Hello and welcome to the 29th issue of Tennis inbox. This week we’ve got more information on the PTPA’s goals, a newsletter for doubles fanatics, Spain’s Davis Cup victory as a sports movie, and a story of change and second chances. Read on to find out more.
Vasek Pospisil clears the air on the PTPA
Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who finished his 2020 season with a run to the final in Sofia, appeared on the Tennis.com podcast to clarify the goals of the newly formed Professional Tennis Player’s Association (PTPA). Along with Novak Djokovic, Pospisil has been the main proponent of the new association. If this is your first time hearing about the PTPA, you can catch up quickly by reading this issue.
A few points stuck with me from Pospisil’s appearance. I’ll highlight them below and provide my thoughts on each:
Speaking on the main goal of the PTPA, Pospisil said:
“The whole purpose of the PTPA is to organize and unite the players and be represented in a proper way and have the ability to impact major decisions that affect our livelihoods and our lives. The point is to unite the players and have a say on the tour and in our livelihoods and have transparency with tournaments, how they’re running, financials, ticket sales—we basically don’t have that information. That’s not a business partnership, especially when we are the product….”
From the way Pospisil describes it, it appears that players have very little idea of what’s going on in the back of the house, (so to speak). They are the main attractions for fans yet they have little to no transparency when it comes to how much money tournaments are making, and by extension how much of that money is being returned to the players. That’s probably the crux of player frustrations—that they feel they have almost no say in the decisions which impact their livelihoods and that they’re not sure they’re getting an even/fair piece of the pie.
Speaking about the internal politics of the various boards that govern tennis, Pospisil commented:
“We’re trying to avoid conflicts of interest [when setting up and staffing the PTPA] because the tennis tour has tremendous conflicts of interest with everybody… it’s so intertwined. It’s like no other sport out there. It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point and it needs to be cleaned up. And unfortunately, the reality is that it’s hurting the players. A lot of times it’s dirty politics and players are being lied to and brainwashed. It’s really not good.”
I can’t comment on player’s being brainwashed, etc., but it’s not a secret that tennis’ governing bodies are closely intertwined. They probably have to be based upon the global nature of the sport and how much coordination it takes to operate a tour that travels around the world, hosting thousands of players, their support staff, and tournament employees. Given that, it’s probably a good thing that governing bodies are so well connected. Yet I’m sure it comes with its negatives—favoritism, quid pro quos, and so on. These are the things that the PTPA is probably trying to change.
The ATP is not happy with the PTPA, though. According to Pospisil, when the ATP found out that Novak Djokovic and Pospisil were on the nominations list for the ATP Council recently, they “created a new bylaw overnight to prevent us from being able to go there and represent the players. It blows my mind that they give a pass to all these other insane conflicts of interest, but these two tennis players shouldn’t be able to represent the players because they’re trying to do something else.”
From their actions, it appears that the ATP is spooked. As one of the hosts of the Tennis.com podcast said in response to Pospisil bringing up how the ATP wrote a new bylaw overnight to ensure that Pospisil and Djokovic couldn’t be elected onto the ATP Player Council again, “You have to feel you’re going in the right direction because they’re clearly threatened. You’re obviously ruffling some feathers. It’s clear there is a problem if they are that threatened by you guys [the PTPA].”
Perhaps the most interesting part of Pospisil’s appearance was when he laid out his vision for how many players should be able to make a decent living from playing professional tennis. In this regard, Pospisil took aim at the Grand Slams:
“That’s the biggest issue of all, probably, the amount of money that the Grand Slams earn, and [yet] tennis only has a 100 players who are making a living. Everybody else is suffering. It should be very easy for at least 300 players [on both the ATP and WTA tours] to at least have a nice living and be profitable with their tennis careers. That’s currently not the case. And the money’s there!”
I have written before about how all the money in tennis is congregated towards the top of the rankings, and how this distribution of prize money has created a ferris-wheel of inequality. The issue is that all I’ve seen and heard for the past decade or so is basically moaning on this front (to be fair, I have moaned about it, too)—and perhaps a few, small changes. Articles come out every year about how tough it is to make it as a professional tennis player because of how prize money is so skewed towards the top.
But nothing changes.
Perhaps the PTPA will spark a reformation of how money is distributed on the professional tours.
Listen to Vasek Pospisil speak about the PTPA:
Note: skip to 18:15 to hear about the PTPA.
Do you play doubles? Check this out…*
If you look online, you can easily find coaches telling you how to play singles. But you won’t find much on doubles…
- Where should you stand at the net?
- How do you beat the lobber in doubles?
- When are the best times to poach (especially if you’re not confident in your volleys)?
- How do you hold serve more in doubles?
The Tennis Tribe is a weekly newsletter, like Tennis inbox, but with expert doubles tips and strategy lessons. They also just started the Doubles Only Tennis Podcast where they interview ATP & WTA doubles players and coaches. Join 1000’s of league, tournament, and club-level doubles players from all over the world who are becoming smarter, more effective doubles players every single week. Sign up here. Get a free 10-page doubles guide on how to play with more confidence at the net when you sign up.
*This is not an ad that I was paid for, but rather a sponsorship swap. The Tennis Tribe gets to pitch the Tennis inbox audience, and I get to pitch The Tennis Tribe audience in return. I encourage you to check out their doubles newsletter—it has short, actionable doubles tips and there’s no fluff!
The 2019 Davis Cup as a sports movie
An aging hero searching for one last win. A quiet supporting character who overcomes a damaging personal loss and performs on the biggest of stages. Unparalleled camaraderie. Think I’m talking about a sports movie? No. What I’m referring to is Spain’s 2019 triumph in the Davis Cup.
As a sports movie, though, is exactly how Cynthia Tanner has envisioned the details of Spain’s 2019 campaign. In movie writing, a treatment presents the main story idea behind a potential film. Tanner, who followed Spain’s victory last year in the Davis Cup closely, uses this format to weave the narrative of a couple of heroes who struggle to achieve their goals—and tops it off with a rewarding closing act. While reading, you’re almost likely to forget that this actually happened. This is the magic of sport: human drama is exemplified and cast onto our screens—and it’s all real.
Right around this time, if the world had been carrying on in its usual way, we would have witnessed this year’s edition of the Davis Cup. But because of coronavirus… blah blah blah. You’ve heard it all before. So since we missed the Davis Cup, we can try to relive it through Tanner’s movie treatment of it instead. The writing’s quite good, and I think you’ll see what I mean that this could easily be converted into a sports movie. Anyone in Hollywood reading?
Change of Ends with Klara Miklikova
What do club/recreational players neglect the most when they play?
There are a few things that club and recreational players neglect the most: one is a proper warm-up and the other is serving. Many players I’ve played with and coached become efficient in rallying and enjoy this part of the game. Some prefer competitive play with points and others like to have long rallies and work up a good sweat. But because most people are pressed with time, they want to get to business right away without “wasting time” on a warm-up, which over a period of time could result in injuries. This is understandable as tennis lessons are quite expensive—so who wants to spend ten minutes doing a dynamic warm-up and stretching if you’re supposed to work on improving your tennis game? Secondly, club players do not spend enough time working on their serves during practice (they spend maybe 10 minutes out of the one-hour practice). The serve is crucial and more time should be spent on it.
What do you encourage your students to focus on when it comes to playing a match?
I encourage my students to focus on footwork during their matches. I feel like footwork is a huge part of tennis and it helps my students to “relax” and stay ready. It is extremely difficult for some of my younger players (and adults, too) to remember to move their feet and stay ready especially during matches when there’s nobody to remind them. I also remind students to have fun with playing points and matches and to stay positive no matter what.
What part of their games do promising juniors most neglect to work on?
Promising juniors often neglect to work on their mental toughness. It is probably the hardest thing to work on and improve. It includes, among other things, the ability to overcome losing matches, dealing with life issues, injuries, cheating opponents, parents, or pressure to perform. I believe that there needs to be more communication between parents, athletes, and coaches to determine if there’s a need to work on the athlete’s mental toughness.
Have a question you’d like a coach to answer? Are you a coach who’d like to contribute? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How well do you handle losing?
Li Tu didn’t handle it well at all. One of the best juniors in the world, each loss he suffered left him discouraged for days. Even though he was a member of Australia’s Junior Davis Cup Team and was peers with players like Thanasi Kokkinakis and Luke Saville, Tu threw in the towel at 16. He didn’t want to deal with the emotions of losing anymore. It was too hard. He carried on with life, coached, and went to university. But years of teaching young players—and witnessing how they dealt with their own emotions—offered Tu much-needed perspective on his own mental failings. At 24, he competed in the UTR Pro Tennis Series in Adelaide and didn’t lose a match. Then he went to Brisbane and beat players in the top 600 in the world, splitting sets with a player around 300 on the ATP Tour. The experiences made him believe that he really could be a professional tennis player.
I wrote this profile on behalf of Universal Tennis, and though I usually keep my writing work separate from what I cover in Tennis inbox, I thought Li’s story was too good not to share. I hope you enjoy it—because I really enjoyed telling it!
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Thank you in advance!—Malhar