Lately, I've been studying a lot of tennis. I mean a LOT of tennis.
Praise the invention of YouTube.
I have studied men's and women's tennis, ATP and challengers tour, recent Wimbledon and French, and old school 70s and 80s matches. It's amazing to watch the differences in the game now.
But all of this has also shown the lack of attention a lot of people have these days when it comes to Tennis. Everything is made in pill form for an instant help, and everything is faster paced. Not to say that faster paced is bad(the pill form thing is, for sure), but there just aren't as many intelligent players anymore. The new rackets have a bigger head with a bigger sweet spot, so the pros of today can get in the habit of trying to outwhack the other(with certain exceptions of course).
Watching the days of the wood racket, it's a much different animal. The heads of a wood racket are the size of a walnut, and the sweet spot is even smaller. You really have to pay attention to your shots, and your placement, so the game is akin to a chess match(Which is why I switch to a wood racket in my matches when things are going bad. I'll elaborate in another blog). Maybe it is more "boring" compared to now(although that term is relative, especially with me), but the game had a certain intelligence it doesn't have too often now(again, with exceptions to the rule). I'd like to see future tennis players studying these old styles, but when a Nadal match gets 50,000 views and a McEnroe-Borg match from the Suntory Cup gets 150 views, it doesn't look like that'll happen anytime soon.
You can learn something from every generation. The newer generation is bigger, faster, and stronger than ever. When you watch a guy like Gael Monfils, you'd think he was cut from granite. He covers the court better than just about anyone, and he has an athleticism that you normally see on the basketball court. You look at the old days of John McEnroe, and his arms looked like a skinny teenager's. Even now, at 53, he's in better shape than he ever was before, and has built his body, knowing that this is a much different athletic world.
And this is the key to the game. Adaptation. If Mac, who said himself that he hated working out, and was pretty lazy when it came to the gym, can get himself in tip top shape and adapt to the new world, why can't today's newer players adapt to an older style?
Mind you, that's not me saying that we need to go back to the days of the wood racket, that'd be silly with all the advancements in exercise physiology. I'm just saying that tennis academies, who are making a killing off of teaching baseline to baseline tennis to prodigies that can learn so much more, could be better served by understanding how the old school played, and how it could benefit today's players with advanced equipment.
We can learn from everyone and everything. It's time our tennis proved that theory.