The ‘Modern Day’ Slam (September 2012)

Posted on: September 2, 2012 |
Tags: costa del sol, Elite Tennis, Professional Tennis, spain, Tennis Academy, Tennis Academy Spain, US Open

So far this year I have been able to experience and hopefully offer an insight into the grand slams in Australia, France and, of course, Wimbledon. This week I find myself at the US Open in the ‘big apple’ and it is my first experience not only at Flushing Meadows (the park where the US Open is held) but in NYC.

I have to admit I have fallen in love with the city and the tournament. There is so much here, such a vibe, the city is alive and the climate has been perfect ( to date).

The tournament brings a different feel to the other slams and in particular, Wimbledon and its tradition with the loud music at change of ends, the noise from the crowd during the point as the players slug it out and of course the ‘night matches’..

I write this as we travel back from Andy Murray’s demolition of Milos Raonic under the lights. The US Open makes tennis ‘cool’ and in an era where kids are fighting for all that is cool, this can only be good for the sport.

Anyway, back to the real reason I am here: Josh Ward-Hibbert, our own SotoTennis Academy player and I hope to get across a little insight into how a day works at a ‘junior slam’.

Match day

Josh was second match on after 11am, so we set about a plan by working backwards on the basis that he will be ready to play for 12.30.

Josh eats breakfast at 8.15am with the help of our nutritionist Nick Morgan (who we are lucky enough to have with us on this trip). We then get the 9am bus into Flushing Meadows. It is bizarre, but very effective here in NY, as they have big coaches that leave the hotel every 30 minutes. Normally at grand slams you call and they send a car to pick you up. We have been on buses with Brad Gilbert, Mark Petchey, Judy Murray and many of the senior players at different times. All sitting in NYC traffic together, if you have good ears you pick up all kinds of gossip!

We get to the centre for 9.30am and head to pick up rackets from the stringer, then to the gym for his pre-hab work and warm-up for practice. Nick is in Josh’s ear making sure he is hydrating and taking in the right fuel for the battle. I take the opportunity while he is on the bike to start to discuss the match and the game plan for today. I know Josh so well now after 3 years of working with him that I like to keep the chat light and the message very clear. Today we have 2 very clear areas that we talk about and we leave it at that.

Josh is looking very intense in his practice and is showing great footwork around the ball which is an area we have worked on lots. I can tell he has his ‘game face’ on. I want to make sure he hits enough serves, as he has been out injured for a few weeks and has not had his rhythm on his serve, so I remind him of the time and that we only have 10 mins left of the court. I don’t normally ‘coach’ before a match, but we spend a little time talking over technical points that are our ‘go to’ points on his serve and it seems to help, well he thinks so which is the main thing!

Back to the locker room for a quick shower before taking on a light snack again and having one last light chat about the match, only to reiterate the same 2 areas. I then leave Josh to be on his own for 30-40 mins before the match.

This is the sort of preparation we are after from Josh all the time and being so close at hand to educate this culture is key to his development. I must say he is starting to act professional and this is becoming habit which is very encouraging, as was his performance in a 6/4 6/2 victory over a hot up-and-coming prospect from Korea.

 Day off during the tournament

Today was slightly different, as Josh was only playing doubles and not till 6pm. Originally, we had decided we would get the 7am bus to the centre so we could get a good practice; I must stress Josh decides and drives this, which is perfect for me and what you want from your player. We then spoke and I mentioned that it may mean being at the centre for 14 hours in a row and 12 before he plays. Josh decided that practicing a bit later would be better. It meant he could sleep for longer and have a later breakfast. We then went down to the club where he got 45 mins with his doubles partner Evan Hoyt and then we lucked out and got another 50 mins on the courts to work on some specific areas. This is almost unheard of at a professional event, to find such court time, as it is normally dog-eat-dog for every minute on a court with 4 players to a court. We did not complain.

At lunch we sat with Evan and Ben Haran (Evan’s coach) and talked through some doubles tactics. This was to be the first time they have played together, so it was important they knew each others strengths and weaknesses on the doubles court, as it really is a team game and they must compliment each other to go far here.

In the end they played at 5.30pm due to a quick moving court (matches did not last long on their court). When they went on, it did not seem like we had been at the club all day and the decision to sleep in for longer was a good one on this occasion. Due to the uncertain nature of match length, whether this is not always the case, as you are relying on things out of your control.

Another good day for the boys, with a strong team performance to advance to the next round.

Cool downs, massages and refueling is on the agenda after the match and then sleep to go again for a ‘match day’ tomorrow.

I for one am loving my 4th slam experience of the year and am learning all the time.

Excited to get back to my team and players back at STA in a few days.

Play to Win

Dan Kiernan

Director, SotoTennis Academy

Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain

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