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As Athletic DNA’s players travel the world, they’ll check in from time to time sharing their experiences both on and off the court. Want to know more about a certain aspect of life on the road? Comment on our Facebook page and we’ll have them answer.
Greetings from Europe!
I just arrived in Arad, Romania a few days ago after a long trip over which included layovers in Detroit, Amsterdam, and Bucharest. I was a bit jet lagged upon arrival to say the least but have been able to recover and now feel like I’m finally used to the time change. I’ve had a couple days of practice with my buddy and fellow ADNA player Chase Buchanan, who recently got to the finals of the Karshi Challenger. So congrats to him!
I’m getting used to the red clay (having practiced on Har-Tru the last few weeks) and can’t wait to compete come Tuesday! The people have been nice and the food has been delicious here. The only thing I have to complain about are the abnormally sized bugs.
This critter showed up on our practice court the first day and caused a 15 minute delay as we tried to figure out how to remove it! So long for now. I’ll post again mid next week!
The clay season is underway and will end for most players at the French Open. However, for myself and many other challenger players the clay season doesn’t last for just a month. There are many challenger tournaments throughout the year on this surface (mostly in South America and Europe). And I plan on playing 8 clay tournaments over the next couple months in Europe. Although I will not be playing the French, I will have a long schedule of tournaments on the dirt.
While some players choose to play as few tournaments on clay as possible, I embrace the dirt. It suits my game quite well and I really enjoy playing on it. The biggest reason is because it allows me to play to my strengths, namely using my forehand and fitness. Although I did not grow up playing on it, once I got the movement down I have always enjoyed playing on clay. It is unique in that it allows and basically requires players to learn to slide in order to hit certain shots. It also slows the ball down which results in many long rallies. Therefore to win points a player really has to have good shot selection and be able to develop the point. Short easy points are rarely won on clay.
I only played one junior tournament on clay, so my experience on it has mainly all been in the last few years playing on tour. It’s definitely a tough transition going from playing on hard courts your whole life to suddenly be playing on a court with dirt all over it! But my biggest piece of advice for any junior or any player trying to learn how to play on clay would be to get used to sliding and all movement as quickly as possible. Learn to slide and trust the clay. Once that happens and a person feels comfortable on it, the game becomes really fun. As long as you are patient and willing to play to your strengths and develop points any player can have success on it.
How To Fight and Prepare to Win in Pressure Situations
The ability to play well in pressure points and situations is what separates a lot of tennis players from one another. Having the ability to be successful while faced with pressure can make a big different in where pros and juniors end up in their careers. Players that struggle in these situations find it difficult to take their tennis game to the next level, as they cannot ease their nerves to play to the best of their ability while in matches. If you do not succeed in pressure situations, what can you do to ease the nerves to play to the best of your ability and thrive in pressure spots? If you are strong in pressure situation, what can do continue to do to get better? This is one of the most difficult aspects as being a tennis player as you are on the court by yourself and unlike team sports, you do not have your teammates to rely on to work together to pull through tough situations.
We reached out to our ADNA Junior Select Players asking for help to educate the ADNA community on how to deal with pressure situations. One of the biggest things is how you prepare in practice for tough spots. Also, how you mentally deal with a pressure situation while in the heat of the moment can help you stay relaxed and focused to lead you to being successful.
Here are some drills our ADNA Select Juniors do in practice to you should take to your practice routine:
- Shelby Graber has two drills that she routinely practices. First, she plays one set with the server only having one serve per point. This makes the players get used to the pressure of having to make their second serves in and getting prepared for a hard return, since the returner knows that they won’t have a hard first serve. Second, the server starts each game at love-30 for a set. This gets the players used to having to come back and be more consistent in games and learn to control points and where they will hit winners.
- Andrew Dale does a drill where two people will rally 4 balls crosscourt. After that, one person will change direction and go down the line. This will continue as long as you can until someone misses. This helps with consistency and translates to success in pressure points.
- Gabe Smilovic does a drill where the player has to hit 50 balls in a row cross court and inside out in order to finish the drill. If you miss a ball out, you get a 2 point penalty. If you miss a ball in the net, you get a 4 point penalty. If you get to 10 points, you need to do 10 pushups and then start over.
- Greg Lebanowski plays games to 11 and starts points on the run instead of feeding down the middle. When you are fed a tough ball, it immediately puts you at a disadvantage. Doing this sort of a drill over and over helps a lot when you get in tight situations.
- Conner Stroud plays sets and if you win the first two points of a game, then you automatically win the game. Conner also plays a tiebreak and if a player wins 3 points in a row, they automatically win the tiebreak. If you lose three points in a row, you automatically lose the tiebreak. The forces you to focus on every point while in practice.
Here is what our ADNA Select Juniors suggest you do while in the match to make sure you stay relaxed and are mentally tough:
- Neel Raj: “During the match, I touch the back curtain with my racket to try to get my mind focused and not think too much about the critical point I am about to play. I also take a few deep breathes to calm my nerves before crucial points.”
- Armando Gandini: “When I am in a tiebreak, I always tell myself, ‘No double faults, and no missed returns.’ I say this because it makes me play steady and grind more.”
- Gabe Smilovic: “If you have a towel in your bag, bring it on the court with you. After every point you should wipe your face with the towel as this will help you stay focused and stay in the match.”
Lastly, one of the most important things is to go into matches with confidence. The best way to build the confidence is to ensure you are prepared with your fitness. Dean Zoglio stressed how having confidence with your fitness will help give you confidence that you are one step ahead of your competition. By have the confidence going in, Natasha Subhash discussed how you have to execute your game plan you had going into the match and not to lose sight of it while faced with pressure. Natasha also said to always try to stay relaxed and have a positive attitude. Getting tight and a negative body language will just lead to more unforced errors.
Making sure you are prepared for pressure situation is very important for the success of tennis players. We encourage you to always find ways to improve your mental preparation for matches so you can play to your best ability while in matches. Focusing on pressure situations and going into matches with the confidence will help you take your game to the next level.
Keep up the grind!
Team Athletic DNA
Thanks for the contributions from the following ADNA Select Players that helped create the blog: Neel Raj, Armando Gandini, Patrick Maloney, Shelby Graber, Ethan Kolsky, Lauren Seale, Gabe Smilovic, Nikki Fernando, Andrew Newell, Dean Zoglio, Tyler Vermillion, Sophia Edwards, Parker Stearns, Greg Lebanowski, Thomas Barraque, Connor Aulson, Eliott Spizziri, Michael Zhao, Natasha Subhash, Michael Kay, Ben Ingbar, Jada Hart, Andrea Amortegui, Daniel Rayl, Nishesh Basava, Michael Ogundele, Jackson Ross, Stephanie Sharge, Ryan Storrie, Conner Stroud, Peyton Miller, Anna Kern, Andrea Golindano, Gabe Diaz, Vennmukil Pothiva, Taylor Russo, Harrison Saladini
(April 24, 2014) – Three and a half months!! 14 weeks!!! It has been that long since I went under the knife, and what a journey it has been. We are almost in May, and I am right on track with my progress. I flew back out to Vail, CO where I had my hip surgery at the ten week mark and met with the doc as well at the PTs. They did some tests on me, and had nothing but good news for me. Seeing the doctors that did my surgery and them tell me that my hip was looking strong, that I was on track and making great progress was exactly what I was hoping to hear from them.
As tough as the rehab as been up to the ten week mark, they did warn me that the next month would be even more difficult for several reasons. One being that my hip will start to feel good and I will want to get back out there and back to my old self right away. Clearly that is not how hip surgery works. You have to progress with baby steps to get to where you want to be.
For example, when they gave me a running program I looked at it, looked back at my coach, and started laughing. It said running 1 minute, walking 3 minutes for 20 minutes, followed by the next week running 2 mins, walking 3 etc. Let me tell you….getting on the track doing that was almost a tease!! It seemed so easy, but for me I had to realize that running for a minute is a lot of work on the hip that the doctor just cut open a few months ago.
So things like that took some patience on my end. With each week my progression is getting more difficult, I am sore every day because my legs are trying to get back to where they once were.
I am at week 14, and starting to play tennis!! I am moving from the baseline, hitting some serves, doing some lateral movement and tennis specific drills. To think that I am three and a half months out and making this much progress makes all the early mornings and painful rehab worth it!! My first tournament is scheduled at the end of June/beginning of July, and the doctors and physical therapists all think I will be ready to go by then!
I couldn’t be more thankful for the group of people I have had behind me. My progress has not just been because of me. It has been the hard work of my trainer, Kelly, here and all the trouble I have given her. (just kidding). Also the support of my family and coaches, Roland calling me “gimp” every day I walk in has motivated me to kick his butt even more when I get back! I plan to go to NCAAs with the team, and then from there train out in California for a while.
Oh yeah, last thing.. I’m GRADUATING!!! May 3, I will walk across the stage as a University of Florida graduate and I couldn’t be more excited. Although being at Florida and playing for Gator Nation has been the best five years of my life, I cannot be more excited for what’s in store for me in the future.. GO GATORS!!
(February 25, 2014) – HAPPY WEEK 6 TO ME!!!! I know six weeks seems like not that long, but it feels like a whole new milestone to me. From week 3-6 when I last wrote, not a whole lot has changed with my exciting life! Today was the first day I could do the elliptical and I had permission from my PT to do some bike intervals on a low resistance. Another exercise that made me happy to hear I could do was body weight squats, and some bodyweight RDLs.
A lot of my rehab is stretching, which has never been my strong suit, so after all this is over if I’m not more flexible then we did something wrong here. Swimming has been my main form of exercise besides some upper body lifting, and it has been a lot of fun, but also very difficult. I am not quite sure what I would do without my athletic trainer here at Florida, she is with me from 7:30-9:00 in the morning and then from 2-4 in the afternoon, helping me with my rehab, and then comes to all my PT appointments that I have. SHE IS THE BEST to say the least (It’s a good thing I like her) =). Six weeks down, six more to go!!
Last thing….my college coach, Roland thinks it’s funny to write sticky notes saying things like “GIMP” and then post them on the windshield of my car. See this is funny…..but he makes a joke every day about how he can beat me in a sprint now, or beat me in a baseline game….Yes Ro, you can beat me when I have one leg….but I can’t wait until I am back so I can beat up on the old man again just like old times!!
(March 13, 2014) - WEEK 8- YES, WEEK 8!!! I can’t believe it has already been two months since my surgery! I remember week two saying to myself two more weeks of crutches, this is awful….now only another week or two before I can ease my way into running again! My rehab has been getting more challenging everyday for me because we are adding a lot of dynamic stability exercises to strengthen my muscles, and some agility work, which I’m a little rusty at!! One thing I will admit is that I was not very good at stretching before this minor incident, and now my trainer told me I went from least flexible on the team, to most (So yes, I’m going to brag about that)!!
I am going back to Vail next weekend for my follow up. That will be the ten week mark, and after this visit I will have more of an idea of how much I can push myself with running, and agility exercises. Being an athlete, which I am sure some of you can relate, you want to push yourself all the time, and since my hip is feeling better I sometimes think I can just hop right back into training. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work that way, so I have to be constantly reminded to slow it down a little, and follow the rehab program that was given to me. For those of you that know me, I can be a little stubborn at times, so when my trainer says to do 3 sets of 15 clam shells, I ask to do 20, and we some how compromise to 17 or 18, which makes me happy.
This entire journey has been up and down every single week. I have some really really good days where I think I can go run stadiums for hours, and then some really really bad days where I wake up and my hip is so sore, I could have thought I just woke up from surgery again. Also there are days where I don’t want to wake up early before my internship to get rehab in, but you have to look at the big picture and think each time you do rehab is one step closer to getting on the court! It can get frustrating, but with the right mindset and dedication to rehab, having a positive outlook, and people around you who encourage you every day, it really makes things a lot easier! I have been lucky enough to have a great support system around me, and help from a lot of people to keep the spirits up when things get a little rocky! I cannot WAIT until I can hit that little yellow ball around again!
Be sure you have liked Lauren’s Facebook page to keep up with all of her rehab: https://www.facebook.com/EmbreeL
(January 28, 2014) – Well I have completed two full weeks of rehab, and good news…. I get to start some new exercises today! After my swimming session early this morning, I was informed about this arm bike I should give a try, because I needed to get some sort of sweat going for my own sanity. The arm bike is very underestimated. I will admit after a good 15 minutes on that thing, with a pretty high resistance, I had drops of sweat coming down my face so I was feeling a little better. I was also able to get an upper body lift in today which tomorrow I will probably feel the affect of.
One strange thing about this surgery is that they tell you there is a possibility of your foot or leg becoming numb from them pulling so hard on it. The nerves tend to get aggravated and that could have some affect to your leg. , Well..that happened, and I still have no feeling in the top of my right foot, which is strange to me, but I guess things could be worse right? I just hope it comes back at some point, but right now I don’t really need my foot, so I’m not too worried about it =)
I had my coaching debut this weekend with the Gator team, and it felt so good to be back out there and in that environment. Roland jokes to me all the time how now I will get a taste of what it was like being on the other side of trying to coach when emotions are flying high….he likes to remind me I wasn’t the easiest one to deal with, and I will be the first to admit that, but I enjoy helping these girls any way that I can!
(January 30, 2014) – Coming up on the end of week 2…about 10 more weeks to go before I can do really any physical activity with my legs, or have a tennis racket in my hand!! Being in Gainesville with the amount of support and help I have behind me definitely makes time go by a little bit quicker. I have to give a special shout out to my athletic trainer here, Kelly. She has been doing two a days with me since I got here, stuck with me every morning and afternoon, and she is really making rehab as fun as it can be!
Next week (week 3) is when I can really step up my rehab… I can start doing a tiny bit of resistance on the bike (like maybe turn it on!!!!) I also get my stitches removed, get to add some new stretches, and three weeks means only one more week left of the crutches I was always told I needed to make my triceps stronger, maybe the crutches helped them out?? I also get to get rid of the brace that I have been sporting…this is good news because the brace really clashes with the dress I am wearing for an event next week. =)
I will check in next week….and for all of you who are gator fans, the gator girls play Baylor this weekend…GO GATORS!
(February 7, 2014) – I am coming up on week four my one month mark, and actually feeling really good! I can lose the crutches next week, which is a big step for me. I have been doing some walking in rehab, which is kind of painful because my hip is so stuff from being on crutches, so working on trying to get my walk back to normal! I can also lose the CPM machine I have been in for a month, so now I can sleep normally at night. Right now, I am at National Indoors with the team, and play a really tough Virginia team today. I am really enjoying being on the sidelines this time around and helping the girls anyway I can. It is also keeping me busy and my trainer has been amazing helping me get in my rehab sessions twice a day around our schedule…nothing like a few night swim sessions in the hotel pools and some Gold Gym appearances (because we don’t have a gym in our hotel) on the road…But we have a match to play…be back soon!