TuPA Drive is a section where we intend putting quick points for tennis parents. We publish a minimum of one drive a week. Happy reading!

TuPA Drive # 11

FH  Part 1
If in a match you find your child running around corner-to-corner and opponent dictating the game, one of the problems could be that the balls that your child produces are not deep. Yes, we have said this already, but the last sentence was worth repeating.
As we are on our forehand series, we will spend some time on FH side. Tennis court is a reasonably big play area as compared to other racket sports. In fact, it is the biggest. When you see your child running around on the court, they are burning their precious calories, and in a long match, it is not going to help the child.
One factor which can lead to all this can be the depth of your child’s shot. Interestingly, if you have also played tennis, you would have noticed that it is not that easy to understand how big is the tennis court after all and how much power and spin you need to keep the balls deep but inside the baseline. Imagine a growing child and their level of understanding in these matters. They usually think I need to just keep the ball in.
However, not every ball is going to land deep and even pros can’t always hit deep but in junior tennis (U-12 to U-16) it matters a little more as juniors can’t run all day like a pro. They are going to get tired.

Besides, if a typical four ball rally is made up 2 orange, 1 yellow and 1 red ball from your child, you can safely assume that your child has given at-least 1 good chance (1 red) to the opponent to attack them. If the above rally is made up of 4 yellow balls that is awesome and the chances are that your child will get an opportunity to attack first in this case.
If it is made up of 3 reds and 1 orange. That is a weak rally from your child’s perspective. You might find your child running corner to corner defending and now watch that calorie burning fast. If this continues, you can expect more unforced errors from a tired kid. As a parent, our observation could be that the fitness of our child let him down which is a fair observation but there could be things beyond fitness which can play an important role in overall performance.

Therefore, we urge you to please take time and do plot your child’s rallies and see what is the composition of depth they have in their shots.

We can do that by trying something like this –
2y2o1r that simply means we have 2 yellow balls, 2 orange and 1 red balls produced in a rally having a length of four balls. You can further chart it as 2y2o1r:15-0 assuming your child is serving. 1o3r 15-15. Well, this point was lost.
You can also think of any other way of charting this but make sure that you are keeping an eye on the FH ball depth your child produces.
Don’t worry too much about the score initially. Score at times does not reflect an accurate picture. Sometimes even after producing proper depth, the point might not turn out to be in your child’s favour because of some other reason. At least you would know if your team has to work on the depth producing capability of your child or not. It takes a lot of work to figure this out and that job you as a parent need to do. You must strive hard and give this input to your team to make your child’s practice time very fruitful and focussed.
How long your child has been training? If it is more than three years a fair depth % in rallies should be visible. A right amount of orange with some dashes of yellow is not that bad to set a benchmark. Strength in the shots will come with age. It is practically the same shot, which will travel, faster and with more spin with age.
Now to the question of how a child can produce these deep balls. Your team must have an answer for this. It’s a fact that with correct FH grip & technique a good depth can be achieved but there is a feel factor to it. After the grip is decided (hopefully it is close to SW grip), it is the right time to check if your child has an understanding of height, speed and spin that they can put in their shots. Have they been trained in such a way that they have understood and have a feel around these three essential aspects of FH? Height – stands for the height of the ball from the net. Speed – what speed that ball can achieve at the desired height. Finally Spin – how much spin is needed on that shot to generate enough height and speed. While reading some the previous lines(marked in clay colour), you must have felt it is confusing. Imagine how challenging it might be to develop it. Now make it as an expectation from a growing child.
It is a matter of feel for the correct height, speed and spin. Not more not less. This can be accomplished by careful training in this area.

We will try writing more about these factors in posts to come but for now, check the following –
1) Chart some matches, practice matches and drills and see the % of depth composition from the FH side of your child’s shots and present it to your team for further introspection.
2) Ask your child if they understand the concept of height, speed and spin and see what they have to tell you. Thier answer will give you enough hints about what they think. Now see what they produce on courts by doing point 1 above.
3) Observe while training if your team gives enough importance to these facts when it comes to building your child’s FH around height, speed and spin.

TuPA Drive # 10
The FH Grip of Today!

We start from where forehand starts. How does your child hold the racket – the grip.
As you all must be knowing already there are primarily four grips a forehand can be played with.
Continental, Eastern, Semi-Western and Western.
For the benefit of those who never had the time to venture into too many details, we all know there are eight sides on a tennis handle butt, they are called bevels.

Now if your child is right handed holding the racket on somewhere close to –

Index knuckle on 2 bevel – Continental Grip
Index knuckle on 3 bevel – Eastern Grip
Index knuckle on 4 bevel – Semiwestern
Index knuckle on 5 bevel – Western

   Index Knuckle 

Ask your child to hold the racket today as they hold it while playing forehand and check where is their index knuckle is, and that is their FH playing grip.

If they are close to Semiwestern (SW) grip on their FH side, it is the most recommended grip as of today. As parents, we must know why SW grip is the most recommended grip on the tour.

Here is why.

Over the years the game has changed. Today’s game for boys and girls is finally fast paced in a particular age category. Your child will get to that age category before you even realise. Believe us.
Then they will meet the opponents with fast, heavy, full of spin tennis shots sooner or later. Not to mention great serves coming from the opponents racket also needs to be dealt with. Remember you try to go for a higher zone tournament, and your child will face these type of kids.
Apart from many other things, these are some of the weapons from opponents that will stop your child to move further into the draw. Many close studies have shown that SW is one such grip that can counter and stand firm with your child’s game in the hour of need. It can handle reasonably high topspin balls by coming over the rising ball quickly which is one standard way of handling high balls.
SW grip also gives enough strength and control to a player who is working towards racket speed acceleration for their shots. It is a gently comfortable grip for beginners too as the contact of the grip is such that a player gets that hand & racket support which is needed for good FH to develop. There is no denying the fact that topspin is a useful component of the game that must be the part of your forehands and SW grip also allows your child to impart the same in their forehand shots with enough power and precision.

What about other grips? Are they not as good as SW grip? Every different grip has their advantages, and it will be really out of scope for this article to compare every grip in detail. We will do another piece soon which will dwell into more information about grips.

So – if your child is playing with Continental, Eastern or Western grips – are they not correct grips to play with? Frankly, there is no hard definition of right or wrong when it comes to grips. However, let’s not also forget it’s important to look around and see how the professional tennis is moving forward and what developments have happened in recent past. We would encourage parents to research (google) and read more about the most adopted grip in today’s tennis and come to some conclusions of their own. Furthermore, our research has found out that SW or close to close to SW is the most embraced and taught grip today for all the right reasons and some of them are mentioned above.

Your team must have an excellent reason not to have your child play with SW grip in 2017! Last but not the least grip changes are time-consuming and must be done as early as possible. So watch out for your child’s forehand grip today.

—-

TuPA Drive # 9
How Many Tournaments?
Hello !
Parents – How many tournaments do you think Rafael Nadal played this year to secure No. 1 ranking in the world? 17. The W-L match score of 67-10 with 6 titles.
In 2004 when he was a teenager he played around 21 tournaments. During 2004 his ranking fluctuated between top 30s to 50s in the world. His W-L score in 2004 being 30-17. He won 1 title.

Let’s have a quick look at WTA scene. Karolina Pliskova is the current No.1 and she played around 21 tournaments this year with her W-L score being 53-18. She has 3 titles so far.

ITF where the teenagers play, today’s top 10 boys tournament average is around 19 tournaments for this year, and in ITF girls top 10 girls played approximately 20 tournaments this year.

Do these numbers give us some hint?

We have to stop here and ask you to count how many tournaments your child has played this year? Don’t make any judgment yet. However, chances are your immediate line of thinking might just be right but filled with some questions.
Play less and gain more scenario is the first impression that comes to our mind. Our findings show that it is probably a correct way of planning your child’s calendar in terms of a number of tournaments. Why? Please do read on.

Do you remember we recently published one way of drawing your child’s tournament schedule wrt type of tournaments they should be playing and why? If you have not yet visited that Drive, please do read TuPA Drive # 8 which is just below this article on the same page. This will help us to understand to some extent on how to decide which type of tournament to play and why but not how many. Having said that how many tournaments one should play still lingers around to be answered and hence this post.

Please see the below table that my team has put together after what they found when they researched this topic. Many advance tennis experts around the globe advocate something similar. One such person is Richard Schönborn who regularly talks about this fact in many ITF advance coaches programs, conferences and workshops around the globe. His work is phenomenal, and when parents have time, they should read his work. For those who will never get the time, please look at a table below. The crux is put together for you with probable reasons explained below the table as per his research.

Now, please note –
1) How Many Tournaments? The range of tournaments that most of the subject matter experts direct towards is 14 to 21 for U-12/U-14 and 15 to 24 for the U-14/U-16 category. My team has noticed a similar number of matches being played in ITF, ATP, WTA and even in junior national categories of other nations, particularly in EU.
2) Why? Please look at the image above and a sample calendar drawn for you. There are three phases in the calendar year depicted as Yellow, Green and Red.
a) Yellow Zone is Tournament Preparation Time – This is the time when you and your team work with the child towards tactical, technical, match training, practice matches, etc. During this time some tournaments are also played to see how your training has been or does the training needs some fine tuning. The idea is to move towards the green zone. Parents to take notes of their child’s play during Yellow zone tournaments and practice matches.
b) Green Zone is Serious Tournament Time – These are the tournaments you have been training for. Most of the tournament travel happens here if needed.  Parents to take match notes during these tournaments, this is unconditionally critical.The idea should be to do well (good % of wins) while in the Green Zone.
c) Red Zone is Rest Time from Tournaments – Zero tournaments here. The child should be given a break for their body recovery, regeneration & general rest. This is the time for parents and team to look at the tournament notes more closely, planning the next areas of improvement in their child’s game. Doing regular but light tennis and full fitness training(based on age) to keep the good things of their game also falls under this zone.
This is also the time for the child to catch up with family members who have not met them in a while since they were busy, movies and friends. That part of life plays an important role in overall development of the tennis child.

You can draw your own calendar based on the tournament dates, however, please be careful about the burn rate of your child. Burn rate goes higher in terms of injuries, lack of interest in the sport, etc if the red zone is not the part of your calendar at all.

Last but not the least. In many tennis related studies, it is often seen that parents & teams that spend more time in making their child comprehensive in terms of technique, tactics and fitness as per their age, become to grow as a complete overall player with time.

Red & Yellow 
zone on your tournament calendar gives you and your team that opportunity to work towards the same.

Talk to your team if your child’s tournament calendar looks very different from above and try to understand the reasons and the logic behind it.

TuPA Drive # 8:
Which Type of Tournaments?
Hello Parents –
If you are an experienced tennis parent, you must be having a logic in place already to plan your child’s tournament schedule for the upcoming year. If you are just starting, you will learn many things along the way.

Today’s Drive # 8 focuses on a vital fact about how probably you as a tennis parent can create a schedule for your child. It’s a personal thing and depends on various factors, however, one factor stands above the rest. The winning %  of your child in the kind of tournaments they are participating.

We will try to attempt and explain this with the help of some tables and numbers.
If you perform the following steps below by the end of this post, we are hoping that some more amount of depth can be accomplished on how to plan your child’s tournament schedule and why. The idea is to select tournaments which will help you to make a better player, in the long run.

Step 1) Draw a table –
Take a piece of paper and pencil (or excel sheet) and draw a table as shown below.
(note: on mobile phones read by rotating the phone and then by sliding the table right to left)

Tournament No. Tournament Type Opportunity Matches Played Won Lost Win% Tournament Depth% Round
 1
 2
 3
 4
5

All the columns above are self-explanatory but for the sake of clarity, we will explain it once.
Tournament No –  Number of a particular tournament, we are trying to capture the last five.
Tournament Type – This can vary from nation to nation. In India, most popular ones are TS7, CS7, SS, NS and Nationals. This can be ITF tournaments also or any other tournaments that your child might be playing.
Opportunity – Opportunity is the number of matches that our child could have played, depending on the size of the draw. For example, to win a TS7 tournament child has an opportunity to play 5 matches. In an SS if your child has played form Q rounds they have an opportunity to play 7 matches considering there were 2 R of Q matches to be played.
Matches Played – In that particular tournament how many matches did they eventually play
Won – How many did the child win
Lost – How many did they lose, this will always be 1 as we always lose 1 match per tournament (except for the lucky loser scenario)
Win% – Won / No of Matches Played
Tournament Depth% – How deep your child made it in the tournament – No of Matches Played/ Opportunity
Round – Which round they made it

You need to fill the above table with last five tournaments your child has played. Let start with an example in step 2 below.

Step 2) Fill your child’s last five performances, for example –
(
note: on mobile phones read by rotating the phone and then by sliding the table right to left)

Tournament No. Tournament Type Opportunity Matches Played Won Lost Win% Tournament Depth% Round
1 TS7 /U12 5 2 1 1 50 40 R16
2 CS7/U12 5 2 1 1 50 40 R16
3 SS /U12 7 3 (2 Q, 1 MD) 2 1 66.6 42.8 R32
4 CS7/U14 5 2 1 1 50 40 R16
5 TS7/U14 5 3 2 1 66.6 60 QF
56.64 44.56

Above table shows that your child has won around 56.6%  of their total matches. The first row shows that in a TS7 your child played 2 matches in total and won 1 and lost 1. So the win % would be 1 out 2 for this tournament and hence 50%
Tournament depth – typically in a TS7 if you are in the main draw you get a chance to play 5 matches ( draw size being 32). If your child played 2 out of 5 (5 being the opportunity) their Tournament Depth would be 40%.

Step 3) Analyze and decide the next steps 
Frank Giampaolo who is a very well known coach goes into the details of this subject like no one else we could find. Frank came up with a reasonable formula, which to some effect states the following –

a) If your child winning percentage is around 25%  try to introduce some low level of tournaments in your schedule and pump up the winning % to 75%
b) If your child is somewhere between 40%-60% of the winning range – remain at the same level and try to reach 75% winning percentage
c) If your child is winning at 75% to 90% range introduce higher level of tournaments

Our above example shows that this child’s winning % is below 60%. It will be a good idea to remain at this level and try to go deeper in the similar kind of tournaments. Needless to say, to make that winning % go up parents will have to work harder in recognizing the gaps in the game and work with their team towards the same. Parents can also include more low-level tournaments to go deeper into the tournaments. However, the rule remains if you are winning 75% of your matches child needs to move to the next level.

—-

TuPA Drive # 7:
Serve Ball Toss Type – Rotator or Straight?
Serve ball toss is a critical thing to master. It is time-consuming to learn it.
Sometimes you feel your child has finally got it, and then they lose their toss again. It happens all the time, even with Pros. They continually work on it to keep the toss undeviated.
But before their toss goes wrong, mustn’t we make sure what type of toss they have learned so far?
There are primarily two types of ball tosses –
1) Straight up – Pic 1 & 2
2) Rotator way – Pic 3

Please see the pictures above. Pic 1 starting toss lift position almost always lead to what is known as straight toss. Pic 2 above is somewhere between 1 & 3. This results into a toss in which the ball takes a slightly different trajectory than the toss on pic 1 would produce but fairly close to it.
If the serve toss starting position is as near to what is shown in Pic 3, it usually leads to rotator toss.
Note: The pics above are NOT a sequence of pics, they are different starting positions of a first serve ball toss

There is a lot of research done in this area to determine which is a better way to start a serve toss. The answer, however, is none.
Some pros toss it straight(pic 1 and 2), and some use the rotator toss(pic 3). We intend publishing some more facts about the variation this two tossing style can bring in the serve but for the moment we are focussing on the toss consistency as a wider subject.

Nevertheless, there is one thing to keep in mind. Rotator serve toss is challenging to master. So the serve toss which starts as shown in Pic 1 above is less challenging to learn as compared to the one shown in pic 2. Finally, pic 3 is the most challenging serve toss starting position which leads to the rotator toss.

Parents to note – if your child starts the serve by lifting the ball in the rotator way (pic 3), that is most challenging to produce a good final toss result – the result being the ball must fall on the racket after the toss (see TuPA Tip # 4).
Rotator toss needs more skills to master as it requires rotation of hips and shoulders. These rotations should happen from launch to contact positions. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to learn that, and with limited practice time for serves we get on the court, this can be an additional effort for the entire team to work on.

Serving straight up (pic 1 and to some extent pic2) needs effort too, but it is less challenging to master.
Which serving toss style your child has? What is the toss consistency percentage they produce with this style? Measure it and work with your team to improve it. Inconsistency in toss might be one reason for an inconsistent serve.In the end, the result of a good toss (rotator or straight)should be that the ball after the toss falls somewhere on the racket. That is one way of measuring toss consistency. Do see TuPA Tip # 4 which talks about it.

Oh yes, we did look at several pros serves ball toss starting positions. Some of them are listed here –
(note: on mobile phones read by rotating the phone,  table below looks better in landscape mode OR slide on the table from right to left if you don’t want to rotate your phone)

Player Name Rotator(pic3) Vs Straight (pic1orpic2)
John Isner pic2
Ivo Karlovic pic3
Milos Raonic pic2
Roger Fedrer pic3
Del Petro pic2
Novak  pic2
Dimitrov  pic2
Zeverev  pic1
Wawarinka  pic2
Tsonga pic3
Sam Querry pic2
Cilic pic2
Halep pic2
Serena pic2
Azarenka pic1

——-
TuPA Drive # 6:
First Serves that Goes to the Net:
Yes, this happens often, isn’t it? Your child has worked hard on their first serves, but still, the first serve crashing the net happens more than often. What could be the prime reason for the same?What do you tell your team to work on? There might be more than one reason on why someone’s first serve goes to net numerous times, but one of the dominant factors could be that your child is not reaching UP to hit that first serve. Yes, ask your child to REACH UP. Your coaching team will know this better – on how to reach up, but this appears to be one of the leading factors responsible for that first serve hitting the net.

Note – At TuPA we are working on a pattern which will cover fundamentals of serve technique which hopefully will broadcast more on this subject. This will be released very soon and will cover a lot of ground in terms of Serve technique and how it effects the direction and percentage of the first serves.

Another thing we have noticed –  lower the first serve hits the net less our kids are reaching up while hitting their first serves.Watch where the serve hits the net not just it hits the net. Caught the tape, almost there. Middle of the net or it kisses the bottom of the net, kids need to reach up. This will be a great thing to observe and a good input for your team to work on.

To some numbers now 🙂

We had a quick look at some Pro (ATP) serves. Roger Federer, David Ferrer, and John Isner were picked. We selected these three players because in ATP Serve Stat page you will find Roger to be at no 3, David Ferrer at no 72 and Isner, well at No 1. We also kept in mind that Roger is 6′ 1”, David Ferrer is 5′ 10, ” and Isner is 6′ 10″ in height.

Here is what we got –
(note: on mobile phones read by rotating the phone,  table below looks better in landscape mode OR slide on the table from right to left if you don’t want to rotate your phone)

Player Total Serves  Net Total Matches Net Per Match
Roger 23425 3024 284 11
 Ferrer 3374 542 51 11
 Isner 2276 180 27 7
Player Hitting Net %
Roger 13%
 Ferrer 16%
 Isner 8%

The above data set gives us a range of 8% to 16%.  Around 7 to 11 serves per match have gone to the net as per above data.

Look below the intended direction of these serves by these three players –

Player Wide Net % Body Net % T  Net %
Roger 55% 6% 38%
Ferrer 40% 20% 40%
Isner 60% 4% 37%

David Ferrer despite being the shortest does well to stay with Roger and Isner. In fact, he is better than Roger and Isner when it comes to firing wide serves. He falls behind a lot when he goes for body serves. He is almost there when it comes to T serves. Pros have their serve technique built on very solid serve fundamentals. However, their style might be different. We did not record serve speeds for this study, on that we will publish a drive later.

Do we have this kind of numbers for our kids? Why not? When our kids go out and serve do they know which serves works best for them and do they select the best option available to them in critical points? How many times have we seen them hitting the net under pressure? At 30-40 for example? Or do they compromise at 30-40 by serving something low in quality that gets whacked as a serve return?Why not go for the best serve at 30-40?As a parent whenever you get the time you need to record these details for your child and then work with your team to come up with a plan to improve. Imagine if you would have recorded this every Sat/Sun over the years and had some information with you.

It’s never too late.

We will analyse more on what Pros do when they are under pressure with their serve. Do they surprise their opponent or do they go for what they are best at? Stay tuned for more insights and do measure your child’s net hitting serve numbers and share that with your team for them to work on it.

———

TuPA Drive # 5:
First Serve Direction

We are still with first serves and will be for some more time 🙂
First serves are critical to master, from all angles and hence is a big subject in itself.
How much direction your child can give to their first serves? Usually, during serves direction practice session there is a conventional drill where we keep cones and try to serve towards them. Cones are kept outwide, on the T and sometimes in the middle too. The child is then given many tennis balls and told to try and hit near to those cones.
However, what factors affect that direction building capability? Is it just about the aim or there is more to it? We will cover that aspect in our upcoming patterns that we are working on these days, but till then we leave you with these statistics.
Pros change directions of their serves almost at will for many reasons, and some do without letting the opponent know by concealing their ball toss too. That makes their first serve even difficult to read.
We analyzed thousands of serves from ATP matches and found the following stats. Can our kids who are training for more than three years and playing U-12 / U-14 tennis change their first serve direction at will? You should record this capability of your child if they are in the above-mentioned range.

Now onto the stats (on mobiles phones drag on the below table from right to left to see all the stats)

Circuit Serving From? T Outwide Middle Total Serves Analyzed
ATP Duce Court 41% 45% 14% 75000
ATP Ad Court 39% 47% 14% 66000
WTA coming soon we are working on it
WTA

Last but not the least – from Ad court serving outwide first serve for a right-handed player is an art to master. Afterall 30-40,40-30 and Advantage are all Ad court scores, isn’t it?

—————————————–

TuPA Drive # 4:
Power of First Serve Against the Best
In ATP circuit probably the best serve as of today (Oct 2017) is of John Isner. We looked at his two matches first serve stats against two top players – Roger and Rafa. Got some thought-provoking results but maybe no surprises. Isner lost both the matches. Below are the numbers we found and these numbers do tell us the power of a good first serve. A good first serve is a weapon to depend on and takes massive effort to develop over the junior years. When your child is playing U-12 to U-16 do keep a close eye on their first serves too and the progress they are making there. Do read our First Serve Percentage Pattern [FSPP] and First Serve Direction Pattern [FSDP] for more details.
Oh yes, Isner is 6′ 10” 🙂
Next, we look into some more things – height vs serve strength, Isner Vs best return of serves, some stats from WTA wrt the first serves and much more.

1) Rafa Vs Isner | Madrid Open | 2010 | 7-5,6-4

Rally Length First Serve Points
Won by Isner
1+ 76.7%
2+ 54%
3+ 70.6%
4+ 28.6%
5+ 40%
6+ 0%
7+ 0%
8+ 0%

2) Roger Vs Isner | US Open | 2015 | 7-6,7-6,7-5

Rally Length First Serve Points
Won by Isner
1+ 69.2%
2+ 48.1%
3+ 55.3%
4+ 36.4%
5+ 57.1%
6+ 35.7%
7+ 55.6%
8+ 33.3%
9+ 66.7%
10+ 50%

—————————————–

TuPA Drive # 3:
How Many First Serves Can Your Child Hit in a Row?
Is your child training from last three years or so?Ask your child to hit ten first serves in a row today at the practice session.
What’s the score?
6/10 could be a good one. Notice if your child can also put some variations on these serves.
Anything below that, even 5/10 is not good enough. What if you make too many in? More than 6/10?
More facts on that in a while. Stay tuned.

—————————————–

TuPA Drive # 2:
First Serve Percentage
Your child’s first serve percentage bothers you. Sometimes it goes down and affects the child’s ability to hold the serve. The overall match is then played with a higher exertion level. You have noticed that your child’s first serve percentage varies – sometimes it is high, at times it is just okay, and then there are times when they go down very low.If your child is training for more than three years, they should have developed an absolute first serve percentage range already. If that range is not between 55% to 70%, you must talk to your team and get that sorted out. Do work on finding out during matches what is the first serve percentage your child attains. When you watch their gameplay this one thing, you can record – first serve percentage. Sooner the better.

—————————————–

TuPA Drive #1: Did you know – Most of the professional players have their first serve percentage between 55% to 70%? What is your child’s first serve percentage today?

<<go back