Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Revamping the USTA rating system

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

      With the busy summer USTA season officially ending and fall season now in full swing, many players are in the process of getting their ratings set. Whether you’re a brand new player doing this for the first time or you’re returning from a long hiatus, in order to play on the USTA tennis leagues, a rating is needed. Unfortunately, anyone that’s had to endure this test has encountered first hand just how frustrating and sometimes inaccurate it can be.

       One of the biggest problems with the USTA rating system is their lack of detailed questions. The test begins with several yes or no fill-ins trying to categorize you anywhere from a world class player to a total beginner. The problems occur when you get deeper into these questions. For instance, back when I had to rate for the very first time, I had just committed to playing division II tennis. Long story short I got rated a 5.0. Now granted, I was a decent high school player, but no state champion deserving of a 5.0 rating. Not to mention I had just graduated high school and had never played USTA adult league tennis before.
       So why did they rate me as so? Was it solely because I was committing to play in college? The real question is, can the USTA really make a good evaluation of the type of player I am based on that one answer? No. There are many tennis players out there on college teams that couldn’t even compete with the average high school player!
       Another example is the classic story of a returning tennis player trying to get back into the USTA leagues. Take a former 5.0 college player who hasn’t touched a racquet in 20 years, has had two knee replacements, and isn’t nearly in as good of shape as she used to be. Should this player still be rated a 5.0? According to the rating system, if that was her last published rating, then yes. Even though the test doesn’t ask her when the last time she played was, or the injuries sustained (injury questions happen during the appeal process).
      Now obviously the USTA can’t come and watch everyone play who needs a rating (they tried it for years with people raters). So what’s the solution here? More detailed questions with a little more leeway. The yes or no questionnaire is fine and does cover a lot. A text box discussing dates and severity of injuries sustained or time off from playing would make a significant difference. Also, rather than a computer making an immediate decision, it would help if the USTA could review answers prior to giving out set ratings. This might not work for brand new players but it would be a good system for someone returning from a long break from the game. That way, they don’t even have to worry about going through the appeal process.
       It’s safe to say that the USTA doesn’t have the time or the man power to force groups of people to monitor their rating system-but they need to. They would save so much time having to sift through appeals if they would review the tests to begin with. Even just adding a few more text boxes so players can explain their history with the game would make a huge difference. 

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How much would it cost to attend all 4 major grand slam tennis tournaments?

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

Australian Open
French Open
May - June
June - July
US Open
August - September
New York City

 Any tennis fan dreams of attending one of the major grand slam tournaments at some point in their lifetime. However what if you were able to attend not just one, but ALL of the majors. How much would that cost? Where could you secure the best deals? Well we’re here to give you the breakdown of how much multiple trips like this would cost, and the best methods to save money.

Let’s assume that a regular couple living in Akron, Ohio were trying to attend all the major tournaments. They also would love to see the quarterfinals in each event. Economically, the best way for them to save on their finances would be to purchase “tour packages”. These are a perfect option when traveling overseas. Some of the best packages are available on TWS Tennis Tours ( or Tennis Tours (

TWS Tennis Tours seemed to have the most bang for your buck as a typical package would include not just tickets to the event itself, but the hotels and flights as well. They have tours for all of the majors aside from the US Open. One of their most popular packages is for the Australian Open which they call the “Australian Luxury Tour Package”.
Included are - 4 quarterfinal tickets (or 3 semi-finals tickets instead),
-          a round trip economy air flight from LAX to Melbourne with private airport transfers to and from the hotel
-          a booking to a five-star suite hotel with daily breakfast buffets
-          At the event itself-access to the championship bar and corporate lounges, and VIP access to the main gates
-          Private walking tours and a tour of the local art museum are included as well
-          Buggy to ride around in and an exclusive wine tasting
This particular package assumes that you will be staying for 2 whole weeks and the cost would be $14,950. However, in order to save even more you can drop your stay down or sell off the other tickets included (assuming two individuals are going). This would most likely drop the whole cost down to about $7,500.

Now of course, there are going to be things you’ll need/want to do that might not necessarily be involved in these tour packages. Such as food and attractions. It’s safe to budget about $400 for the attractions assuming that you’re attending about 4 events at $100 each. As for food, you’re looking to spend about $1,100 assuming your meals are eaten at places other than fast food restaurants. Also keep in mind too that if you’re a drinker it might be a good idea to add on another $9-$15 per day depending on how much you plan on consuming.

Similar packages on TW Tennis Tours are not nearly as expensive as they are only over 5 days, don’t include a flight, and typically only give you two tickets instead of four. Their Wimbledon and French Open packages are fairly similar to the Australian package above, except this time costing $6,350. Add in a round trip flight for $1,100 per ticket and you’re at a total of $8,550 just for the essentials. Add on the $400 for attractions and $1,100 for food and you’re looking at about $10,050 for the whole trip.

Fortunately, for a couple living in Akron, Ohio the US Open isn’t nearly as expensive as the overseas tournaments. To attend the quarters and semifinals of the open (types of tickets they offer) and staying in a 3 star hotel over 5 days, you’re looking to spend about $1,695 each. Factor in the food and attraction prices, plus money for gas ($100 on the high end depending on your car) and you’re looking at a little $5,000.

One way to save even more money when traveling to the US Open is by purchasing tickets for the first week of play rather than waiting for the later rounds. That way, not only are you saving money but you also get to explore all the action on the grounds. A lot of the less expensive ticket packages for the first week even grant you access to all of the courts!

Overall on the high end of attending the quarterfinals of all four majors for two people at a moderate comfort level, expect to drop around $33,000. Of course these are all rough estimates and you can definitely eliminate staying at nicer hotels or maybe not eating a high class meal every night. Either way though, definitely be prepared to drop a pretty penny if attending these grand level events is on your bucket list.

For those of you that would LOVE to attend the majors but just can’t fit it into your budgets, there are plenty of other tournaments to attend that might get you more bang for your buck. Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, and the Western & Southern in Cincinnati are just a few that will give fans a more intimate atmosphere to see your favorite players at a much better price tag!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Tips for Playing College Tennis

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

So you just graduated from high school and you’re getting ready to head off to college. You’ve signed your letter of intent to play tennis and now your focus is all on your training. You feel prepared, but are a little unsure of what to expect. College tennis is a whole new environment, and it can be incredibly overwhelming at first. Here are some tips to help you adjust to your brand new team.

Exercise and Train
One of the most important aspects of playing tennis in college is the training regimen. You’re now playing at a much higher level than you were before. Because of this, you’re going to have to exercise and train much harder. Spend your summer playing as much tennis as you possibly can (aim for 4-5 days a week) and try to hit with players that are at your same level or better. Also, develop an exercise plan for yourself that utilizes a lot of sprints as well as drills for changing direction. If you’re lucky, your coach might even have a summer program for you to follow which will make this even easier for you!

Get to know your new team

One thing I was very happy I did prior to officially going off to college was getting to know some of my teammates ahead of time. This made the transition into college tennis that much easier. If you’re close by, go to some of their matches and start talking to them about the team, what their competition is like, etc. In this age of social media, it’s also incredibly easy to connect with some of the other recruits in your class online. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a roommate ahead of time if you make it a point to reach out to them.

Be a team player

In a lot of cases, your college team is going to consist of the players who were all the best on their high school teams. Because of this, it’s easy to expect to walk in and be one of the top players. Leave that mindset behind. College tennis is a completely different level and everyone’s a good player. Try and be open to wherever your coach thinks you would fit best. Maybe they see you as a doubles expert or a guaranteed win at six singles. Regardless of where you get placed, have an open mind and be a team player. Remember that both your coach and your teammates are counting on you to play your part for the overall success of the team.

Develop a relationship with your coach

Your coach is the most important link between your game and your success on the team. They recruited you, which means they think that you’re not only a great player, but a great person as well who they want to be part of their success. Show them the appreciation and respect they deserve. Of course there are going to be times where you disagree, but the more you take it upon yourself to get to know them the better off you’ll be. Don’t be afraid to talk to them if you’re unhappy or uncomfortable with something. If the team is important enough to them, they’ll be happy to sit down with you and listen to what you have to say.

Stay Positive

There are going to be times where it’s going to get hard, real hard. You’re going to want to give up and quit and that’s ok. It’s only natural to feel that way when you’re dedicating so much of your time to something of this magnitude and missing out on other fun opportunities in the process. The best advice I can give here is to stay positive and stick with it. Nothing is ever easy, especially in the environment that is college tennis. However, once it’s all over you’re going to look back on those years and be glad you did it.

Having the opportunity to play college tennis is a huge blessing. You’re going to get to travel to all kinds of cool places and get to know incredible people. Remember that not everyone gets an opportunity like this so be open to all the endless possibilities and most importantly, have fun!  

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

12 Things You Didn't Know About Wimbledon

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

In it's first week of the 139th run of the oldest Grand Slam in history, The Championships, Wimbledon, we've seen a fair share of drama as well as a lot of rain. But while cheering on players like Marcus Willes, your average tennis instructor from England who beat somebody ranked 719 spots ahead of him, or cringing as defending Champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic crack under pressure, trivial thoughts creep into our head, "What's with all the white? Has there ever been a Wimbledon where it hasn't rained? Why is it that strawberries are synonymous with Wimbledon?" Not to worry, because we thought about that too and took it one step further to present you with the 12 things you didn't know about Wimbledon!
ESPN2 - Wimbledon Championships on Vimeo
  1. Before Wimbledon was Wimbledon, the tournament began in 1877 consisting of only 22 players in its first Gentleman's Singles Championships. 
  2. Tennis players wear white because back in the 1800's it was unsightly for them to show any sweat spots on their clothes. Wearing all white disguised the problem. 
  3. The All England Club that hosts this historic tournament has a total of 54 grass, clay, and indoor tennis courts-19 of which are 'show' courts which are preserved for the Championships. 
  4. You may be denied admission as a spectator if you show up in ripped jeans, dirty trainers (sweat pants and shirts), sports shorts, or generally look like a punk rocker or biker.
  5. Tennis Champion Shirley Fry from Akron, OH is among only 10 women who have won a singles title at all 4 Grand Slams (Wimbledon 1956), and only among 6 women who have won all 4 doubles titles (Wimbledon 1951-1953).
  6. At the Champions Dinner there was a long held tradition of dancing between the two Singles Champions, which had ceased until Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams brought it back in 2015. Also, before they started dating, Andre Agassi had the pleasure of dancing with Steffi Graf after his only Wimbledon title in 1992.
  7. You can be a member and play all year round at the All England Club. The membership which is limited to 376 members are past Wimbledon Singles Champions, high politicos or are among the rich and famous. But not to worry, because if you know at least 4 full members who are willing to write a letter of recommendation for you, then you're a shoe-in for the waiting list with all the other 1,000 hopefuls.
  8. Even though Buckingham Palace is a mere 7 miles away from where the tournament is held, the Queen of England has only attended Wimbledon 4 times in her 64 year reign (1957, 1962, 1977, 2010). 
  9. The official Wimbledon headband is too colorful for Wimbledon. Nick Kyrgios was forced to turn it inside out during his 2015 run at the tournament.
  10. The longest recorded tennis match in history was played on Court No. 18 at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships when John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 after a grueling 11 hours. The shortest recorded Men's match at Wimbledon was a Men's Singles Final in 1881, when William Renshaw defeated John Hartley, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, in only 36 minutes! 
  11. The Wimbledon Championships only has a completely dry tournament about once every 20 years. The 'Middle Sunday' is reserved as a day of rest, however rain has forced play four times in Wimbledon history-1991, 1997, 2004, and now 2016. 
  12. Strawberries were the fashionable thing to eat back in the late 1800's, and they just happen to make their seasonal appearance at the start of the tournament. And there you have a delightful coincidence and a yummy tradition!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tennis Burnout- Taking time off

Kristianne Bontempo & Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Contributors

So you’re feeling the tennis burnout. Weeks go by and you realize you’re not progressing in your lessons, as well as not winning your matches. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to quit altogether, but before you make any decisions you might regret, here’s some tips on how to get your game back when you feel like you’ve hit a wall.
Take time off - If you’re beginning to feel like playing all the time is doing more harm than good, you might want to consider taking a break from the game. Especially if you’re starting to feel both physically and mentally exhausted. Don’t feel guilty, even the professionals need a break here and there. Create a short term plan for yourself by taking a week off and if you don’t find that you’re missing tennis just yet, try extending your break a little longer. Maybe a whole month is what you’ll need to feel rejuvenated and excited about the game again.

But the team needs you - If you’re struggling to decide if taking some time off is really necessary, especially if you’re team is pressuring you to play or you’re committed to a weekly drill, then try first minimizing the days you want to play. If you’re currently playing 4 days/week, cut it down to 3, then 2. Time away from the court will not only be beneficial to your physical and mental well-being, but it will give you time to hopefully forget some bad habits you felt like you were struggling with in your game. 

Forget the negative thoughts – “I’m no good, my teammates think I suck, I just want to quit.” Sometimes walking on the court can become a dark, dreary place if you’re stuck in a funk. But if you absolutely refuse to take a break, then it’s time to change how you look at the game. Why did you start playing tennis? Did you want to get fit, want to play with your friends, or do you really just love it? Many times when players get into this downward spiral, coaches will often have players start back at the basics—in other words, strip yourself from what is making your tennis experience so negative. If you’re on the biggest losing streak of your life, take a few private lessons to focus on your biggest crutch. If you don’t like the people you’re playing with, find another group. If you’re feeling too much pressure to win your matches, then skip a match or two.

One good thing to keep in mind here is that even if you do end up needing a short break, remember that you’re not missing out if you don’t play for a while. Even if tennis is your time for socialization, your friends won’t forget about you. They’ll understand that you need to do what’s best for you and when you do decide it’s time to return, it’ll be like you never left! Also, make sure that when you do make your big return that it’s when you’re excited about tennis again! Think of your ‘comeback’ (even if it’s a week) as a fresh start to a whole new you. Come back with a positive attitude and start having some fun again! 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tennis Tip: Approaching the net in singles

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

One strategy for singles play that is crucial to success is when to come into the net. As a general rule of thumb, you always want to attempt to get to the net as soon as possible to attack your opponent. Being able to combine a strong baseline game with solid net play is not only going to force your opponent into making adjustments, but will frustrate them as well. However, you don’t want to get too eager and come in for no reason or when the time isn’t quite right. Here’s a few short tips on when to come in and put away those shots!
So when should I go to the net? There are usually many different opportunities to come in during the course of a point. However, the most opportune time is most often when your opponent is off balance. How do you achieve this? There are many equally successful ways but if you aren’t quite comfortable with the serve and volley technique yet, try playing it a little safer by hitting a strong and deep approach shot away from your opponent. This will hopefully cause them to struggle to get to the ball. More than likely, the shot you are then going to get back will end up being short. So close in on the net and put away the volley!

One key factor with the approach shots is timing. The easiest chance for you to try and come into the net off of a deep approach shot is when your opponent is hitting balls short into the service boxes. It’s not a bad idea to consider moving in off of these shorter shots because all of your momentum is already moving forward into the net.

Here’s one final tip to remember-every time you are charging the net make sure that you’re following your approach shot in the same direction you hit it. More than likely it’s going to end up coming back to you the same way! 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Off Court Practice Tips

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

With January being a slow and chilly month, players are in the process of transitioning to winter sports, or are in between seasons in their league. In order to keep your game moving along at home, use these easy but prudent tips, so when you're back on the court it'll feel like you never left!

Practice your toss while on the phone
If you’re struggling to get your toss just right, practice it while talking on the phone! It’s the perfect opportunity to use your free hand to get the toss motion down to a science. Stand up and use your non dominant arm to toss and really emphasize letting the ball come off of your fingertips. Safety Tip: Use a ball of rolled up socks so you don’t break anything.

Split step while cooking dinner

Split stepping is one of the most important parts of your game. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to transition from shot to shot. Take advantage of the standing time and try practicing split stepping while you’re cooking dinner!

Watch instructional videos

Figure out the part of your game that you’d like to work on the most and watch instructional videos on it. Sometimes observing someone else do the motion you are trying to achieve will help you get better at it yourself! Even listening to a podcast to improve mental strategy can do wonders on your game. Best of all, you can do all of this while getting chores done at home!

Watch professional tennis and shadow stroke

With the Australian Open on its way, this is the perfect time to sit down and watch all of your favorite pros compete! It’s also a great opportunity to observe their strokes and try to shadow them yourselves. Tip: If your TV has slow motion settings try recording the matches and watching the close up shots in slow motion. That will help you get a better view of their strokes step by step and will make it much easier to shadow and learn. And take special note in how they set up their feet!

Plank everyday

Most people underestimate the importance of core strength. A strong core is not only good for our overall health but it’s critical for tennis players. Think about how often you are turning, reaching and twisting during your matches. A simple 30-60 second plank everyday will help tone and strengthen those muscles that aid in generating more power with your groundstrokes. Plus, you’ll find yourself recovering quicker to set up for your next shot. It’s a win-win!

Stay active!

Whether you’re getting back into the gym after the holiday break or just going for a simple walk, staying active off-court is vital to improving your tennis game and your health! Yoga is a great option because not only does it help to increase our flexibility and strength, but it also helps to improve our respiration and energy (and you can do it almost anywhere). Anything you can do to maintain your stamina will be beneficial to your game so whatever it is-keep moving!

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