Tennis Prodigy…How young is too young?

Every sport has the incredible kid that has outstanding talent and the makings to one day become the best, but is it right to push a 5 year old to train like the pros?

Jan Silva is a 5 year-old with more talent then I will probably ever have. The way he plays resembles that of the pros, and with time and training, he has the potential to become an amazing player.

Check out this video of him on the Today Show.

Moving to France so a five year-old can pursue tennis seems a bit out there to me. He is only five! What happens when 5 years down the road he realizes he is burn out and doesn’t want to play any more?

The kid definitely has talent. There is no question about that, but I think there needs to be a balance between pursuing opportunities to really see the child excel in the sport and letting them still be a kid.

As Jan gets older, I imagine he will only spend more and more hours at the courts. I don’t like the idea that he, as well as many other athletically talented kids, will miss out on their childhood because there parents are too busy pushing them to become the next iconic player.


The Court

There are three main court surfaces in tennis: hard court, grass, and clay. So what is the difference between these different court types? Does it make a difference in play? Read on and you will find out!

The Hard Court

Hard courts are made of uniform rigid material, offering greater consistency of bounce than other outdoor surfaces. They vary in speed, although they are faster than clay but not as fast as grass courts.

Both the US Open and the Australian Open are played on hard courts. There are two different types of hard court: synthetic and true hard court. the difference is the level of hardness.

Hard courts are the least expensive to maintain, but they are generally more rough on the human body than other surfaces due to their rigidity.

The Grass Court

Grass courts are the fastest type of courts in common use. Points are usually very quick where fast, low bounces keep rallies short, and the serve plays a more important role than on other surfaces. The surface is less firm and more slippery than hard courts, causing the ball to slide and bounce lower, and so players must reach the ball faster

Wimbledon is the only grand slam played on grass.

Grass courts were once among the most common tennis surfaces, but are now rare due to high maintenance costs, as they must be watered and mown often, and take a longer time to dry after rain than hard courts. The grass surface is the most compatible with the human body because of its softness.

The Clay Court

Clay courts slow down the ball and produce a high bounce. These courts take away lot of advantage of big serves, which makes it hard for serve-based players to dominate on the surface.

Clay courts are cheaper to construct than other types of tennis courts, but the maintenance costs of a clay surface are higher than those of hard courts.They need to be rolled to preserve flatness.

Clay courts are more common in Europe and Latin America than in North America and tend to heavily favor baseline players. The French Open is played on clay courts.

Tennis Injuries

With every sport, there comes the risk of getting injured. Here are some common injuries and ways to treat them:

  • Rotator Cuff Tendentious – This is caused by overuse, especially excessive serving.
  • Treatment: Ice, rest, ibuprofen
  • Tennis Elbow – This is caused by overloading the forearm muscles because of bad backhand technique.
  • Treatment: Rest, ice, compression, elevation
  • Wrist Strain – This is caused by quickly turning your wrist over as you hit the ball to make topspin
  • Back Pain – This can be caused by your posture as you serve.
  • Treatment: Strengthening your abdominals and back muscles to increase flexibility
  • Knee Pain – This can be caused by the players reaction to return the serve. Players generally do a springing up action.
  • Treatment: Rest, ice, compression, elevation
  • Calf and Achilles Tendon Injuries – Caused by overuse
  • Treatment: Strengthen calfs by doing heel raises and stretch regularly
  • Tennis Toe – Can occur when the toes are jammed against the toe box of the shoe during tennis’s quick starts and stops
  • Treatment: A hole is drilled in the toenail to prevent relieve pressure

Funny Business

When you watch a tennis match on TV, it’s obvious that the players take the sport very seriously. When I play, I show very little emotion. I don’t get overly upset about bad shots and I rarely ever smile when I win a point.

It’s all about getting into a rhythm and not allowing yourself to break the rhythm. BUT there are times that it does happen. Check out the clip below of some of the pros loosening up…

Types of Opponents Part 4: The Serve and Volleyer

Although I am not sure I have played a true serve and volleyer, I think this type of opponent is one of the most intimidating to play.

An actual serve-and-volley player will come in behind nearly every first serve and most second serves, and when you’re serving, he or she will try to come in behind either the return of serve or another approach shot early in the point.

I think this type of player is intimidating because he or she can force his or her opponent to play defensively right as the point begins.

So how do you beat a serve and volleyer?

  1. Don’t allow your opponent moving to the net to distract you. Concentrate on the ball and where you are hitting it.
  2. Use topspin to make your returns drop in.
  3. Try low chip returns at the server’s feet.
  4. Step in on the return to take the ball early. By doing so, the opponent will get the ball back sooner and have less time to set up for a volley.
  5. Serve and volley and get to the net first.
This may be a difficult opponent to play, but if you are able to figure out the strategy needed you can beat him or her!

Types of Opponents Part 3: The Power Baseliner

The power baseliner is similar to my style of play. This type of player would much rather hit winners from the baseline rather than come to the net.

An opponent who is a successful power baseliner hits the ball with a lot of pace and places the ball so that you are kept on the move. By doing so, your opponent is playing offensively and forcing you to play defensively.

How do you beat this type of opponent?

  1. Keep your shots deep.
  2. Try not to put the ball where your opponent is most comfortable and able to put it away.  To avoid this, use slice or a lot topspin to alter the height of the bounce.
  3. Force your opponent to hit a lot of balls until he or she eventually misses.
  4. Make your opponent come up to the net with slice or drop shots. Many power baseliners are not good at hitting volleys.
  5. Change up the speeds and spins on your shots to throw off your opponents timing.
  6. Attack at net. Many baseliners aren’t used to hitting passing shots and make errors.

Types of Opponents Part 2: The Moonballer

The moonballer is another opponent that could potentially cause some frustration. A moonballer is different from a human backboard in that their goal is not to just get the ball back in play, but to send the ball high and deep.

What makes this opponent tricky is when topspin is added. This can cause a ball that is high and looks as though it is going to sail out to drop in at the last second when you do not expect it to.

Moonballs typically force you to have to back up to take a shot and make you return the ball defensively giving them the advantage.

So how do you beat the moonballer?

  1. Attack at the net by taking an overhead shot to win the point.
  2. Return their moonballs with moonballs and then catch them off guard by coming to the net and taking a volley.
  3. Hit the ball on the rise. By hitting the ball before it bounces ridiculously high, you will be able to take the shot offensively and catch your opponent off guard.
  4. Maker her come to the net by hitting a short ball so that it sets you up to receive a shot you can take advantage of.

Moonballers are tough to play, but if you are able to master the skill of being a moonballer, it can be a great shot to change up your game and throw your opponent off.