Week 1 of Preseason
The first week of preseason has gone as well as expected. I felt myself continue to improve my serve, neutral volleys, first volleys, and backhand return. Max and I have been lucky enough to have Jarmaine Jenkins coach us all week. Jarmaine played his college tennis for Clemson University. He also was a part of Venus Williams’ team from 2016 – 2018; He coached Naomi Osaka this fall before taking a job at USTA.
Our practices looked the same each day. I’m a huge believer that improving is about mastering simple drills rather than making them too complex or switching them too often. We started each day by doing 10 minutes of plyometrics to improve our quickness. After working our fast twitch muscles, I moved into serving. While serving, I only focus on throwing my body weight at the ball, so I can hit a heavier serve and land inside the court. This is something I’ve gradually improved as the year has gone on, but I’m looking to perfect it this off season. After serve work, Jarmaine steps in and helps us with our first volleys. This works by Jarmaine and Max standing on the side opposite of me. Jarmaine is at the baseline in the deuce corner, and Max is at the net on the Ad side. I start the drill by feeding the ball to Jarmaine, and I run in for my first volley. When making contact with the volley, my concern is to only focus on executing my shot while ignoring the pressure I feel from Max’s presence. Max’s job is to clean up volleys that I don’t execute perfectly. After I hit 10 minutes of first volleys, Max and I switch spots.
After first volleys, Max and I work specific returns that have been giving us problems throughout the year. I don’t want to speak for Max; however for me, I need to continue work on off speed serves into my backhand side. I’ve noticed it’s how guys have been playing me. I generally return better when servers give me pace and not as well when servers mix their speeds. Jarmaine served off speed balls to my backhand while Max played as service partner on the other side looking to put pressure on my return. I found a technique with my feet that works really well on slow serves. The worst thing I can do on slow balls is give a long, early plant into the ground and explode into the return before hitting the ball. Planting into the ground for too long keeps me from adjusting to the ball as it continues to travel to me. If I judge the ball perfectly before planting, it’s not an issue. However, if I don’t judge the ball perfectly, it’s really easy to slightly mishit the return and have the ball fluff over the net rather than penetrate. The best thing I can do when receiving a slow return is give a subtle double hop before the ball gets to me and then make contact. My next post will be a video giving an explanation on how to perform the double hop, but I’ll try my best to clearly explain through text: after my split step, I give a small adjustment hop to get my left leg behind the ball. After the adjustment hop, I lightly step my right leg towards the ball and flow through the shot. Treating slow serves in this manner is much more effective than giving a long plant where you sink the hips and explode into the ball.
Max and I work neutral volleys after working returns. We start by Max standing at the baseline and me at net. Max’s job is to hit 5 quality balls to me. My goal is to either hit 5 quality volleys in a row to Max or put the volley away before getting to 5 shots if given the opportunity. We picked the number 5 because when at net, we usually aren’t hitting more than 5 quality volleys before we force an error or get a put away opportunity. Max and I execute this drill for about 10 minutes each.
After our morning practice, Max and I go to the gym and lift. We work hamstrings, quads, glutes, core, chest, shoulders and back. We lift to build the muscle, and we use plyometrics to train the muscle for fast twitch action. After our lift, we have a lunch break and an afternoon practice where Max works his serve, and I work my return. After Max serves, we give each other service partner feeds to keep that skill sharp. Our second practice is fairly short and only lasts 45 minutes. We finish the day by foam rolling and getting on the NormaTec Machine. Normatech makes a few recovery products, but I use the leg sleeves that compress against my legs to promote increased blood flow. Increased blood flow is important because blood carries nutrients that help torn muscle fibers recover.
I look forward to week two of preseason. The rest of the doubles guys get here today, so Max and I will be practicing against other teams. Eric Butorac and Troy Hahn will be running the doubles camp. I’ll see you guys next week!