Saturday, September 3, 2011

After today, my last blog without a video behind it.

Any of you ever had an event that just humbled the hell out of you?

This did it today.

I took a double bagel from a guy that had the exact same skills as I did. Flat out sucked up the joint. I didn't belong on the court.

I will continue this blog, no question about it. I am not a quitter. But this time it will be different.

The past is the past. I had a great childhood, and I had a great time talking about how I learned this game by myself, and how I played with nothing but hustle. But, as I just said, the past is the past.

No more stories, no more past accomplishments. They mean nothing now. I just went up a division and got whacked. I now have three straight sets with exactly ZERO games. That's never happened to me before, and it never will again.

My first video comes tonight. I will take the beatdown of a lifetime here, but I promised this to you guys, and it's on video. For the snide remark people? I expect that, and I probably deserve it thinking it'd be easy to go up a division. But for anyone that wants to critique, I would appreciate it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Update from Conyers: Tough loss, but a lot to learn from it.

I thought I'd be writing this in the morning, before the consolation. Turns out I can't sleep, so I'll write this now.

The match with Anthony Cao was a real good match, and he did deserve the win tonight. 4-6 7-6 6-0 was the score. The third set is very telling, but I'll get into that in a sec.

First, the good things I got out of the match.

#1. 11 aces and 34 winners. I never get those kind of numbers, and I'm adding more of those numbers each and every match. Very happy with that.

#2. When I fell behind 4-1 in the first set, I was starting to get frustrated. Serve wasn't going in at all, and my backhand was failing me. Then I said to myself that I flat out wasn't going to get frustrated anymore. I'd literally try out my Bjorn Borg face and let the mistakes be as they may. After that, I took five straight games from Anthony, and took the first set. That was telling for me because I have a tendency to go Ryan Harrison on myself at times, without the racket throwing of course. This time, I just kept my calm the rest of the match.

#3. I saved two service games at love to force the tiebreak. This NEVER happens. I felt great about my serve at points, and not so much at others, but that really felt clutch.

Now the bad things.

#1. I started reverting back to the old game a little more in the second set. My strategy in this tournament was to kind of have a mix of my old hustle game, and a more all around game so that I could phase my way into this new game I'm working on. Second set, I found myself forcing everything and pushing a little more, which doesn't make me happy at all. Even with all that, he took the second set, and it frustrated me, which will lead into why the bagel in the third(that in a sec)

#2. Went three straight games without a first serve going in at all. That's the other part of the service game I'm not proud of whatsoever. No consistency.

Now the bagel.

After losing that second set, I had an inner frustration. I don't lose those too often, and he got me this time. It was a reminder that this is a higher level now, and I can't play like that anymore. I just decided that I was either going to win big or lose big for the third set, and see what happened. I started going for more second serves(which is normally a tap over), went for every smash(which sometimes I'm skittish on), torqued every forehand and backhand, everything. I was trying to construct points, and basically playing a game that I'm nowhere near accustomed to at all.

WAY too many errors. I had a couple winners out of it, and a couple more aces, but that didn't make up for the errors at all. 6-0 in 18 minutes. I knew one of us was going to bagel. I either play lights out this way, and he doesn't get a point, or I bomb miserably. You know what happened.

I did this because I have to get it in my head to quit playing the old way. Losing that second set reminded me that this wasn't Kansas anymore. I can't just wear people into submission and hustle my way to wins. It's time to make this work, whether I bomb or succeed. Some people won't believe me, but who cares. I knew what I had to do, and what I have to do in the future.

So tomorrow morning, 9 AM, is consolation. Hopefully Sunday too. I hated losing, but I'd still love to go home with some hardware for some more momentum. I know the wins will come as time goes on. I just have to have patience.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ready for Conyers tournament

Yesterday was ALL tennis for me.

It started at 7 AM with a three mile run(beautiful morning too). The only frustration I have is that I feel like I'm stuck at three miles. I realize that in high school, I would suck wind at a couple blocks(running with the tennis team took every bit of mental will because I had to keep up and not quit), but I'm ready to keep moving up and building my stamina. If anyone has ideas, I'm open to them. After a few minutes rest, I worked on a stretching routine and abs. This routine is not easy to get used to because I always trained for pure strength and power, and now I have to train for quickness, stamina, speed, and fast twitch movements.

After breakfast(Robeks fit shake and wheat grass shot. Greatest place to go for all your training foods and drinks), I go on TT for a while, then get some business done with the trailer for "One Chance". After seeing the footage, I asked to redo the voiceover(With all the footage we have, the original VO doesn't fit it at all). Producer agreed, so I'll be meeting him at 3:00 today. Soon, it'll be finished, and a contact is going to set me up with a Comcast TV exec, so that's fun.

With all that finished, it was tennis time.

First, I went to my tennis center and used the ball machine for a while. The other night, on volley drills, I was airmailing a few of them, and it was all coming back to my old bad habits of simply using my wingspan to my advantage(No knee bend, racket head all out of wack). So I had a new method to work on(in other words, the correct one), and it was very unfamiliar for me. All of those years I did the wrong thing, it was still very successful for me. Problem was that there was only one place to direct the volley, which allows the opponent to set up his shot.

Knowing that I needed to get familiar with the correct method, all I worked on with the machine was volleys. Two hours straight. Backhand and forehand, which turned into mainly backhands because that's my weakness right now. It is so easy to revert back to the bad habits when they worked for you, but when I want to do that, I think about the chapter in Pete Sampras' book where his coach wanted him to do a one handed backhand, and he was getting crushed at first before he smoothed it out. I know it's going to take me a while to get used to a few things, but it'll be worth it in the end.

After that, I went back to drills again. This time, I was getting serious torque on my forehand, and was very happy with the results. The backhand? Not so much. My forehand wasn't too hard to correct, but my backhand had all kinds of issues, so it's easy at times to go back to bad habits. All in all, I improved on the backhand, but this is going to take a while. Better that I deal with my weaknesses now in a lower ranking than when I start moving up the ranks.

Overall, I'm very ready for the Conyers tournament. Getting second in the Kennworth tournament still eats me alive because that was a winnable final, and I'm ready to move ahead. I believe I can win this one and move forward to the next tournament.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starting from scratch.

In my last match, I really noticed some bad habits that I have accumulated for so many years. They were hard to notice when I was winning matches, and I was satisfied with my game. After playing higher level players, I noticed the flaws.

And I decided to start from scratch to improve those flaws.

I learned about a guy who has tennis drills for everyone from beginners to advanced players about four days a week, so at 11 AM today(Sunday), I went there for the first time.

There was six people in total, including the trainer. Three beginners and three advanced players. The three beginners were all female, and all had contrasting personalities. One dressed like she took Chris Evert's 1975 Wimbledon dress collection, one just put a pair of shorts and a T-Shirt on, and one was a good looking brazilian who made sure you noticed what she wore. I've seen many of those type of girls come and go, but at least this one took an interest in the game.

The trainer starts with volleys, and I was happy because I have accumulated so many bad habits on my volleys over the years. I know all of the techniques necessary for a good volley, but I always used my height and wingspan, and little to no knee bending. Well, I found out how NOT used to the correct method I was. First two times the trainer hit the ball to me, I volleyed in my old style out of instinct and placed them perfectly. Then when I realized what I was doing, I go for the proper technique and airmail the sucker to the back fence. I swung the racket too far in front of me.

After a couple more opportunities, it started to gel and I was even placing the ball where I wanted, which is something my old technique never allowed me to do. I was still coming up short on a couple, and even airmailed a couple more, but at least I had an idea what to work on.

Next was forehands and backhands. On the forehands, I didn't think I had too many problems. The majority of my winners are always crosscourt forehands. I knew that I sometimes have too many UEs on the forehand side, but that's part of the game, right?

Nope. I had some real good forehands, and a couple good rallies with the trainer, but I still hit a couple out. My mistake? I never follow through on the shot 100%, and I start the shot at way too high of an arc, which makes the shot low percentage. Once again, it was never perfect because it takes time to get out of bad habits, but I noticed more torque on my forehands, which was awesome.

Backhand? Other than a few winners I've had lately, that's been my weakest shot. It always feels like I'm playing desperation tennis when I hit the backhand, like I just want to keep it in play. My problem there(and I never realized this at all)? The grip. It almost looked like I had a western grip on my backhands, and the shot would go all over the place.

Finally, we start playing points, and I finally understood, for the first time, how even the best pros in the world can make mistakes against lesser opponents. I had a lot of errors, but also a lot more winners. I was what I hate the I played way too damned safe, and waited for others' mistakes. Easy when you play lesser opponents, but not good when you play great technical players.

As I get used to doing things correctly, I'll cut down on my errors. Right now though, I'm enjoying attacking instead of being on the defensive all the time. That's more of my real life personality anyway.

Now if only I can get a consistent second serve...

Addendum: The pilot is almost finished, and I should be able to link it in 7-10 days. Things are looking really good with this project.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Proof is in the pudding.

Yeah, I'm a masochist. I'm a glutton for punishment. I've heard it all.

So I'm going to prove this one more time. I decided that, besides the coaching and training, I am going to start recording myself on the court for all of you to see, one groundstroke, one serve, one smash, one volley at a time.

That means I do want your help also. I see people putting their videos up from time to time, and getting advice, and I want the same thing. Tell me what I'm doing wrong, tell me what I'm doing right, tell me what flaws you see, and how you'd fix them. If I'm going to continue to improve like I have, and not stall, I'm going to want all the help I can get.

The first one will be in a couple of days. I'll start out with the forehand and go from there.

Early thank you to all that will help.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I once was, and it wasn't pretty.

What I'm about to admit probably deserves a mock up of a twelve step program.

"Hi, my name is Jake, and I was once a backboard".


I don't think I would have admitted that a year ago. I didn't think of myself as one of those people. I played many of those people and they annoyed the hell out of me with all of those ridiculously high lobs. I guess I didn't think of myself as a backboard because I always had a solid enough shot, and my placement was pretty damned good(I have always been able to tell, 98% of the time, if the shot is going out or not. Always hits that back corner and causes errors).

But after playing the final in the Kennworth tournament, I saw what I once was, and never want to be again.

Tied at 2-2 in the final, my opponent(Igor Orlanov) and I had a REAL long rally. It lasted a couple of minutes, and it ended at 78 shots when I chased down a forehand in the corner and hit my own for a winner. In one case, it was fun to win that sucker. In another, I was kind of discouraged. With all of the progress I have made with my game over the last 18 months or so, I came to the sobering conclusion that I was that person I hated the most.

So now that I think about it, maybe losing 6-4 6-4 in the final probably isn't so bad after all, even if I would've loved the 150 points. Maybe it's the old me that lost, and that old me lost matches I never should have, even when he won matches he never should have in the first place.

To prove that point, I went to the park on Friday to shoot the final part of the trailer. Christoph and I even had a little match, and I did something that I believe put the old me to rest. Christoph serves this beautiful slice serve right to my forehand side. Instead of just getting the ball in like I did in the past, I zinged a beautiful forehand right down the line.

And with that, I believe I put the old me to rest.

RIP: Pusher Backboard. You wore out your welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Draws are out

Going into my second tournament, the Kennworth NTRP SummerSlam, I feel MUCH better than the last time. A diet change and a change to my routine helps also.

Found out that I got a bye in my first match, which is cool. Unlike last time, I have no idea who my opponent is this in the next match, other than his name is Angelo Zen. In a way, knowing my last opponent was a help, and a detriment at the same time. I knew Christoph Vogt well, and knew his strengths and weaknesses, but it might be better to not know my opponent this time. I won't over-think things.

I added a new thing to my diet this week...spinach. Met a customer at work(75 year old man who looks 55), who told me spinach is like a natural medicine. I put it in a couple of juices for the last couple of days, and it really works wonders. I don't feel the least bit congested anymore, and my body has more spring in its step. I'll get my workout in later, and I can't wait. Got new running shoes, and I want to see if I can push myself up to 3 miles today.

Later, I'm going to a couple tennis academies in Atlanta to gauge their interest in this project. So far, I have a new trainer(Christoph Vogt), and a producer(Anthony Nixon). What I need next is to find a tennis academy, and then find sponsors and a network. It's a process, but at least I have a couple pieces of the puzzle.

As I mentioned, we start shooting the trailer for "One Chance" this Saturday at 8 AM, an hour before the match, and I'll also start the video blog then too.