Hyperfocus explanation now included in book extracts
Back in the 70's, John, and his wife Dianne, built Australia's first American style tennis "Ranch" on a five acre site at Kellyville in Sydney's Hills District.
They called it TENNISLAND.
Much cheaper than surrounding sites, it had an initial problem to overcome; it was 40 year flood affected.
By making it a free tip for clean excavated material, they raised the five acres above flood level. The trucks rolled in with 30,000 cubic metres of fill from the extensive residential and commercial development taking place in nearby Castle Hill and Baulkham Hills.
The above picture shows the caravan that was home to Dianne, John, and their children aged 7, 3, and 3 months, parked at the front of the site. The caravan would remain home for 15 months until the project neared completion. To stay within a "shoestring" budget, just to the right of the picture is the loader/backhoe, John purchased to do almost all of the project's earthworks.
Tennisland became Western Sydney’s principal tennis coaching venue. In the late 70’s, John Newcombe and Tony Roche had established the “Custom Credit Operation Tennis” initiative, to regain Australia’s standing in world tennis.
This photo is of our 1982 Custom Credit Operation Tennis Elite Squad, pictured with their squad coaches, Rod and Chris Silk. Members of this squad would go on to become world top 100 players and Australia’s leading tennis coaches.
And on into the 80's and 90's.
John sold Tennisland in 1986 and built Matchpoint Tennis at Kirrawee, opening in 1987. In the same year, he established tennis lessons at Blaxland Drive courts at Illawong. The photo shows Matchpoint during the annual open tournament, the McDonald's Open Junior Challenge.
The late 80's and 90's were busy for John, and even busier for his wife Dianne. John decided to conduct country "introduction to tennis" camps, in areas with no resident coach. Shown is his camp at Berridale, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains; It became an annual event.
John often was absent! He managed groups of aspiring Australian juniors playing tournaments in the USA, which included a clinic at Hopmans International Tennis Academy, near Tampa, Florida. John is shown here leaning against a bus Hop (addressed Mr. Hopman) loaned him, to transport players to tournaments in Florida.
Selling Matchpoint in 2001, John "downsized", teaching tennis exclusively at Blaxland Drive courts, enabling Dianne to retire. The picture was taken in 2003, with the "Mobile Pro-Shop" in the carpark. Dianne and John are now living at South West Rocks.
John set this section aside to thank the hundreds of dedicated young and not so young coaches that worked with him over the years. A special thanks to those in the CCOT days at Tennisland, and the success you achieved. Special mention ...Rod and Chris Silk.
When visiting Hopmans International Tennis, I left a standing offer to a number of US Pro's to visit Australia, with a guarantee of some work. In the 90's we had several visit Matchpoint, and they made an outstanding contribution: I'll single out Joe Mattingly from North Carolina for special mention.
I'm sure I would be joined by everyone involved with tennis, to offer our sincere thanks to the many people who have given, and will give their time to junior and senior tennis, for nothing other than the satisfaction of helping out; working through tennis clubs and associations throughout Australia. Without their involvement, many tournaments couldn't go ahead, and junior/senior competitions wouldn't continue as we know them. We salute you!
By John George
While some aspects of technique have changed over the years, many have stayed the same. This photo is of my elder daughter Melissa, aged 11, at Tennisland in the 80's.
New techniques are developed by players, not coaches, and change was facilitated by improvements to equipment; coaches then introduce elements of this constantly evolving change to their pupils at various levels of their development.
Melissa is using one of the first generation aluminium racquets, formed with an aluminium extrusion. She’s using an Eastern forehand grip to generate topspin, but retains the universally accepted Continental grip for everything else. Use of the Eastern forehand grip coincided with the introduction of aluminium as a racquet construction material.
Is topspin possible using a wooden racquet and a Continental grip? Sure is! Rod Laver was already creating effective topspin using the Continental grip and a small head, laminated wood racquet. The advent of aluminium racquets transformed the game, making topspin much more achievable, while producing considerably more power than the previous generation.
The first breakthrough in racquet construction was back in 1947, when the Lacoste brand introduced racquet head lamination to replace solid wood. The main benefit of lamination was a lighter racquet, greater 'feel" when hitting the ball, and a little more power, at the expense of greater flexing and vibration.
While aluminium is still used for entry level racquets, graphite composite is the preferred construction material today. Carbon derived graphite is "composite" when combined with numerous other materials including fibreglass, kevlar, titanium, tungsten, and boron. The change from aluminium to graphite composite was almost as groundbreaking as the change from wood to aluminium.
Graphite Composite made possible an infinite range of weight and balance, along with greater frame stiffness. The extra power generated enabled an even more extreme Semi Western grip for forehands. Nevertheless, both Roger Federer and Ashleigh Barty still use the Eastern forehand grip.
While I am sure you won’t see a current top 100 player using a wooden racquet, many still use the original string material, natural gut.
Currently, the most popular racquet among the world‘s top 100 male players is the Wilson Blade 98. At the time of writing, players ranked world number one are Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty. They both use Head racquets. Novak uses a Head Graphene 360 Speed Pro and Ashleigh a Head Youtek Graphene Speed Pro.
Coaching manuals? I've read quite a few!
I'd say the best is the now out of print ATPCA "Supercoach" manual. The final edition can be recognised by a picture of Raphael Nadal on the cover.
These days the best source of new ideas is unquestionably You Tube. There are many thousands of hours of content, produced by many hundreds of coaches. I allocate a strictly limited 15 minutes per day of screen time to checking for any worthwhile new content... it's worth taking a look. As with anything, the content varies from great to....not the best.
The advice for beginners is more uniform, and generally well presented. Beyond that, considerable circumspection is needed. Tom Avery has a good series of videos, covering just about everything.
Long before the World Wide Web (1991), we had the Beta and VHS tape era; well over 100 instructional tapes were commercially available. In the 80‘s, one of the best was by Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith; Arthur, considered to have the best backhand of the era, and Stan, the best forehand.
An exceptional series of two VHS tapes were produced in Australia in 1990, titled “Tennis for the 90’s”. Covering all tennis strokes, it shows how racquet technology has transformed the game. The video highlights the forehand in particular, and presents it with the biomechanically produced “multi-segment” concept. At the same time, it shows that the featured player‘s individual application of these elements have remarkable variation In both backswing and followthrough. Compare Boris Becker’s high looping backswing to that of Ivan Lendl. Ivan also had an abbreviated followthrough. Other players (Thomas Muster) featured in the tapes used the current “windscreen wiper” followthrough. Muster also had a linear backswing, with the racquet face always parallel to the ground, mirroring the also current ”pat the dog” position prior to forward movement. Conclusion? The minimal changes in the 30 years following the tape‘s production, contrasting the previous 30 years.
Then came the DVD. The only one I bought was one of a series by the previously mentioned Tom Avery. The WWW eventually killed the DVD.
Tennis was played long before the advent of organised teaching of kids. Teaching in classes really only began in earnest, in the late 40's, and then only in the US, Europe, and Australia. The idea of a training course for coaches began when groups of coaches got together to form associations, and create entry criteria to join. They eventually established courses, including a "probationary" period with an existing member.
With one notable exception, tennis coaching instructional manuals came later. That notable exception was the work of Australian tennis coach, Don Pullinger. Don was co-proprietor of the long since disbanded franchise ”Newks Tennis World" at Gymea in Sydney. Don produced an enormous 100mm thick coaching manual, that also doubled as a scrapbook. It essentially covered the history of tennis, globally, until the 1970's, including more than 100 high quality original photographs, especially tracing the history of the former Tennis NSW headquarters at Edgecliff, which everyone knows as White City. The latter half of the manual shows the use of improving camera technology, providing sequential shots of tennis strokes. Don's comprehensive notes, interpret the photos, and include copious newspaper clippings of outstanding players and descriptions of technique.
As it doesn't extend beyond the 70's, it's now obviously outdated, but it was unique at its time, and many basics still apply. I was entrusted with it, following the shop's closure in the 80's.
Who has it?
I donated it to the Tennis NSW Museum in 2012. If you'd like to check it out, the museum is located directly underneath the current Tennis NSW office headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park.
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