Open Courts tonight

Come on out tonight to the tennis courts.  We’re having open courts, so bring a friend, bring a match, bring some water.  We’ll play around, and maybe sneak some games and drills in there at the end.  Spread the word.

How to win points easier

Everyone wants to win.  All of us would probably like a way to win even easier if we could, but so many of us are so scared to work on parts of our game, or even change things up.

The current professional game is going through a major change right now.  For the past ten years or so, the pro that had the better defensive game would win most often.  Nadal has made his fame playing defensive to win The French Open a staggering eleven times.

Condensing that down to the game of us mortals, the person that could get to more shots and place them back without missing would win.  Or get one more ball back than your opponent.

Now though, things are changing.  While it is and always will be important to have great defensive skills, the player that is more aggressive with their footwork and moving forward will have the advantage.

According to Pete Bodo at ESPN.

more players seem focused on pre-emptive ball-striking and offense.

More pros are going from defense to striking hard and moving, so what does this mean for me? And how do I use this to win the points easier?

That’s the more difficult part, but it’s not that hard.  It just takes some practice.

Going from Defense to offense

Step one is to work on your defense.  Getting more balls back in play will on help you.  But don’t just get the ball back, try to be more forward thinking with your plan.  As you get pulled wide, instead of just getting the ball back in play, work on countering your opponents positioning.  If they stayed where they are, try to hit the ball where they’re not to get them moving.  If they seem to have everything covered, throw the ball up high and give yourself more time to get back.

Controlling the point

Once you’re able to get more balls in play, work on controlling the point from the first couple of shots.  Use your serve to set up your oppoent off the court to use your strong forehand down the line.

Try to return a serve in a way that will get the server moving from the first shot.  If you can do that, you should be able to take control of the match. If you can get your opponent moving more than you, their battery will eventually drain and you’ll be the fresher player.

Move forward

You don’t have to be a great volleyer, but working on your net game can help you finish off a point quickly.  Once you start to control the point, and you get your opponent moving, you need to start looking for chances to move forward.  If you can manage to get your opponent off the singles court and into an alley, moving forward and looking to volley can take time away from them to get to the next ball.  Plus it makes that volley a heck of a lot easier to hit when you have half the court to hit into.

Many players are afraid of the net because they don’t have as much time to prepare their shot, or they try to do too much.  If you get your opponent off balance before you come in, you can usually get a weaker shot hit at you.  Also, if your opponent is off the court, there’s less pressure to hit the volley in a tiny area.  This usually leads players to being more succesful at the net and helps them get used to being up there.

What should I do?

Next time you serve on the Ad (left) side of the court, aim your serve out wide.  The goal here is to get your opponent off the court on the first ball.  By doing this on the Ad side, you will most likely be hitting to their backhand, which is usually their weaker shot.

If you manage to get your opponent out into the alley to return, aim your next shot (try to use your strongest groundstroke) to the other side of the court.  Get them moving.  And try to take the ball early.  If you can take the ball right off the bounce, you’ll be in a better position and your opponent will have less time.

Follow that ball in towards the net, and if they are able to get a racket on it, you should have a wide open court to place your volley.  You don’t even have to try to hit a winner, just put it across the court, back where they returned from originally.  If they get that ball hit it back to where they were before that last shot.  Keep them moving.  If they start to anticipate you making them move like a yo-yo, then you hit behind them and really confuse them.

If they manage to win the point, you just made them run about 4 times as much as you did in the point.  Keeping this pattern up will run them down and make them run out of energy.

Look to be aggressive and move forward to control the point.

How to pick the right racket

Over the years, I’ve been asked to help tennis players pick out a racket.  There is no rule for what type of racket someone should use, but I’ve learned some secrets that players have used to help them pick out a racket to stick with.

So these are the things I usually tell someone when they go through the process.

Remember, these are only my opinions and tips. You might get different information from someone else, so like everything, try it out.

If you are shopping for a new racket, you can use my tips, but I DO NOT encourage you to just go in and pick a racket and buy it.

What to do when looking for a racket

Before you buy a racket you need to test it out.

Let me repeat that… You need to test rackets out.

A racket my look cool or tons of your teammates might use it.  That doesn’t mean that its the racket for you.

So demo some rackets.

If you are near our school, RacquetPro has a great demo service.  It cost some money, but if you buy a racket from them they usually will apply the price of the demo towards your racket.  Conversely, if you aren’t close, Tennis Express, Tennis Warehouse, and other online retailers offer demo sessions.  You pick rackets from their website, they will mail them to you to try for a week and then you mail them back.

So take that racket to the court and try it.  Try it all week.  Don’t take it out to the court for ten minutes and fall in love and buy it.

This is called the honeymoon period.  Some rackets demo very well.  You might hit the tennis ball of your life, but during that time you might be able to hit the tennis ball with a frying pan.  To really get the feeling for a new racket you need to use it for a week at the minimum.  Play competitively with it, play bad tennis, play great tennis.  It’s the only way to see how you actually like it.

You can also borrow a racket from a teammate to try out as well.

But what racket should you try?


One of the first things I look for when suggesting a racket is the weight.  During the early 2000s light was all the rage.  The lighter the racket, the faster you could swing.

Well, all those light rackets started to cause some tennis elbow and other injuries.

I generally encourage players to:

Pick the heaviest racket that you can swing quickly for at least 3 sets.

The heavier a racket is, the more weight you can put behind the ball.  Imagine an 18-wheeler and a Smart Car getting into a wreck.  The 18-wheeler is going to do much more damage to the Smart Car than the other way around.

Hitting a tennis ball is like that wreck.  The more weight behind the ball you can put, the heavier it will go to your opponent.  So if you can swing the heavy racket, do it.  Be the 18-wheeler, and not the smart car.

The problem is doing that for three sets.

I recommend most beginners start with a racket in the 10-ounce range.  The 10-ounce range is still fairly light, but still has some heft to it.  If they are strong enough, they can use an 11-ounce racket.  This lets them swing pretty freely.  It lets the racket do more work as well.  I wouldn’t recommend anything under 10-ounces unless the player is smaller or not strong enough yet.

Intermediate to Advanced I’d recommend nothing under 11 ounces.  They need to be putting some weight behind their shots, that lighter rackets might not help with.

This isn’t a hard rule.  There are exceptions to every rule after all.  Again, try out rackets and see how it feels.


The next thing I look at is headsize.

Headsize is the size of the hitting area of the racket.  Generally, the smaller the frame the more control it offers, but you have to have better timing.  Smaller frames also provide more maneuverability.  This helps when you are trying to swing the racket, or when you have to move fast like at the net.

The bigger the racket head, the more power you can generate.  Bigger racket heads can be like a trampoline.  It also can give you a very loose feel.  Bigger heads are harder to get around though.

Racket heads are getting bigger now as well.  95 square-inches used to be the standard size for most rackets, but that figure is creeping up to 100 square inches.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone go over 100 if they are serious about improving.  The smaller head makes the player focus on the ball more.

I would recommend the headsize anywhere from 95-100 square inches.  If they are experienced they might know that they want more a trampoline feel.  More advanced players might try a midsize frame that’s smaller than 95, but make sure that you try it first.


Weight and headsize are the two most important aspects of picking a racket.  They are also the easiest to pick out.

Flex is a tricky thing to pick out.  The flex is how much the racket flexes when it hits a ball.  This is all personal preference but can be important to know.  The stiffer a racket the more power can go into the ball on contact.  This can send more shock up the arm as well.

If the racket is flexible, the contact will feel softer.  Most of the time, players that use lots of touch might prefer flexible rackets.  It almost seems like it provides more control.

This is where trying out rackets will come into play.  Try a flexible racket and a stiff racket.  You can find the flexibility of a racket on its specs page.  Flexible rackets are in the 50s to low 60s.

One thing that is hard to gauge is where the racket flexes though.  The flex rating is usually based on the racket’s flex at the throat of the racket.  Some rackets might have a stiff throat, but a flexible head.  This will change the feel of the racket.  There’s no easy way to figure out where a racket flexes other than research.

So try it out.


So you’re ready to try out some rackets. You’ve added them to your cart, or you’ve gone to the store but then they ask you what size grip…

You can see the gap between middle finger and palm here.

If you are in a store, grab a racket and see how it feels. The standard grip size is 4 and 3/8 inch.  Holding a forehand grip, you should be able to put a finger between the tip of your middle finger and your palm.  If there’s too much space, try a smaller grip.  If there’s not enough space, go larger.

Again, it comes down to preference.  A smaller grip can let your wrist move more.  Some think this can let you hit more spin, or let your wrist snap more on a serve.

A larger gripe can give you more stability in your swing.

Wrap up

So go try some rackets out.  Look at the weight, the headsize, and the flex(if you can find it).  Take them out to the courts and play some sets.

The only way to know if you like a racket is to try it and use it.  It can take players a long time to adjust to a new racket as well.  Pros hardly ever actually change rackets, just paint jobs, but that’s a post for another website.

One last little bit.

You don’t have to get a new racket.  There is a huge market out there for used rackets if you are on a budget.  If you are on a budget, please don’t go shopping at Wal-Mart or Target.  Most of the rackets at non-tennis specialty stores are made out of materials that will bend and break fairly easily.

If you do need more help, ask a coach.  They will be happy to help you get your racket right.



Tournaments during the summer

One of the best ways to improve is to play. In fact, according to    playing tournaments is the 4th most important thing you can do.

people who play tennis casually never reach their potential because they never challenge themselves.

I hope that most of you have gotten out on the court a little bit this summer.  I want to take this moment to encourage you to use the tools you have to make yourself better.

If you haven’t started playing USTA tournaments, please do so ASAP.  These will help you get that competition that you’ve been missing since the season ended.  The players that sign up and play these tournaments with a passion are the ones that advance the most over summer.  We are fortunate enough to have a Challenger level event coming up in our area next month.  Please go and sign up here.

You can use the USTA’s tennis link website to look for other tournaments in your area as well.

If you want to improve, you have to challenge yourself.  This is one of the best ways to do that.  Don’t be scared of losing.  Losing helps you improve and get stronger more than winning can.


Don’t forget to sign up for camp

We have what is shaping up to be a great 3 weeks at Tennis camp this summer.  Don’t forget to sign up early if you are planning on coming.

The more people we have out the better!  It only means more competition.

Sign up here

Don’t be the only one not at camp this summer.



Everyone that plays tennis should get a UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating.  The UTR has been the ranking system that has been sweeping the tennis world.  While the Texas section of the USTA still has their system in place with Challengers, Champs, and Super Champs, they are piggy backing off of the UTR system now.

The UTR has even been rumored to be used on the pro tour:

On Monday morning, Rafael Nadal replaced Roger Federer as the top-ranked player in men’s tennis. This, despite the fact that Nadal hasn’t played a match since mid-January. An ordinary sports fan couldn’t be blamed for feeling baffled.

Is there a better, more relevant ranking system out there?

Perhaps. The Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) system is already taking junior and college tennis by storm. It rates players on a scale ranging from 1 (raw beginner) to 16.5 (Federer pulls a 16.21). The pro ratings generated by UTR are fascinating — different enough to be significant, but not so different that this becomes an apples and oranges comparison to the current system.

So what is UTR?

The UTR gives plays a rating from 1-16.5.  That rating is based on three factors: competition, scores, and recent history.

So what does that mean?

The system uses the players last 30 matches and looks at the score, the level of the opponent, and their opponents.  This system has created a system that makes it easy for boys and girls to compete with players of the same level.

High schools are starting to use this information for creations of ladders and seedings at tournaments.  Colleges are using the information for the same thing, but they are also looking at scores of recruits.

So how do you get a score?

To start with a UTR, sign up for an account at

From there you can look for events using the menu, or clicking here.  You can also sign up for any USTA sanctioned tournament here.

Having an account doesn’t mean that you are done.  Signing up for tournaments and playing as much as you can will help your UTR.  In fall team tennis matches, will also begin to count towards your UTR score.

The more information you have the better.

Why does this matter to Clear Brook?

Start with try-outs in August, we will be using UTR to set up our try-out pods.  We will also be using UTR to help us establish the ranking for the team.  Students with higher scores, will more likely be ranked higher to start with.

It is the expectation of the coaches that all the players will get a UTR and attempt to increase your number as much as possible all year round.

Besides, if it’s good enough for the pros and college to use, we can too.






Jump Rope Into Awesome Tennis Fitness Shape

Looking for a way to work on your game at home over the summer? One of the best things you can do is work on your footwork, and it’s as simple as jumping rope

Good footwork drills should imitate the movements on the court, such as short sprints and quick changes in direction. Footwork drills should focus on speed, strength, explosiveness, and endurance. It is important to practice your footwork regularly so it will become second nature and you will never need to think about it in your matches.
— Read on

if you have room inside, you don’t even have to go out into the heat.

I’d recommend to start a routine now, and try to increase your drills every week.

Stay tuned for more tips and drills during the summer.

Clear Brook Tennis website gets an upgrade

Please pardon our mess, we are in the middle of updating the website.  We are hoping to get everything back in order soon.  Stay tuned, and let us know if you want us to add anything!

Unfortunately in the move, we lost our old site.  We hope you didn’t need anything from there.