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Get Smart! Chart!
By Tony Severino
Certified Instructor 4A
Professional Tennis Registry

You don't hear much talk these days about charting tennis matches. Is it a lost art or the black sheep of the tennis family? They say if you look back far enough in your family genealogy you'll surely find one.
 
Confucius said "Study the past if you would divine the future." Surely the ole boy wasn't checking his genealogy to locate the family's black sheep. He was probably looking at some past problems he might avoid in the future. Charting tennis matches has the same purpose.
 
You say charting is only for very advanced players. Maybe not! Let's look a few of the more manual systems of yesteryear, relatively cost free and offer some looked for advice on your game.
 
For the serious, serious player who entertains having a professional tennis career or have a junior you wish to groom for a promising future in tennis, then you might look into a more exotic tennis management systems. We'll look briefly at one after we look at some of the do-it-yourself manual approaches which still produce useful results.
 
Although it isn't the most popular thing in tennis, manual charting does have its place for both advanced players and for recreational and high school level players as well.
 
For this latter group the focus is on keeping the ball in play. Heavy statistical data isn't really very helpful at those levels. Therefore charts for these matches should be quite simple, focusing on length of rallies and secondarily in determining error patterns which can be noted on the chart and reviewed with the player. The most important of these is the length of the rallies; effectiveness in keeping the ball in play.
 
For beginning players, just getting the ball back over the net and some obvious error patterns are as much as is useful at these levels. My personal technique uses a planning pad ruled with quarter-inch squares. It is at least basic if not completely simple.
 
With "Tom" playing "Harry," connecting the Xs vertically from the 0, it looks like this:
 

          Set  1 Game 1  Score  0 / 0

                                         Server           Receiver

                                           "Tom"   |   "Harry"

G

40

30

15

0

15

30

40

G

eXs

 Notes/Score

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

3

Fh long            15 love

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

4

CC topspin      15 all

 

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

0

Dbl Fault         15/30

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Bh passing      30 all

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Ace                   40/30

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Lob deep tsp   Game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Game Score:  Tom   1   -  Harry     0

This chart of a high school game shows, for one thing, that exchanges (eXs) were unspectacular. Should this continue in subsequent charts you might remind the student of the three basic rules of tennis: Get it back! Get it back! Get it back! You can also note more things to watch for in subsequent games.
 
The real problem is finding someone to chart some games for you. I recall while coaching tennis at the high school level, I had to recruit one of the waiting team members to do the job. The sitting group magically dispersed when they saw me approaching with charting sheets in hand. Sometimes I had to lead one by the ear to the match I wanted charted. It's certainly better than just sitting and watching.
 
More advanced recreational and tournament players may benefit some from statistical data, but unless you are planning on a professional career, too much statistical data can be mind boggling. Too many numbers! Too many situations! Better to do some simple charting to get a picture of what works and what doesn't.
 
There are a number of manual charting systems around which look at the game from a different view, obviously for different purposes. They gather different types of performance information and use sets of symbols which belies the "easy to use" inference that goes with them. However they are productive.
 
One was designed by former coach at University of Connecticut, Reed Heller, which is made up in two parts; first to show service patterns and the second to record error patterns. As you will see, it would take some familiarity with the symbology to work the first part, and a good deal of practice to work the second.
 
The service pattern chart for two games gives an idea of how the program works:
 

                        Game 1:  Tom serving, Harry receiving

 

Service

1

2

1

d

1

A

A

1

2

2

Server

 

 

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

x

 Receiver

x

x

 

x

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

Score: 1 Love

                                               

                                               

                         Game 2:  Harry serving, Tom receiving

Service

A

A

2

1

2

d

2

A

2

2

Server

x

x

 

 

x

 

x

 

x

x

 Receiver

 

 

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                    Score: 1 All

Symbols:

1 = 1st Serve,  

2 = 2nd Serve,

A = Ace,

d = Double Fault,

X = Point  Won

Of course this goes on for several more games so that a pattern can be discerned.
 
This part of Heller's system addresses only the serve. Unfortunately, except for aces and double faults, it does not record the number of exchanges before the point was won nor how it was won. You would probably want to know more, especially on how each survived the last two points on their second serves.
 
My own approach with regard to the serve for students and high school level players is quite simple. I use a drill. Of the ten first practice serves seven should go in. If less than seven, take something off and get it in. If more than seven, go for a little more. And try again. This is a practical approach whose results can carry over into actual games.
 
The second part of the Heller system tabulates errors on a grid. The vertical columns are labeled for strokes; forehand, backhand, overhead, volley and lobs. Horizontal rows record under each stroke, whether there was a forced or unforced error. It tends to show an error pattern by stroke. That can be very revealing.
 
The late Jim Verdieck, PTR Master International Professional and University of Redlands tennis coach for 38 years, designed another two part system for charting tennis matches, one for singles and another for doubles.
 
For singles the system requires a straight vertical line and a facility with the symbols used.
 
Our friends, Tom and Harry are playing again. This time only the name of the server is entered, and the players do not change their side of the vertical line.
 
It looks like this:
 

 
It's interesting to reprise the two games using the symbols with an underline ______ indicating deuce and a wobbling line for game. You might enjoy walking through the two games. Unfortunately it doesn't tell more about how the point was won.
 
Coach Verdieck's singles charting also includes a box to tally errors and winners for each player. Some coaches like this since it gives a better idea of a player's strengths and weaknesses. He also has an approach for charting doubles which appears to be somewhat cumbersome. We'll leave that for another time.
 
The problem with these advanced manual systems is the charting person has to be practiced with the technique and symbols employed. These systems are used usually with a higher or college level player.
 
Heavy charting is not for everyone, certainly not beginners or recreational players. It may be valuable to some players looking to improve by analyzing their game. However, as we said earlier, there is some value in limited charting for high school team players. The examples here are limited but show the kinds of approaches and information possible from different charting systems. Sometimes it's best to design your own for own interests.
 
Now for the serious, serious player who entertains having a professional tennis career or if you have a junior you wish to groom for a promising future in tennis, then you might look into a more exotic tennis learning management system like Tennis LMS and Tennis LMS Junior Edition.
 
This particular organization offers programs for college players, club players, juniors and national players, presumably tournament players, all for a price. The programs use an interactive tablet and are varied; the one for juniors tracks the junior player over time and analyzes stroke production and match play using video. It is intense tennis analysis and employs the Internet for personal study.
 
So with a nod to ole Confucius, if you are really interested improving your tennis game and want some analysis of it, get smart, chart!
 

 

 

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