The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.
By Rob Castorri, Executive Director of Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy
At Ivan Lendl International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, we spend a significant amount of time training a variety of shots including groundstrokes, serves, returns, volleys, overhead and so on. The two most underrated ones in the game are the drop shot and topspin lob. When executed properly, both are excellent weapons to use against your opponent, no matter the style of play.
- When your opponent is behind the baseline, this presents an ideal opportunity to hit a drop shot and keep your opponent on their toes.
- When approaching the net, mix in a drop shot approach instead of a consistently strong, deep ball. This keeps your opponent off-balance.
- If forced to hit a low ball, the drop volley is a great way to respond. Instead of returning their low shot back to their baseline, the drop volley causes your opponent to dash up to the net and into a difficult spot on the court if they are able to get to it.
- The most common use of the topspin is when your opponent is at the net. It can also be used to change the tempo of a backcourt rally. It gives the opponent a difficult shot and maybe a bit out of their comfort zone. Be on the lookout for a weak return.
- Instead of hitting a passing shot, the other option to consider is a topspin lob. The look of hitting a typical topspin passing shot is identical to hitting a topspin lob until the last moment. Just before your racquet begins moving towards the ball, drop it lower for the lob. The speed of the racquet is similar so it can be disguised. Before your opponent realizes, the lob is spinning in a high arc over their head and doesn’t give them much time to react. This creates uncertainty the next time they come to net. It will also create more openings to hit easier passing shots as the match continues.
Add these two specialty shots to your menu to keep your opponent on their toes and increase your chances of being successful in a match.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rob Castorri has been involved in tennis for over 30 years as a professional player, coach, club manager and event promoter. He turned pro in 1978 and won 18 national team and doubles championships, and achieved a No.1 ranking in Florida’s Men’s Open Division. Castorri has notable victories over players such as Boris Becker, Pat Dupre and Harold Solomon.
As Executive Director, Castorri oversees program development, instruction and operations for Ivan Lendl IJTA. He previously served as President of the Georgia Professional Tennis Association and has managed tennis clubs across the U.S. At the Wimbledon Championships, Castorri has organized the annual media tennis event for the last 16 years.
Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl’s desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. The staff subscribes to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.
For more information: www.LendlTennis.com/info, 888.936.5327.
James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — Most people when asked whom they would include on their perfect dinner party guest list name Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Julius Ceaser.
With all these predictable types, you need a sportsmen and an entertainer. In Henri Leconte, you have both.
When you walk into the room he is in command, captivating his audience with humorous anecdotes about Becker and Lendl that probably shouldn’t be mentioned.
As a player Henri’s exploits have been very much forgotten, perhaps in many ways overshadowed by his showman ways.
His Davis Cup exploits, when he beat Pete Sampras to help claim victory for France over the United States have been forgotten, including his 9 titles, French Open finals appearance in 1988 and his French Open doubles victory with Yannick Noah in 1984.
Henri was a paradox, a Frenchman who grew up on clay but had a serve and volley game to die for.
“I was sniper. To many opponents, I was very complicated. My best results were all on clay. It is difficult to understand today.”
Henri swirled his coffee and recalled his playing days.
“Beating (Pat) Cash at Wimbledon on grass was huge, I will always remember. Ivan hated to play against me so much I could tell, but I hated to play Fabrice Santoro. I really hated to play against Mats (Wilander). Boris Becker on grass was so difficult,” Henri said with a grin that turned into a laugh, which in turn replaced defeat with victory, “but Boris Becker on clay.”
The former world number 5, now a commentator for the Australian Open on channel 7 and throughout the year on Eurosport admires what Ivan Lendl has done for Andy Murray. As a coach he believes he could serve a player in the same capacity.
“I really think I could help. I had so many stupid experiences with the coaching and doing the wrong thing sometimes that I would know the right things. The matter is finding the right person who has the talent, and the passion as same as me. I could be so accurate for them because I have been there.”
Henri is your typical Frenchman, with a partisan approach to his countrymen that is endearing to say the least. When listening to a broadcast his usual catchphrase to any Jo-Wilfred Tsonga winner is an emphatic “Unbelievable.” Henri talks words of praise about Roger Rasheed, Tsonga’s new coach then speaks devotedly of Gael Monfils:
“I love this guy, he has more talent than he knows what to do with. He can be top ten so easy. He is such a great guy, we have not seen the best of him yet but time goes so fast.”
Henri reflects sincerely before saying with a hint of worry:
“We have so many players in France right now which is so good, but I worry a little bit about four five years from now. There are lots of politics.”
Henri Leconte is a pleasurable person to be around. He is personable, charming and humorous and speaks of his success with sheer modesty. Tennis is very much a part of his life, both personal and professional which is very much evident in his match commentary. With his vibrancy and excitement he really brings an added spark to the game of tennis, and a one on one chat with this man is an absolute treat.
Andy Murray, The “Coach”
First up on Stadium Court was Andy Murray who advanced over Alejandro Falla in straight sets with little resistance from the Colombian, 6-2, 6-3. In Murray’s press conference, he acknowledged Falla’s presence in tennis as a “tough player” since he “pushed Federer in Wimbledon” and beat Mardy Fish at the Australian Open.
The other day I commented on how Ivan Lendl didn’t seem to be “coaching” during Murray’s practice session, rather being a bit passive. It seems that Lendl posing questions to Murray has worked better for their relationship than Lendl simply directing Murray as to what needs to be done on court. Murray, the always independent thinker, commented thoroughly and honestly on the way his relationship with his coach has developed.
“A lot of ex‑players view things like ‘This is how I would have done it in that situation,’ or ‘That’s how I would have played,’ or whatever. Whereas Ivan has been actually very, very good with that.
He asks a lot of questions, as well, to understand why you maybe chose to hit a certain shot or what your favorite shots in certain moments are. He’s been very, very good with that — which is not the case with all coaches. He also understands that there are a lot of things that coaches can do that maybe annoy players. (Murray then cited Tony Roche feeding balls from the side of the court as one of these annoyances.)
He just asks the questions and I give him the answers. We have had no problems so far (smiling).”
Ana Ivanovic, The Wine Taster
Serbian Ana Ivanovic had a tougher time against her opponent Vania King, but finally prevailed after being broken in the second set, 6-4, 7-5. The American moved well and executed her backhand down-the-line especially well, making her a tough riddle for Ivanovic to solve. Ivanovic mentioned the heat as not being a factor and the minimal wind to be the difference between here and Indian Wells. The Serb also wasn’t shy talking about how she will celebrate reaching one of her goals this year.
“I’m just really happy with where my game is at the moment. Also, I was real excited to be ranked 10 in the race, which was kind of my goal for the year. So that kind of was exciting. I was like, ‘Oh, we have to have a glass of wine tonight.’”
When asked about what kind of wine, she answered: “I like Australian shiraz. Red wine. I don’t drink white. That’s actually the only thing I can drink.”
Novak Djokovic, The Ambassador
Although Novak Djokovic had no match today, he conducted a special media press conference answering questions on a variety of topics. He was quick to remind the media that the Sony Ericsson Open was the first ATP-level tournament he won in his career back in 2007. What a path this current world #1 has paved in the last five years!
Usually the entertainer, Djokovic took a more serious yet still cheerful tone to his interview as he talked about enjoying the island life at Key Biscayne, “walking” and “biking” around. He also commented on Serbia’s influence in tennis, but in a slightly different wording than the tennis world is used to:
“[The Serbian tennis players] are always seeking to improve and get better. I believe that our past that we had in our country, which was very turbulent, I have to say, helped us to discover that great desire for success and to become one of the world’s best tennis players. This mentality — very, very strong mentality — is actually something that separates, I think, people from that region from any other.”
John Isner, The Wannabe Singleton
Newly-crowned world number 10 John Isner found himself in a jam when he soundly lost the first set to Nikolay Davydenko, 6-2. He was able to recover and win in three, and even finished off with four of his fastest serves of the night — 137, 135, 136 and 129 mph. In his post-match presser he elaborated what the new ranking meant, or rather didn’t mean, to him.
“I didn’t look at the rankings and stare at it or anything like that. It’s something I thought I could accomplish. Now that I have, I’m happy, but I’m definitely not satisfied.
But for sure, it has sunk in. It sunk in, I guess, as soon as I got into the top 10. But, you know, I’m number 10. As my coach says, I want to become a singleton. I want to … have a single digit by my name instead of two.”
Does ‘9’ count, John?