Tip for the week taken from Brad Gilbert's 'Winning Ugly'

I'm sometimes accused of 'winning ugly' which I take as a great compliment.  It means I've 'found a way to work it out' even if I haven't performed at my best that day.  Brad Gilbert of course was the master of this and I take the tip of the week out of his fantastic book.

For some pros (the ones not making any money) and most recreational players there are two kinds of points: ad points and all the rest.  Wrong.  I treat the point the can get me or my opponent to an ad point as a major moment because it offers a major rewards.  That reward is the opportunity to win (or convert) a game.  I call any point that precedes an ad point a Set-up Point.  The point played a love-30, 30-love, 15-30, 30-15, 30-30, and deuce are all Set-UP Points for one or both players.

When I'm looking at one of those scores bells are ringing inside me, especially at 30-30 (or deuce) when we both have a chance to step up and get to an ad point.  Each one is a big swing because it decides who gets a chance to cash in on the game.  And if the set or match comes with winning that game the Set-up Point's value is multiplied (I think of those moments as Super Set-up Points).

If I win a Set-up point at 30-30 or deuce I'm only one point away from winning the game.  My opponent is three points away.  A big difference.  If I win a point at 30-15 (to go up 40-15) the spread is even bigger.  Psychologically it's all positive......

So, this week,  just look to improve your 'awareness' of the Set-up Points and next time, we'll look at how best to 'play' them.


I was reading some notes today by a guy called Mike Hawthorne, principal of an International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  He has been involved in education all his life but generally reckons he has more to learn these days than before he started.  I identify with that - the more you journey on, the longer you spend in a particular discipline, the more aware you are of how much more there is to learn!  That's good, exciting, and humbling.

More from Rafa

'Another thing about watching my matches again closely, dispassionately, is that in appreciating and respecting the skill of my opponents....I learn to accept losing points against them with more serene resignation. Some players rage and despair when they are aced, or when they are the victims of a magnificent passing shot. That is the path to self-destruction. And it is crazy, because it means you believe yourself to be capable, in some kind of ideal tennis world, of subduing your opponent's game from start to finish. If you give your opponent more credit, if you accept that he played a shot you could do nothing about, if you play the part of the spectator for a moment and generously acknowledge a magnificent piece of play, there you win balance and inner calm. You take the pressure off yourself. In your head, you applaud; visibly, you shrug; and you move on to the next point, aware not that the tennis gods are ranged against you or that you are having a miserable day, but that there is every possibility next time that it will be you who hits the unplayable winner.' - RAFA


Humility is for me a hugely admirable quality and one I aspire to even if I don't always live out.  On reflection, however, I begin to see it as a basic mental skill that any athlete must develop in order to maintain emotional control and composure in the important moments in a match.  The quality of being modest and respectful, of understanding and treating others as 'better than you' is a liberating, freeing mentality, one that allows you to simply 'play'.

In 'Rafa - My Story' Nadal says this: 'In the end, you have to understand that the difference in ability between the top players is marginal, practically nothing, and that the matches between us are decided in a handful of points.  When I say, and when Toni says, that a large part of the reason why I have been successful is my humility, I don't mean it in a sappy, PR-savvy sort of way, or because I am trying to make out that I am a well-balanced, morally superior sort of individual.  Understanding the importance of humility is to understand the importance of being in a state of maximum concentration at the crucial stages of a game, knowing you are not going to go out and win on God-given talent alone.'

Nadal seems to have this amazing ability, even when number 1 in the world, to play the role of the under-dog, somehow communicating to himself and the crowd that he shouldn't really win, and that he'll only do so by fighting for his life!  And from that humble position, he is able to carve out even the most unlikeliest of victories whilst gaining massive support from the crowd and those closest to him.

Happy Christmas!

Dear readers, practitioners and supporters of 'Everyball',

Wishing you all a fantastic Christmas and the very best for 2012.

With our appreciation and thanks for working with us,

Mike and the Team at The Everyball International Academy, Halton Tennis Centre

Just one of the highlights of 2011 were our 12&U National Premier 'Aegon' Team Tennis Winners.  

Pictured here at the National Tennis Centre, Roehamption (left to right) are Michael Shaw, Jake Williams, Alex Chan, Jack Malloy, 
Oscar Glenister, Sam Gough (not pictured Sebastian Harris, Barney Smith).  Holding the flag, coach and captain James Morgan.

Tip for the week

What are your 4 choices when you win the toss?

1. Serve
2. Return
3. Choose ends
4. Let your opponent choose

Deciding what to do on winning the toss can have important implications on the start of the match and as we know getting off to a good start is a good start!
Elect to serve if you're feeling confident and want to make a real statement with the first game; strong servers often like to get the first game under their belt using their weapon and therefore play with the confidence of always being 'one game up' with the opponent having to hold just to stay level. Elect to return if you want to put your opponent under a little pressure to 'hold' their first game; you'll often get a cheeky 'break' early on this way. Choosing a particular end may have implications outdoors, but no obvious ones indoors where there are no weather considerations. On the other hand, letting your opponent choose sends the signal out that whatever your opponent decides to do is fine, it's going to be to your advantage anyway!

No more 'knock ups'?

Appears Andy Murray and John McEnroe are in favour of scrapping the pre-match knock up.  Think it's a great idea!  See BBC Sport and Jonathan Overend's Blog from 21st December.


Some physical principles which we use daily on the tennis court but perhaps have implications elsewhere.
Momentum = mass x velocity. When a body of people come together and move at speed in one given direction they increase momentum. A body at rest stays at rest until an outside force is exerted upon it. Are you part of 'a gaining in momentum' or are you the person to overcome an inertia to get something going?

Mini Tennis Christmas Party - Halton style!

84 of Halton's youngest tennis members enjoyed an action-packed Christmas party last weekend.  The party started with mad tennis games in the Clay dome, followed by a Christmas party tea and finished with the highlight of the afternoon - a visit by Father Christmas bearing a gift for each child!  They thanked him by singing a very raucous rendition of 'Jingle Bells'.  A very big thanks to all who helped, especially our older junior members who gave up their afternoon.

The Kids woopin' it up!

The Coaches.......Sam and Emily in festive spirit!  You're supposed to look like a pudding Ems!

Tennis Jeannie - Tip for the week

Hello all Halton Tennis Jeannie Box Leaguers!  Tip for the week.

4 basic ways to challenge your opponent.

1.  Take their time away.  Early recognition of the shorter reply from your opponent will get you up to the 'top' of the bounce for contact, or if your timing supports it, to take the ball 'on the rise'.  You can maintain a relatively controlled ball speed and challenge your opponent's set up and timing with the early ball.  Two or three consecutive 'early' balls can be enough to force an error.

2.  Play with accuracy.  Simply get your opponent moving.  You'd be surprised how much tennis is played straight up and down the court - I call this M1 tennis!  Remember you can make your opponent move back, up, laterally and  diagonally.  'Back' through good depth, 'up' by a drop shot, diagonal by an 'angle' and 'laterally' with depth and width.  Using combinations of these shots to 'jerk' your opponent around the court can be really tough on them, especially if you can get them changing directions a few times!  Trust me I should know as I ended up in a mighty heap on the court yesterday against fellow coach Jemima!  Give yourself the goal of making your opponent move at least 3 steps to every ball.

3.  Play with power.  Superior ball speed is also very effective and if you are opting for this strategy the ball does not necessarily have to be hit so early.  You're just asking the question: 'Can you cope with this amount of pace?'  You need of course to balance this out with appropriate control and consistency.

4.  Disrupt rhythm through change of pace and spin.  Ever played somebody who never gives you the same type of ball twice in a row?  It can be really frustrating. A slow, heavily sliced ball can make your opponent work harder than a fast, flatter ball.  Then on the next ball, change the pace/spin yet again.

Of course at any one time you may be using combinations of all these strategies, but I would suggest that every time you look to 'challenge' your opponent (put them under pressure) make an early decision as to which will be your dominant one.

Hope your matches are going well - I've seem some really close scores being posted on the jeannie website so keep up the good work through to Christmas!  

Junior Jeannie also began yesterday, so good luck all Juniors competing in your league - I wonder who will be the first to complete a match?!