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 most...safe. 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".

"HI JAKE"

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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shooting a trailer soon, and other tidbits

Well, it's official. I shoot the trailer for "One Chance" in a couple of days. The idea is to go online, worst case scenario, but we want to try to get this on TV first. That part might be a longshot at first, but you never know.

Anyway, there are other things to talk about.

I had a great trip to Destin, but was very very very disappointed that I didn't get any tennis time in whatsoever. I walked to the courts at Bayside and Tivoli a couple of times, and little to anyone was there(and I can't blame them, the heat was horrendous), and the one time I was invited to participate in drills, it unfortunately didn't work out. One thing did come out of it though.

I completely changed my diet on the trip.

Usually, I'm a very healthy eater, but will splurge on vacation. Not this time. Instead of burgers and fries on vacation, I consumed fish and veggies all trip, along with a boatload of bananas, and a lot of water. Because of that, I didn't wake up with a twinge in my back that I have to stretch every single morning. Diet does make a difference. Anyway, I get back into town and go to my local Whole Foods. I'm laying off the red meat, bought a lot of fish and chicken, and upped my protein intake. Plus working at a health food and smoothie place helps, as I have been able to take my wheat grass daily, along with a new juicing routine.

One great thing about a new place I moved into is that it has a built in pull up bar from the previous owner, so I've been doing pull-ups like crazy right now. I also weighed the other day, and I'm at 201 again after dropping to 182 from my food poisoning. 210 is my optimal weight for my height, so I'll continue what I'm doing. I've also gotten myself up to 2.5 miles a day running, so it's all starting to work.

The Kennworth tournament I'm in starts this Friday, but my draw will probably be Saturday morning. We're shooting the trailer from there, so I'll probably do some video blogs from the location. I'll know who my opponent is tonight, so that works.

Again, thank you to everyone for reading, whether you believe in this crazy thing or not. We're all entitled to our opinions, but there haven't been any overly mean folks on here, and most of you have just given your opinion. I appreciate it, and all your tips, very much.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The A-Level lesson of a lifetime

For any of you reading this that don't know, I'll repeat a statement I said about 10 days ago.

I said that Donald Young made a ton of his own mistakes, and that most anyone could get a couple of games off of him based off his own errors. I've been torn apart over that one, but I refused to back off till I was proven wrong.

I got that lesson tonight. A 6-0 7-5 lesson.

My match with the athlete, Eric, was canceled, so I went in the directory of our tennis center to see if I could get anyone. I called about four people, and one guy, Bill, answered the phone.

He said he'd play about 6:00 tonight, since it was ridiculously hot all day. We get there and it's still insanely hot(94 on the court), but we'd go on and play. In warmups, I noticed he hit such a beautiful ball, but I didn't think much about it because my opponent yesterday hit such a beautiful ball too, and I beat him.

His serve really didn't have a lot of power, but it had a crazy kick, so I couldn't really direct it at all. It'd come right to him. No matter, I thought I'd just run everything down like I always do.

*BZZZZZZZZZT* WRONG! I'd catch up to it all right, but he was right there and he didn't make one mistake. Game after game. Soon enough, he had me 6-0 in 28 minutes.

I was absolutely flabbergasted. I could not believe a guy that's like 18 years old than I was controlled me like a marionette doll. He made probably 4 errors all match. Did not have a clue what was going on. I asked the guy what level he played.

"Oh I'm Low A level, but dropped to B5 because of my knees"(Basically, the equivalent of a 5.0/5.5

Well, that explained the complete domination.

There was one good thing that came out of it. We had another set.

He forced me to change my game up completely. I've been so used to directing the flow and the pace of the match, and he was doing it to me. Now I had to go for winners.

Remember in my last blog where I said I was going to switch to a two hander because my one hand technique was all over the place?

BZZZZZZT! That didn't happen either.

Very first point of the second set, I nail a backhand winner right down the line. Been a month of Sundays since I've done that. Soon enough, I had four backhand winners, both down the line and crosscourt. This had been my weakness forever in a day, and that first set forced me to say "screw it, nothing to lose". My forehand was really coming alive too. I had eleven winners in the second set, and four from my backhand.

We're trading service games in the second set till he goes up 6-5. Alas, when you go for the winners, you take more risks, and I had three errors that service game. It was over after that. 7-5 in the second.

Everything is new for me in this crazy venture. My fitness regimen has had to change, my way of playing has had to change, and now my opponents have had to change. The 6-0 6-1 match with Christoph in the tournament  didn't even change my way of playing because I know that guy and I will have some classics in the future.

This guy forced me out of my comfort zone, then he made me take chances tonight. For that, I'm thankful.

The Kennworth tournament in Acworth, GA is in ten days, and I believe my chances are fifty times better right now than before this match tonight. I have real confidence in my strokes right now(although I cannot wait till I get a coach to smooth out the wrinkles).

Oh, and about Donald Young? I got my taste of crow for tonight. If a fifty year old A level is doing that to me, what would he do? I've always told people that it takes a "proof in the pudding" lesson for me to eat crow, and I got that. Now time to work on my game.

Onto Destin, FL. Lots of good tennis there.

Some updates

Hey folks, been a few days since I have written, other than the board. Keeping myself busy.

Here's a few updates.

In the middle of all the tennis, I have also been moving to another house. It's been a grind, but it keeps me busy. One good thing is that I have a couple new roommates, and one of them is a friend of mine that is training hard for his own venture, so now I have a training partner. Even better, he's not training for a lot of bulk, so our programs will be about the same. I'm motivated on my own, but he's REALLY motivated, so this will only help me.

As I reported on the board, I am going to start doing video blogs on my progress. It'll be training and technique, but I'll also do updates from my tournaments when it's feasible.

Today, I meet with a producer about shooting the pilot for this show. I'm hoping I can generate a little bite from someone, but if not, it's going online. That's not an insult like it used to be because internet is becoming the new television anyway. Wish me well.

Yesterday, I really got a reality check in how much work I'll have to do, even when I do win. I played this one high school player named Sam, who isn't really a college potential player(other than if he decided to walk on), but he has a nice game. Beautiful beautiful groundstrokes, and he really covers the court well(the kid really hustles, and is a really hard worker). He took an immediate 2-0 lead with a combination of impressive play, and my slow start. I calmed down and ended up taking 6 of the next 7 games to win 6-3, which was because of my calming down and playing my game, and his frustrations overwhelming him.

One thing I did notice though was that I have some really bad habits that I never noticed before, and they came out in those two games. I have already admitted that I've always had bad habits on my volleys, but comparing all my strokes to this kid's showed that it was more than just the volleys. On my first backhand attempt, I completely framed it, and noticed that my elbow was pointing in a severe 45 degree angle. When I framed a forehand attempt earlier, I noticed that I was doing a half swing at times. On both instances, I probably never noticed that too often because I'm that guy who always gets the ball over the net, and I set up my opponents well. This time, I really noticed after being down 2-0 immediately, and watching this kid hit such a beautiful ball.

The forehand I can easily remedy, but I decided that I'm making a switch to a two handed backhand instead of the one hander I've had for so long. In the past 18 months, I've noticed that I RARELY get a backhand winner unless it's a volley, and all my winners are on the forehand side. I want to start getting winners on all sides, so I'm going to see if I can generate more power and control with a two hander. It won't be an easy transition because I've been a one hander since I started(and that I've only used two hands in "desperate" situations when someone hits it into my body, and I have to force a shot), but I think it's going to help my game big time.

I'm back on the court today. Playing a guy named Eric, who was a good high school basketball player and decided to get into tennis a couple years ago. I've already beaten him 1 and 2 before, but he's a sick sick athlete, and you cannot get anything past him. This'll probably be a better match today. Eventually, I'm calling Christoph Vogt back for a rematch(the guy that wiped me out in the tournament). I know(and he knows) that it wasn't an 0 and 1 match, and we're set to have a classic this time.