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Tennis - It's All in the Coaching

By Tom Kosinski
Wednesday, August 14th, 2002
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Seems like the summer is just flying. I haven't had a chance to even play in one tournament this summer, and my college tennis season is just around the corner. I guess that must be how it feels for the current pros as they gear up for the U.S. Open starting August 26th.

With the summer hardcourt season in full swing, a quick look at the women's tour finds that there is no clear dominant factor (including Venus and Serena Williams). Chanda Rubin eliminated Serena in the quarters of the JP Morgan in Manhattan Beach, CA, and went on to win with a hotly-contested three-setter over the rehabbed and returning Lindsay Davenport. Rubin has been one of the hottest hands during the California swing of the tour, winning the JP Morgan and showing well in the past few weeks. Rubin's win avenges her round of 16 loss to Serena at Wimbledon.

Jelena Dokic may be the one to watch, and is my dark horse favorite at the U.S. Open. Jelena has been on fire, making the semis and finals of every tournament she has played post Wimbledon. With her new Head i.X6 frame and a new found confidence, Jelena has begun to realize some of the potential she brought to the tour just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, her dad, Damir, can't seem to stay out of the news, again acting like he is more important then his daughter. Damir is now threatening to leave Yugoslavia and register Jelena as a British citizen, all because he didn't like what the Yugoslav tennis association was offering his daughter (like it was ever for her). Figure that Jelena, now having to worry about her volatile father causing a stir at the coming U.S. Open, will have to face the one distraction she so sorely does not need.

As I write this, I'm watching the Lleyton Hewitt/Carlos Moya final of the Tennis Master's Series, Cincinnati. Moya is on fire, and Hewitt looks like he will eventually lose. Moya, a former world number one, is finally back on track. He has a complete game, and it shows. Moya is a good example of what is right with men's tennis. Hewitt, though exciting, is what is wrong with men's tennis.

Moya is constructing points, using the full court. He hits hard, but every shot is not a rocket. His serve is good, he can hit aces, and he uses it to open up the court for a winning shot. Hewitt, on the other hand, is a "hitter." He hits it as hard as he can, then hopes it doesn't come back.

There is a whole generation of players who are that way. Including America's own Andy Roddick. If you saw A-Rod lose to Mr. "I'm Barely Ranked" Gonzalez earlier in the week, you would see exactly what I mean. Every ball A-Rod hit was a cannon. Every serve was as hard as it could be. And after a while, Gonzalez drew a bead on it.

The women's game is similar, but with a twist. The variety of game is there, but it seems no one thinks their way through the big matches. Venus and Serena dominate not because they are untouchable, but because when the big matches come, the opponents are not prepared. Chanda Rubin beat Serena this past week because she is one of the few players with a complete game, and she used her great net play to force Serena to make shots time and again. Jennifer Capriati loses to the Williams all the time. Jenny just tries to out-hit them, which one out of every 100 times works.

The women's game is so much more varied, and to a large degree, so much more interesting. I even find myself laughing at it. Adidas again has "threatened" Anna Kournikova to start winning "or else." Or else what? She is the single most popular athlete on the planet, is probably the only and biggest reason they sell any sports apparel and the truth is she does win. Yes, she still has not won a professional tournament in singles, but that's not taking count for her doubles matches.

Which brings us to Martina Hingis. The only reason she lost in Australia was because her coach sucks. Her mom is out of her league, not unlike Nick Bollettieri most of the time. Nick can bring you to the water, but rarely have his kids "drank." Same with Melanie Molitor. During the great 1997 season, Martina was untouchable. But then again, the playing field was not as strong and consistent.

Now, I'm not going to take anything away from the Swiss Miss, as she is one of my favorite players, but she hasn't been able to capitalize on the opportunities. And that is because of coaching. Brad Gilbert once agreed to work with her, only to have Melanie fire him because to her, he "didn't do anything I couldn't do or didn't know." Apparently not, Melanie. Just ask Andre Agassi. So Melanie, subscribe to the new Tennis Channel on your local Florida cable network. Then set your VCR for Brad's show. You might just learn something.

So, it all now comes down to coaching. That is where the hitters will learn to be players and then the players will learn how to win. There is a wealth of talent on both the men's and women's tours. Maybe we will actually get to see some live up their potential in three weeks. If not, then maybe they need to call me.

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