New York Tennis Magazine January - February 2020

Page 1 • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


nytennis New York Tennis Magazine


New York Tennis Magazine 1220 Wantagh Avenue • Wantagh, NY 11793-2202 Phone: (516) 409-4444 • Fax: (516) 409-4600 Web site:

Table Of Contents

Kyrgios Ready to Take New York By Brian Coleman

Staff David Sickmen Publisher (516) 409-4444, ext. 309 • Joel M. Berman President (516) 409-4444, ext. 310 • Eric C. Peck Editor-in-Chief (516) 409-4444, ext. 312 • Brian Coleman Senior Editor (516) 409-4444, ext. 326 • Joey Arendt Managing Art Director Francine Miller Advertising Coordinator (516) 409-4444, ext. 301 • Emilie Katz Assistant Marketing Coordinator Scott Koondel VP of Operations (516) 409-4444, ext. 324 Sidney Beal III Staff Photographer

JAN/FEB 2020 • Vol 10, No 1

Lee Seidner Staff Photographer

Advertising To receive any information regarding advertising rates, deadlines, and requirements, call (516) 409-4444 or e-mail Article Submissions/Press Releases To submit any material, including articles and press releases, please call (516) 409-4444 or e-mail The deadline for submissions is the first of the month preceding the target issue. Subscriptions To receive subscription information, contact (516) 409-4444 or e-mail or check out our Web site: Fax subscription changes to (516) 409-1600. Statements of fact and opinion in New York Tennis Magazine are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of United Sports Publications Ltd. New York Tennis Magazine reserves the right to edit, reject and/or postpone the publication of any articles, information or data.

Australian star Nick Kyrgios arrives in New York for his New York Open debut See page 14

Photo credit: Brian Coleman

Highlights 6 8 18 23 24 40

Beyond the Baseline: MatchPoint NYC By Brian Coleman New York Tennis Expo Returns Bigger and Better in 2020 2020 New York Open Preview Junior Player Spotlight: Claire An By Brian Coleman USTA-U, CUNY Launch New Program to Grow Tennis Professionals New York City Girl’s High School Recap

Features 4 10 12 13 26 29 30 34 36 39 42 44 47 48 50 54 56 58 59 60 62 63 64

Across Metro New York … News and Notes From Across the New York Metro Tennis Community Team Tennis Shines at Annual Turkey Bowl Metro Corporate Tennis League Recap The Jensen Zone: Looking Ahead to the 2020 Season By Luke Jensen USTA Metro Region Update NYJTL Hosts Annual Leadership Luncheon Improving Through Experience By John Curtis Elasticity and the Modern Spanish Forehand By Chris Lewit How to Get the Most Out of Your Tournament Experience By Geoffrey Jagdfeld Absorbing and Redirecting Pace By Lawrence Kleger The Tennis Guru … Chapter One: In The Beginning By Dr. Tom Ferraro A Look Back at the Year That Was 2019 By Emilie Katz The Tennis Mindset By Rohan Goetzke Court Six: New York Tennis Magazine’s Gossip Column By Emilie Katz Ten Things to Watch at the 2020 Australian Open By Brian Coleman & Robbie Werdiger The Complicated Issue of Parents Coaching Their Kids By Gilad Bloom Mastering the Mind: Mindfulness at 125 MPH By Rob Polishook My Philosophy On Coaching High Performance Juniors By Ahsha Rolle Great Athletes, Teams Must Have a Relentless Hunger to Become Their Very Best By Xavier Luna Serve and Volley for Women: Why Not? By Lisa Dodson The Talk By Barbara Wyatt USTA Eastern Hosts 33rd Annual College Showcase By Brian Coleman Anticipating Your Opponent’s Shot By Mike Puc

New York Tennis Magazine is published bi-monthly by United Sports Publications Ltd. • Copyright © 2020 United Sports Publications Ltd.




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Across Metro Ne Reyniak Captures Multiple Titles Matias Reyniak, who trains in the Gilad Bloom Tennis program, has compiled a very successful fall and winter season. Reyniak has taken multiple Youth Progression titles, including Level 1 Green Ball championships in East Setauket, Glen Head and Fresh Meadows.

Beacon Wins Mayor’s Cup at Cary Leeds

The Beacon girls’ tennis team captured the NYJTL Mayor’s Cup Varsity Girls Championship at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning. Beacon defeated Horace Mann in the semifinals before advancing to defeat Nightingale in the finals.


McGinley Wins National Showcase Championships Centercourt Performance Tennis Academy player Caroline McGinley took home the title at the L1 Reis Tennis Center Autumn National Showcase Championships at Cornell University. McGinley won the Girls’ 16 Division, and defeated the second, third and fourth seeds en route to the title.

MatchPoint Hosts Annual QuickStart Tournament

MatchPoint NYC continues to put on in-house QuickStart tournaments for the younger players in its program. Valerie Sizova won the girls’ title while Tyler Aibinder was the victor in the boys division.

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

New York

… News and notes from across the New York Metro tennis community

Batra Wins Westfield Pre-Holiday Rumble

Israel Tennis Center Hosts Fundraiser Dinner

Chris Lewit Tennis Academy player Ian Batra took home the title at the L1B Westfield Pre-Holiday Rumble in the Boys’ 12s division. Batra, the tournament’s top-seed, did not drop a set on his way to the championship, including a 6-4, 6-2 victory in the finals.

Steffi Yakoff Wins Orange Bowl Steffi Yakoff powered her way to a title at the 58th Junior Orange Bowl Championships. Yakoff, who trains at CourtSense Training Center, captured the Girls’ 14 title in dominant fashion, winning all of her matches in straight sets including a 6-2, 6-3 win over top-seed Kayla Cross in the finals.

The Israel Tennis & Education Centers Foundation hosted its annual Gala at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan. The event featured a Night on Jaffa Road theme, and featured an Israeli spice market and street food, live music, a juggler and much more. In all, the event raised more than $265,000 which will go towards scholarships to support 265 children at risk across the Israel Tennis & Education Center’s 14 locations.

Bart Selected to Represent Team USA Aidan Bart, who is a member of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s Elite Program, was tapped to represent Team USA against Team Canada in a tournament taking place at the NTC later this fall. Bart is currently ranked inside the Top 30 in the USTA Boys 12s National Rankings • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


beyond the



MatchPoint NYC By Brian Coleman

early 30 years ago, Nino Muhatasov came to the United States from Ukraine, a former Soviet Union Republic, where he was a member of the country’s National Tennis Team as a junior. Muhatasov arrived in Coney Island, the southernmost part of Brooklyn which has a large Russian-speaking population. Muhatasov, along with other players Max Mirnyi, Vladimir Volchkov and Tatiana Poutchek, competed in toplevel junior tournaments in America to pursue their dream of turning Pro. They trained at the Brooklyn Racquet Club under the supervision of Alex Demidenko and Sergey Leonyuk before moving on to the next step in their respective careers. He would go on to enjoy a fantastic career for St. John’s, primarily playing in the first singles spot and serving as team captain. After graduating, Muhatasov remained at St. John’s and earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration. “I ended up staying and getting recruited to play at St. John’s University,” Muhatasov recalls. “In my four years at St. John’s, we went to the



Big East Conference Finals in 1995 and I was named Most Valuable Player in 1995 and 1997.” “Even though I had job offers in the business world, I decided to pursue a coaching career right after college to see where it would take me,” he said. “I told myself I could always return to the Dmitry Druzhinsky, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Leroy Adams and business world if Nino Muhatasov tennis coaching doesn’t work out.” she climbed into the Top 20 in WTA A few years later, Muhatasov became Singles ranking and captured a Doubles the Director of Tennis at Hempstead Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Lake Indoor Club on Long Island, and With his business education and developed a very successful junior wealth of coaching experience, the final development program, which guided step in Muhatasov’s plan was to build many of his students to win Super and run his own club. He came up with National titles. a business plan and partnered with He continued to climb the coaching ladder and, in 2007, signed a contract to Brooklyn developer and a friend of his, Dmitry Druzhinsky. Together, they began coach Alona Bondarenko, a fellow searching for an ideal spot to open up Ukrainian who was competing on the their own facility. WTA Tour. From 2007 to 2008, “After coaching high performance Muhatasov traveled with Bondarenko as

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

juniors, and then on the WTA Pro Tour, I decided it was time to build a club and run it the right way, while implementing my vision of a community destination,” he said. “And that’s how the idea of starting a club came about.” Coincidentally, the Brooklyn Racquet Club’s land became available in 2010, so Muhatasov and Druzhinsky successfully secured the land that they would use to build a multi-sport facility. After a long process working with many of the city’s agencies, the first MatchPoint NYC facility opened up on Shell Road in Coney Island in January 2014. It stands on the same plot of land that Muhatasov first played on when he arrived in the United States. “Once I understood that tennis is my passion, I set a goal for myself to coach at the highest level and then move into a different part of the tennis business,” said Muhatasov. “I always had that goal. I just imagined building a brand-new club where everything started for me in America.” It was Muhatasov and Druzhinsky’s vision to build a facility that housed multiple sports and contained a familylike atmosphere. “My whole idea from the beginning was to make sure we weren’t just a tennis club,” he said. “After the experience of running one, I realized I wanted mine to resemble an indoor country club, where the kids can come after school, play sports, hang out, do their homework, eat healthy food, and become a place where they grow up. I didn’t want it to be a place where they come, take a lesson and leave.” Soon after the first MatchPoint NYC facility opened up, a second club was launched in Mill Basin. It originally had six tennis courts and a spacious gym with bay views. A decision was made to put in a soccer field over two of the courts and add a restaurant area, to create more of a family-like atmosphere. The MatchPoint NYC facilities offer tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, soccer and, most recently, added fencing to its offerings. At the end of 2019, the MatchPoint NYC brand spread to a third facility, this time in Bensonhurst.

“The original club in Bensonhurst was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy nearly seven years ago. When we won the concession from the city to rebuild it, we knew that we would stay true to our motto of building multisports facilities.” said Muhatasov. “The brandnew club offers tennis, soccer, fencing, plus an indoor/outdoor restaurant.” The Bensonhurst project was completed in partnership with New York City Parks, and while MatchPoint NYC is a private club, during The newest MatchPoint NYC location opened up towards the end of the spring and summer 2019 in Bensonhurst months the courts will be available to any NYC brand has helped create person with a New York City parks opportunities for a lot of aspiring athletes permit. throughout Brooklyn, and the greater “We are hoping to grow and diversify New York City area. That is just what the game of tennis in New York,” said Muhatasov. “We will be running programs Muhatasov envisioned when he decided for underprivileged kids, and giving more to go down this path. He used his vast experience as a player, coach, and opportunities to those who may not businessman to foster a culture that puts otherwise be able to afford to play the customers first. That is evident when tennis.” you visit one of his facilities and see how Each of the three MatchPoint NYC clubs operate within the MatchPoint NYC he interacts with the members there. “We have thousands of kids, but I make philosophy, which sure I’m visible and each one of them Muhatasov explains: “While the goals knows that I’m here to talk if they need to,” of all parents and kids are different, I he said. “Even though we’ve become believe there is a common denominator among all of them, and that is for all kids bigger and bigger, I don’t want to lose the to reach their full potential. Some parents family atmosphere that we’ve created. I want to make sure the kids and parents and kids want to play at a high level and know that my door is always open.” go to college, or even turn professional. MatchPoint NYC is not finished Others want to play just to have fun and growing. In fact, they are in negotiations learn a new sport. Our goals when to potentially open up clubs in Kiev, the creating these facilities were to provide hometown of Muhatasov and Druzhinsky, individual attention to each participating child to help them become their best self. and even in Moscow. They will continue to look for new ways to use tennis, and We want kids to stay off the streets and sports in general, to make a positive their phones as much as possible. We impact. want to be sure kids are communicating with each other, and sports are a great Brian Coleman is senior editor for New way for them to be able to meet new York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached people and make new friends.” Over the last five years, the MatchPoint by e-mail at • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


New York Tennis Expo Returns Bigger and Better in 2020 The country’s largest tennis expo returns to Long Island this winter, as the 2020 New York Tennis Expo arrives at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Last year’s Expo drew a record crowd of more than 5,200 people, and the sixth New York Tennis Expo promises to be the biggest yet. This year’s free Expo will be held on Sunday, Feb. 9, which will give attendees the opportunity to watch free professional tennis as the New York Open’s qualifying tournament begins on the same day. With ATP Tour players on-site throughout the day, attendees will also have the opportunity to get autographs from a number of different players doing signings, as well as take part in the tournament’s Draw Ceremony. The Expo Hall will be filled with more than 70 exhibitors, where guests can try new products, learn about clubs/programs and enjoy games and activities for the whole family. “We are proud to be kicking off year three of the New York Open. More than 5,000 people came out to enjoy the 2019 New York Tennis Expo back in February, and Long Island and New York Tennis Magazines are excited to announce the return of this one-of-a-kind event,” said Publisher David Sickmen. “This free event provides unparalleled exposure and branding opportunities for companies who want to promote their programs, products, services, etc. to a diverse audience in a fun environment. For local families, it is a perfect way to spend the day as there is fun for everyone both on and off the court. Now in our third year at NYCB LIVE, we are excited to continue building off of the success and bring the public an even better New York Tennis Expo in 2020.” 8

Once again, there will be games and activities as we will have something for the whole family. The Kids Zone will feature a bounce house, face-painting, photo booth and other games, while the Activity Zone will have a Beach Tennis Court, two tennis courts and a speed serve booth, as well as non-tennis activities such as mechanical bull riding, a hockey slapshot booth, basketball pop-a-shot, football toss and more. Guests will get to learn from some of the top coaches in the industry who, joined by ATP Tour players, will speak on two different seminars about a wide array of topics ranging from the junior level to the professional ranks. The panels are interactive and will be led by legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, and audience members will have the chance to ask questions and pick the brains of these tennis experts. There will be entertainment all-day long with a DJ, live band and mascots from local professional teams. The food court will be open so guests can purchase food and drinks throughout the day. The 2020 New York Tennis Expo is a can’tmiss event for anyone looking for a great way to spend their Sunday. It’s completely free to attend, and with something to do for everyone in the family, make sure to join us on Sunday, Feb. 9 from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To pre-register and receive free tickets and parking, visit For more information on the event, visit, e-mail or call (516) 409-4444.

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Sunday February 9 2020 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

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Sessions to Feature ATP Tour Players and Top Industry Coaches I Watch FREE Professional Tennis I Meet and get autographs from ATP Stars I Take part in the New York Open Draw Ceremony I Chances to Win Tickets to the New York Open

ACTIVITIES INCLUDE: I Indoor Activity Zone Featuring N Speed Serve Booth N Tennis Clinics N Beach Tennis N Photo Booth N Basketball/Hockey/Lacrosse Shootout Games I Kid Zone Featuring N Face Painting N Bouncy House N Mascots

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Compliments of

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For FREE tickets and parking register at For more information, contact: • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine 516-409-4444


Team Tennis Shines at Annual Turkey Bowl

The fourth annual Turkey Bowl by USTA Eastern brought together top young players from various tennis clubs and programs throughout the Metro-area for an exciting team competition. “This marks the fourth year of the Turkey Bowl. It started four years ago in the Metro region at Cunningham Tennis and has kept growing since,” said Gustavo Loza, Manager of Youth Programs for USTA Eastern. “This year we had 14 different 10U clubs and providers and two different divisions. For many players, this is their first team experience, and this year we even had layers competing in their first tournament ever, so it is very important for us that they have a positive experience and to continue to create team events that they are excited to play in.” The Turkey Bowl was played over two 10

days featuring multiple divisions: 10U Green Ball and 10U Orange Bowl. In the Green Ball Division, the team from West Side Tennis Club came out victorious, while the team from MatchPoint NYC captured the win in the Orange Ball Division. These events are played in the style of World TeamTennis, with different flights featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles competitions. The team events have become an important component of the USTA’s youth development in recent years. “Team events are a lot of fun and are extremely helpful in a player’s development, particularly at a young age,” added Loza. “They are fun because you can be with your friends, you are competing, and you have oncourt feedback and support from your

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

coach and teammates. Plus, you get to work on important character skills such as teamwork, respect and patience.” The Turkey Bowl is just one of the many events USTA Eastern put together to give young players more rewarding opportunities to play and develop, and the organization plans to continue to produce more of these types of events as we head into the new decade. “We continue to receive postitive feedback from kids, parents and coaches with these types of events,” said Loza. “USTA Eastern is constantly trying to enhance players’ experiences through new events that are beneficial for their development as players and as kids. For 2020, we have five team events planned for the 10U Green Ball age group, and several 10U Orange Ball leagues throughout the section.” • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Metro Corporate League Closes Out 2019 Season

Bloomberg once again captured the title in the Metro Corporate League’s Advanced Division

The Metro Corporate League waved goodbye to 2019 with its seasonal end-of-year parties and finals to bring the Fall 2019 campaign to a close at Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. In the Advanced Division, the team from Bloomberg continued its reign atop the division, and defeated Credit Agricole to hoist the trophy. “We’ve had a very consistent team in terms of its members and people being passionate about not only participating, but also winning,” said Bloomberg captain Vighnesh Venkatesan. “And the more people play together, the better they do in doubles and mixed doubles, which in most cases is the deal breaker. The final was tied until we started the mixed doubles, and then we aced them.” In the Advanced Intermediate Division, the Morgan Stanley 12

The team from Morgan Stanley hoists the trophy after winning the Advanced Intermediate Division

team beat the squad from Neuberger Berman to secure the championship, while the Corcoran Group captured the title in the Intermediate Division by defeating D.E. Shaw & Co. The end-of-season parties bring together the top teams from each division for a night of competitive tennis as well as good food and drinks. The next season, the Winter League, begins in late January, and you can contact luis@metrotennis for more information on the league and how to sign-up. “The corporate league is a great way to play tennis, and also provides for a social gathering across different companies which is not easy to get otherwise,” said Venkatesan. “It’s conveniently timed after work on weekdays as well. The end of season party is like icing on the cake, and it feels even better if you win the giant trophy.”

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

Looking Ahead to the 2020 Season By Luke Jensen

tennis shoes and feel the sunshine. My heart will always be drawn to a place my An intriguing year on brother Murphy and I called tennis home for many years, Sea Island Resort. It’s just tour for sure heaven on Earth and the perfect getaway. I’m looking forward to a “Rock-n-Roll Tennis” start A lot of my club members have been flocking to travel out to the BNP Paribas to 2020. The year kicks off with the Aussie Open, Open in Indian Wells, Calif., or to Boca Raton, Fla. to attend the Miami Open. To and with so many new events like the Laver Cup and the new Davis Cup format, me, the winning formula is play and P-L-AY while watching world-class tennis. I cannot wait for another great year of tennis. The sport has fresh faces emerging My winter tennis tip on the scene to add to the intrigue of I will leave you with the tennis tip of the watching Roger Federer, Serena and winter. The overhead is an extremely Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal and Novak important shot when looking to close out a Djokovic. point at the net. It is one of the most critical The 2020 farewell tour of the Bryan shots, but one that is not focused on Brothers will be bittersweet for me to enough during practice sessions. Most watch because, to me, they approached players hate playing lobbers because they the game the right way. Fun was always have bad overheads. If you have a great the number one priority when they overhead, you look forward to playing the competed, and boy did that work! moon baller! Having a great overhead is A massive salute to all the league about eliminating the full swing like you’d team winners and participants Adult leagues have really become the bedrock of the tennis energy here in New York. The club where I swing my racket is the historic West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, and we have all kinds of leagues competing year-long. In the winter time, my junior program ends at 8:00 p.m. with those rock stars sweeping and lining the courts for the league players about to compete after them. I marvel at how the players are so locked in and focused as if they were walking into the final of a Grand Slam. I wish them luck, but most of the time, they can’t hear me with the pregame music blaring in their headphones. It’s also that time of year to pack up the sticks and hit the road to an awesome tennis destination. Get some sand in those

have in your service motion. Cut out the big windup and simplify the motion by taking the racket directly to your shoulder in the trophy position. This helps with the quick timing and precision that goes into hitting a great overhead. If you see your opponent taking a full swing at their overheads in the warm-up, lob them! Trust me, you will win tons of points because of it. Until next time … GET YOUR RACKET STRUNG! Raised in Ludington, Mich., Luke Jensen’s resume includes 10 ATP Tour doubles titles. He was also a member of the U.S. Davis Cup teams that reached the finals in 1991 and won in 1992. His ambidextrous play, including his ability to serve the ball with either hand at 130 mph, earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke.” Luke is currently director of racket sports at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. He may be reached by phone at (315) 4030752 or e-mail • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Kyrgios Ready to Take New York Australian star set to hit the New York Open’s black courts By Brian Coleman

ick Kyrgios approached the microphone for his postmatch interview with tears in his eyes. The Canberra, Australia native had just completed a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in an opening round match at the ATP Cup in Brisbane, Australia, but had other, more pressing issues on his mind. “First match of the year is always going to be tough. To be honest, I was actually pretty happy with my performance. Obviously, I served well in crucial moments,” Kyrgios said before elaborating on a more important issue. “Just seeing my hometown almost being on the alert and having, like, just the worst air quality in the world literally at the moment. It’s just sad to see and it’s just tough. It’s tough to go out there and concentrate on tennis, to be honest. Every ace I was hitting, that’s all I was thinking about. Every time I stepped up to the line that’s all I was thinking about.” Australia is currently experiencing its worst surge of wildfires in decades, exasperated by a dry climate and heavy winds. As I write this article, at



least 25 people have been killed, millions of acres have been destroyed and the amount of animals and wildlife that have perished is still being tallied. The fires are expected to burn for months to come despite the nation receiving some relief in the form of rainfall in early January. But it needs more relief, and this is where Kyrgios has stepped in and kicked off a campaign of tennis players doing what they can to give back. “I’m kicking off the support for those affected by the fires,” he tweeted. “I’ll be donating $200 per ace that I hit across all the events I play this summer.” That initial tweet set off a chain reaction of other players on tour, both male and female, committing to donate money for each ace they hit over the course of the Australian summer. Additionally, it inspired Tennis Australia, tennis’ governing body in the Land Down Under, which held a Rally for Relief exhibition match at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne featuring a number of the world’s top players. The continued on page 16

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 • • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


kyrgios ready to take new york continued from page 14

organization also announced it will be donating $100 for every ace hit during the ATP Cup and pledged $1 million to assist the communities and repair damaged tennis facilities. Kyrgios taking a step forward to help his home country and local community, while showing real, raw emotion when talking about how much it is affecting him, is a real contrast to the way he is typically portrayed in the media. Controversy has followed the 24year-old Kyrgios wherever he has gone throughout his career. From on-court outbursts to his comments on other players, Kyrgios’ name has often been in the news for all the wrong reasons. But underneath that is clearly a caring individual who oftentimes clashes with the norms and traditions that exist in tennis. And while, yes, he does bring that negative attention and coverage upon himself, it may not always be an accurate depiction. So to start 2020, Kyrgios began his campaign at the ATP Cup, where he is donating money for each ace he hits. 16

In addition to that, he competed in a match that featured an outburst on court, and, maybe to the surprise of many, it was actually his opponent who was the one acting out. During his 7-6(7), 6-7(3), 7-6(5) victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, it was the young Greek who slammed his racket on his chair and even struck his dad and coach, Apostolos, with his racket, accidently. Australian tennis legend Lleyton Hewitt, who is captaining team Australia at the ATP Cup, has been pleased with the attitude and behavior of his compatriot thus far this year, and expects to see more of that as the season rolls on. “I don’t know if it’s helping his tennis but it certainly could help with the rollercoaster sometimes that he does have in a match. He was great as soon as we got together in Brisbane,” said Hewitt. “I think for him there is a line and sometimes he crosses it. He knows that. Certainly I think it can help him develop. Whether it will help him

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

straight away? Maybe in six, 12 months, that’s another thing…He’s been great behind me on the bench, as well. He’s been firing the boys up and been entertaining for everyone else. It’s been a lot of fun.” Following his run in Australia, Kyrgios will head across the globe to our side of the world where he will make his New York Open debut on Long Island. He has already played some excellent tennis to start the season, and will bring that composed attitude and undeniable talent to the black courts of NYCB LIVE. Kyrgios is at the core of a stacked player field for the third edition of the New York Open. “The New York Open has attracted our best field this year,” said Tournament Director Peter Lebedevs. “Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic will be making their first appereance at the tournament and the fans will be excited to see them play on the black courts. Kei Nishikori, John Isner and Reilly Opelka, along with Kevin Anderson, are all returning and that is a testament to the fan support for these players and the New York Open.” Kyrgios style of play will endear him to the New York crowd during his week on Long Island, and he should be considered one of the tournament’s favorites. Since he burst onto the scene with an upset over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014, Kyrgios has attracted much attention from the tennis world, both good and bad. But what can’t be disputed is the caring personality he has, and that is evident in the charity he founded, plus the way he spearheaded a campaign to provide relief for the fires that are ravaging his native Australia. If he can couple his new-look attitude on the court with his outstanding tennis ability, 2020 could be a turning point season in his career, and a run at the New York Open could go a long way in determining the rest of his year. Brian Coleman is senior editor of New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at



New York Tennis Expo Family Day free to the public

Womens Elevating Experiences Leadership Brunch Top Seeds in action



Veterans and Diversity Hiring Captains Club Night

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11 Ladies Day STEM Education Day College Night

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 12 USTA Long Island Awards Kei Nishikori Second Round Match Players subject to change

PRESENTED BY USTA EASTERN Valentine’s Day Quarterfinals New York Open Pickleball Championships

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15 USTA Eastern Junior Awards Semifinals New York Open Pickleball Championships

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16 Championship Sunday • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine New York Open Pickleball Championships


2020 NEW YORK Top Players Commit to New York Open he New York Open returns for its third year at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, bringing highlevel professional tennis to the black courts right here on Long Island. The tournament will once again be one of the highlights of the winter here in New York, and the event has already received commitments from some of the top players in the world. In addition to Kei Nishikori, the tournament’s inaugural champion and former Wimbledon and US Open finalist, Kevin Anderson, will be back in the fold, looking to bounce back from a tough 2019 season that saw him deal with injuries. Reilly Opelka will return to try to defend his title from last season. The young American hoisted the first ATP trophy of his career at the New York Open last February, and will be ready to compete for the title once again. Nick Kyrgios, the enigmatic Australian, will be sure to delight the


2019 New York Open champion Reilly Opelka will be back on Long Island to defend his title, which was the first ATP title of his career crowd with his highlight-reel style of tennis. Kyrgios, a two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, has won six ATP titles in his career and remains one of

the sport’s most talented players, as he currently sits at 30th in the world rankings. American John Isner is back in the





New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

K OPEN PREVIEW fold as he returns to Long Island for the third straight year. Isner is the highest-ranked American in the world and is the owner of 15 career ATP titles. “We are really proud and excited to have top players like Nishikori, Isner and Kyrgios choose to play the New York Open. The players have options and they contacted us early wanting to play,” said Peter Lebedevs, tournament director for the New York Open. “The players love our fans, NYCB LIVE and, of course, the black courts. When these top players, along with Kevin Anderson, our 2018 champion and Reilly Opelka, our 2019 champion, play in the tournament each year, it shows the fans and business community that we are consistently elevating experiences to be one of the top ATP events on the calendar.” There will be more news leading up to the tournament on other players who will round out the player field. It’s expected that a few other of the top Americans will join the draw, so stay tuned to for more announcements.

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**Contact us today to set up a free consultation! • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


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Special Events to Highlight New York Open Week he New York Open continues to engrain itself within the local community, and in further doing so, will be hosting a number of different special events and promotional nights throughout the week-long event. The tournament kicks off the with New York Tennis Expo on Sunday, Feb. 9, which is completely free to attend for the public, and includes the ability to watch the beginning of the qualifying draw at no cost. The following day will be the Veterans and Diversity Hiring Expo which is part of GF Sports’ initiative to provide job opportunities to veterans, women, minorities and those with disabilities in the local community. Ladies’ Day, which has become one of the staples of the New York Open, is back and will be held Tuesday, Feb. 11. It includes brunch, a fashion show, meet and greet with the players, and the ability to attend that day’s matches and enter through the same VIP entrance as the players. Later that night, college students are eligible for discounted tickets as the New York Open celebrates College Night. The USTA Eastern Long Island


Region’s Annual Awards Dinner will take place during the New York Open this year, as the best and brightest in Long Island tennis from the past year will be honored on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Throughout the week, the New York Open will also be hosting educational workshops and seminars for both Attendees enjoying Ladies Day during the 2019 New York Open students and adults. On Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 10:00 a.m.-Noon, there will be business world and much more. a GF Sports STEM Education School An exciting new addition to the week Day, which will feature instructional is the New York Open Pickleball sessions provided by Geeks Rule, Championships, with skill levels including talks from ATP Tour players ranging from 3.0-5.0, and three and admission to the Day Session different age divisions. matches. You can learn about all of these Later that week, the inaugural GF events and everything offered, Sports Women’s Leadership Brunch including various ticket options, at the will be held on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 New York Open by visiting featuring a panel of top women in the

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New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •


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Q&A With New York Open Tournament Director Peter Lebedevs New York Tennis Magazine had a chance to sit down with Peter Lebedevs, tournament director of the 2020 New York Open. We discussed a variety of topics, from what’s new in 2020, to the local grassroots tennis community. What is new this year at the New York Open? What sort of special nights/promotions will be going on during the week? Peter Lebedevs: This year, we are kicking off the tournament on Sunday, Feb. 9 by combining the New York Tennis Expo and the New York Open qualifying tournament. Both events will be free to the public, so everyone can come to the Expo and see the tennis on the same day. We are adding community platforms during the week of our event this year as well. On Monday, we will host a Veterans and Diversity Hiring Expo; Tuesday we will have a STEM Education Day for all the schools in the area, so it will be packed with youngsters watching and experiencing tennis, a lot of them for the first time. That date also features our Ladies’ Day event, with brunch, a fashion show, player meet-and-greet and then tennis viewing all day. On Wednesday, we will be hosting the USTA Long Island Awards Ceremony and recognizing the award winners on Stadium Court. On Thursday, there will be a Women’s Elevating Experiences Leadership Brunch, with some outstanding speakers on the agenda. On Friday is Valentine’s Day, and we have a terrific ticket package for couples that evening. Friday also starts our inaugural New York Open Pickleball Championships downstairs in the Expo Hall. It will run from Friday through Sunday and is creating a lot of buzz with players coming in from all over the country.

Saturday, we will be hosting the USTA Eastern Section’s Junior Awards Ceremony and recognizing these young tennis players on Stadium court. There are some big names already committed to the field this year. How excited should the local community be about the type of tennis that will be on display this year? Peter Lebedevs: Tennis fans will be in for a treat this year with a host of returning players and some new players. Kei Nishikori, ranked 13th in the world, is returning along with our past two champions Kevin Anderson (2018) and Reilly Opelka (2019). Nick Kyrgios, the super-talented Australian, will be making his New York Open debut and is guaranteed to entertain the crowd. We have baseliners, huge servers and all-court players so the field is filled with different styles of play. The New York Open provides that opportunity to get up close and personal with all the players to create lasting memories. How has the New York Open tried to build off of, learn from and improve the tournament heading into Year Three? Peter Lebedevs: Our goal is to “Elevate the Experience” for fans, sponsors, players and everyone that is a part of our event each year. In 2020, The Overlook will have an expanded glassed area to provide more room for everyone with the Box or VIP allinclusive ticket to see tennis in the most unique setting.

Another exciting change is having our Qualifying Tournament free to the public to showcase the New York Open to more fans. Our tickets for Monday through Thursday this year will be one session each day. Those days will include tennis from noon until the last ball is hit around 10:30 p.m. So people can come early or right after work and see more tennis than ever before with the same ticket. Everyone will have to come out to see some of the new oncourt changes we are thrilled about; it will be exciting. What types of community outreach/local engagement will you be doing in the weeks leading up to the tournament? Peter Lebedevs: The New York Open is out in the community all year promoting the tournament and tennis in general. We have over 40 Ambassador Clubs that we engage with throughout the year. In January, we have some unique events for the local players, including the New York Open College Wild Card Challenge at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from Jan. 9-11. The winner of that event will receive a Main Draw Wild Card to play at night on Tuesday, Feb. 11. We will also have some 7.0 and 8.0 Men’s and Women’s Doubles Qualifying events with the winners getting to play on the Black Courts just like the professionals. We try to connect as many people to the tournament and provide those unique experiences for everyone. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


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2020 New York Open Tournament Schedule




Details and Players

Sunday, February 9

New York Tennis Expo

10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Free to attend with activities for the whole family. Chances to meet New York Open stars and more!

Sunday, February 9



Qualifying Draw begins

Monday, February 10

Final Round of Qualifying and First Round Main Draw


Qualifying, Round 1 Session

Tuesday, February 11

First Round of Main Draw

Noon—Two matches starting no later than 7:30 p.m.

First Round Session

Wednesday, February 12

Second Round Main Draw

Noon—Two matches starting no later than 7:30 p.m.

Second Round Session See Kei Nishikori’s debut match during 7:30 p.m. Session

Thursday, February 13

Second Round Main Draw

Noon—Two matches starting no later than 7:30 p.m.

Second Round Session

Friday, February 14



Quarterfinals Day Session

Friday, February 14


7:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals Night Session

Saturday, February 15


2:00 p.m.

Semifinals Day Session

Saturday, February 15


7:00 p.m.

Semifinals Night Session

Sunday, February 16


2:00 p.m.

Singles and Doubles Finals


New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •



CLAIRE AN • COURTSENSE n the summer of 2019, some of the best junior tennis players from across the country gathered at the Winward Lake Club in Alpharetta, Ga. for the USTA Girls 12s National Championships. The tournament is one of the more prestigious ones on the junior circuit, and can provide a real test for the nation’s most promising players. And the player that passed that test with flying colors was New York City native Claire An, who played a dominant tournament and claimed the National Championship. “Winning the Hard Court National Championships was a huge milestone for me,” said An. “I had never won such a big singles tournament, or gone that far in a tournament like that. It was a huge confidence booster for me.” An won seven straight matches, all in straight sets, culminating in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over top-seed Bella Payne of South Carolina in the finals. “I had to be consistent; consistency is key,” An told TennisRecruiting.Net. “I knew she was a tough player coming in, but I felt like I was prepared, and had been all week.” Prior to competing at the Hard Court National Championships, An won the singles gold draw and the doubles championship at the National Clay Court Championships in Boca Raton, Fla., which she says was a huge key to her preparation: “Leading up to that tournament I played the clay courts in Florida, and


Commuting back and forth across the Hudson River, often times during rush hour, can be very difficult, but An’s mother, Hannah, says it is worth it because of the impact it has had on her daughter. “Trying to cross the George Washington after school can be brutal, and we wouldn’t do it if my kids didn’t enjoy training there,” she said. “Claire likes it so much and we find the community welcoming and enjoyable. Their fitness program, Magnus Fitness, is top notch, and they have a great mental tennis program. They really work on all the aspects of being a player.” Improving on her mental strength has training for that and competing there been a huge key to An’s success over really helped build my stamina, and I the last couple of years, and has was feeling really comfortable heading allowed her physical talent to shine into the hard court championships.” through in some of the big tournaments Despite living in New York City, An she has played and succeeded at. Her trains once a week at USTA Player goals in 2020 are to keep improving on Development, but mostly at the her game, particularly in adding more CourtSense Training Center at Bogota variety to her game, and continue Racquet Club. Most days after school, playing at her highest level. An travels across the George “I love to compete in tournaments, Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and matches, and even practice in general,” she credits a lot of her success and she said about her love of tennis. “I like improvement to her time there. the feeling of adrenaline you get when “I started there in the spring of 2018, you win, and even when you lose, you and I think it’s a great place for top learn. There are a lot of stressful players to train,” said An. “They treat the moments, and a lot of good moments, players like family, the coaches care and as you grow it is important to use about each individual player and they do both of those as part of your their best to improve us as players.” development and success.” • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


USTA-U, CUNY Launch New Program to Grow Tennis Professionals By Brian Coleman eginning this year, Queens College will begin offering a new course designed to increase the quality and quantity of professionals in the tennis industry. The course is the product of a partnership between the USTA-U and CUNY (City University of New York), who are teaming up to provide an invaluable resource not just for the university’s students, but also the public at large. USTA-U is the USTA’s initiative designed to prepare the next generation of tennis providers, offering online and in-classroom instruction plus apprenticeships and other learning opportunities. Part of that initiative is to add these sorts of programs to colleges and universities. There are currently 11 colleges/universities participating nationwide, and Queens College will



be the 12th. “The USTA has realized that this is a huge priority for the industry, to have a quality work force and recruit and train new tennis professionals,” said Scott Schultz, Managing Director of USTA-U. “A lot of the greats in this field are aging out, and there will be a giant shortage of people to take entry level positions at tennis clubs, which is the lifeline of the USTA. The good news for these students is that they will be in demand when they leave the program and the industry will have highly-trained people.” Schultz was a four-year member of the tennis team at Western Michigan University before becoming a teaching pro and working for the likes of Rick Ferman, Todd Martin’s former coach. He then created a Tennis Management Program at Ferris State University, located in Big Rapids, Mich., which was modeled after the

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

golf program that the school created in conjunction with the PGA. “We needed to do things a bit different than the golf program,” recalls Schultz. “We quickly made sure our program featured a lot of tennis teaching, racquet repair, event planning and management, and getting them ready to work in the industry. There was a huge demand for our students; 100 percent of them got job offers after completing the program.” This program will now be available in the CUNY system and specifically at Queens College, where Skip Hartman, who has been one of the pillars of the tennis industry in New York for decades, will serve as the program’s director. “Scott Schultz, with his work at Ferris State in the 1980s and 90s was among the pioneers, along with Dennis Van Der Meer, Vic Braden and

Nick Bollettieri, in seeing the need for providing training opportunities,” said Hartman. “The growth of talent has been flat for the past five years, and as the governing body of US tennis, the USTA has adopted as its mission to support and grow the sport. Tennis pros and their counterparts who organize, promote and administer programs are the people who really grow the game. We need more of them—a whole new generation of them—and we need to support them with continuous training opportunities.” The USTA-U Professional Tennis Program at Queens College will be a three-semester course consisting of two tracks: a coaching track that leads to a professional certification; and a track that focuses on management, marketing, sales and hospitality. The program will feature online modules developed by the USTA, 12 three-hour lecture classes led by highly acclaimed professor Robert Freidman, a 12-hour weekend tennis clinic (one per semester for the coaching track, and one total over the three semesters for the management track), 500 hours of experiential learning including internships and, finally, guidance in job placement. Queens College is just the right place to host a program such as this.

The school trains more teachers than any other in New York City, and Friedman is one of the school’s best teachers. “He is an outstanding teacher,” said Bill Keller, Queens College’s Vice President for Finance & Administration. “The soft skills, so to speak, which are really the hardest skills to teach, are essential to the success of any organization, and that includes running a tennis club or a tennis team. Just knowing how to lead people is crucial, and he is fantastic at that.” This well-rounded program will be essential in helping produce the next wave of tennis instructors and administrators, and doing so to ensure that there is not only a high quantity of them, but the highest quality as well. “USTA-U was created to increase both the number and quality of people teaching tennis throughout the country. We want to get young people to consider this as a track for their career. We are also working with the teaching associations to raise the standard and help them with their certifications,” said Schultz. “This course is going to be taught by someone who has a great reputation in interpersonal communication, hospitality and customer service, and Skip Hartman is an icon in this

business, and will work with the students to help them maintain their goals.” This program is not designed solely for young college students pursuing a job in the tennis industry, but open to the public and anyone interested in seeking a career in this field. Schultz’s program at Ferris State had 100 percent placement after graduation, an encouraging statistic for both the future students of this program and the industry as a whole. “Scott’s leadership of USTA-U in expanding in-depth training by working with major educational institutions is a logical next step to attracting more people to work at growing the game,” added Hartman. “There are many underutilized tennis courts throughout the country just waiting for coaches and organizers to fill them up.” This course will be an integral part in creating and shaping the next crop of tennis instructors, administrators and operators, and will offer an intriguing opportunity for those looking to enter a new field of teaching. You can learn more about the program by contacting Hartman at, or reaching out to Diane Gahagan, the Director of Professional and Continuing Studies at Queens College, at • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


USTA Metro Region Metro Team Competes at WTT Rec League Nationals

Hazel Zaldivar captained his 4.0 team to a fourth place finish at the World TeamTennis Rec League Nationals, which took place in Palm Desert, Calif. The team was there representing the Metrotennis CTA’s WTT Rec League, and had its matches played at West Side Tennis Club, Roosevelt Island Racquet Club and

CityView Racquet Club. Winning teams of any official World TeamTennis local league division are eligible within one year to attend a National Qualifier. Zaldivar’s team did so this past fall, and represented the Metro Region nicely with a fourth place finish.

Harvey Named to Crain’s List of Notable Women in Sports

Olga Harvey was recently named to the 2019 Crain’s New York Business Notable Women in Sports. Harvey was named senior director of development for New York Junior Tennis & Learning in 2015, and was integral in helping to provide children free tennis lessons throughout the five boroughs. Harvey is currently the chief strategy and impact officer 26

for the Women’s Sports Foundation where she helps develop education and advocacy programs designed to build lifelong leadership skills in girls through tennis and other sports. Harvey was a standout at Cornell University where she posted a 21-0 singles record in the Ivy League.

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

USTA Metro Region Anthony Evrard Named Eastern’s Organizer of the Month

Each month, USTA Eastern names one passionate advocate who has made significant and exceptional contributions to their community through tennis. Recently, Eastern honored a club owner who has launched an innovative and inclusive program to help the visually impaired play tennis throughout New York City. Anthony Evrard was a Senior Global Lifestyle Marketing Manager at PUMA, traveling the world and working on some of the biggest sporting events around the globe including the Olympics and the World Cup. When he heard about the USTA’s new initiative to introduce kids to tennis with smaller racquets and modified balls, he decided he wanted to step in and be a part of that. “I just became really intrigued with creating a fully integrated experience for young families,” said Evrard, a native of Belgium who was a top junior player growing up. “A lot of people would tell me, ‘Oh, the market…you’re going to miss on too many other demographics once the kids outgrow the 60foot court’, or ‘Nobody will pay a membership to come and play at a club with red and orange balls.’ But I was really driven by it.” That drive led Evrard to leave his corporate job and took a couple of years to develop a business plan. He received tremendous support from the Eastern section, and soon after opened Court 16,

which he says is named after the court he played on back at his club in Brussels. His first location was a small area in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and soon he expanded to another location in Long Island City. From there, Evrard got the idea to start Court 16’s Sound of Tennis program to help the visually impaired play. The inspiration came from conversations he had with his mother-in-law, who has glaucoma, and “the need to create communities around people who have similar challenges.” After doing some research, he discovered a Japan program that uses a foam ball with a bell inside of it, and reached out to local organizations to find out how else he could make the program work for the visually impaired. “We certainly don’t know what it’s like to be blind in New York City,” said Evrard. “So it’s important to listen to people. We started this very small, grassroots relationship-building, so we could understand what we could do.” The program has grown now to almost 40 players at the Brooklyn location, and the Long Island City branch has begun offering the program as well. “There’s certainly a sense of accomplishment in bringing people together,” he added. “And I’m very, very grateful to the people who believed in this idea and gave us a chance to give it a shot.” • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


USTA Metro Region Flex Leagues Available Throughout NYC

Are you looking for a league that works around your schedule? USTA’s Flex League has you covered. Designed to fit in your schedule—USTA’s Flex League allows you to play when it’s convenient for you. • Matches are arranged directly with your opponent at a mutually agreed upon day, time and location. • Each session is approximately two months long. Players can anticipate six to 10 matches during each session. • Once registration closes, you can access a list of opponents and suggested play-by dates. • Match scores are recorded online. • USTA membership is not required and Flex League matches do not affect, nor generate, a USTA rating

Ready to try the Flex League? • Got to to search for and register for Flex Leagues. • Choose your division: Adult Men’s Singles or Adult Women’s Singles. • Select “New York” and then area you wish to play in. • Registration is $35 ($25 for USTA members). Registration is currently open for NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens & Staten Island), Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk), and Westchester for the Fall League. For more information about USTA’s Flex Leagues, e-mail

Sets In the City Returns

The USTA Eastern Metro Region continues to produce events for young adults looking to maintain that competitive edge while playing tennis. In that spirit, Sets in the City returns in 2020 with events scheduled throughout the year. Sets in the City is a monthly tennis party for players aged 21-35 who are looking for a fun way to enjoy tennis, tasty 28

beverages and interesting people. The events are open to players of all abilities. They run from 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. and each player is guaranteed a minimum one-and-a-half hours of playing time, plus beverages and snacks. The events are primarily held at Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. You can find out more information by e-mailing

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

NYJTL Hosts Annual Leadership Luncheon

or more than three decades now, the New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) has hosted its Leadership Luncheon, a staple of the organization’s fundraising efforts. The year 2019 was no different, as NYJTL, with the support of the Benenson family who underwrites all


expenses for the fundraiser, hosted the event at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. This year’s event featured honorees Tommy Hilfiger, Andrea Jaeger and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, while junior players Christopher Perez and Isis Rodriguez were presented with the student awards. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Improving Through Experience

By John Curtis I am often asked what prepares a young tennis player for playing at the collegiate level. Over the course of nearly 30 years in the business, my answer has evolved. Between my role as head coach of the NYU Men’s tennis team for 10 years (including scouting prospects nationwide) and my current role as owner of Manhattan Tennis Academy, I have come to believe that the answer is two-fold and the elements are largely interdependent. First, any successful player must have mastered the fundamentals. As discussed in greater detail below, a player who has not mastered the fundamentals will be limited in their ability. Second, is the more elusive element of experience. When I refer to “experience,” I’m not simply referring to the amount of time that a player has been actively engaged in learning tennis. While the length of time played is of course almost always directly correlated to success, I’m referring more to the mental maturity and stability gained through experience. 30

Mastering the fundamentals What does it mean to master the fundamentals? This goes well beyond developing strong forehands and backhands. Just as important are the often-overlooked fundamentals of timing, agility/footwork, coordination and balance, what I refer collectively to as core athletic skills. It is my experience that in the last few years, these fundamentals can often be sidestepped in order to fast-track a student into playing at a level beyond their own ability. This includes ensuring that a student is engaged in a level of play that is appropriate for their age and skill level. It goes without saying that, for example, a five-year-old boy cannot master his serve while playing from the baseline with a 27-inch racket. Rather, appropriate equipment in this day and age is critical to cultivate strong fundamentals. This is precisely why the USTA developed their 10 & Under initiative. It is critical for parents, instructors and students alike to appreciate that a player can only master fundamentals when given the appropriate equipment in the appropriate setting (i.e. court size, ball colors, etc.)

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

For instance, my academy devotes just as much time to teaching agility skills and mental awareness as we do to honing groundstrokes. If a child is rushed into learning strokes or tactical skills, even the slightest of shortcomings in their game will be exacerbated over time and ultimately exposed to their opponent as the level of competition increases. Experience and mental/emotional maturity The second most crucial aspect of preparing a student for collegiate level tennis is ensuring that their mental/emotional game is rock solid. That is, ensuring that an individual has learned how to temper themselves mentally and emotionally through difficult match situations that will be present at the collegiate level. How does one cultivate a strong mental/emotional game? In my experience, this can only be understood through repetitive exposure to winning and losing under different circumstances. Just as fundamentals are not developed overnight, a player must be exposed to match play to see how they react to a loss, upset, or poor sportsmanship and bad line calls. Not surprisingly, often times, a child’s

initial reaction is to lose their concentration, get flustered, and turn mentally soft. Over time, and with proper attention to this “skill” (and it is a skill), this part of one’s game can gradually evolve and transform into a strength. The more a child is exposed to these scenarios and is coached to pay attention to their reaction, the more likely they will develop the skills necessary to look within and achieve a sense of calm during these stressful moments. In addition to constantly evaluating and adjusting technical skills at our Academy, we evaluate and address the mental skills of the game such as concentration, awareness and good sportsmanship. In addition, our pros teach their students to try to always remain positive. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Although not always easy in the heat of competition, we often suggest that the student take a quiet moment between points and tell themself, “The next point is mine.” This translates to carrying positive energy into the next point.

When I think of the importance of the mental/emotional game, I am always impressed by Novak Djokovic’s unparalleled ability to overcome adversity in matches. Djokovic is the master of what I call “calm intensity”, and that is evident when you look back at some of the most impressive wins of his career, That’s to say that he has this unique ability to stay razor-focused and maintain his aggressive game, while breathing calmly and making smart shot selection decisions, while maintaining a strong strategic plan. This would be impressive in normal match situations … never mind in the biggest, most pressure-packed times of the match/tournament. I was not surprised to learn in his 2013 book Serve to Win that Djokovic practices mindfulness meditation for 15 minutes every day. According to Djokovic, his mindfulness training is just as important as his physical training. Just as he dedicates himself to rigorous physical training and an incredible stretching regimen, he believes that his devotion to mindfulness, proper breathing and

general positivity are all keys in overcoming adversity in the biggest match moments. Overall, it is critical that a budding tennis star receives the proper training. This not only means placing them in a teaching environment where they are taught age-appropriate skills, but also that they receive mental/emotional awareness both at home and at their lessons on the court. If a student can strike this delicate balance, they will most certainly be on their way to a successful college tennis career. John Curtis is executive director at Manhattan Tennis Academy. He has held a number of positions at various tennis clubs, and was head coach of the NYU Men’s tennis team from 1996-2006. Afterwards, focusing on junior development, Curtis was the 2006 PTR Coach of the Year in the Northeast Region and in the 2009 PTR Member of the Year in Northeast Region. He can be reached by phone at (212) 359-9535 or by e-mail at

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New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

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Elasticity and the Modern Spanish Forehand

By Chris Lewit he modern forehand at the professional level, especially on the men’s side of the game, is typified by parabolic swing shapes, leg explosion and hip rotation, mid-air ball striking, lower, reversed and inverted finishes—and most of all—elasticity. Looking back at the evolution of tennis technique over the past 3040 years, the dramatic change is striking. In the 1970’s and 1980’s for example, the typical forehand technique was mostly linear, grounded and relatively rigid, with an emphasis on weight shift, firm wrist and extension out to a high finish in front or around the neck. What’s remarkable is that even with the enormous change at the top level of the game, coaches still teach the outdated forehand



mechanics of the 1970’s and 80’s to young children, and then try to sell it to players and parents as “Learning solid fundamentals.” This is a joke. If your kid is stuck with a coach or club that insists on teaching technique from a bygone era, don’t just walk away—run—and find a teaching environment that emphasizes modern technique and builds players for the future of the game. While it’s possible to learn an old fashioned stiff technique and then later on morph it into a modern, elastic stroke, why risk it? And why put yourself or your child through such an inefficient learning process? It’s much faster and better to learn an elastic and whippy forehand based on the modern model from day one. Ingrain one motor program in the player, a motor engram that doesn’t have to

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

be upgraded or changed later. In Spain, there are still coaches in the old guard—even legends like Luis Bruguera and Toni Nadal—who stress the “old school” fundamentals first, but many in the younger generation of coaches are embracing a more modern style of technical development. In my school and at my summer camp, we try to focus on building the forehand foundation in this modern Spanish way, using special exercises from Spain—but wasting as little time as possible—and preparing the technique to allow a powerful and massive RPM shot in the future. This continues the classic Spanish philosophy of making the heavy topspin forehand the primary weapon of the player— but uses a more efficient method than has been traditionally used in Spain. Toni Nadal calls the forehand “the most important shot in the game.” I

agree that it is important—maybe not the most important shot—but critical. However, I want to develop the essential motor program from day one, rather than build one motor program and then wait for a second one to replace the first. Back here in the United States, I see so many kids under 10-yearsold who have been taught stiff, linear forehands, closed stances and follow-throughs to the ear or neck—often from mediocre RedOrange-Green U10 programs. This style of teaching ruins more forehands than it helps. Most players end up scarred for life with outdated form, overly flat shots and difficulty generating a heavy ball. Sometimes, hitting flat and hard can work on the indoor hard courts of New York and New England, but players are in for a rude surprise if they ever aspire to play well on outdoor slow hard or clay courts, or on the red dirt in Europe. Next time you are taking a class or watching a kids’ class, observe

if the technique being taught reflects the modern game or if it’s from the old school textbook. You should look for the following keys: • Open and semi-open stances taught early alongside closed stances • Parabolic swing path with pronounced arm pronation and rotation (windshield wiper movement) in the forearm after contact • Controlled explosions with players allowed to leave the ground • Good hip rotation creating lag in the racquet and a whipping effect in the forward swing • A loose, elastic arm • Inverted finish (racquet tip pointing down) with the racquet frequently wrapping around the side of shoulder, waist or even the hip • Significant topspin generated Make sure your coach understands modern

biomechanics and can teach the modern forehand clearly and efficiently. You or your player will improve faster with this approach rather than learning outdated fundamentals first. Vamos! Chris Lewit is a former number one for Cornell and a pro circuit player. He is a high-performance coach, educator, and the author of two best-selling books: The Secrets of Spanish Tennis and The Tennis Technique Bible. He has coached numerous top 10 nationally-ranked players and is known for his expertise in building the foundations of young prodigies. Chris trains players during the school year in the NYC area, and players come from around the country to his summer camp in the paradise of Vermont. He may be reached by phone at (914) 4622912, e-mail or visit

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Tournament Experience

By Geoffrey Jagdfeld s a director of tennis at clubs and programs for more than 20 years, I’ve seen all the sides of tournament play … as a player, coach, tournament director and USTA official. Unfortunately, the number of players participating in tournaments these days is lower than in year’s past. Part of the issue is players having a badtournament experience, so this article is designed to provide players with some ideas on maximizing their experience and find the road to tournament happiness. One of the best quotes about why you should play tennis tournaments is from Hall of Famer Bill Tilden: “Play tennis for the game’s sake. Play it for the people you meet, the friends you make, and the pleasure you may give to the public by the hard-working, yet



sporting game, that is owed them by their presence at the match.” Competing one-on-one can be difficult. The players that are successful understand that and embrace this as part of the whole tournament experience. Here are a few things to remember that are beyond your control. Know what they are and be prepared to focus on the things you are able to control. Here’s a list of the good and the bad: l No one goes undefeated, only one player per tournament is the champion. l It’s not always fair—from a bad draw to rain delay or a player’s bad calls, it’s all part of tournaments. l Be prepared to hurry up and wait, it’s all part of tournament play. Matches have no time limit, so delays are very common. l You have no control over your

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

opponent, their effort, their sportsmanship or their attitude. l Spectators act of their own accord, which in some cases, can be annoying. Remember you can seek the tournament director’s help if they are involving themselves directly in your match. l Unless you are playing on a stadium court, the court next door may distract you with stray balls, banter and even outbursts. l Everyone has a bad match. From the top-ranked to the novice player, there is always one you want to forget. Pure excitement is the difference between a practice match and the adrenaline rush of competition. You cannot reach your highest level of achievement without tournament play. Playing tournaments is good for you, win or lose. It’s always fun to win, but losing is sometimes more

powerful. Playing tournaments help hone your skills under fire against different opponents, and under varying conditions and pressure. Learning self-control, sportsmanship and etiquette is all done through tournament participation. Experience, friendships and contact with players who share your enthusiasm for tennis. Play tournaments as often as you can. It’s only through this type of competition that you will truly learn to compete. Be prepared with a game plan, no matter the outcome. Before you decide what tournament to play, determine the best competitive situation for you to have the best chance to enjoy the game. This will result in more success in the long run. Do some research about court surface, tournament reviews from other players and practice court availability. A little effort in this area goes a long way. Prepare with focus as the tournament draws closer. Increase practice sessions and don’t

forget to make them more matchoriented. By including practice matches into your preparation, you’ll be ready. On the day of the tournament, do some early warm-up at least three hours before for 30 minutes being such you hit all your strokes in a rally format. Read the entry form as you’d be surprised how many players miss important info regarding format, scoring, venue, date and time. I suggest having a hard copy, or a digital copy with you to reference. Don’t pack lightly. Parents would always ask me if I was taking the whole house with me when I played as a junior. Here is a list of items I suggest you bring with you to a tournament: l Water bottle l Sports drink l At least one extra racket l Two to three extra shirts l Extra pairs of socks l Practice balls l Folding/portable chair for changeovers

l Food/fuel–bagels, bananas or power bars l Ibuprofen or similar for aches and pains l Overgrips l Hat or visor l Sunglasses l Sunblock l Extra shoelaces l Plastic bag for wet clothes l Friend at Court—the USTA’s rule book/player code l Notepad/appointment book; or these days a smartphone works best l Phone charger l Umbrella for outdoor rain delays l Book or other entertainment for waiting between matches or rain delays Now its tournament day and you need to follow a pre-match routine. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before. Be thinking about meals continued on page 38

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how to get the most out of your tournament experience continued from page 37 and hydration prior to your match. I suggest having a light meal/snack and drinking at least 20 ounces of water about two to three hours beforehand. Come early and check in immediately; if you arrive 20-25 minutes before match time that should suffice. Loosen up and start to get focused. Use a dynamic warm-up and start to put on your game face based on your personal style; you can start to become the tennis animal, or the silent warrior. Always meet your opponent as an equal to establish mutual respect. Too many times players underestimate their opponent or are overconfident which usually leads to an emotional letdown when the match does not go your way. When match time arrives, you need to lower the hype and nerves you might be feeling at the outset. Breathe


deeply and loosen up, and you start the 10-minute warm-up. Use it wisely—trying to warm-up your shots and observe your opponent’s skills & tendencies. Establish courtesy with your neighbors on the adjacent courts as soon as possible. Take the spin seriously as most players do not take advantage. Do what is best for you and don’t be afraid to choose to receive, pick a side or have the opponent pick first. Live by the rules/code and avoid any possible disputes. Don’t rush, take your time. Be ready to play because, with no time limit, you’ll need to be prepared for the long haul. Remember you can always comeback but so can your opponent, so no lead is safe until the final point is played. Finally, know the tie-break and don’t forget the second set. Following your match remember to

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

report your scores promptly and get the time for your next match. Now it’s time to stretch, cool down and, if needed, refuel. What’s truly important is to win with grace and lose with dignity. I hope you can use this article to help you know what to expect and be prepared for you next tournament. Good luck and have fun playing this great game! Geoffrey Jagdfeld is USPTA Eastern president and currently tennis director of Solaris Sports Clubs. He is a USPTA elite professional and USTA highperformance coach who serves as USTA Junior Team Tennis League Coordinator for Westchester. He is the head coach of the Men’s and Women’s Tennis Teams at St. John Fisher College, and played collegiate tennis at Michigan State University.

Absorbing and Redirecting Pace

By Lawrence Kleger s the ball in today’s game travels faster than ever due to racket construction and string technology, plus bigger, stronger and more powerful athletes playing the game, absorbing and redirecting pace have become two very important skills to master.


Here is a cliffs notes presentation of these two topics: Absorbing pace occurs when an opponent’s shot is too fast to control with a player’s normal stroke. One way to try to deal with pace is to back up. However, backing up is generally not a successful response, as the incoming ball is usually moving faster than a player can retreat. Most often, absorbing pace successfully requires a player to shorten or slow down his/her swing. A shortened, simplified stroking motion has fewer “working parts” and offers a player more control. And it can become quite frustrating to an opponent when every big shot she/he hits is effortlessly returned.

Another, more advanced, way of absorbing pace is to turn ball speed into spin. Underspin shots tend to have less pace, making them easier to control, and they can be difficult for an opponent to deal with, as underspin, or “slice”, shots tend to stay low and out of a player’s strike zone. Changing pace to underspin also occurs when a player hits a drop shot, chip shot or touch volley. Turning pace into topspin can be effective as well. Topspin allows a player to hit higher over the net, without the ball going out, as a ball with topspin drops to the ground faster than a flat or underspin ball. And when a ball with topspin bounces, it shoots forward, often forcing the opponent deeper behind the baseline. If executed successfully, all of the above options and techniques give a player controlled and effective responses to balls with a lot of pace. Redirecting pace occurs when a ball is hit with a lot of pace and the receiving player positions herself/himself to take the ball early and to use that pace to hit an offensive shot. The shot can be directly back to the opponent, or to an open court. Similar to absorbing, a player needs to shorten or compact

his/her swing to redirect. But redirecting is different than absorbing in that redirecting is usually an offensive play. The biggest advantage to redirecting pace is the time that it takes away from an opponent. While redirecting pace takes quite a bit of skill and practice to execute, it can be very frustrating to an opponent. The opponent hits what she/he thinks is a high-caliber offensive shot and the ball comes back before the opponent finishes their follow through! Or the ball gets redirected to an open court for an outright winner. Both of these require lots of repetition and a lot of trial and error. However, once competency is reached, absorbing and redirecting Pace can be two very effective tools to have in one’s tennis toolbox. Lawrence Kleger is co-director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. He is recognized as one of the top developmental coaches in the United States. He has trained more ranked juniors than anyone in the history of the USTA Eastern Section. His students have won numerous National and Regional Championships, and 20 USTA Eastern Year-End Sportsmanship Awards. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


New York City Girl’s High Aziz Finishes Career With Back-to-Back PSAL Titles cKee/Staten Island Tech senior Miriam Aziz concluded her high school career this past fall, and did so in grand fashion. Aziz won the Public School Athletic League’s Girls Tennis Championship for the second straight year, defending her spot as the top singles player in New York City. After downing Liza London of Brooklyn Tech in the quarterfinals, Aziz took out Curtis’ Brianna Shaw in the semifinals. In the championship match, Aziz defeated Shakima Hotaki of the Queens School of Inquiry 6-3, 6-2 to win her second consecutive title. “I think it was really cool to win backto-back because I had played the tournament in my freshman and sophomore years. I got closer each year, but then in my junior year I managed to pull through,” said Aziz. “I’m just proud that I was able to come back each year and do a little better.” In her junior season, because she won the PSAL title, Aziz advanced to the New York State Federation Championships, which brings together the winners of the PSAL, the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association (CHSAA), the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) and the Association of Independent Athletic Association Schools (AISAA), to decide the state champion. Aziz came up short a year ago, but bounced back in her senior year to claim the state title, defeating Archbishop Molloy’s Kaitlyn Mendoza 6-0, 6-0. “It’s being able to take the loss, turn around and learn from it, and not let it hit you too hard,” Aziz said of bouncing back from previous losses. “Having a year in between those state matches



allowed me to improve on my game, and play my best when it counted.” Tennis has been a big part of Aziz’s life since she was a kid and was raised in a family that loved sports. Both her uncle and aunts were collegiate tennis players, her father was a member of the Crew and Squash teams at Columbia, and her brother was a nationally ranked junior while growing up in the Eastern section. “Being able to be around people who know what it is like to go through these things has helped,” she says. “Going through and dealing with both training and school, it was always kind of normal for me growing up in an athletic family.” Finding that balance between academics and athletics is always a challenging needle to thread, and even more so when attending a top institution like Staten Island Tech, one of the better academic schools in the city. That dedication and success both in the classroom and on the tennis court led her to being a recipient of the prestigious Wingate Award, which honors PSAL seniors for outstanding achievements in academics and athletics. “A lot of thought goes into who receives that award, and the fact that they came up with my name means a lot,” said Aziz. “I’m most proud of being able to manage my time, and balance school and athletics while going to one of the hardest schools in the city; I’ve learned that school isn’t everything, and tennis isn’t everything, so taking time to focus on both is so important.” Aziz is a powerful player who likes to play aggressive on court, and finds that her strength is dictating points and

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

avoiding getting sucked into long rallies. Her defense is something she says she wants to improve on, and continues to work on that under the guidance of her primary coach Catarina Lindqvist-Ryan, an assistant coach at Rutgers University who enjoyed a very nice professional career which includes victories over Steffi Graf, Virginia Wade and Pam Shriver. “I’ve been playing with Catarina about two-three times a week for the past 10 years,” said Aziz. “She has had a huge impact on my development as a tennis player. Working with her, as well as having successful players in my family, has really helped me.” Aziz has not decided on where she will attend college yet, but hopes to be able to play varsity tennis wherever she goes. If her constant progress during her years as a high school student and athlete is any indication, Aziz will be successful no matter what road she decides to go down.

h School


Beacon Girls Tennis Team Crowned City Champs eacon continues to be the dominant team in New York City tennis, and that was once again proven this past fall as the girls’ team defended its PSAL “A” League title, defeating Brooklyn Tech 5-0 in the championship match. At first singles, Lorraine Bergmann defeated Alina Abramoff 6-4, 6-3, while Sofia Shen notched a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Audrey Simon in the second singles flight.


Niki Truszkowski rounded out the singles victories by triumphing over Jenny Krush 6-2, 6-1. The Beacon doubles teams also stepped up, as Naisha Rathi and Natalie Bergmann won 6-0, 6-1 at first doubles and Liza Bonomi and Maya Joy Ollivierre won their second doubles match 6-2, 6-3. “Our team success is due to the dedicated players who enjoy playing tennis together,” said first-year head

coach Martina Choi. “I wish I had a big secret to share but the basis of our success is just that: my players enjoy playing tennis.” Beacon will return the majority of its players next year, and thus should be considered the favorites to once again win the city title. “I am looking forward to our next season,” Choi added. “My motto is you win one point at a time, so we will take it one day at a time until the next season.”

Fort Hamilton Wins Queens Bowl

ast year, Fort Hamilton fell to Queens School of Inquiry in a tightly-contested match in the PSAL Girls Tennis Bowl Championship. But in 2019, the Tigers exacted its revenge, scoring a 4-1 win over Queens Inquiry to be crowned the “B” Division champions. Putting Fort Hamilton ahead early was Alisa Akopyan who beat Annabelle


Rodriguez at third singles. Sevinch Rakhmatdinova was a winner at second singles as she defeated Dawn Lei to bring her team within one victory of the title. That victory would come from Barbara Carrion and Julia Aksamentova, who played a dominant match on the second doubles court which resulted in a 6-0, 6-1 win.

Shakima Hotaki put Queens Inquiry on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 win at first singles, and the first doubles tandem of Briggitte Ung-Sansaricq and Katherine Shmandina rounded out the scoring with a 7-6, 3-6, 11-9 victory. Fort Hamilton’s win was the last in its undefeated season, and the Tigers have lost just one match over the last two years. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


The Tennis Guru Chapter One: In The Beginning

By Dr. Tom Ferraro nce upon a time there was a boy named Yin. He was an ordinary boy with ordinary talent.



He was not particularly strong or tall or fast. He was not that smart, nor special in any way, except for one thing: He loved tennis. He had been shown the game by his father who played often and ever since Yin heard the sound of the ball against the

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

racket he was mesmerized and rarely thought of anything else. During class he paid no attention to the teacher’s lessons but instead spent his time either drawing pictures of tennis courts or fantasizing about playing a match against Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. He dreamt about tennis at night and played tennis at least five days a week. He was lucky because he had an older brother, Yang, who played tennis too, so Yin always had someone to play with. And when Yang went off to spend time with his friends, Yin went into the basement and hit balls against the concrete wall. He made up imaginary matches during wall practice and even went so far as to keep track of each point scored as he played. He would do this hour after hour and, on occasion, his mother would come down to the basement to do laundry and watched her son pound away with his racket. She would worry that her son was

too obsessed with the game and would sometimes try to coax him out of the basement to go to the library. And when he was taken to the library he found the section on tennis, only worsening his obsession with tennis. It was no surprise that Yin got better at tennis and when he tried out for his high school team, he made it on the first try. But of course this is where Yin’s problems emerged. For reasons he could not understand, he always seemed to lose to players he was far better than. His coach could see this problem as well and kept lowering his rank until he was forced to play against kids who could barely get the ball over the net. All this led to shame, embarrassment, despair and lots of anger. He grew into a hot head and would often scream, curse, throw rackets and generally act like a big baby. In the past he loved tennis, but

now he grew upset and unhappy. It got so bad that one day, after a particularly shameful loss, he went into the backyard where Yang was hanging out and asked, “Yang I do nothing but choke in nearly every match I play. I can’t seem to handle pressure. What can I do?” Yang smiled at him and said, “Not to worry little brother, I have just the solution. You ought to go see The Tennis Guru.” “Oh wow! That sounds good to me! How much does it cost? Where does he work? Is it far from here? Is he taking new students?” “Slow down little fella,” Yang replied. “Way too many questions. The Tennis Guru is high-priced but more important than that, the training he puts his students through is like real torture. Are you very sure you’re up for it?” “Yes. I’m definitely up for it,” said Yin. “Just show me the way big

brother. Show me the way.” Yang turned Yin around, pointed to a big mountain which was far in the distance and said: “You see that mountain over there? The Tennis Guru teaches his students in an academy on the top of that mountain. It is a perilous, exhausting and expensive journey to get to his academy. All those who want greatness in tennis have climbed up there and have had to face many demons on the way up. Think it over before you say yes. If you decide to make this journey, I will accompany you to the top. If you say yes, tomorrow we will begin our journey.” For consultations, treatment or onsite visits, contact Dr. Tom Ferraro Ph.D., Sport Psychologist, by phone at (516) 248-7189, e-mail or visit • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


A Look Back at the Y By Emilie Katz

2019 Retired Players

Australian Open


January 14-27, 2019 Melbourne Park Melbourne, Australia 2019 Champions Men’s Singles: Novak Djokovic (Serbia) Men’s Doubles: Pierre-Hughes Herbert (France) & Nicholas Mahut (France) Women’s Singles: Naomi Osaka (Japan) Women’s Doubles: Samantha Stosur (Australia) & Zhang Shuai (China) Mixed Doubles: Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic) & Rajeev Ram (United States)

July 1-14, 2019 The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club Wimbledon, London, England 2019 Champions Men’s Singles: Novak Djokovic (Serbia) Men’s Doubles: Juan Sebastian Cabal (Colombia) & Robert Farah (Colombia) Women’s Singles: Simona Halep (Romania) Women’s Doubles: Hsieh Su-Wei (Taiwan) & Barbora Strycova (Czech Republic) Mixed Doubles: Ivan Dodig (Croatia) & Latisha Chan (Taiwan)

French Open May 26-June 9, 2019 Roland Garros Paris, France 2019 Champions Men’s Singles: Rafael Nadal (Spain) Men’s Doubles: Kevin Krawietz (Germany) & Andreas Mies (Germany) Women’s Singles: Ash Barty (Australia) Women’s Doubles: Timea Babos (Hungary) & Kristina Mladenovic (France) Mixed Doubles: Latisha Chan (Taiwan) & Ivan Dodig (Croatian)


US Open August 26-September 8, 2019 USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Flushing Meadows, N.Y. 2019 Champions Men’s Singles: Rafael Nadal (Spain) Men’s Doubles: Juan Sebastian Cabal (Colombia) & Robert Farah (Colombia) Women’s Singles: Bianca Andreescu (Canada) Women’s Doubles: Elise Mertens (Belgium) & Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) Mixed Doubles: Bethanie MattekSands (United States) & Jamie Murray (Great Britain)

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

Nicolas Almagro Nicolas Almagro retired on the courts of his hometown in Murcia, Spain. The 2013 Australian Open quarterfinalist, Almagro has been battling physical problems that have prevented him from competing on the ATP circuit. He was a three-time quarterfinalist at the French Open, each time losing to the eventual champion and his compatriot, Rafael Nadal. During the 2014 Barcelona Open, Almagro snapped Nadal’s 41-match winning streak. It was his first victory over Nadal after meeting him 11 times in his career. Almagro has won 13 singles titles and he achieved a career-high singles ranking of ninth in the world back in 2011. Marcos Baghdatis Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis concluded his 15-year tenure on the ATP circuit at Wimbledon last year. The 2006 Australian Open runner-up lost the final match of his career to 17thseeded Matteo Berrettini in straight sets in the tournament’s second round. After it ended, the 34-year-old patted his heart with both hands and then knelt to the grass, and was in tears as the crowd gave him a lengthy standing ovation. Baghdatis’ career comes to an end after posting a 349-273 tour-level match record that includes winning four ATP titles and a career-high ranking of eighth in the world. Since retiring, Baghdatis has joined the coaching staff for Elina Svitolina.

Year That Was 2019 Tomas Berdych Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych announced his retirement from tennis in 2019 after a 17-year professional career. The 34-year-old Berdych, after struggling with a back injury for much of the last two years, said his body no longer allows him to compete. Ranked as high as fourth in the world, Berdych made his decision after losing in the first round of the US Open last August. “I said, ‘Okay … that’s it. That’s enough.’ In terms of just my body doesn’t allow me to do so, and it’s very unpredictable,” said Berdych. “There is no real point to continue.” The Czech said the highlight of his career was reaching the 2010 Wimbledon final, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic along the way before losing to Rafael Nadal. “Even the final that I lost, it was a very, very special moment,” he said. He also reached the semifinals at least once at each of the other three

Grand Slams and won 13 career titles.

Dominika Cibulkova Dominika Cibulkova closed the curtain on her stellar career in an announcement in her hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia. The 30-year-old reached 21 singles finals during her career, capturing eight titles and achieving a career high ranking of fourth in the world back in 2017. In 2014, Cibulkova became the first Slovak woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final, finishing runner-up to China’s Li Na at the Australian Open. A semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2009, she was a three-time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and reached the last eight at the US Open in 2010. Having played her last match against Aryna Sabalenka at Roland Garros earlier this year, she retires with a 450-299 win-loss record and career prize money of $13,725,520.

David Ferrer

David Ferrer turned professional in 2000 and in the first years of his career, was known as a clay-court specialist, having won half of his titles on the surface. However, he has had significant success on all surfaces, reaching the final of the French Open in 2013, the semifinals of the Australian and US Open twice each, and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon twice. He represented Spain on the Davis Cup team that won the finals in 2008, 2009, and 2011. Ferrer won the Paris Masters in 2012, and was runner-up at six Masters tournaments throughout his career. He is often discussed as being one of the best players not to have won a Grand Slam title. He retired at his home tournament of Madrid after losing to Alexander Zverev in the round of 32. Ferrer will now serve as Tournament Director for the Barcelona Open. continued on page 46 • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


A Look Back at the Year That Was 2019

continued from page 45

Lucie Safarova The former top-ranked doubles player and fifthranked singles player ended her career after playing her last match in Paris. Safarova accumulated seven singles titles and 15 doubles titles throughout her time on tour, including five Grand Slam doubles titles (two Australian Opens, two French Opens and a US Open), and a Fed Cup Championship.

his career, he won four ATP titles and doubles title. He notched two victories over the top-ranked player in the world, defeating compatriot Novak

Janko Tipsarevic Janko Tipsarevic played his final ATP tour match at the Stockholm Open this year. In 2012, the Serb reached a careerhigh singles ranking of eighth in the world. In

Djokovic twice. His best results at a Grand Slam tournament came at the US Open in 2011 and 2012, where he reached the quarterfinals both times.

ATP Year End Rankings

WTA Year End Rankings

1. Rafael Nadal (Spain) 2. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 3. Roger Federer (Switzerland) 4. Dominic Thiem (Austria) 5. Daniil Medvedev (Russia) 6. Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) 7. Alex Zverev (Germany) 8. Matteo Berrettini (Italy) 9. Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain) 10. Gael Monfils (France)

1. Ashleigh Barty (Australia) 2. Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) 3. Naomi Osaka (Japan) 4. Simona Halep (Romania) 5. Bianca Andreescu (Canada) 6. Elena Svitolina (Ukraine) 7. Petra Kivitova (Czech Republic) 8. Belinda Bencic (Switzerland) 9. Kiki Bertens (Netherlands) 10. Serena Williams (United States)


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The Tennis Mindset

By Rohan Goetzke e all know that tennis is a game of skill, strategy and strength, and winning means playing a game that’s just a single shot better than your opponent. With every point potentially being a win-or-lose situation, the emotional roller coaster that players are subjected to is challenging, to say the least. A player has to be physically and mentally strong to be in the game. Thriving and surviving as a tennis player, both on and off the court, is about more than just hitting the ball. Recognizing the complexity of the sport is important for players, coaches and parents alike. While there is a lot of talk about a long-term player development plan (LTPD), perhaps the greatest challenge for any player is finding their own personal balance between the stresses of emotional, physical and technical development and achieving results. Playing tennis is like being under a microscope, there is nowhere to hide—a player’s personality, character and will are displayed on court for all to see. Surrounding a player with a


strong team is key, and the role of a coach is crucial. And for younger players, the parents are very important. As a coach or parent, the challenge is to guide a player to perform their best in all aspects of the game, and then come back the next day wanting more. The reality of the day-to-day training is working with players on their individual games. Fine tuning a swing, tweaking a serve or devising a player’s game strategy are all central elements of a training program. It is also so important for parents to recognize the vital role they play in a young player’s development. The way a parent reacts to a loss or a win forms a young player’s attitude about competition. Possibly one of the most vital issues is balancing a player’s expectation of what they are capable of doing and what they want to do. The game has become more physical and it has evolved into roughly a few styles, mostly based on an aggressive baseliner moving towards finishing the point off. To develop any level of player is a question of developing their overall game and improving on one or two weapons. Perhaps one of the most significant things about playing tennis are the skills

required and developed as a player over time. For any player, developing technical skills, emotional wisdom and mental and physical strengths are all critical for their game, as well as navigating the highs and lows of life off the court. Working hard, focusing on the process, being respectful and always trying to improve also apply to striving to be the best person you can be. Simply put, it takes a strong team to become the best player and person possible and there are no short cuts. So train hard and enjoy the ride. Rohan Goetzke began his tennis career at an early age in Australia, and competed on the professional circuit in Australian and European tournaments before taking a coaching opportunity at a private tennis school in Belgium. Following that, he rose up the ranks in the Dutch Tennis Federation, serving as Technical Director and National Head Coach. He has coached top players such as Richard Krajicek and Mario Ancic. In 2012, Goetzke took over as Director of Tennis at IMG Academy, and as of January 2020, joined the CourtSense Team as a Director of High Performance at Bogota Racquet Club. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


New York Tennis Magazine’s Gossip Column By Emilie Katz Bryan Brothers Announce 2020 Will Be Last Year on Tour

titles. The Bryans’ last tournament will be the 2020 US Open.

Wozniacki to Hang it Up After Aussie Open

America and in a subsequent Instagram post, where she indicated there was more she wanted to accomplish in life off the court. Wozniacki is a two-time US Open finalist and held the year-end number one ranking in 2010 and 2011.

ESPN to Air Doc on Instant Replay in Tennis

The greatest duo to ever lace up tennis shoes, Bob & Mike Bryan, announced that their illustrious career will come to a close after the 2020 season. The 41-year-old duo have captured 118 doubles titles together, including 16 Grand Slam

Former world number one and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki will end her professional tennis career after the Australian Open. The 29-year-old made the announcement on Good Morning

One of the latest ESPN projects will be focused on instant replay in tennis. ESPN Films will be airing a 30 for 30 Short “Subject to Review” which takes a close look at the technology that’s been developed to make more accurate calls in sports, with a focus on tennis, but also the meaning and significance of the pursuit of that technology.

Jack Sock Gets Engaged American Jack Sock put a ring on it! The former eighthranked player in the world in singles and top-ranked doubles player got engaged to girlfriend, Laura Little.


New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

Cibulkova Expecting First Child

Bollettieri Once Gave Lombardi Tennis Lesson

providing a cameo on The Morning Show, which is on Apple TV+ and stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. In the episode, Sharapova has the line: “Wow, I’ve just got to say I love you guys together. It’s like watching a great tennis match.”

ATP Names New CEO

Soon after announcing her retirement from the WTA Tour, Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova shared some even bigger news with her fans. The 30-year-old Cibulkova and husband Michael Navar, who married in 2016, announced they were expecting their first child. Cibulkova, who was ranked as high as fourth in the world, closed the curtain on her 15-year career and now embarks on the next stage of her life.

Nick Bollettieri is one of the greatest coaches in tennis history, and it was recently revealed that he gave a lesson to one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports. Sports reporter Darren Rovell tweeted out a picture of a check Vince Lombardi wrote to The ATP recently named Massimo Bollettieri for a tennis lesson in 1964. Calvelli its chief executive officer, and The cost? $17.64. he will assume that role beginning on January 1, 2020. Calvelli was a Sharapova Shows unanimous choice by the ATP’s Board of Directors, and enters his new position after 20-plus years as a sports executive in global sales, marketing, operations and product development.

Djokovic, Serena Named Players of the Decade Maria Sharapova recently stepped off the court and into a television studio,

2020 USPTA Conferences and Workshops

As the decade came to a close, named Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams as the Men’s and Women’s Player of the Decade, respectively. Djokovic posted a record of 627-100, and Serena posted a record of 377-45 from 2010-2019, and both were clearly the most dominant players on the respective tours over the last 10 years.

• January 24-25 - USTA Eastern Section's Annual Conference in White Plains, NY • February 15 - New York Open Workshop at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY • May 1-3 - USPTA Eastern/New England Annual Conference in Newport, RI USPTA is accredited by the USTA TM

Please contact Paul Fontana at 914-656-0614 or • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Ten Things to


Written and compiled by Brian Coleman and R

The “Big Three”

which reached an emotional high after the Brit defeated Stan Wawrinka in the finals of the European Open to claim his first title since returning from injury. The five-time Australian Open finalist has no expectations heading into the first Grand Slam of the year, but wants to be able to compete pain-free. If he can achieve this goal, Murray is a dark horse candidate whose competitive spirit is as high as anyone in the men’s field, and can make him a dangerous opponent for whoever winds up across the net from him.

Young stars Bencic and Vekic … how will they follow up their US Open run? As the calendar flips to a new decade, three familiar names still remain atop the ATP World Tour rankings. The three greatest players of all-time playing in the same era is remarkable, and something that has captivated the sports world and has elevated the popularity of tennis. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have combined for 55 Grand Slam titles and counting, and the tennis world is wondering if 2020 will be the year a new star emerges. Nadal storms into the Australian Open fresh off a Davis Cup victory for Spain, and currently holds the top ranking in the world. After a solid run to the finals last year, he is hoping to capture his second Australian Open title. However, throughout his career, the Spaniard has had his worst major results in Australia, and the rest of the field is not going to make winning a title easy. Djokovic travels to the “Land Down Under” as a slight favorite. The defending champion had some spectacular moments in 2019, winning two major titles, but seemed to return down to Earth towards the end of the season and lost the number one ranking. Djokovic is known for his ups and downs, but when things get tight on the biggest stages, the Serbian always seems to come through. Federer, at the age of 38, is looking to capture his seventh Aussie Open title. Very few people expected the “Swiss Maestro” to raise the trophy two years ago, and this year is no different. After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, Federer is eager to capture another Grand Slam and extend his tally. If his body holds up, Federer’s brilliance can help him get past anyone.

Andy Murray’s expectations Andy Murray has slowly but steadily mounted his comeback, 50

The US Open was a breakout tournament for many players on the women’s side beyond its champion Bianca Andreescu. This included Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic, both of whom were pegged to be stars when they were teenagers, and are now tapping into that potential. Still both extremely young at 22- and 23-years-old respectively, Bencic and Vekic compiled their best Grand Slam runs of their careers in Queens. Vekic reached the quarterfinals, while Bencic reached the semifinals, and both should be ready to make a deep run in the first Grand Slam of 2020.

The Aussies As is usually the case, and even more so being in his home country, all eyes will be on Nick Kyrgios. The crowd favorite will likely put on the usual show, with a mixture of trick shots and theatrics. Despite winning multiple ATP 500 titles, last season was a bit of disappointment for Kyrgios. At the Australian Open, Kyrgios will not even be the

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

to Watch at the

0 Australian Open

and Robbie Werdiger

highest-seeded Australian in the draw. Fellow countryman Alex de Minaur is currently ranked 18th in the world, and the 25-year-old is coached by Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt. With a strong mind and an explosive game, de Minaur has higher expectations than Kyrgios heading into this year’s tournament.

Young stars in the top 10 A group of breakout stars in their early 20’s have climbed the rankings and are threatening to topple the reign of the Big Three. Dominic Thiem beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in 2019 en route to a career-best year and hopes to do the same as the fourth-seed at the Aussie Open. Daniil Medvedev went on a magical run last season, winning the most matches of anyone on tour, including reaching the US Open finals. After a few tough losses at the

end of the season, Medvedev is rested and ready to capture his first major title. Stefanos Tsitsipas won the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals and is looking to build off his semifinal run in Australia last year to become the first Greek male ever to win a Grand Slam. Alexander Zverev was the first Next Gen player thought to be able to continued on page 52 • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


2020 australian open

mid-September. A new year could mean a fresh start for Osaka, and the 22-year-old will be ready to defend her title in Melbourne.

continued from page 51

contend with the Big Three. He’s played well in tournaments with a two-out-of-three set format, but at the Grand Slams, Zverev has yet to get past the quarterfinals and, therefore, remains on upset alert. Matteo Berrettini emerged out of nowhere and has stunned the odds-makers as he fought his way to the semifinals of the US Open. Having lost in the first round last year at the Australian Open, Berrettini is likely to build off his newfound confidence and make a mark in the draw this year.

Can Osaka defend her title?

The young star you may not know: Jannik Sinner You may not have heard of Jannik Sinner before he won the Next Gen ATP Finals late last year, and you may still not know his name. But you will soon. The 18-year-old Italian prodigy is ranked 78th in the world and has earned his ranking mostly through tournaments on the Futures and Challengers Tour. He has beaten Gael Monfils, as well as Alex de Minaur, and won a set off Stan Wawrinka at the US Open. The year 2020 is the time for Sinner to break into the top 50, and there is no better place to start the season than on a high note at the Australian Open.

Wozniacki’s last ride

Last year at the Australian Open, Naomi Osaka capped off a remarkable six-month run that began towards the end of 2018. After winning the US Open, she parlayed that into an Australian Open title, becoming the first woman to win backto-back majors since Serena Williams in 2015. Osaka’s season peaked then, as the young star failed to reach the semifinals of any event until the Toray Pan Pacific Open in

Towards the end of 2019, Caroline Wozniacki, one of the greatest players of this generation, announced that she will be retiring from professional tennis. But before she officially calls it quits, Wozniacki will play the 2020 Australian Open, a tournament she won two years ago for her maiden Grand Slam title. Still just 29-years-old, Wozniacki said she has more to accomplish in life away from tennis, and lingering injuries, including rheumatoid arthritis, have made it difficult for her to practice and compete over the last couple of years. Wozniacki has long been a fan-favorite, and she will try to go out on top in her final career tournament.

How will Andreescu respond? Canada’s Bianca Andreescu became the sport’s new star in 2019, as the teenager powered her way to the US Open title.

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New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

She made the usual rounds that a Grand Slam champion does, being honored back in her hometown and doing a number of television appearances and interviews. The 19year-old plays the game with an edge and has the game to back it up, and we should expect to see her competing at the top of the game for the next decade. But on the heels of her first major title, how will she respond at the Australian Open being the most recent Grand Slam winner? Last year, she had to go through qualifying to just reach the main draw in Melbourne, where she proceeded to win two more rounds, but will be one of the top seeds in the 2020 edition of the event.

The American women Last year, we saw a number of American women achieve their best results at a Grand Slam, setting them up to improve on those showings as we enter 2020. That begins at the Australian Open. In Melbourne a year ago, Danielle Collins, the 26-yearold former University of Virginia standout, powered her way into the semifinals before falling to eventual runner-up Petra Kvitova. That was followed up by three Americans reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and Amanda Anisimova, which included the latter, just 18-years-old, reaching the semifinals. And at

Wimbledon, Alison Riske took on Serena Williams in a threeset match for a spot in the semifinals. In the year’s final major, Serena was the lone American into the semifinals, although the Round of 16 featured four players from the United States. This is a good sign heading into the New Year, with a number of American women, besides Serena, having experienced deep runs into the Grand Slams. Expect them to be a factor at the calendar’s first Grand Slam in 2020. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


The Complicated Issue of Parents Coaching Their Kids By Gilad Bloom About two years ago I went to watch one of my students play a USTA Eastern Section tournament. It was a 12U event, his opponent was a nice little player and it was a close match. However, I noticed right away that the kid kept looking at his watch before and after every point; it looked strange. It didn’t take me long to realize that his father, who was sitting very close to me, was texting him instructions after every point! The kid was wearing a smart watch (but had a not-so-smart dad). When I pointed it out to the referee of the tournament, she stood next to the father which forced him to stop the cheating. The poor kid kept looking at the watch waiting for instructions, and eventually he couldn’t function and his game collapsed; it was pathetic. I felt sorry for the kid and ashamed for the father. The whole idea of playing a match is for the kids to figure out on their own how to deal with the challenges of a tennis match, and what the dad was doing was not only against the rules, but also 54

against logic. In the 24 years that I have been a teaching pro, I have witnessed bizarre behavior from parents of junior players. Often times the pressure that is put on the kids to perform well and “meet the expectations” result in scared kids who end up making bad calls in order to win and please the ultra-competitive parent. In general, many of the junior tournaments are a mad house of overbearing parents lurking around the courts giving, often times illegal, tips to their kids, and looking extremely nervous and uptight while the kids are trying to battle it out. With the kids calling their own lines, and the reality that there is almost never a referee when needed, it can get pretty ugly. As a coach who runs a junior program, I interact with all types of parents, and developing a trusting relationship with the student’s parents is an important part of my job. The degree of involvement varies, and I’ve seen the classic, overbearing parent who shows up to each lesson, lives vicariously through their child’s career, and fancies themselves as coaches (these types of parents rarely last with me). There is also the passive parent who

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

hands over the child and says: “it’s the child’s hobby, you tell us what to do; I don’t know tennis”. That type is the easiest to work with but not necessarily the best. Ideally though, there should be a middle ground where the parents give the unconditional support and show an involvement without pushing too much, all while allowing a professional person to guide them through the stages. As a coach I rely on the parents to help with the logistical and emotional needs, but let the pro work with the kids on the professional, technical and strategic parts of the game. The relationship between coach and player can get pretty close as many hours are spent together on the court and between matches, and the coach is witnessing the kids experiencing emotional ups and down, from both big wins and disappointing losses. It is a known truth that, in many cases, parents are the engine for success in sports. In tennis the most famous case is Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena. Williams coached his two daughters to become the top-ranked players in the world with Serena becoming arguably the best female player ever. He coached them on a daily basis despite not

having any tennis background. He did take the girls to some lessons with top pros at the time, such as Rick Macci, but for the most part, he did it on his own proving to possess both great intuition and motivating skills. Long before the Williams Sisters were born, the great Jimmy Connors was coached by his mother who was a teaching pro. He didn’t do so badly in his career, winning 109 ATP titles; more than anyone. But I can safely say after more than 40 years in this field that for every success story, there are a dozen cases in which the over involvement of parents hurt the player’s career and, in many cases, damaged the relationship with the kids. Specific cases that come to mind are those of Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Dokic. Capriati was coached by her father from a very young age had an amazing career but suffered from depression and ended her career emotionally scarred. Dokic got to the Top 10 in the world in singles while being coached by her father. However, she ended up getting a restraining order against him for physically and mentally abusing her, and he was subsequently banned from showing up at WTA events. The “pushy parent” is typical of all sports but in an individual sport like tennis, the role of the parent is bigger. In a team sport, the player is basically at the mercy of the coach once the competition starts, while in tennis the parent employs the coach so logistically the parent’s role is huge—the player relies on the parents to drive them to tournaments, feed them, take care of their equipment, etc. Most kids start playing around sixyears-old, and when done in a healthy way and with the proper coaching, it can be ideal. What can be more fun than spending time with and watching your kid develop as a player and person? The problem is that often tennis, being the competitive and demanding sport that it is, can become a nightmare. For example—when the kid doesn’t meet his/her expectations, the expectations become too high, or when the kid becomes a teenage and starts to lose interest. From the parent’s point of view,

this can be very frustrating after years of financial and emotional investment. What does a parent do in such a situation? Most parents don’t have a tennis background higher than playing country club tennis and there are many mistakes that can be made. The right thing to do is to consult with professionals and choose the right coaching staff/program. The wiser parents will know when they find the right person to work with their child and step out of the picture, allowing the child to thrive on their own. The ones who let their ego control them will probably do more harm than good, despite the good intentions. The parents should always be a part of the team; I always allow the parents to watch the lessons and share my thoughts with them, but there is no talking to the player during the lessons and, in general, I instruct them not to talk to the kids about tennis unless the kid starts the conversation. But I’m pretty sure that they don’t always listen to me. It is my opinion that a parent should not act as a day-to-day coach to their child, even if the parent is a coach. As a father of a talented five-year-old boy who loves tennis, I hold back on my fatherly instinct to take him under my wing and coach him full time. Instead, I let my assistants work with him and I simply play with him for fun without giving him instructions, ensuring our time on court

is quality time. I will obviously mentor and support him if he chooses to play seriously in the future, but never as his daily personal coach. My father was a Field Hockey player back in his native Australia and he played professionally. He never interfered with my tennis as he understood that it wasn’t his field—he just supported me, drove me everywhere and believed in me. He never spoke about winning or losing. He cared more about sportsmanship and being a gentleman was more important than anything. But he was very competitive; I knew it and inherited that from him. I believe that is in the heart of every true athlete—the will to win. No need to teach it. For this reason the first phone call I always made after I won a match was to my father, because there’s nothing that a kid wants more than to please his/her parents. Gilad Bloom, former Israeli Davis Cup player and two-time Olympian, played on the ATP Tour 1983-1995, reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 1990, reached a highest ranking of 61 in singles, was Israel Singles Champion three times. Bloom has been running his own tennis program since 2000 and also was director of tennis at John McEnroe Tennis Academy for two years. He can be reached by e-mail at

• Groups, Private lessons, Tournament Travel, 7 days a week • Certified ATP coach with 22 years of HP experience • 13 years on the pro tour playing ATP, Davis Cup and Olympics • Former 3 time Israeli singles champion • Indoors Winter & Spring sessions at NYTC Indoors (Throgs Neck)

Call 914-907-0041 or E-mail • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Mastering the Mind Mindfulness at 125 MPH By Rob Polishook emember when you saw Kawhi Leonard draining that last-second three pointer? Or Tom Brady driving down the field with less than two minutes to go? Or more recently, Rafael Nadal’s epic match versus Daniil Medvedev in the season-ending 2019 ATP Finals. He was down 1-5 in the third set, only to pull out the match 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 in what might be the greatest comeback of 2019. I don’t think anyone would disagree that in all these instances, the mental edge is huge. In fact, I’d say that the mental game is what separates the good athletes from the great ones. Novak Djokovic might agree, he is widely quoted as saying, “Tennis is a mental game. Everyone is fit, everyone can hit great forehands and backhands.” So what is it that many of these elite athletes are doing to help them compete at a higher level and manage adversity under pressure? One big part of an athlete’s preparation is something you may not hear much about in the sport’s world: Meditation. Do you know that many great athletes meditate? In fact, Djokovic has long spoken about his practice and, just recently, US Open winner Bianca Andreescu spoke about how she visualizes ahead of big matches. Others include Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Steph Curry in basketball; Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day in golf; Tom Brady and the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in football; Carli Lloyd in soccer; Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh



Jennings in volleyball; Derek Jeter, Barry Zito and Marcus Stroman in baseball. The list goes on. Think about it. How much time and effort do you spend working on the technical aspects of tennis, hitting ball after ball? Then in fitness, trying to get stronger, and improving endurance? And then drills, strategy and pattern play? Now, how much time do you spend on the mental side? If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is probably not very much. Athletes often disproportionately favor “everything else” to the point the mental side is almost non-existent. Yet we all know how important the mental emotional game is. In a 2008 post match press conference, Federer said, “Previously, I always thought it was just tactical and technique, but every match has become almost mental and physical—I try to push myself to move well. I try to push myself not

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

to get upset and stay positive, and that’s what my biggest improvement is over all these years. Under pressure, I can see things clear.” What if you could practice mindfulness, and it could help you the same way it helps Novak Djokovic, Bianca Andreescu, Kobe Bryant or the Seattle Seahawks? Could it be helpful? Now, you may be wondering … what is mindfulness meditation? Where does it come from? And what’s in it for you? In this article, we will explore these questions. Then in future “Mastering the Mind: Mindfulness at 125 MPH” articles, I will discuss how can you practice mindfulness and integrate it into your mental training in an intentional and meaningful way. Mindfulness meditation has been around for 2,500 years. Like a great athlete, the practice has withstood the test of time. Its roots extend back to the early teachings of the

Buddha and Eastern wisdom. It’s important to note, mindfulness meditation is not a religion. Rather, mindfulness is about being present, it is a practice that helps you heighten awareness, acceptance and concentration among many other things. A quick Google search defines “Mindfulness” as, “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” During my mindfulness meditation teacher training, our teacher David Nichtern defined mindfulness as: “Learning to bring our attention to the present moment and simply seeing what arises (thoughts, emotions, feelings) without judgment.” Imagine how freeing it would be to allow thoughts to come and go, and be able to refocus on your game, your strategy and what you can control during competition. It would be, literally, a game-changer, and oftentimes, the difference between a big win or loss.

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness! Mindlessness refers to not paying attention to what’s going on around you, or how your thoughts and emotions are impacting your behavior. In competition, it’s safe to say we have all experienced this to one degree or another. Perhaps you have had this recurring thought, “Oh my god, I’m nervous about playing him/her! Everyone thinks I should win.” Unfortunately, a thought like that can send an athlete spiraling down the proverbial rabbit hole where you obsess about losing. Worse yet, you lose your focus on what you need to do to play your game. Mindfulness is a tool which will help you refocus, re-center and build resilience. In the next article, we will delve deeper into the benefits of mindfulness, and specifically, how to practice. For now, to get a brief sense of what it’s like to meditate, find a comfortable and quiet place, sit straight up with your eyes softly

gazing down. Bring your attention to your breath, breathing in and out, settling into its rhythm. As your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Just these few moments may help you get ready. I’m just saying, if it’s good enough for Kobe, Curry, Novak, Jeter, Brady, Andreescu and other top athletes, it might be worthwhile for you. Rob Polishook, MA, CPC is the founder of Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group. As a mental training coach, he works with athletes helping them to unleash their mental edge through mindfulness, somatic psychology and mental training skills. Rob is author of two best-selling books: Tennis Inside the Zone and Baseball Inside the Zone: Mental Training Workouts for Champions. He may be reached by phone at (973) 723-0314, e-mail at, visit, and follow Rob on Instagram @InsideTheZone.

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For sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities please call 516.409.4444 or e-mail • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


My Philosophy On Coaching High Performance Juniors By Ahsha Rolle y philosophy for developing high performance players is to analyze their personality, body type, athletic ability and natural attributes. Analyzing these qualities helps me break down the appropriate game style that would be suited for the specific player and gives me the ability to guide and craft his or her game. In my own career, I had the opportunity to play on the WTA tour and reached a high rank of 82 in the world in singles. I also had success as a junior player finishing top in the country in the 18 -and-under division. This experience, competing both as a professional adult and a highperformance junior, has helped me understand how to guide players. I understand that every player is unique and needs a personalized plan, and having competed at various levels enables me to see when other players are nervous, and allows me relate to them during situations they have either gone through or will go through. I had the great honor of traveling to



the Orange Bowl and Winter Nationals with Stephanie Yakoff where she won the Girls 14s Orange Bowl title and reached the semifinals of the Winter Nationals. I was her traveling coach, and in this type of role it’s important for me to remind the player of their best skills, to make sure their game is sharp, and to scout future opponents. Stephanie is a very talented and knowledgeable young player in the way that she analyzes both her opponents and the game of tennis overall. She made my job very easy during those few weeks. I arrived in Miami about three days early to train and prepare her for the Orange Bowl. I am originally from Miami, so we were able to train at some local courts like Miami Shores County Club and had some great training sessions in preparation for the tournament. I can remember playing the Orange Bowl as a junior so to now be there as a coach was definitely a surreal feeling for me. My family still lives in Miami, so Stephanie had no shortage of a cheering squad. She played solid tennis all week, never dropping a set, let alone giving up more than three games in a set the whole tournament.

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

Originally, I had not planned to attend the Winter Nationals with Stephanie, but we were on such a roll that I figured why not keep going! I am happy to say that Stephanie finished third in the Winter Nationals which earned her the Bronze Ball. I am so proud of the work she put in and can’t wait to see what she does in the future! Using your own personal experience to relate to your players is a valuable resource to use in your coaching. Having been a player at the highest level, I try to use the situations I have faced in the past to guide the way I adapt to each of my students. Ahsha Rolle is the Director of Adult Programs at The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning, where she teaches both adults and high performance juniors, using a blend of strategy drill and games to help each player reach their full potential. She turned pro in 2007 and achieved a career high ranking of 82nd in the world in singles, and 111th in doubles. She competed in all four Grand Slam tournaments at least twice, and reached the third round at both the US Open and Indian Wells in 2007, while also competing in the United States’ Fed Cup tie against Russia in 2008.

Great Athletes, Teams Must Have a Relentless Hunger to Become Their Very Best By Xavier Luna Want to become a great athlete? Obviously, practice makes perfect, so it’s important to not just show up, but to fine tune your strengths and work on your weaknesses when you take to the court. While having natural talent helps and many players just have “it”, talent can also be gained by practicing and instilling certain strokes, techniques and footwork into your muscle memory. Aside from putting in the practice hours in the gym, on the court, and developing your talent and skills, there’s one other big x-factor to becoming your very best: a relentless drive. After all, if you really want something, what you need to do and how hard you have to work to achieve it becomes much clearer. With a hunger, being great isn’t just a pipe dream — it becomes a goal. Those with drive will stop at nothing until they reach their goal, but those without it will likely never reach their full potential. The world’s best athletes all have a relentless hunger to be great Tennis superstar Serena Williams always knew she was talented when it came to tennis. This much was evident when she made her professional debut at age 14. Yet, she was ranked the outside the top 300 in the world in 1997, and moved up

to 96th in the world in 1998 before shooting up the rankings and into the Top 10 in 1999. That year was a turning point in her career as she captured her first career singles title in Paris, and would go on to notch wins against the likes of Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Monica Seles. It was just her second full season as a professional on tour, and she climbed to as high as fourth in the world as a result of her unrelenting hunger to be great. Had she just sat back on her talent; we likely wouldn’t recognize Serena Williams as the best women’s tennis player of all time. She may have had a nice career, yes, but she surely wouldn’t have 23 singles titles and 14 Grand Slam titles to her name. Serena had the fire in her belly to be great, as the entire tennis world now knows. Roger Federer is a similar story, and another example of how incredible talent needs to be buoyed by the desire to be great. “You have to put in a lot of sacrifice and effort for sometimes little reward but you have to know that if you put in the right effort the reward will come,” Federer once said. It’s that same attitude that has catapulted Federer into arguably the greatest of all-time, and owner of 20 Grand Slam titles, the most ever by anyone on the men’s side. In order to realize your true potential

on the tennis court, you can’t just like the game—you have to love the game. You have to eat, breathe and sleep the game. Your hours on court can only be matched by your competitive desire to be great. And this relentless drive cannot be taught—it needs to be assumed and adopted by each individual player. Being talented is always nice, having access to top-notch coaching and facilities is another benefit, but without that competitive fire and drive to be the very best player you can be, you’ll likely never reach your full potential. And while every player’s full potential is different, you’ll never know what that is if you’re unable to reach that ultimate plateau. These lessons are not only applicable to the tennis court, but in life in general. So yes, keep practicing. Keep working with your coaches. But don’t lose your edge, drive, and love for the game. Xavier Luna is the director of junior tennis for the Advantage All-City Junior Tennis Programs. Xavier has more than 30 years of experience in tennis, commencing as a ranked junior. He was the director of junior programs at Stadium Racquet Club, the owner and founder of Metro Tennis Academy, and has held many other positions in the tennis industry. Xavier inspires players with his love of tennis and possesses the professional skills to keep campers returning year after year to the All-City Junior Tennis Programs. • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine


Serve and Volley for Women:

Why Not? By Lisa Dodson here are a number of classic “reasons” for the lack of serve and volley among women in the modern game of tennis. Opinions and quotes from fans, players, coaches and commentators are many. True or not here, they are:


1. “The return is too big.” 2. “Women’s serves are not big enough and they are too small.” 3. “Racket and string technology makes serve and volley ‘suicidal.’” 4. “Women aren’t agile and quick in forward/back movement.” I have long been a believer that women’s tennis took an ill-advised, onedimensional turn many years ago. With the onset of topspin, the baseline became the main room in the house for female players. A successful style was created and copied, commentators and coaches professing that this was the way women should play tennis. We, the coaches, professionals and spokespeople for the game bought into this in a big way. Consequently, we have undermined players’ abilities and 60

undervalued a substantial part of the game in women’s tennis. The serve We all know that, generally speaking, women are not physically capable of serving at the same speed as men. Nature dictates this by giving men the size, speed and strength advantage. That being said, it does not mean that women cannot develop big serves. A male’s muscle mass is above the waist and a female’s is below the waist. Women need to be taught to engage the center and lower body more to harness their natural power and to couple this with a proper throwing technique. The fastest, officially-recorded, serve by a woman is 131 miles per hour by Sabine Lisicki, followed by 12 pro players who have recorded speeds over the minimum 124 miles per hour benchmark. Given the right tools and coaching, these exceptional results are attainable by female players. It’s all a matter of the player and coach believing that this is possible and going through a solid progression. It’s also a matter of time spent, balls hit and willingness to persevere. Like anything else, there are some players who will take to the challenge more naturally and with open and accepting attitudes.

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

These players and coaches will then set the bar for others. In the last few years, there has been a push to improve women’s serves, and strides are being made to earn some cheap points. Commanding play from the serve can be the future of women’s tennis if we make it a priority. We’re not even talking about blasting untouched aces, but setting a tone and confidence for a match by using varying spin, pinpoint placement and speed. The key is to make the receiver hit returns that are outside of their striking zone. Then, returns become less accurate, less deadly and more vulnerable. The volley The serve always gets the blame for the lack of serve and volley for women. What about the poor old neglected classic volley, which just so happens to be the second and equally important half of the serve and volley? The art of the volley has been stripped and robbed by forehand grips. Female players spend so much time on the baseline hitting topspin forehands and two-handed backhands that the Continental grip is a stranger. Dangerously true is that this happens daily at grassroots levels. It’s no wonder that our most creative and versatile female players in history

utilize the one-handed backhand. Using a Continental grip for the backhand leads to familiarity of what this grip provides for both the serve and the volley. The Continental grip is essential for a controlled volley. Generally, classic volleys are not meant to overpower, but to put pressure on the opponent to hit a difficult passing shot and is a necessity for the first or mid-court volley. Forward movement takes players from one physical place to another by means of hitting the shot and is an integral part of hitting this non-swinging shot. Female players need to spend time on their volley technique and how to make that technique work on the move. If it is true that women are less good at forward movement and struggle with transitioning reflexively, then it really is for lack of doing it. Reallocate a good chunk of practice time to coming forward, learning an athletic split-step and quickening up the transition. Add a precision first volley to complete building the confidence to use a serve and volley or an approach technique. Not only will

this make serving and volleying more successful, but it will enhance approaching on forceful ground shots or returns. It’s time and it takes time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that all women players should become serve and volley players, I’m advocating a winning style of play at all levels. Use it at specific, strategic times, against specific player types, as a pressure tool, as a bluff. Just use it! Remember that when you go to the net, you will sometimes get passed. But in the meantime, you will win more points by simply approaching (and not having to volley) than you will by volleying. The premise above is driven by facts. Craig O’Shannessy, the lead strategy analyst for ATP and WTA, cited the following facts: An examination of the statistics shows that serving and volleying remains a winning strategy for men and women … At the 2012 US Open, both men and women had the highest winning percentage (of baseline, net and serve and volley) when serving and volleying:

68.7 percent for men, 69.2 percent for women. The percentages were similar for Wimbledon 2013. Surprisingly, baseline points won were 46.2 percent for men and 47.3 percent for women. Still, there were only 190 serve-andvolley points in the women’s tournament, and only 37 of the 128 women in the field served and volleyed at all. 19 women did not lose a point while serving and volleying. Perhaps things will change when coaches encourage women to spend quality time on their serve, volley and the athletic movements associated with putting them together. So, let me ask again, why not? Lisa Dodson is the developer and owner of Servemaster, a USPTA Elite Professional and a former WTA worldranked player. She is currently the director of tennis at Shenorock Shore Club in Rye, N.Y. She may be reached by e-mail at or visit

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The Talk By Barbara Wyatt Travis storms the net, finger pointed … “Stop calling my balls out. That ball was in.” Without a pause, his partner says, “We’re calling for line judges.” Thank heavens, I thought, There IS a player with intelligence on that side of the net. Travis’ partner demonstrated she knows tennis rules when she requested line judges. Travis needs a reminder about courtesy on court (The Code Rule 1) and not making line calls from his side of the net (The Code Rule 5). His combative behavior made me want to leap from the bleachers and launch into “The Talk,” a lecture about line calls. First, it’s difficult to identify a splitsecond ball-landing position. The ball, and maybe the player, are moving. Travis’ view from over 70-feet away and through a net, is not as accurate as two players less than 10-feet from where the ball landed. Vic Braden, tennis aficionado with books, videos and legendary coaching techniques, published a “Tennis Ball Vision Study,” a video summary that 62

can be viewed on YouTube. Second, if you believe there has been an incorrect line call, ask: “Are you sure?” If a second call in the match appears to be incorrectly identified, ask again: “Are you sure?” and mention you might call for line judges. If you believe a third ball is incorrectly called out, formally ask for line judges. Yet at any time, you may request line judges. If the first bad call happens in a tie-break or at a critical match point, call for line judges. Third, three bad line calls rarely result in a complete loss of the match. In a three-set tennis match, more than 100 points (ball landings) could determine the winner of the match. A set that ends at 6-0, with all six games at 40-0, means there were 24 points in that set. A match won 6-0, 6-0, all games at 400, means the set was won with 48 points. If the match was 6-4, 6-4, it may have required 80 points to determine a winner. Matches with tiebreaks require more than 100 points to determine a winner. Some points land on or near a white line. Bad line calls may earn a player three points out of 100. Line judges prevent further abuses. Players need to focus

New York Tennis Magazine • January/February 2020 •

on the 97 other points: Get the first serve in, make fewer unforced errors and discuss strategies with a partner. In Travis’ match, even with line judges on the court, he was obsessed with lines and questioned his opponents’ line calls throughout the remainder of the match. The judges corrected him more than 10 times saying, “Yes, Travis, your ball was out. Their out call is correct.” Travis threw his anger at the judges. His gestures of intimidation and his fight-invoking finger-waving left an unpleasant taste for spectators and players. The opponents ignored Travis’ tantrums and focused on the 97 other points: First serves in, tennis strategies and fewer unforced errors. They won and it wasn’t a surprise. Barbara Wyatt is a writer, photographer, USTA official, and mobile app developer of iKnowTennis!, the tennis rules app. Her poem, Ode to Tennis, an amusing poem on the joys and frustrations when learning tennis, is available at Amazon. She can be reached by e-mail at

USTA Eastern Hosts 33rd Annual College Showcase By Brian Coleman

Coaches, parents and players gathered at the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco, N.Y. for USTA Eastern’s Annual College Showcase, the 33rd year USTA has hosted this one-of-a-kind event. “College Showcase Day was huge this year! We had increased attendance from both players and coaches over 2018,” said Julie Bliss-Beal, USTA Eastern’s senior director of competition. “We are beyond thrilled that our 33-year-old event continues to forge connections between young players and college coaches—it goes without saying that one of our biggest objectives with College Showcase Day is to support the development of tennis on college campuses. But beyond facilitating these introductions, we also want to help players and their parents better understand the recruitment process.” For three decades now, the event has helped bridge the gap between high school tennis players and college coaches, and has provided an invaluable resource and advice on how to navigate the recruiting process. “With that goal in mind, this year we added two phenomenal guest

speakers: Brian Ormiston, who works in collegiate tennis at the USTA, manages the recruitment materials on and serves as the USTA liaison to the NCAA; and Elizabeth Guy, who trains top athletes within the USTA development program,” said Bliss-Beal. “Their presentations added value to the event—I know that for a fact because multiple attendees approached me to say just that!” Off the court, Ormiston, USTA’s collegiate tennis manager, gave a presentation to players and parents on all the steps that high school players should take, both academically and athletically, to prepare for college tennis. Ormiston was joined by multiple college coaches, including Ilene Weintraub, head coach of women’s tennis at Columbia. Guy, a strength and conditioning coach for USTA Player Development, conducted a number of different oncourt clinics, demonstrating how to teach drills that help players perform a proper warm-up to practice and matches, as well as drills that help with multi-directional speed. “The showcase is a great event to

give both coaches and players exposure to the world of college tennis,” said Weintraub. “On the panel, I tried to help clarify some of the NCAA recruiting rules and regulations, give families a suggested time frame for when to contact coaches and what tournaments to play in, and provide players with tips on how to manage the challenges of balancing competing at a high level and continuing to do well in high school.” In addition to the on-court clinics and seminars, there were networking opportunities throughout the day, as players had the opportunity to meet with and talk to coaches about their respective programs and what they are looking for in student-athletes. After more than 30 years, the College Showcase Day continues to grow each year, helping ease the daunting process that is college recruiting for high school athletes, and allowing coaches from all levels of college tennis to meet and connect with hundreds of local players. Brian Coleman is senior editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at • January/February 2020 • New York Tennis Magazine



Distribution scheduled for 03/01/20

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