Friday, November 20, 2009

Today's Tennis: The Constants Amidst the Changes

We know about all the changes in today's modern "power and topspin" game, such as changes in rackets, strings, technology, and the rise of the baseline game, the decline of serve-and-volley, prevalence of western-type grips and 2 handed backhands, etc.

What are the "constants" or constant factors that have not changed? What has remained the same since the days of say Tilden and Budge, Gonzales and Laver, Ashe and Connors, McEnroe and Borg, Lendl and Edberg?

Since these constant factors have not changed, aren't they critical for people learning and improving their game to consider, take into account, and analyze?

Some CONSTANT FACTORS that come to mind are:
*Size and dimensions of the court
*Size and dimensions of the net
* The size and dimensions of the ball
*The laws of physics
*Principle of moving forward aggressively and cutting off angles
*The idea of watching and tracking the ball
*Fundamental strategies such as "always change a losing game", "never change a winning game", etc.
*The basics of the mental game (I think), such as building mental toughness, etc.
*Even the scoring system remains essentially unchanged

One argument of some observers, which is relevant here, is that there are also "fundamentals" or fundamental principles of good tennis that have remained the same and unchanged over time, through eras and players...

*consistency and control as your base or platform
*use of non-dominant arm and hand to help create balance and to space one's self from the ball
*footwork, posture and balance (keeping weight half and half between both legs and feet, staying low, etc.)
*small steps vs. large steps in moving towards the ball
*serve posture: serve and stretch, i.e. keeping the non-dominant arm up after the toss
*hitting the ball cleanly into the racket head's "sweet spot"
*tennis as a "game of errors" - last person to hit the ball inside the court wins the point
*sustained and dynamic energy followed by rest and recovery

Players and eras change, equipment and technology improve, and indeed the game itself advances. Yet there may also be some "constant" factors and and "fundamental" principles in tennis which do not change but endure...

Food for thought. 

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