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Tennis Tips from Bill Mountford - Nov. 1

May 25, 2008 11:50 AM

Submit your questions to Bill Mountford here

Q: What is the correct way to perform a "tweener"? Every time I try to hit one, it goes into the net.

Anonymous - New Jersey

A “tweener” is a ball hit from between your legs with your back facing the net. Typically, it is a last-resort shot that you need to attempt after your opponent has fooled you by getting a lob over your unsuspecting head. How should you hit it? First of all, be careful. Try to let the ball drop so it is near the ground when you make contact with it. That will enable you to swing aggressively and snap up without, ahhh, injuring yourself. The shot takes imagination and a bit of practice. It is not exactly a high-percentage play though.

- Bill

Q: I've heard that McEnroe was often more right than wrong on line calls and when they went back and analyzed the video he would have won more tournaments. Is this true? Thanks so much.

Vince - Los Angeles, CA

Actually, this is not true. John McEnroe has been wrong frequently when put to the “hawkeye” test. In fact, during the 2005 WTT season he was wrong nearly every time that he challenged a call. One would think that he would be right closer to half the time, but that is not the case. You might go to the World Team Tennis website to contact their staff to research the exact figures of John’s “success” rate.

Would John McEnroe have won more tournaments if the line calls were 100% accurate? (At this point, I am wondering if you are a McEnroe Publicist). Well, probably not. In fact, many of his peers would have welcomed the challenge system back in Mac’s heyday, because it would have eliminated his long and boorish outbursts. Today’s rule is reasonable: If you do not like the call, then challenge it. Instead, his rivals would suggest, McEnroe used these (sometimes ridiculous) arguments to manipulate the flow of the match until it favored him entirely.

- Bill

Q: There was a fine player watching our doubles match at the Southern Senior Closed. He and his partner were scheduled to play the winner of our match in the next round. Anyway, there was an honest disagreement about the score in a particular game. All four participants knew and respected the observer and would have accepted his opinion of the score. The rule is that we could not ask him what the score was. I do not understand what the objection to asking him would be. I was told that we were not allowed to ask and he would not be allowed to offer an opinion.

Tom - Chattanooga, TN

I get abuse for answering these “rule questions” with an opinion, as opposed to sticking strictly with the regulations, but here I go again…

Given the situation that you described, where all four players innocently forgot the game score, and to a man you respect the integrity of the observer, then I do not see ANY problem with asking for his input. Now, mind you, this is not a 12 & under junior match where over-involved parents are in the mix; instead, this is a Senior doubles match between gentlemen who understand our sport’s honor code. It is simply common sense to rely on this well-respected observer to clarify the score… so that you can immediately return to the objective at hand: Playing!

(Note to readers: please limit the critical E-mails that will stem from this response).

- Bill

Q: How do you become a professional tennis player? Do you have to take like 3 or more private lessons a week?

Hilary - California

Yes. If you take three or more private lessons each week then you are bound for glory.

- Bill

Q: I have read some of your comments about the ambidextrous tennis player Marty Devlin. So I'm interested to know how he switches his hands to play his lefty/righty forehands. Does he play a forehand with the usual grip and the other forehand with the "choke up" grip (I'm asking this because I play like that too)?

Quinn - Tallahassee, FL

I went “home” last week and played doubles with Marty Devlin on his backyard tennis court (which was described by another writer as “the eighth wonder of the world”- but that story will be for another time). Generally, his strong (right) hand is closer to the butt cap and his non-dominant (left) hand “chokes up” on the handle.

However, Marty advocates a “floating” grip. Sometimes he holds the racquet (and he uses a longer model, 28½ inches in length) at the bottom and other times “choking up” toward the shaft. He relies on experience to determine when/where/how he holds the racquet.

This might sound crazy, but if you watch Roger Federer closely (not to mention other top professionals), then you will notice that he too uses a variety of grips for shots depending on when/where/how he needs to hit the ball. In other words, Federer has his preferred grip for the forehand (a semi-western hybrid) but will also choose to use a Continental or Eastern grip depending on the situation. Over time- and after hitting thousands of balls- he senses when to do what and where. By the way, this last paragraph was the best excuse that I could find to put Marty Devlin and Roger Federer in the same context!

- Bill

Q: My 10 year old daughter doesn't lean forward when hitting her two handed backhand...(hits them leaning back)...what is a tip to get her into the right model?

Luis - Plano, TX

Have her “land” on her front foot before contact. Presuming that she is a right-handed player, remind her to set her right foot down on the court BEFORE contact with the ball on her backhand. This will help her timing and, eventually, become a useful “trigger mechanism” to launch her backhand with conviction.

- Bill



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