Feb/19

26

The Vilas Solution To Fix A Broken Stroke


By Scoop Malinowski

There’s an old saying in tennis: When one stroke goes off, your whole game goes down.

Even top ranked professionals suffer through such situations where one of their strokes falters. Guillermo Vilas, the former ATP no. 2 was not immune to losing control of his arsenal of weapons. His former coach Ernesto Ruiz Bry told a story to me about Vilas losing one of his strokes and how he remedied the crisis.

“He called me 4 c’clock in the morning,” remembers Ruiz-Bry, now a coach at Delray Beach Tennis Center (and an artist www.ruizbry-art.com ). “He asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘I’m sleeping.’ He said, ‘How can you sleep?’ I didn’t put one backhand in the court today. I said, ‘No problem.’ He said, ‘No way, no way. I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, please, I want to work only backhands. Until we fix it.'”

“Okay, we start – not even three minutes of warm up. He went to the right side – he’s lefty – and we start backhand drills. I’m lefty also, so I was feeding inside out forehand against his backhand. All the time, backhand, backhand. He has to push me back with his backhand. We practice like that for six days. Six days, minimum four hours a day. And he said, ‘Don’t worry about the rest of the strokes. Because some player who has one stroke that doesn’t work, their game falls apart. And if this stroke works, all the game gets together. So don’t worry, you will see. And after the second week he start to play normal and all his strokes were great.”

Vilas, like a doctor, found the cure to rehabilitate his ailing backhand. The story reminded Ruiz-Bry of another tip from Vilas about wanting to face the best shots in practice.

“I have a very good backhand. Actually a better backhand than forehand,” says Ruiz-Bry, who played Roland Garros doubles and also coached Ronald Agenor, among other pros. “My backhand is nice. I don’t miss. I don’t make winners. So people were avoiding my backhand and playing my forehand. That was fantastic for me. But when I start coaching Vilas, he said to me, ‘I need the best of you. I don’t want you to give me one single backhand when we do the backhand cross, you hit the forehand. When we do forehand cross, you go all the way to the left and do backhand slice. I don’t need your backhand topspin because your forehand topspin is much better. And I don’t need your forehand slice because your backhand slice is much, much better. So as a coach you have to give me the best that you have. Which is a very good thing for a coach.”

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