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October 2005 Article

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Hurricanes vs. Tennis

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John Mills, USPTA

We just missed two major hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, in the Gulf Coast area. Boy, were we lucky. In Rita, we had huge lines of traffic trying to evacuate the coastal areas, but surface damage to the Houston area was minimal. Our drive to Austin took us eleven hours, better than those who left only 2 hours after us taking twenty-two hours, compared to the normal three and a half hour trip.

What did we learn from these experiences and how do they relate to tennis?

Hurricane planning vs. Tennis planning:

1 Have a plan. Board the windows, gas up the car, buy the suggested supplies, reserve a hotel for evacuation early, etc.
1a. When you start a match, you should go in with a plan. It might be to play full-court tennis, or serve and volley or it might be to just keep the ball in play.

2. Pack up your supplies to take with you. (Pets, food, water, prescriptions, insurance papers, cash, etc.)
2a. Take things on the court that will sustain you in a long match. Extra socks, wristbands, snacks (fresh fruit, power bar, etc), a replacement drink, extra rackets, band-aids, etc.)

3. Save your valuables (photos, important documents, etc.)
3a. Use your weapons at the correct time. Move your opponent around the court until you get him or her off the court and they hit a weak shot. Then attack with your big shots.

4. Gas up the car.
4a. Start thinking about what you put in your body 3 to 5 days before the match. Think about optimal performance, carbo-load closer to the actual match.

5. Have optional plans, in case something goes wrong.
5a . You might have started the match with Plan A, but you might have to quickly adjust to Plan B or Plan C if necessary. Be flexible. Remember that your opponent will shift plans also.

6. Don't always go with the masses.
6a. Sometimes you might get in a "tight" situation where your natural instincts would be to push or just get the ball in. This is what most players would do. But, you might need to break away from this strategy and play more aggressively and get out of this rut.

7. Reserve a hotel near home in case you are unable to return to your home because of damage or lack of electricity.
7a. Just like preparing for a hurricane, make your reservations as if you are going to win the tournament. You can always cancel. Act like a winner. Picture yourself in the finals. What's wrong with being positive and prepared?

Good luck on the courts!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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