Last week it got announced that the first round Davis Cup tie for the U.S. vs. Great Britain in 2014 will be held at Petco Park in San Diego, the home field of the San Diego Padres. I immediately got excited due to the fact that I have relatives I can mooch off of I I can find my way down there. I went from excited to intrigued when I read that they chose to put an outdoor clay court down for the round. My initial reaction was a bit hesitant but the more I got to thinking about it, it makes sense. Here's why I think it could work:
1. Level Playing Field: In 2013 the team chose fast indoor hard courts to try and take advantage of the big serving of Isner, Querrey, etc. Having seen the Boise round first hand, I can tell you that the strategy appeared to backfire. In suffering a defeat to Serbia, it was the U.S. who looked tentative and not hitting out while the Serbians took full advantage of the court pace (um Ilija Bozoljac playing completely out of his mind anyone?). Nobody on the U.S. or U.K. squads has an amazing record on clay. Y,es Andy Murray has some solid results but he lacks any kind of title on the surface. After him, none of their likely guys have great results. Isner and Querrey, while not naturals on the surface, do appear to have gotten a bit more comfortable in recent years. The Bryans have already demonstrated they are capable on clay. Bare minimum, the surface should possibly play more neutral for everyone.
2. Training Chaos: Putting a clay court down immediately after the Aussie Open could deter Murray from even making the trip over. Yes, he has said that if he is healthy he is going to play. However, he won't be that far removed from back surgery and rehab if/when he plays in Australia. A quick change of surface could be something that he won't want to do when he could potentially risk his season if he aggravates something.
3. Better Crowd Engagement: The tie is over Super Bowl weekend next year. In 2013, their first round was the same weekend in Jacksonville against Brazil. I watched that round as a nervous wreck because at that point we knew that if they won they were Boise bound. The arena was absolutely empty. The match was still in the air on Sunday and there was just nobody there. Brazil hung in the match in large part due to their small but extremely vocal fan base. For the 2014 match, the plans call for a reduced seating size (8,000 instead of 10-15k seat arenas). This means fans should be in closer proximity to the match overall and it should be more likely to draw closer to a full house. Davis Cup is a competition unlike any other in tennis when it comes to fan involvement. The U.S. team needs to capitalize on this fact and engage the crowd more than they did this past year. A revised seating plan could help them do just that.
I am excited to hopefully get down to this round in person next year and see what happens. I think it could be a big boost if the U.S. can pull together as a squad and make a run to the Davis Cup final next year. The quest will start in the outfield clay (so weird to say!) at Petco Park.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Before we get into way too many personal details, let me be clear that I am referencing tennis in the title and not anybody's belly button. I got to thinking this week while on the court. It has been one of those weeks in Idaho where we are deep into October and it still hits 70 degrees outside. I went to hit on an outdoor court and found myself stunned at the lack of players on the outdoor courts. All of the indoor courts were in use but there was not a single person outside besides us. It was as if everyone was conditioned that since it was October, they must play inside. This thought inspired me to compare what I enjoy about playing inside and outside and try to come up with a favorite.
- Power bump. Everybody's shots are a bit bigger inside. I always feel like I can tee off a bit more on serves and ground strokes when I am inside.
- No pesky wind. There have been many times in which I (less than silently) curse the windy days here. It always seems that the days are calm except for match nights and then the wind decides to pay a visit.
- No sun. There's no strategy about who is going to serve on what side of the court when you are indoors. I don't have to worry about balancing the order of serving with the side I am on. Plus I always have personally enjoyed getting to keep my retinas.........
- Climate. Admittedly this one is a bit of a pro and con for me. There are times where it can get insanely humid on indoor courts here. I like the challenge of seeing who is the fitter person on court as the conditions can start to take it out of you. However, I don't really like feeling like I just stepped out of the shower 10 minutes into warmup and then constantly needing to towel off.
- More action on the ball. Playing outside seems to allow for better action on topspin ground strokes and kick serves. It might not feel like I can hit as hard but that gets countered with a bit more movement on shots. I think Rafa Nadal would agree with me as his record is atrocious indoors and his ball never seems to have the same jump to it. Granted I am light years away from his spin but I do notice a difference in my game.
- Conditions can be challenging. I know it sound negative (and it may be in the heat of the moment), but when I look at it objectively, I appreciate the challenge of being outside. The conditions are not always going to be favorable and you have to be able to adapt. It forces you to perhaps step outside your comfort zone and think about the adjustments you have to make. Plus this is true for every level of play. The 2012 US Open match between Murray and Berdych was completely decided on Murray's adjustment to the massive wind and Berdych's complete failure to manage it.
- It is just plain tough to beat a warm, calm day in Idaho. When the sun is shining, it's 70 outside and there's not a cloud in the sky, I wouldn't want to play anywhere else (ok I'd probably play outside in Fiji instead if that was an option).
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I just have to share a bit of personal excitement this week. The Racquet above is the new Babolat Pure Drive Play. Or as I prefer to think of it, Robo Cop's racquet of choice. This thing is the first racquet to have sensors, a gyroscope and an accelerometer built in to record data. It can pinpoint RPMs, frequency of stroke types, where on the string bed you make contact, etc. It sends this data to your smart phone or computer wirelessly or via USB. The reason I am excited about this is the fact that I got selected to play test this thing in the near future! I am very intrigued at the training potential a tool like this offers. Coaches would have access to a wealth of data at the touch of a button and could access it in real time. You could get immediate feedback on the impacts of alterations to stroke mechanics, movement patterns, etc. I'm not sure about the actual competition use (Babolat did receive an ITF waiver making it legal for all levels of play in 2014), but I do think it has tremendous training potential.
An interesting aspect that clearly hints at their intention to get this into the hands of developing juniors is Babolat's implementation of global leader boards. Just like most new video games, you will be able to see how your stats rank against everyone else in the world that is using the Pure Drive Play. Think you have amazing topspin? Let's see how you stack up globally. Just when I felt good about my game, this will get here just in time to put me in my place!
Only time will tell if this will be a novelty or if it will truly revolutionize the way players and coaches train and analyze development. Until then, I'm just excited to combine Super Mario and tennis in a single package now.