Tennis Blog

Tennis Talk – May 2019

As spring rolls around, the province’s elite junior tennis players are rounding into form for Tennis BC’s Provincial Selection Series. Many of those players train tirelessly right here on our courts – and the results of their efforts are showing.

Our High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, was proud to have one of his UBC Tennis Centre athletes in the finals of every draw at the U16 Outdoor Selection Tournament #1!

Aidan Tseng took home the boys doubles title, Henry Ren finished second in the boys singles, and Keita Duclos came third in boys singles.

Vanessa Kahkesh had a stellar weekend as runner-up in both the girls singles and doubles – falling to the top seed in each.

Next up for our top talent is the U18 Outdoor Selection Tournament #2, which will see a bevy of UBC Tennis Centre athletes competing against the best of the best on May 11-14 in Burnaby.

Best of luck to all UBC Tennis Centre athletes as they prepare for an amazing outdoor tournament season!

By Aneesa Heatherington

Tennis Talk – April 2019

Tennis in Canada is on the rise yet again with a new generation of teenagers inspiring athletes across the country, and the world, with recent international success.

Bianca Andreescu (age 18, world No. 23) wowed the tennis community by getting through qualifiers and winning Indian Wells over former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Denis Shapovalov (age 19, world No. 20) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (age 18, world No. 33) both reached the semi finals in Miami and continue their own ascent to the upper echelon of the sport.

That buzz from our country’s top talent was also felt right here at the UBC Tennis Centre this month as we hosted the next group of up-and-comers at the U14 Indoor Junior National Championships.

British Columbia’s own Stewart Aronson was named the Boys U14 Junior National Champion with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ontario’s Aleksander Mitric, while Kayla Cross of Ontario defeated Alberta’s Martyna Ostryzgalo 6-1, 6-2 to capture the Girls title.

Six of our own UBC Tennis Centre players took part in the national event on home court in what was a wonderful display of junior tennis in Canada.

By Aneesa Heatherington

Tennis Talk – March 2019

The UBC Tennis Centre’s High Performance programs are preparing for an important season of tournaments on both the national and provincial level. High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, shares some of his insights on how he prepares his athletes to perform at their best in pressure situations.

“These kids are training at such a high level year round, they need to be peaking constantly”, says Boskovic. “I feel whether it’s an ITF, a national or a provincial tournament – you need to be engaged the same for each event. At this stage in their tennis careers, they should be motivated to give all they can on and off the court – mentally, physically, tactically and technically.”

Boskovic adjusts his weekly training sessions to fine-tune his players for high-stakes matches.

“When it is tournament time, we’ll step up with more point play and designated pressure scenarios. The players will feel the pressures of playing points with the same atmosphere of playing a tournament during our regular training seasons. Otherwise, our program consists of more drilling with high intensity, high volume training based on a specific tactic or theme of the week.”

For any athlete, it’s important to take care of yourself on and off the court.

“A lot of what we talk about for preparation is what to eat and how to warm up before matches, as well as analyzing an opponent’s strength and weaknesses and how you’re going to exploit them. We really focus on setting up a game plan – not only for yourself – but how you’re going to play any given individual on any given day.”

By Aneesa Heatherington

Tennis Talk – February 2019

Although Sasha Boskovic works almost exclusively with high performance players at the UBC Tennis Centre, his philosophy for success and lifetime enjoyment in the sport has trickled down throughout all tennis programming.

“The feeling we have at all levels, be it fundamental or competitive, is that everyone is contributing to the success of our programs”, says Boskovic. “Even those who aren’t at the top level as a junior can see the chain of events taking place and what it can lead to. It should give parents, players and kids the motivation to see just what is possible here at the UBC Tennis Centre.”

The results certainly speak for themselves. In just under two years at the helm, Boskovic has cultivated eight national-level players who train at UBC with even more on the horizon.

“My goal is to have at least ten to twelve national players this year, and I want to get at least ten of those competing in ITF tournaments internationally”, says Boskovic.

The Serbian product from Coquitlam, BC is known for his limitless dedication and plethora of passion.

“What drives me is seeing players succeed”, admits Boskovic. “Kids that win and want to take the next step, that’s what drives me. Now that we’ve established the UBC Tennis Centre as one of the best high performance academies across the province and, in my opinion, nationally – I want to be triggered internationally.”

Tennis players from across the province are taking notice of Boskovic’s crop of rising stars and signature high-intensity training sessions.

“We’re at capacity right now because of the high demand, but if I feel that a kids is athletic and puts in the effort, I can teach skill. I can’t teach drive. If you’re looking to join our program, you need to be committed in your mind, body and soul, 100%.”

Stay tuned for an exclusive look at the UBC Tennis Centre’s “Top Prospects” as they continue their journey to the pinnacle of Canadian tennis.

By Aneesa Heatherington

Josh’s Final Fresh Take: December 2018 Edition

A Toast, To Tennis

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Tennis has given me the opportunity to connect with so many individuals over the years, some of whom have become very close friends of mine. As a kid growing up in New Westminster, I would always attend the local summer tennis camp every July. It was a four-week long camp that consisted of a tournament in the very last week. It was something to look forward to at the end of the school year, to get outside, enjoy the weather with some friends, get some exercise, and work on my tennis skills. The tournaments were an obvious focal point of the camp and each year I took it more seriously, and ultimately became more competitive in the sport. However, looking back on it now, it is obvious to me that it was not the most important part. It created another platform to connect with individuals in the neighbourhood and lead to creating stronger bonds with friends that I already had. Tennis was a social activity that brought my friends and I together. It acted like a glue in those dog days of summer every single year until I graduated high school.

Years later, tennis gave me the opportunity to work here at the UBC Tennis Centre. For the past three and a half years, I have been working at the Centre as a Coach and as the newsletter lead while I attended school at UBC. I have learned so much more about the game from so many incredible coaches here who I have been privileged of working alongside. We often discussed the different doubles strategies, serving techniques, and about all the different ways you can get in to your opponent’s head. I am extremely grateful.

I have also learned how to become a stronger communicator, how to lead a class and how to connect with both youth and adults alike. All of which I have become incredibly passionate about and are reasons why I have chosen to become an educator. This July I will complete my Bachelor of Education degree and be certified to teach in schools all over the Lower Mainland. This also means that my time here at the UBC Tennis Centre is coming to and end. A bitter-sweet feeling as it will be sad to move on from so many amazing clients, fellow staff members and memories.

If I was never given the opportunity to coach here, I doubt that I would ever discover that teaching is something that I wanted to do. If I never went to those summer camps as a kid every July, I would have never worked at the UBC Tennis Centre. And if I never played tennis, I would have never created those friendships and connections that I still have today.

As sad as it is to move on from the UBC Tennis Centre, I am looking forward to this next chapter. To me, tennis is not just a sport, it is so much more (Grinch reference anyone?). It has given me incredible friendships and opportunities. It has shaped me as a person and given me piece of mind. It has meant a lot to me. I have nothing but warm memories associated with this wonderful sport and I will continue to create more memories for years to come.

Thank you, tennis.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off for the last time.

Josh’s Fresh Take: November 2018 Edition

Don’t Be Afraid to Come to the Net!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Last month I discussed the strategy to play shots deep, past the service line in order to pin your opponent back. This is important in order to keep them from approaching the net, but what happens when your opponent does give you an approach shot that lands inside the service box? After you return the ball, will you recover at the net and get ready to volley? Or will you recover back to the baseline?

If you are a player that recovers back to the baseline, ask yourself why? Many beginner players are reluctant to come to the net because they are worried that they might get hit or will react too slowly. By being reluctant of approaching the net, you are essentially neglecting a major part of the game that could be incredibly advantageous to yourself. Approaching the net and volleying is one of the fastest ways to finish off your opponent during a point. Having this strategy in your back pocket will keep your opponent on their toes. Try practicing your volleys and approaching the net with your UBC Coach or a friend the next time you play to become comfortable with this. Remember to always keep your racket head up and between your eyes! We call this “fight mode” as it is similar to boxing – to keep hands up in front of your face to protect yourself and be ready at all times for a strike.

I hear quite often that players try not to play the net because they are worried that their opponent will lob them, so they would rather stay back at the baseline. This is one reason that baffles me! First of all, if you make a successful approach shot at a tough angle or a fast and hard shot, the chances that they are going to make a perfect lob over you are pretty low. If they successfully lob the ball over you, a lob gives you enough time to turn and run to return the shot. More likely, they are going to try their best to just get the ball back over the net. This is why is it important to approach the net to pick off that defensive return shot. From there you can use your angles, as it is likely that your opponent is in a defensive position, to finish the point.

In the same situation above, if you were to return to the baseline after making a successful approach shot, then your opponent would likely return the ball and the rally would continue back and forth until someone made a mistake. This is why it is important to come to the net after a successful approach shot! If you are unsuccessful on the approach shot, meaning that you hit a weak attacking shot, then by all means return to the baseline. You do not want to be approaching the net on a shot they your opponent is going to attack! In this situation, you likely will not have a chance to return the ball and could possibly get hurt.

When it comes to doubles play, it is arguably even more important to come to the net and volley. Most of the points that are won happen at the net, so get out there with your partner and practice! You and your partner need to communicate to ensure one of you plays at the net. You should never both be at the baseline as you are likely going to get stuck or have your opponents move to an attacking position. Get out there and do not be afraid to come to the net!

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: October 2018 Edition

Top 3 Strategies for Beginner Singles Play!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

This month I give three basic strategies to beginner tennis players that will help them win some points and hopefully a match or two!

1. Find Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

When playing in a tournament and before you begin your match, one of the first things you have to do is warm-up with your opponent. This includes your groundstrokes, volleys and serves. This is a great opportunity to look for strengths and weaknesses in your opponent’s game. This may seem pretty obvious, however a lot of players do not seize this opportunity! Be observant! Most of the time a tennis player’s weakness is their backhand. But this is not always the case! Some players have a monster backhand and if you only assume that is their weakness and do not pay attention in the warm-up, you would be in trouble when the match starts. Do your homework before you start your match in order to avoid losing easy points.

Guess what? Your opponent is also scouting you! Try and mask some of your strengths if you can. For example, if you have a strong serve, do not unleash it completely in the warm-up. Bring it out during the match and catch your opponent off guard! This could work in your favour. Also, do not be afraid of your weaknesses in warm-up. In other words, do not favour your forehand if you have a weak backhand. This is more obvious to your opponent than just using your weak backhand… Think about the warm-up!

2. Play Deep

Try and pin your opponent back at the baseline. Hit deep shots that go beyond the service line – even if it is not exactly the hardest shot. If you keep the ball at the baseline, your opponent will generally only have a returning angle of about 20-30 degrees. This can be covered far more easily than if you hit the ball short near the net, which can give your opponent an angle of up to 180 degrees! By keeping the ball deep at the baseline, you can recover and generally stay in the rally more consistently. Giving your opponent a short ball essentially gives them more angles to work with. From that spot, you are playing a guessing game of where they might place the ball. This is a far more difficult point to battle for. Do yourself a favour and keep the ball deep!

3. Be Predictably Unpredictable

If you are up 40-0 or 40-15, be sure to take risks! This is a perfect opportunity to try that serve and volley you have been working on, or go for that down-the-line forehand winner. By taking these risks in situations where you are already dominating the lead, it will make you unpredictable in the eyes of your opponent. To you, you are already leading the game and will, most likely, win. But by taking a risk, it will keep them on their toes and keep them second-guessing what your next shot will be. This will work in your favour when the game is tied 30-30, or when you are losing, as your opponent may think you will go for that serve and volley where in reality you are going to be more conservative. By taking these risks when you are in the lead, you are helping your game in the long-run; your opponent won’t be able to predict what you will do next.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: September 2018 Edition

Keeping Your Cool

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

The tennis world recently witnessed Serena Williams’ conflict at the US Open earlier this month with the umpire, Carlos Ramos. Whether or not you think that Serena or Carlos were in the wrong, one can agree that at times they both lost their cool. Carlos lost his cool in a sense that his punishment might have been a bit harsh, especially when you factor in Serena’s exact point that male athletes often get away with much worse behaviour. And Serena lost her cool with her reaction of calling Carlos a “liar” and “thief” and demanding an apology. (If you are reading this and do not know what I am talking about, I suggest that you stop reading and watch this conflict on YouTube). More or less, what I am exuding to is the fact that both individuals had lost their cool at times during the match. What I mean by this statement is that emotions got the better of both individuals. They had lost their focus and became frustrated. Carlos was not as obvious as he was not yelling, but by the punishment that he handed Serena, it was evident that he was shaken by the instigation.

For Serena, it meant that it cost her a game. For Carlos, it damaged his reputation as an umpire in the tennis world. In a match, as soon as you lose your focus your opponent has already won. Not only does it affect you, but it also gives your opponent an opportunity to strike; to notice they are in your head and ultimately give them the extra added confidence to win.

After Serena’s conflict with Carlos, it was clear that she would not be able to come back and win the match. To be fair, she was already down prior to the altercation with the umpire. However, any chance of coming back was completely gone.

This major conflict between a tennis superstar and a reputable tennis umpire in the final of the US Open made me think about the tools an athlete must have in order to stay composed. If we are witnessing this happen to one of the greatest athletes of all time, then the chances are it can probably happen to us as well. So what kind of strategies can one have when they become frustrated in a match? When you are down a point, a game, or they have just doubled faulted, what would you do? This week I got in touch with a couple current and retired UBC Tennis Coaches, Dana Radivojevic and Kenny Yamashita. I wanted to hear from some tennis gurus about what strategies they use to stay cool.

Both Kenny and Dana stressed the importance of having a routine! This is something that I have mentioned before in previous Fresh Takes. This cannot be emphasized enough; you must have a routine! Dana mentioned that she has a routine in order to “re-focus and reset after each point, no matter what the situation (winner or losing)”. For Dana, it is as simple as bouncing a ball on her racket against the ground several times before she serves. This lets her calm down and forget the previous point before moving on to the next. Kenny only lets himself have 3-5 seconds to be frustrated after a point and then he moves on. During this time, he often adjusts his strings to calm down and re-focus before the next point. Kenny also mentioned that it is important to “not rush and to re-establish your rhythm”.

This is something that I can definitely relate to. I often get caught in the moment when playing someone who has a quick serve routine, which makes me feel like I also have to rush. I have to be ready quicker because I do not want to make my opponent wait for me. But you are just as important! Do not start the point until you are ready as well. There is nothing worse than losing a point only to quickly lose the next. Take your time! Do not rush! Re-establish your rhythm.

Another important strategy is to breathe! It might sound like common sense and incredibly obvious, but you would be surprised how often players hold their breath during and after points. Breathing lets you relax your body and mind. Make sure to take nice deep breaths before every point, if you need it. I promise you will feel more refreshed and in turn you will be fresh.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: August 2018 Edition

The Secrets to a Consistent Serve

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

This month I had the opportunity to sit down with the one and only Dana Radivojevic, a.k.a. Ms. Rad – a nickname Dana has decided to give herself since her last name is nearly impossible to pronounce. I will provides updates in the future if whether or not this nickname actually sticks.

Dana is one of our lead coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre and has been working here for the past four years. She is also a UBC students and future teacher about to begin the Bachelor of Education program this fall. (This is probably why she gave herself that nickname… it is all starting to make sense now.)

One thing that I have noticed in Dana’s tennis abilities is her powerful and consistent serve. Whenever we hit after work or with other coaches in our free time, Dana impresses everyone and almost never misses. Serving is a skill that I am trying to work on, so I was naturally curious to pick her brain about her technique to have such consistency.

Dana not only gave me a couple of tips to help with my consistency, but was also kind enough to explain a game that you can play on your own. I thought some of you might benefit from her advice, so here it is! Below is our conversation.

Josh: What would you consider to be the most important aspect of serving?

Dana: I think it is really important to establish a routine in order to get your mind focused. A huge part of serving is being able to be focused yet relaxed at the same time. Being able to calm down after a tough point and re-focus for the next is important. Having a routine is a must to get your head in the right space for the next point before you serve. For me, I focus more on the mindset of serving rather than the physical aspects. By really taking your time and slowing it down, you can focus on the next point and gather all your thoughts.

J: If you were to choose one physical element of serving, what would you consider to be the most important?

D: The toss – having a consistent toss that you can count on and knowing how exactly to hold the ball. A toss can make or break your serve. If you toss too far out front or too far behind, that can mess up your rhythm. So I think just having a consistent toss that you can fall back on is really important.

J: Is there a way to always have a consistent toss?

D: I find it helps to always have the same starting point when you toss the ball, for example tossing from the inside of your thigh, and ending at the same point. This way the toss is more controlled and will translate to a consistent serve.

J: What would you consider to be a good serving drill for both competitive and beginner players?

D: I like to play a game where you are practically playing a match against yourself. You start at 0-0 and each time you serve in successfully that is a point for you. If you miss your first serve or it lands out, you get a second serve. If you miss your second serve, then that is a point for your imaginary opponent. A double fault would translate to 0-15. For experienced players, you can create more of a challenge by having specific targets, such as serving down the tee or out wide.

Well there you have it folds. The 4-1-1 on what it takes to have a consistent serve from one of the most consistent servers I know, Ms. Rad. Stay tuned to see if the nickname sticks.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: July 2018 Edition

The Legend, Bob Exell – Part 2

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

As previously mentioned in part 1 of the Bob Exell Story, Coach Bob is a staple here at the UBC Tennis Centre. His quiet demeanour, sense of humor, and wealth of knowledge has made a tremendous impact on players and coaches alike. He is always happy to chat about the game of tennis, give coaching advice, or simply crack a joke. Especially the latter.

On court when I am working alongside Bob, I will often entice him to tell a joke or two to the class, just to see the reactions from the kids to a punch-line that goes way over their heads… and usually over my head as well. I still get a kick out of it and so do the kids, even when we don’t quite understand it.

This has been one of the themes that I’ve noticed about Coach Bob. Not necessarily the “great jokes”, but his love of the sport and his passion for coaching kids. As a tennis coach with only three years of experience, I am inspired to see someone who has been coaching for years and still has the passion and excitement on a daily basis.

“It keeps me young! First off, I am one of the oldest coaches, as a matter of fact I think I am the oldest coach here, and I enjoy working with young people. They keep me feeling young. I obviously love the game and I want to inspire kids to have the same enjoyment.”

Aside from coaching, Bob has also kept in touch with his competitive edge in tennis, as he has been invited to play for the national team on several occasions.

“The last couple of years I have been lucky enough to be selected on the national team. This year I was again selected to go to Germany, unfortunately through family obligations and a minor health issue I have decided to not participate… but I am hoping to train again for next year and hopefully make the team. It is always exciting to play for your country and it is a thrill to get asked. You have to be in the top four-to-six players in the country to get an invitation, so it is not easy, and you have to play a couple tournaments to get ranking points to potentially make a team. It is very competitive across the country and there are a lot of talented players so it is always exciting when you get asked. As you get older it gets harder and harder because you’ve got to maintain your health and your skills, as well as needing to play a lot. As a coach and player, it is hard doing both because you are on the court a lot and then you obviously have to find time to train too.”

Only time will tell if Coach Bob will play on another national team. Until then the jokes will keep coming and the legend will keep building. For now, here are some parting words about working at the UBC Tennis Centre from the man himself;

“I love our staff, I love the Centre and I love the clientele. I can’t think of a better place to not only work, but to also play.”

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.