Why hasn't been America
producing abundant top players, like Spain, following in
the footsteps of Sampras, Agassi,
is tennis participation so stagnant in the United
States, while other sports are
flourishing and growing fast, like golf and soccer?
do the USTA*,
and the USPTR*
fail to attract a larger number of participants to the game?
*United States Tennis Association, United States Professional
Tennis Association, United States Professional Tennis Registry.
the direction of these associations, tennis throughout the US
continues to be taught in a conventional, rote, antiquated way,
with few exceptions. Students are given unworkable concepts such
as "take the racket back as soon as you see the ball coming,"
"hit through the ball," "stay down through your
stroke," "point your racket to the target on the follow-through
of your forehand."
books on the subject reinforce these points and disseminate an
unnatural way to play tennis.
though some of the great players of all time, like Tilden, Budge,
Kramer, Laver, Borg, Lendl, King, Navratilova, Evert on her backhand,
Graf, Sampras and Agassi "stalked" the ball with the
racket instead of taking it back right away, and stroked the ball
brushing it rather than square on, it was assumed that these players
were just "different" or "geniuses" and that
they shouldn't be copied.
top off the confusion, many top players wrote books about the
game in which they were unable or unwilling to confront the conventional
system head on and to transfer into print what they actually felt
when they stroked the ball. Some, like Rod Laver**, went to the extent
of changing his strokes when posing for photographs for his book,
trying to conform to conventional teaching. Others, like Kramer**,
coached stroking for years that was radically different from what
made him world champion.
there were notable exceptions. Ivan Lendl in his book "Power
Tennis" talks of "vicious topspin" and correctly
describes the role of topspin in the modern game. Bjorn Borg,
one of the great geniuses of the modern game, describes in his
book "Borg by Borg," how he refused to bow to pressure
to change his heavy topspin strokes when he was a youngster.
of the game and players can also be confused when they listen
to coverage of major tournaments on television and hear false
(conventional) instructional data. Even the great John McEnroe,
as marvelously gifted and colorful as a commentator as he was
as a player, speaks frequently of early preparation, racquet back,
etc. He may not be taking into account that at the height of his
game he "stalked" the ball, rather than preparing early,
moved very naturally with no attention to the position of his
feet, and that he "brushed" the ball with tremendous
was practicing with Rod Laver in Hollywood, Florida, in 1971 when
photographs for Laver's book were taken.
He also discussed with
Jack Kramer in the early 90's the difference between the conventional
tennis teaching system and the way Jack played when he was world