ludicrous. The swimmer Michael
Phelps would beat Mark Spits with a skimpy Speedo swimsuit and Usain Bolt would
outrun any former Olympic runner-bare feet. And how about today’s gymnasts?!
Their performance doesn’t rely on any modern equipment and yet they perform at a
much higher degree of difficulty then in the past. In fact their routines were
considered humanly impossible not to long ago.
Tennis players have become much better athletes not because of their equipment but
rather their training. Without a doubt players like Rafa, Sampras, Federer and
Djokovic would beat any of the” old time” players even by playing with wood tennis
rackets.
3.If you write with your right hand that means you are right handed – wrong.
This assumption was the acceptable norm before data from studies of the motor
functions of the brain were available to us.
Our daily use of our hands is divided into two motor functions, large and small.
Lifting, carrying, swinging and throwing are the large motor functions, writing ,
dialing, counting (money) are our small motor functions of the brain.
Playing tennis falls rather into the large motor function category , so if you lift heavy
things, carry a suitcase or pitch a baseball with your right hand – most likely you are
right handed. It is not unusual to see a kid who writes with his left hand and pitches
with his right.
4.To be very tall is a big advantage as a tennis player – not exactly. Every generation
had it’s tall and short professionals , the average height of the top players ranges from
5.10feet tall to 6.2 . Agassi, Sampras, Lendel, McEnroe, Connors, Borg, and today’s
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic are a living proof of that. There are a few exceptions, for
instance: Pancho Gonzales, Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisovich stood up at 6.4 and Rod
Laver, Ken Roswell, Michael Chang were under 5.8 . These players had tremendous
athletic ability and were able to adjust their playing style to their size.
Short and tall players face different challenges . The advantages of being tall are:
better reach, ability to hit more “down” on the serve and great coverage at the net.
The disadvantages are usually lack of agility, vulnerability on low bouncing balls
and being injury prone.
Shorter players may not have a big serve or a wide “wing span” but they
make up for it with speed, agility and craftiness. The constant wear and tear on the
joints due to their grinding playing style may lead to injuries as well.
5. In order to hit a powerful forehand you must step into the ball – impractical and not
true. Today’s power game does not allow it to begin with. The most used stance in
modern tennis is the open stance which allows quicker setting up, faster recovery
and the ability to produce more power. In some situations stepping into the ball is
necessary, for instance when moving forward on a short ball, nevertheless the open
stance with it’s rotational swing produces more power. By stepping into
the ball the shoulder rotation is very restricted and therefore the swing is linear and
it can’t generate as much momentum. Track and field athletes use the same principle
in the discus throw and the shot put. They generate momentum by spinning around
which translates into power. As a matter of fact the shot putters have adopted the
discus throw technique, replacing the old shuffle forward movement.
Other sports that use similar kinetic energy are martial arts and boxing.
In martial arts the frontal kick is powerful but the roundhouse kick is deadly and in
boxing the jab is annoying, the strait arm strike is forceful while the roundhouse
punch is lethal, ask “Iron” Mike Tyson -he’ll tell ya!
6.The old “Continental” grip is as good as the “eastern” or the “western” grips of
today – not a chance. This is also one of the top ten dumbest statements in tennis
period. The “Continental” grip is limited to be used for volleys, serve and slice
shots. It has lots of disadvantages when being used on the ground strokes: lacking
power, vulnerable on high bounces, does not provide hardly any “top spin” and
not effective on countering power game. This grip is a thing of the past, it was
popular during the wood rackets era when the game was not as powerful, none of
the pro are using it today – for a reason.
7.The pros watch the ball when it hits the strings – they try but do they really?! No!
The human eyes are not able to see the contact with fast moving incoming ball,
they can’t react that fast.
By keeping the head “down” and “still” the eyes will be able to track the ball until
reaching about a foot in front of the racket, from that point on
the player’s vision is blurry and the contact is made by sheer instinct.
When looking at action photos of the pros either in tennis publications or the internet
it is very noticeable that as the ball is connecting with the strings their eyes are fixated
well in front of the impact.
8.“Scratching the back” with the racket is a part of the serve motion. This tennis
terminology is used at early stages of learning the game. As a beginner a student
is most likely to be taught to start the serve with the racket resting on his back, this is
just one component of the serve. As the skills become more accomplished the player
will learn to move both arms, the hitting one and the tossing arm simultaneously
down and up together and follow with a continuous twirling motion behind the back
upward toward the ball, connect with the ball and follow through around the opposite
hip. By stopping the racket behind the back the serve will be powerless and lacking
rhythm.
9.The one handed backhand is favorable over the two handed backhand.
Let’s examine the two and find out which one is superior. The one handed backhand,
pros: elegant, versatile, has more reach, great for slicing. Cons: weak on high
bounces, not as powerful on return of serve, not very effective with angles.
The two handed backhand, pros: powerful on ground strokes, powerful on return
of serve, great for angle shots, excellent for disguise, great for high bounces.
The cons: lack of reach, difficulty with low bounces.
When Roger Federer was asked about Nadal’s game he replied :”It’s like playing
against someone with two forehands”. When Steffi Graf was asked what was
her biggest regret in tennis she mentioned the fact that she didn’t learn a two handed
backhand. Most of the top men and women tennis pros use a double fisted backhand,
put all these facts together and the verdict is clear: the two handed backhand is
superior to the one handed one, however, supplementing it with a one
handed slice backhand is a perfect formula for becoming a complete player- case
closed.
10.”Come to a stop when you hit the ball” – good luck! In the real world of tennis this
piece of advice can not be applied in most game situations. At the early stages of
learning the game a player is taught to do so because the low speed of the ball allows
it so the player can establish balance an a fluid swing, but as the skills
are more advanced the game becomes more dynamic and it will require hitting
most of the time on the run either on lateral movement or on approach shots.
Low speed balls may permit coming to a stop to set up for a controlled swing,
however, on approach shots slowing down prior and moving forward during the
swing is more efficient.


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