Tennis is a sport that keeps trying to gain a bigger audience, and yet stills has its peaks and valleys of popularity. The Williams sisters brought a burst of excitement to the game of tennis, but now they are moving into other ventures along with enduring a string of injuries. Andy Roddick was hyped as the new breed of American tennis, and yet despite a U.S. Open championship, he has not yet moved to the next level of play. American fans are fickle and without apparent steady winners, tennis is currently not a featured sport. However, tennis is an inexpensive sport to play as an amateur. Improvements in the sport’s gear, new fitness programs such as cardio tennis, as well as slow expansion of the Tennis Channel on cable should keep tennis in the public mindset. As new players develop, the sport of tennis will not decline. Let us take a look at various aspects of tennis and serve up an ace for its future.
Cardio tennis is a relatively new program for anyone who can pick up a racquet. It is designed as a cardiovascular workout that happens to use tennis skills. Unlike a regular tennis drill session, which emphasizes net play and ball control, the cardio tennis workout includes warm-up, cardio efforts (hitting and running), and cool down. The key is to keep moving and enjoy a group activity. No doubt, the added footwork and ball hitting will improve a player’s stamina. You can check www.cardiotennis.com to find a site in your area offering this new, exciting workout program.
Tennis is a sport that does not require special clothing. You can show up at a public park in an old t-shirt, shorts, and athletic shoes and you are ready to play. However, you can make a fashion statement if you wish. The designer, Stella McCartney (yes, it is Paul’s daughter), has come out with a spring line of tennis togs for Adidas. You can branch out from all Wimbledon white. In regards to shoes, you might want to purchase some of the newer lighter designs by Adidas, Fila, K-Swiss, New Balance, Nike, or Prince. Footwear can make a difference in your game. Lightweight and yet firm enough to hold the ankle steady, comfortable tennis shoes will help your speed and agility. If you are on a budget, spend your money on a good pair of shoes. As you move swiftly about the court, no one will see the rest of your outfit.
The old wooden racquet or a piece that looks like a snowshoe could earn you points on the court as your opponents double over with laughter. Like any sport, you can play cheap, but there is a difference in equipment. When buying a racquet, consider the weight of the racquet. Heavier racquets can offer better stability. Look at control and pop when considering a racquet. Beginners and intermediate players need a medium weight racquet for maneuverability. Your goal is to develop control and technically correct strokes. Power is not everything in the game of tennis. Again, look at Andy Roddick versus Roger Federer. Roger out finesses Andy with his racquet control, planning, and set-up. Andy’s power just sets up the pace for Roger to deflect and win the points. He makes it look too easy, but he does teach a lesson. Keep with basics, practice and practice more, and finally control will ultimately win over power.
The Australian Open in the beginning of this year set the stage for the year ahead. Roger Federer (Switzerland) was the men’s champion, and Amelie Mauresmo (France) won the ladies title. For American men, key questions are whether Andre Agassi can return from back injuries, if Andy Roddick can get his game under control, can James Blake live up to his potential after his return from surgeries, and are there any new fellows waiting in the wings? On the American ladies side, Lindsey Davenport has shown indications of being on a farewell tour. The Williams sisters have been sporadic in play. The main excitement in ladies tennis is the strength of the Russians (Maria Sharapova), the Belgians (Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne), and the return of a former champion – Martina Hingis (Switzerland).
According to USTA/Tennis magazine (March/April 2006), there are some rising U.S. stars to watch. Scoville Jenkins, of Atlanta, is a right-handed junior champion who took Rafael Nadal to three sets in the 2005 U.S. Open second round. He has a big game and is exceptionally fit. Jessica Kirkland, of Miami, made it to the first round of the 2004 U.S. Open, and has done well in other big stops on the pro-circuit tour. Her forehand and serve are two tools she has to continue her tennis growth. Bobby Reynolds, Phillip Simmonds, Alex Kuznetsov, and Todd Widom are all young American men who have been winning titles and making the older pros work for their money. All of these young men have had solid training and coaching and are names to watch. Vania King and Alexa Glatch are just two young ladies who are moving up in the rankings – demonstrating clean strokes and good form, along with some victories.
The USTA promotes tennis in schools and public park facilities in all regions. They are promoting the growth of corporate team tennis. The month of May is a huge promotional month for the game of tennis. Many clubs and facilities offer a round of free lessons to entice the winter couch potatoes to get up, run around, and hit some balls. For many, the free lesson brings back memories of hitting tennis balls in the park, and allows folks to pick up the game again. Tennis can be played at all ages and levels. Tennis pros will evaluate players and put them in the proper team or fitness groupings. The goal is to have fun and improve one’s game. Practice and drills concerning footwork, ball control, and nuances of the game can only help the level of one’s game.
The game of tennis can bring together families and friends, or enable one to make new friends. Dust off the old racquet, enjoy the hiss from opening a new can of balls, and start moving around the court. You might surprise yourself just hitting against a backboard. Watch the French Open in June and imitate the “dirtballers” as they slide on the red clay. Or eat strawberries and cream while watching Wimbledon in July. Finally, crank up the noise as you join the thousands from Arthur Ashe Stadium for the biggest Grand Slam event – the U.S. Open in late August. You can pick up pointers from watching the slam events or the Tennis Channel, but make sure you do turn off the television and actually get outside to re-enact a swinging volley, an ace down the middle, or a two handed backhand. Tennis was the sport of kings, and you, too, can feel the power and satisfaction of a solid hit. You are the future of tennis.