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Learning points from Indian Wells

Indian Wells Tennis
By: Simon Grieve

Learning Points from Indian Wells 2006
By Simon Grieve B.Sc. LTA Performance Coach and Procompare Co-founder

You can watch all the tennis you want on TV, but from a learning perspective it does not come close to watching matches from courtside.

Recently John and myself had the privilege of spending a week at Indian Wells watching the best players in the world train and compete. It was great to watch these athletes close up, the pace of the game was incredible and the effort levels of the players was intense.

Whilst on the homebound journey, I reflected on what I had learnt from the experience. I identified three main points none of which will not stun you, however, seeing it happen in real life really highlighted there importance to me. Below I have used photos to highlight the point, they say a picture is worth a thousand words and I think these photos are great.

Learning point 1.

The players are fantastic athletes. Because the game is played at such a fast pace, the modern player has to be able to execute effective shots from many different positions, off the back foot, front foot and in the air. Going forwards, sideways and backwards the players have to maintain fantastic dynamic balance, a feet that is achieved because they are strong, fast and flexible.
Federer backhand

Here Federer plays off of his back foot, notice how controlled his head and shoulders are. He has superb dynamic balance.

Davydenko forehand

Davydenko uses the force from his legs to really attack this ball. This ground reaction force springs him off the ground. He to shows great dynamic balance.

Henin-Hardenne has a fantastic backhand, just imagine how flexible she is in the shoulder to be able to perform this stroke.

Learning Point 2.

The pace the players hit the ball is unbelievable. One of the key fundamentals for hitting hard is driving the racket through the ball.

Blake backhand

Henin Forehand

Notice how Blake, Nadal and Henin-Hardenne have driven their racket through the ball. When the pros get in a good position they really 'tell' the ball where to go

Learning Point 3.

The top players 'walk the walk'. They look like they belong on the world's stage and exude confidence.
I watched Davydenko practice before his match with Andy Murray and really thought he would be far too overpowering in every category for Murray. Nevertheless, when Murray stepped on court he looked like he belonged there. He was not fazed by the situation and almost beat the world number five in three tough sets.
I know that genes play a part in developing our personalities, however, the environment also plays a huge role in who we are. If a junior has real aspirations of making it as a tennis professional I believe he/she has to be comfortable around the top players in their age group. They must feel like they belong with the best. Andy Murray competed against the best juniors in the world and trained with world class players at the training camp in Barcelona. He has the belief that he will be a top ten player. At the elite level players are equally matched, it therefore comes down to who has the nerve and he who believes he deserves to win the match, probably will.
Federer strikes the ball better than anyone who has ever played the game and unfortunately for his fellow pros he is also developing a mental belief that he can win every match. He 'walks the walk' and his record 'talks the talk'.

Federer forehand
Nevertheless, he is human and just like anyone you play has got weaknesses, somewhere. I thought I would put this picture up to show that even the great man can be put on the back foot sometimes.

I hope these points help you. I know that they have changed some parts of my coaching quite significantly, in particular the last point.

Good luck improving your game and/or coaching.

Best Wishes,


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