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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