Evan Gaudreau is back with his analysis of the Australian Open Junior Final. This time we get to the meat!
If I wrote this after watching the quarterfinals between Bruno Kuzuhara and Edas Butvilas, I would be solely talking about body language and anxiety. But after watching the semis and the finals, I changed a little.
It was a little frustrating to watch the high level of anxiety and the constant “Come On’s,” the constant missed returns and the errant first ball mistakes. But as I watched Bruno get to the finals, I gained some respect for his game. I also learned a few things along the way.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. You see, it’s easy to be a back seat driver. To criticize other players for their level of play or their behavior. Yes, Bruno showed a high level of anxiety. Why? What do I know? I’m just a meathead.
But this meathead started asking questions. I wonder what kind of pressure this kid is under? Is it from himself? Coaches expectations? Or parents? All of the above? Then I looked at his previous results. He had lost to both his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents very recently. Then I asked, Was there some bad blood? Or was there a locker room cheerleader speech prior to the match amping him up? It has to be in there somewhere.
Regardless, as he got through to the final, he was much more composed. Maybe it was the Lasagna the night before the match. Maybe it was the Tinder text. Just kidding. Side note. Keep an eye on Jakub Mensik. That boy is good. Why? Other than being a solid player, he had a better handle of his emotions than the other players I watched. Limited sample. I know.
Two things popped into my head while watching the matches. One is hand feeds. I hate em! But the coaches love em. I call them the lazy pros feed.
“Excuse me? Is that your kid out there your hand feeding to?”
“No. I’m the coach.”
“Are you hurt or injured?”
“Why do you ask?”
I don’t mind hand feeds for beginners, whatever the age, or for a few minutes here and there, but the amount of grip change mistakes I see makes me wonder. The simple fact is that if you use a large quantity of hand feeds in your training, it makes you feel good. They’re easy to contact while moving through the cones etc. But the timing of it is weird.
I fell for the spell too. I also used to play with matchbox cars. So, I fed my daughter hand feeds like the rest of you but when I rallied with her something was off. I was confused. How could she hit 50 hand feeds in a row and then have trouble keep a change of pace rally going. Hmm. I stopped doing them.
I even had someone do them for me to see if I would like training like that. They felt good, I guess. Look.
I’m not saying not to use them, just be careful. They work for Brian Dabul.
The second thing I noticed was footwork. All those tiny steps going to the ball made me think of handfeeds also.
I felt, and I’m no expert, that the movement was somewhat funny. I thought of this as I was cleaning out the garage from all the cardboard that was building up and burning it in the fire pit. Seriously. After I would drop a stack off to burn, I would jog back and do like a zig zaggy thing through the yard. Weirdo.
And I thought about Bruno being mostly on his toes and not the balls of his feet. When you’re on your toes, you move like a cartoon character (Like Beavis and Butthead for example). That reference went right over your head. Cause you’re not a meathead like me. When you’re on the balls of your feet, you can absorb force and spring to the ball. Go try it. Feel your thigh absorb and push as you run… Or walk with your cane. It dawned on me too that, young players these days go to agility camps. They don’t actually play outside their sport. Crazy fact.
I used to sprint full speed through the woods, when I was a kid, dodging trees and branches. Occasionally getting clipped.
Stopping briefly to rip the branch down. Then moving on. Doing spin moves like Barry Sanders. Playing in gravel pits. Climbing to the top. Rocky 4 stuff. I even chopped trees with a hatchet for power. That’s probably why at 160lbs I can hit a softball 350 feet.
Anyway. The last thing I’m going to leave you to think about may not seem tennis related but it is. Compassion. This is something I never had as a player growing up. All I cared about was me. Nothing else. Here’s the deal?
During the semifinal match between Bruno and Adolfo Vallejo, a ball girl fainted. Now if I was 17 years old, in the middle of a match and 40-30 ta boot, I would have been upset. How dare she faint in the middle of the match. Watch the boys’ reactions.
They were so anxious and focused on themselves they didn’t know what to do. A few gestures from parents and coaches and they were walking around loosening up. When I saw this, I laughed for a second. Then I thought, oddly, Rafael Nadal wouldn’t have hesitated to check to see if the girl was ok.
Yes, he is a man. But he gets it. Bottom line. Teach your kids compassion and they will unlock another level. Trust me!
From one meathead to another. I’m signing off.
Next piece will be back to business. Transition game.
Work on longer sprints at the track to make your first step faster. Or hills. Or stadium running. Or just buy the $4000 whatcha ma call it resistance machine the pros use.
Question: Name the candy bar I’m thinking of.
Answer: Whatcha ma call it!!