Tennis is easy to learn, to play, to teach and to enjoy. The shocking truth is that tennis has been made difficult. So ingrained is the false data accepted as truth for more than a century that it has affected, to this day, coaches, players, commentators, sports writers, even pros.
Something fateful happened to tennis in the birth of the 1900s. The Doherty brothers, one of them a former Wimbledon champion, published a book in 1903 in which they described tennis the way they played, a game of circular motions well adapted to the body, natural moves and positions, hitting across the ball, and a game of feel. In 1904 P. A. Vaile, an attorney, wrote a “classic” book called Modern Lawn Tennis in which he described tennis as linear, similar to cricket, where the body is sideways and the stroking effort is forward, practically ridiculing what the Doherty brothers had published. This 1904 so-called “Modern Tennis” book became the worldwide mantra for learning tennis for the more than 100 years that followed. In America, for a century, tennis has been taught as similar to baseball, again sideways and with a forward effort when hitting the ball.
Even some of the greatest players of all time fell for these misconceptions and wrote book after book that did not reflect the way they played themselves. And this saga continues, perhaps somewhat modified, through present time.
Rod Laver, one of the best all time Bill Tilden, also one of the best
What changed in the 1990’s in Europe, Asia and South America, shown by a plethora of new stars thereof? Simply, my 1989 and 1992 books, widely accepted in those continents, and my 1997, 1998, 1999 ESPN International tips across more than 150 countries, with billions of impressions, shattered those misconceptions and created a new generation of coaches and youth who rose to their personal best. What happened in the USA? Tennis Magazine derided my 1989 book. Their editorial staff called it simplistic, ineffective and unrealistic, forewarning their readers without even trying the techniques. The coaches associations’ educational staff shunned it as well, ridiculing it, misleading their 30,000 plus members and the public those coaches served. Why? Their educational resources and know-how would have been shown to be faulty and their reputation compromised.
This long-time misrepresentation in the USA has had a negative impact on both the business of tennis as well as competitive performance toward national excellence. It perpetuated an atmosphere of strain on coaches and their players, imposing excessive effort and force in both teaching and playing techniques, including pain and injury to elbows, shoulders, lower backs and knees. The opposite, naturality and simplicity, was shunned.