Offseason Conclusion and The New Year
Happy New Year!
I hope you all had a nice time with the people you love and care about over the holidays. Personally, I was able to spend three days with my Sister in New York and three days with Mom and Grandad in Atlanta. I spent approximately two weeks at home in the 2019 season, so the time I get to spend with my family is special. The preseason is officially over, and the first tournament of the year has arrived. I’m currently in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Max and I play later this evening. I’m both anxious and excited! We’ve worked very hard this offseason to improve, and I hope our improvements show up on film sooner than later. This blog will be mostly a reflection of my off season with Max rather than looking forward to my upcoming schedule.
One of the biggest changes I made over the offseason was switching rackets and customizing its weight. I now use the V8 pro and switched from the Vfeel10. The biggest difference between the two rackets is it’s string pattern. My new racket is an 18 by 20 where my old racket is a 16 by 19. The 18 by 20 string pattern provides more control and accuracy while the 16 by 19 offers slightly more pop and spin. I was excited to find myself hitting pinpoint targets more often with the 18 by 20 frame. Margins are much smaller in doubles compared to singles, and I’m required to hit small spaces more often. Added precision is definitely welcomed, but as I mentioned in previous blogs, my main goal this offseason was to improve the weight behind my serve and volleys. The purpose behind customizing the weight of my racket is to add both easy power and heaviness to my shots.
Roman helped me customized the weight of my rackets. He has been customizing rackets for top ATP and WTA players since 1991. He helped Novak Djokovic customize both the weight and string pattern on his most recent racket, and the list of other top professionals he’s helped is very long. Here’s the website to his business, www.rpnytennis.com, if you’re interested. The USTA hired him for the offseason to give his expertise on how to best customize the weight of our rackets based on our individual goals. For added power and heaviness, Roman suggested I add most of the weight in handle. With majority of the weight in the handle, I can benefit from having a heavier racket while keeping the head light, so I can maneuver the racket quickly around the net. It’s common for doubles players find themselves in quick reaction situations, which is why it’s important to keep the head fairly light. However, a little weight was also added to the head to maintain balance of the racket, avoiding it from feeling too bottom heavy. The initial strung weight of my racket was 318 grams and 11.2 ounces. The weight of my racket after the added weight is 333 grams and 11.7 ounces. I immediately loved the weight change as I felt, easy power and added weight to my shots. My serve felt heavier off the racket, and I was able to pop volleys a little easier. One of the biggest differences is the added power I can get on volleys when I’m stretched and out of position. A heavier racket does require more strength but that won’t be an issue since I’ve been lifting 4 days a week for the past 7 weeks.
I bought a racket from Roman with small head size of 65 square inches. My V8 pro is 100 square inches. I think the 65 square inch racket is an amazing training tool that forces me to be more precise in seeing the ball and with my swing in order to hit the sweet spot. It’s easy to have fairly loose concentration when hitting with the V8 Pro because if I hit the ball slightly off center, I can still hit a decent shot. If I hit the ball slightly off center with the racket shown above, I will for sure miss. Me hitting the sweet spot is important because it allows me to put the ball exactly where I want more times than not. A large amount of misses or low quality shots come from making contact with the ball slightly off center. I like using this racket to help me with my neutral volleys and chip lobs. When volleying, the main challenge for me is being able to hit the sweet spot when guys are hitting groundstrokes that are dipping, curving, hanging, and flat at varying speeds and angles. If I can find the sweet spot with the small racket consistently, I can do it with the larger frame of my V8 Pro.
Outside of racket changes, I’ve changed the way I practice my serve. I can’t go over the details of all changes because it would make this post too long, but I plan on covering some of them in future blog posts. My favorite change is 4 of 7 serving. I’ll create a runway wide, body or T that my serve needs to pass through. The goal is to hit serves through the runway at least 4 out of 7 times. There is major significance behind making at least 4 out of 7 quality first serves at my desired target. The most amount points I can play in my service game is 7 and the number of points I need to hold is 4. If I can hit a quality serve to a precise spot, there is a very high chance we win the point. If I hit my spot 4 times in a game, I’ll most likely hold serve. I use this form of counting everyday, and I love using this drill at the end of practices to simulate me closing out a match. In addition to improving the way I practice my serve, I have also improved the fundamentals of my first volley. The most obvious key is to have a low base when hitting my first volley. I like to think of it as being eye level with the ball rather than bending my legs more. The thought of me being eye level with the volley gives me a specific goal rather than just bending my legs more on volleys. The next key is keeping my head centered above my body when making contact with the ball. If I lean my head too far forward, my upper body tends to topple over which creates a weak posture and heightens the chances of me popping the volley sky high. If I lean my head too far right or left, it also throws my body out of balance. If I keep my head centered while being eye level with the volley, it gives me the most stability to use my momentum to create effortless power. The last key is the timing of my weight transfer. My outside leg must be lined up behind the ball and I must push onto the front leg as I’m making contact with the volley. I’ve improved both my serving and volleys by primarily focusing on these concepts. Although I’ve improved, I still have a long way to go. I’ll need several thousand more reps while making sure I’m on top of the correct details to master these areas.
I play my first match of the year today around 7pm. Max and I are the 7th match on after 6 singles matches. You can stay updated with the progress and order of the matches by downloading the ATP/WTA App on your phone or going to www.atpworldtour.com. When you get to the ATP website, find “Tournaments”, click “Challengers”, and find “Ann Arbor”. An order of play tab should be visible from there. You can also livestream the match at www.livestream.com/atp. I’m very anxious and excited to get the year started, and I look forward to updating you all each step of the way. Have a good one.