Sashka’s performance in Santa Croce showed us many of her weaknesses. Besides of mental issues – this is probably the most complicated thing, as it is far more than tennis & includes the consequences of her “common life” difficulties – one of the biggest problems is her service.
Bad thing is that service is “a separate science of tennis”. This shot is a non-typical technical element comparing to other tennis technics as main action happens (mostly) vertically – not horizontally like in case of forehand & backhand.
Good thing that you do not need a hitting partner to practice your serve. It is only a matter of your REAL devotion to make a progress as a player.
Even if you do not have an experienced coach nearby (who will teach you how to make the serve better), there is a solution just a click away: you can find a lot of really useful video on Youtube on the matter. This is exactly what Sashka & me decided to do. Why ask a local pro if we can use a wisdom of the Web, completely for free?
I am writing this post, sitting on the open terrace of Santa Croce Tennis Club – the legendary place of European junior tennis. Martina Hingis & Victoria Azarenka, Gustavo Kuerten & Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic & Amelie Mauresmo played here while being juniors. Though the tournament itself is over for Sashka – she lost yesterday in the final round of qualifications – we both are very happy to be here. Below I want to tell you what we experienced, saw & felt in these past 3 days.
While travelling through Italy by bus (her final destination was ITF Juniors Grade 1 tournament in Santa Croce), Sashka started a “flash Q&A session” tagged as #AskSashka. It was very interesting & enjoying experience for everybody who took part in it, including Sashka herself! So we decided to place all questions & answers in one place – please find them below.
BTW, if you wanna ask something more, do not hesitate to do it (be sure to include @sashkatennis in your q’s text so we definitely see it).
Dear friends from The International Olympic Committee,
First of all, I would like to apologize for contacting you through an open letter. It is just a very difficult to reach somebody in the IOC another way.
I hope you will find 5 minutes to read my letter and answer, or connect to somebody who can answer on the matter.
My name is Oleksandra Oliynykova. I am 16 years old.
I am a recognized refugee since fleeing from Ukraine to Croatia in 2011 (given a refugee status in 2012). At the moment I reside in Croatia and play under Croatian flag, though I do not have Croatian citizenship as a refugee.
I am a junior sportsperson – I play tennis.
When Sashka is out of tournaments, we do not have a lot of “hot news” to write about. Nevertheless, our life is going on.
Read further if you want to know (a little bit more) about Sashka’s daily tennis routine these days.
As most of us know, professional athletes maintain a strict training regimen and follow a disciplined meal plan in order to perform at the highest level. Tennis players, for example, constantly work on their groundstrokes and footwork as much as their endurance with the help of a meticulous lifestyle. It’s one of the reasons why the likes of Serena Williams is still playing at the ripe old age of 35, and can still win a Grand Slam title even while pregnant. This uncanny resilience and longevity has something to do with her scientific workout routine. However, she wouldn’t have got this far if it weren’t for her positive eating habits.
The most expensive part of rising a competitive junior tennis player is NOT a travelling. Racquets, strings & shoes can cost quite a lot, but it is just a tiny percentage of a total budget. It can be challenging to pay for a court time, but if you are a member of community tennis club, it is much easier to access tennis courts for reasonable yearly membership fee…
But you almost always need to pay A LOT for a coaching (except if a family member is a coach himself/herself) or hitting assistance. Furthermore, it is also the most unstable part of common “practice construction”. A hitting partner can be sick, tired, demotivated, on the go with other job… or just decide to quite because he does not like you! Usually it happens at the time you need him/her most of all, so you get unexpected & unnecessary trouble!
That’s why we decided to use a tennis ball machine in Sashka’s everyday practice – as an addition to a “live” coach-hitter, not a replacement. In this post I will describe how this idea was born & became reality, and also tell about our first steps to buy & deliver the machine.
NOTE/DISCLAIMER: this is NOT a promotional post. We did have a (modest) discount from the tennis ball machine vendor, but Sashka does not have a sponsorshir or endorsement contract with it. So it is a honest end user’s review (the first of a few) with all “pros and cons” of the gadget.
Last week we met a guy who represents (in South Europe) a very well-known world sports brand… call the brand X :).
While we didn’t aim to get an immediate sponsorship / partnership, our goal was to obtain a kind of targets where we can count on some attention from major junior tennis sponsors. And the answer was… (almost) “nowhere”, except really big wins like junior Grand Slams.
Till that time, Sashka should walk alone, with no hope to get a sponsorship (even a technical one, like rackets, strings etc.) from those companies which widely support young players on national and even regional levels. Below I will describe our negotiations with X-guy in several sentences.
When Sashka was 8, she moved from Kyiv, her birth place, to Odessa, a beautiful city near the Black Sea. That year Elena Bryukhovets, a former WTA Top-50 player and a coach of Maria Kirilenko, started her own tennis academy project in Ukraine.
After Sashka came in academy space first time to practice in the group, somebody immediately showed her a pretty 9-years-old girl who had individual practices only. “Look there, this girl is going to be a world top-10 player!”. It was Dayana Yastremska. In 6 years she will play in the final round of junior Wimbledon.
Several years later Sashka entered the tennis hall of Good To Great tennis academy in Stockholm, Sweden. She saw a lot of boys and girls hitting, serving & playing on many courts – but somebody pointed to dark-skin guy, who practiced under supervising of several coaches. “Meet the new future star of world tennis”. It was Mikael Ymer, the junior Wimbledon-2015 runner-up.
The challenging circumstances of our life sometimes require non-typical moves & solutions. One of those solutions is an active usage of “how to play tennis” Youtube channels in our player’s preparation process.
We selected several of them (just four at the moment to be precise). We subscribed the channels & regularly scan them both for new updates & pre-recorded lessons for the matters we currently interested in. We try to apply best recommendations to Sashka’s game.
You might be sceptical on whether a virtual coach can efficiently teach tennis. Well, I I can say two things about it. First, a virtual coach is NOT a replacement for the real one… but can be a useful “add-on”, especially if you are VERY limited on your budget. We hardly can allow a single live coach, so we have to maximize a usage of “cheap-to-free” tools. Second, I can honestly say that in Sashka’s win of National Champion U16 title there is a meaningful role of those Youtube-inspired practices, methods & ideas. So it works… at least on the national level!
I would like to share with you those channels – just in case you need some “remote help” to fix this or that in your own game. Also, if you know some of those guys who make the channels – please say thanks to them from Sashka & the team.