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Tennis tales from the only guy the coach couldn’t beat

My Dad loved tennis and gave me excellent private lessons. The skills and techniques he taught me were a great foundation.

Tennis is a very fast-moving strategy and technique game that I was uniquely well suited for. In a graduating class of 1,000 and a school of almost 3,000 students, I was not only among the smallest boys there, I was the third best tennis player in the school … including the tennis coach in that pool.

Among the more important bits in tennis are hitting the ball where your opponent is not, making it as difficult as possible for him to return the ball, striving to keep him off balance, doing the unexpected… an undercut short shot just over the net with lots of backspin was always a nice put to throw in once in a while… catch him anticipating in one direction and shooting for the other corner was always good … running him from side to side was an obvious technique… essentially using your brains to make the most of your physical skillset IS TENNIS.

I wish all the time I spent being better than average at team stick-and-ball games had been with tennis instead. It would have served me much better in later life where getting two full-sized baseball or basketball teams together and playing at the same level is nearly impossible while finding a compatible tennis partner is relatively easy.

My Dad set that example by creating the Santa Rosa Tennis Club out of thin air and building a tennis ladder system where compatible players could easily and conveniently find each other in the community.

I now have the exact same make and model tennis racket I learned on and used in high school. Obviously it does not have the huge well-sprung area (sweet spot) of modern rackets and the wooden clubs weigh A BUNCH more than aluminum and titanium over the counter rackets.

That forces the player to concentrate more in order to hit the ball in the exact center (sweet spot) every time, and time the swing more carefully as they cannot ‘snap shot’ in short, quick strokes like those with light rackets can.

The reward comes when the old-school racket meets the ball. Its inertia delivers more of the power the player put into the well-timed swing. It also develops superior technique and focus in the player as they master the physical requirements of playing with a good wooden racket.

I notice in my video that I automatically ‘choke-up on the racket handle. That, obviously, was how a small 90-pounder had to work with a racket built for a full-sized six-foot man. A leverage and power handicap that did not seem to hurt me much.