Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bryan Brothers Give U.S. a Next Year's Davis Cup

Hoffman Estates, ILL. - In typical dominating style the Bryan brothers wrapped up a 3-0 victory for the U.S. in straight sets today. Norbert Gombos and Lukas Lacko lasted just over an hour and only managed to put only four games on the board against the greatest doubles team of all time. Gombos who gave John Isner some problems in the first set last night was a surprise substitution. Michal Mertianak, the 86th ranked doubles player, has been fighting an infection and didn't play today.

The most heated match-up wasn't on the schedule. Due to the quick victory a couple of 10 year old players were called from the crowd, and took the court after the match to take on Bob and Mike. Wayne Bryan, coach and father of Bob and Mike, promised the kids a new Mercedes if they won a game against the number 1 rated duo. The ten year olds started the game off by painting a couple winners down the line.  But that was all the kids had, and Wayne Bryan was able to keep his car.

The Bryan brothers cemented their image with the crowd by staying on court for another 40 mins. The twins signed close to a hundred balls and hit them into the crowd. I haven't ever seen anything like the professionalism of these two. The stands were twice as packed as they were last evening and these two deserved the attention.

For More Photos of the Match Click on "Full Article."

Friday, September 12, 2014

U.S. Davis Cup Goes Up 2-0 with Big Serving & Even Bigger Serving

Hoffman Estates, Ill. -

John Isner Davis Cup Chicago IL
Playing to a less than packed house at the Sears Arena in Hoffman Estates John Isner and Sam Querrey downed Slovakians Norbert Gombos and Martin Klizan respectively.  This great start leaves the U.S. squad one rubber (match) from clinching a spot in the Davis Cup World Group next year. Tomorrow at 2 PM Bob and Mike Bryan are heavily favored to take the 3rd point needed to seal the overall victory in this tie (weekend matches).

Traffic was extremely heavy on the trip out the Sears Arena in heavy rain.  From downtown it took me an hour and forty-five mins to arrive.  This most likely contributed to a lot of empty seats.  But there was plenty of time to see a classic Isner performance.  True to form Isner took the first in a tiebreak, winning 8-6.  The rest of the match flew by with early breaks and dominate play by Isner. Isner noted in his press conference that it was quite tough to prepare for a match when they couldn't find any video of Gombos.

The Querrey match seemed a little more in doubt as Klizan has been playing quite well on the ATP tour  the last few months.  Querrey took the first set in a very close tiebreak.

Midway though the second set a few questionable line calls seemed to demoralize Klizan and he wasn't the same player from then on.  Klizan mentioned the line calls in his press conference after the match.  "I wasn't nervous.  I was just pissed off of the line umpire because was a huge mistake from him the first point.  Could be different story then, the game.  But anyway Sam was the better player..."

(Click "Full Article" for Additional Photos)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Davis Cup Hits Chicago this Weekend

Although Chicagoans may not know it by checking out the sports section of the Chicago Tribune, Chicago is playing host to the biggest tennis event in the country tomorrow.  As you can see, there is no mention of the event as of 3:50 pm today:  Trib Sports Section  Don't let them fool you...John Isner tees it up tomorrow at 4 PM sharp.

Davis Cup action is substantially different than your average tennis tournament.  For starters...there is no expectation that the home fans should cheer on the visitors good play.  Don't worry, Slovakia doesn't really expect much support.  (Click to continue to full article)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Hawkeye" Coming to A Tennis Court Near You

Have you been hoping to challenge line calls made by your tennis buddies.  I have.  I really really have.  And now we all may have a chance to do just that.

PlaySite Interactive has raised an initial $3.5 million in funding to bring computer aided line calling to recreation courts at a cost of around $10,000.  At that price not every city park is going to be updated immediately, but enough clubs and private courts could jump on board early and drag the price down.

PlaySite Home Page

This technological development could substantially change the recreational game.  In my own head, I feel a lot like Johnny Mac and want to argue 3 or 4 calls a match.
(Click for entire article)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Overgrip: White or Blue?

So you are sick of the "caked on dirt" look and want to start using an overgrip on your racquet.  Which one should you pick?

I have used overgrip on my racquet for years. This past year I have been using the two most popular overgrips on the market.  Wilson Pro Overgrip leads the way at most places where grip is sold, and the "blue tape" Tourna Grip isn't far behind.  I believe that Tourna Grip is slightly more popular than Wilson on the pro tour...but (Click for Full Article)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New Management and New Pricing at McFetridge

This past year the Chicago Park district hired a management company to run McFetridge.  SMG the new management company reportedly is being paid $50k a year to run the facility.  For those of us who had endured the old school management of McFetridge in the past decade, the prospect of a professional group running the facility seemed like a welcomed upgrade.  But so far patrons have not been experiencing much improvement.

As a heavy user of McFetridge the only real change to programs has been an increase in fees.  And that increase has been substantial.  The prices are now starting to get competitive with some of the private clubs in the area.  If you take three or more lessons a week, you may want to save yourself a few dollars and join Midtown (I know that sounds ridiculous, but do the math.)

What pours salt on wounds is that the quality of instruction seems to also have gone down.  The same instructors seem to be involved, but their scheduling has been on the extreme light side.  I participate in a few weekday evening clinics.  These clinics tend to have between 12 and 16 students.  Earlier in the year the clinics would tend to have two to three instructors.  The instructor to student ratio was about 1 to 5.  Now with the new management, clinics consistently have only one instructor.  There is absolutely no time for any one on one interaction.  And the instructor is normally so overwhelmed by the number of students that we land up paying doubles for the last hour of instruction.  Doubles is fine...but not when paying Midtown prices.

My other source of frustration is trying to identify what pro is working with a specific class.  When laying out $262 for 8 lessons ($100 increase) I said "Fine, as long as (specific pro here) is coaching the class.  Which class is his?"  And I was pointed to Tuesday evenings...  That "specific pro" has only been there once.

The other big complaint I have been hearing around the facility is the lack of proper 10 & Under program.  McFetridge has stuck to the adult size net format for no apparent reason. 

We understand that the management company has relented on league pricing, but we urge them to look at what is happening with instruction.  Increased prices and decreased service is not normally a good combo.

Review: QuickStart Kids 10 & Under Tennis Nets: Wilson vs. Babolat

I suppose I am like a lot of other parents.  I seem to "value shop" for myself, looking for the best deal I can get on a good product.  But I tend not to go after the best, and thus the most expensive item on the market.  Case in point, my racquet:  I use a Head Extreme MP.  The Extreme is a good racquet, but what I really want are a couple Babolat Aeropro Drives...the Rafa racquet.  But I can get Head racquet for $50 slightly used online when the Babolat will cost more than double that.

When it came to buying equipment for my daughter, I went the other route and opted to go for what I thought would be the best net, the Babolat.  I have a seven year old, so we have at least three more years of play before graduating to full size courts.  I wanted a net that was going to last. 

I had used the Wilson nets while coaching 10 & Under Tennis at Pulaski Park and really liked them.  Billy Jean King came to Chicago a few years back and asked Wilson to donate a lot of equipment to the park district.  And those nets have worked well.  They are solid, and easy to assemble.  The build quality and durability has been great.  You can find a link to the Wilson EZ Starter 18ft net here:

Instead of the Wilson, I thought I would "upgrade" to the Babolat:  Everything Babolat has ever put in front of me has been great.   They make the best racquets, their string is some of the best on the market.  I have a Babolat bag and it is really great, I have even heard the ball they make for the French Open is one of the best balls available (I still haven't played with them.)  So I thought that the kid's equipment would also be built with that same care.  I was wrong.

The Babolat 18 Foot Mini Tennis Net is built like a kid's toy.  The net is about as thin as it could be made.  The metal support frame is much thinner than the Wilson and bends a lot more.  The bag that the Babolat comes in is not very well designed, the closure for the bag gets caught on the net every time (Wilson's closure is enclosed.)  The little rubber bits on the end of the metal rods fall off all the time.  And although it wasn't a big deal...the Babolat instruction manual does not have any instruction on how to change the net over from a badminton net (it comes assembled as a badminton net), to a tennis net.  You will need to untie some bungee cords and remove some of the metal bars...without any instructions.

The Babolat net will do the job, but if you are looking to use the net more than a few times a year...get the Wilson.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Roger Federer's New Chicago Made Racquet: "So far so good."

This week Roger Federer quietly made an equipment change on the clay courts of Germany.  The big deal is Federer had been known for using one of the smallest racquets in the game, by choosing a racquet with 98 sq inches of string...Federer's choice seems strikingly normal.

“...all of a sudden I just had the extra 10 days, two weeks I was looking for, and I really was very serious about it. Wilson flew to Switzerland and we went through the whole process and I was very happy how things went over there.”  - Federer

The "surprise extra" time to which Federer is referring is his 2nd round exit from Wimbledon.  Wilson's Chicago area lab is responsible for building Federer's prototype racquets.  The lab is located in Schiller Park.  The design was speculated to be similar to the Blade 98, but it appears to have a much more narrow beam.  For someone like Federer, even if you started with an existing racquet, it is probably a good idea to paint the thing black.  Then make any change he wants to make to the thing.  Come up with a new color scheme, and will be next year's third best seller...right behind blue and yellow from Babolat.

Federer seems to really like the thing.  Heck he just changed his hair, so why not go full midlife crisis on us.

"After I lost at Wimbledon, I thought this is a good time to go and test the racquets, to take a bit of time off and then add some tournaments and see was there enough time to change or not. I’m happy I did the change and now we'll see how it goes. So far, so good.”

I like that he is trying some changes.  There has been a growing question if Fed's lack of performance over the last year has had something to do with "lack of technology."  I guess we'll find out soon.  Federer is through to the semis with a win today.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jack Sock Almost Makes it a Double at the Nielsen ATP 2013

Sock wrapped up a good week for himself Saturday in Winnetka, defeating Bradley Klahn of California for the title.  Klahn knocked out Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the Semi.

In Friday's semi Sock gave himself a bit of additional stress when serving for the match, Sock was up 40 - love on his doubles partner Somdev Devvarman. Devvarman was able to come back and even the set, but eventually lost the second set as well as the match in the second set tiebreak.

Sock’s doubles team of himself and Devvarman also
made it to the final at the Nielson ATP, but was not able to push across the line. Michael Venus (NZL) and Yuki Bhambri (IND) took home the double title.

That Sock was able to make it so far in the tournament in both doubles as well as men’s singles is a surprise to me. During the semifinal match on Friday Sock appeared to pull his groin, leaving the court after the fifth game for treatment.

He came back but appeared to struggle with the injury throughout the match.  I was sitting five feet away from Sock's bench the entire match and the injury appeared significant.  I left the tournament on Friday believing there was no way that Sock was going to be back in an hour to play the doubles semi. I don't claim to remember how it feels to be 20 years old...but back he came. After dropping what appeared to be a couple gallons of sweat through his shirt, Sock somehow rehydrated and was able to make it into the final day in both disciplines.

Having posted this singles win, Sock moved from 102 in the world to 84. He has moved onto the Hall of Fame Tennis Tournament in Newport RI.  So it is back to grass for a bit before returning to the hardcourt season.

Jack Sock at Nielsen ATP Winnetka IL 2013

Donald Young (USA) at Nielsen ATP Event Winnetka IL

Somdev Devvarman Nielsen ATP Winnetka IL 2013 

Jack Sock (USA) Winnetka IL Nielsen ATP Event 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 1 & 2 of Nielsen ATP Challenger

So far there have been no real upsets at the Nielsen Pro Tennis Challenger in Winnetka this week. The only real scare was mid yesterday when Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee IL, who received a wildcard into the event, was able to take the first set off of Saketh Myneni of India. Myneni fought back through two close sets to win.

Other prominent players included Tim Smyczek who also dropped his second set but took the third 6 -1. Steve Johnson (USA,2) and Alex Bogomolov Jr. (RUS, 1) got through in straight sets. Donald Young is currently all square in the first and Jack Sock is yet to play, he is scheduled for tonight’s second session (8 PM +/-).

Johnson looked strong throughout his match against a very quick Mike McClune of the U.S.  Johnson looks healthy and fast. The number one seed Bogomolov seems to be nursing an ongoing back issue

and is sporting vast amounts of kinesiology tape.  Time will tell if he can hold up through later rounds. Interestingly enough, Bogomolov eliminated his doubles partner from the singles draw, Erick Chvojka of Canada.

Michael McClune (USA) at Nielsen Pro in Winnetka 2013

Saketh Myneni (IND) at Nielsen Pro in Winnetka 2013

Jack Sock (USA) at Nielsen Pro in Winnetka 2013

Alex Bogomolov Jr. at Nielsen Pro in Winnetka 2013

Dennis Nevolo at Nielsen Pro in Winnetka 2013

Steve Johnson(USA) the No 2 Seed


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wimbledon’s Loss is Chicago Tennis’ Gain

This week’s Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship inherits Jack Sock , Rajeev Ram, and Tim Smyczek from the Wimbledon Qualifier. Donald Young also made the trip. Add in Alex Bogomolov Jr.’s who played in the early rounds of Wimbledon’s main draw and you have some pretty great tennis going on this week in Winnetka.

Some really great pros are using the Nielsen to get some early match play at the beginning of the hard court season. Alex Bogomolov plays tomorrow night. You can check times at:

Today I arrived in time to sit in on a Jack Sock practice session. Sock is one of U.S. Tennis’ next big
acts. Sock reached the third round of last year’s U.S. Open. Bogomolov had just finished his practice and was giving Sock a lot of lip over stringing techniques. These guys know each other so well, it seemed like the continuation of an ongoing joke between them. Their camaraderie is hilarious.

Jack Sock practicing today in Winnetka.

If you get to the early rounds of these events, the access is fantastic. Sitting in on practices and seeing these guys hit against each other gives you new appreciation for what is possible. Watching tennis on TV does not do any justice to the speed these guys can hit a ball. The sound is so much more intense, you can hear the felt being ripped apart.

Take the family, get out and watch some tennis this week. The weather is supposed to be fantastic.

For more photos: