Boy’s 12 Junior Event in West Orange, New Joisey

1916638_10206796116074740_2146710316373891023_nIMG_0175I drove my son out for a 7:30 pm match at the historic West Orange, New Jersey Racquet Club and it took me 2.5 hours as I left at 5 pm. Anyone who travels on the New Jersey Turnpike on a Friday night at rush hour is nuts, and I am in that group. Oh my God, the trucks, the traffic, I was completely frazzled by the time I reached the club. They had a great color photo behind the club’s desk of Connors, Borg, Fleming, Vilas and many more when they played an event here I guess in the 70’s.

Anyway my son gets on the court with this small Indian kid. I’m standing behind the court behind a mesh net with the kid’s mother. That’s always awkward, at least for me, to be watching a match with the parent of your son’s opponent. I mean I’m not a loud father, barking out “come on’s” to his son, but I like to clap my hands and basically do what super fan, Lou Noritz, used to do when he was watching a match and supporting one player. And that is say, “Come on. Right here.” Or just clap my hands a few times and nod my head, saying and giving out the vibes of “you can do it!”

I think it was Paul Annacone today who said it’s so important for a player to walk on the court and no matter who is opponent is, truly believe he can win the match. And that’s what I’m trying to convey to Callum. You play your match, your tennis, and there’s really no one I’ve seen in the 12’s Eastern Section that can beat you. Callum’s playing well, but he really needs to semi, finals or win this tournament and another one in Queens next week to break into the Top 25 in the East.

Anyway, this Indian boy has sick hands and he plays in a nonchalant manner that at first fooled me into thinking Callum would win easily. He did win the first set 6-1, but then this kid started to dominate the rallies on a very fast indoor court and he really hit flat, tightly-spun balls at real nice angles. One time he came to net and took a big back swing only to undercut the ball and hit a feathery drop volley winner. But Cal came back from 0-40 at 0-1 and won the game and then even though the boy saved three match points serving at 3-5, Callum ended up winning 6-1.6-4. Callum has gone from being very aggressive in his approach when he was playing 10’s to being more solid and hitting big top and deep to his opponent’s backhand, but he’s lost his aggressiveness. I want to tell him about a quote I heard Goffin say today after beating Federer (I paraphrase it here):

“When you start feeling the ball better, be more aggressive.”

He next plays the No. 1 seed tonight again at 7:30 pm. I hate these clubs that host these junior tournaments that don’t make courts available on a weekend until late at night. This kid is a Russian kid who makes questionable lines calls and has a father who when Callum beat him badly in the 10’s, berated his son in Russian after the match. He’s a scholarship player at the US Tennis Center in Queens which makes the match even more intriguing because Callum is a scholarship player at the McEnroe Academy. Fritz Buehning, Cal’s coach, is coming to watch the match tonight, and when I told him about this kid Callum’s playing, he said about Callum’s chances: “He will be fine. These kids suck!” I think he was kidding, sort of.

I like watching junior tennis just not when my son’s playing a big match and I’m not sure he’s ready to win a big match. I need some Tums for my tummy. I have to just chill and realize that it’s his match, and he’s the one who has to deal with the pressure and the best way I can help him is to get him to the match on time and show him that I have a positive attitude. One tennis mom told me she has a deal with her son that after the match, they can’t talk about the match at all for 20 minutes. Then he gets 10 minutes to vent about what happened and then she can share her thoughts. I told her she has a lot more discipline than me. Wish us luck tonight!



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  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    West Orange was a tournament in the 70s. Not sure how long it ran for.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Another elite win for Cal. Happy to hear he is mixing up offense and defense and patience. When we hit in Newport Cal seemed to be trying to play his best on every ball. But Lendl once said he didn’t show the opponent his A game until 4 all in the first set. Lendl said he played the first part of the set only using 60-70%. When it really counted Lendl played at 100%. Sounds like Cal is learning to conserve his best tennis for when he really needs it. Instead of trying to play his very best on every single ball strike. My friend today said a good bit of advice he got from his coach as a junior was “you play four games per set like a pro. But don’t use up all four of those games at once, try to spread it out over the whole set.”

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Best of luck, looking forward to hearing about Callum’s match.

  • dan markowitz · November 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    There is such a thing, if you look for it, as rankings for 6th graders in the U.S. on a web site called, These rankings are projected for boys who will graduate high school seven years from now and I guess they give colleges a purview into who are the best boys to recruit and possibly sign for college scholarships. Callum’s opponent in the Round of 16 yesterday was a Russian boy, I won’t mention his name, because he’s only 12 and was absolutely the worst behaved boy I’ve ever seen play a tournament match. This boy though on College was the no. 73rd ranked player n the nation.

    He was also the no. 1 seed in this event. Let me preface by saying Callum’s coach, Fritz Buehning came out to watch Callum play this boy. Fritz said when he played Brad Gilbert in the 14’s national championship, Fritz being a New Jersey native and Gilbert being a Californian, Fritz caught a serve Gilbert hit in the middle of the service box and called it out. When Gilbert vehemently complained, he said he told Gilbert, you keep on making bad calls against me, I’m going to make bad calls against you. Fritz said Gilbert then went into a mad yelling fit so on the next point, Fritz caught Gilbert’s serve that landed in the middle of the box and called it out.

    I guess Gilbert didn’t learn his lesson because according to Fritz, who also said Gilbert said they called Fritz “Fratz” because it stranded for “Fat Fritz,” but that wasn’t the case said Fritz, because Frtiz said Gilbert was the most disliked player on the pro tour in the 80’s and everyone hated him.

    I mention this because the boy Callum played last night, when he missed a shot, and in the first set, he missed a lot of shots, would jump up and down and making high-pitched keening sound that sounded in between a cry and a scream. In the second set, the linesman,, gave the kid a warning for his poor behavior. But the kid was talented, after losing the first set, 6-1, he came back and turned the tables on Cal going up 5-2. Callum rallied to make it 5-5, but the boy took the next two games, hitting big winners with his forehand and serve to notch the set 7-5.

    It was a wild match. Callum lost his nerve in the second set, but he also wrongly thought that the kid would self-destruct, but he didn’t get waylaid by his histrionics, instead like a young Johnny Mac, he seemed to play better the more agitated he got. And Callum started playing too safe, looping back second serve returns when he should have been attacking the boy’s forehand out wide so he could open up his weaker backhand wing.

    One of the hardest parts about a tennis match, and particularly a junior tennis match in the 12’s and 14’s as Fritz pointed out to me where there are wild set scores (a 6-1 set can be followed by a 1-6 set), and as Spadea wrote in “Break Point,” is that even when you win a lopsided set, the score goes back to 0-0 in the next set. So you have to continue to be aggressive or if you’re playing a talented player, the match and momentum can shift quickly in the favor of your opponent.

    Callum let this boy get into his groove and he started flying around the court punctuating long rallies with forehand winners. Fritz recalled a match he played against Guillermo Vilas when the Argentine was no. 4 in the world in South Africa where Fritz beat him in straight sets because he didn’t let any rally go longer than three shots. He wasn’t going to let Vilas get him in long rallies and grind him down.

    Let me make a point right here…I don’t usually watch matches, particularly my son’s matches where usually I’m only watching with my wife who I sometimes get into length arguments with while we’re watching the match together, with a guy who;s beaten Guillermo Vilas in straight sets. It’s a little sobering to do so because you know that no matter how good your son is or will become, he’s 99% not going to be anywhere near as good as the guy you’re talking to watching the match you’re watching. I mean how many people do you watch matches with who compare the match you’re watching with a match where he beat Vilas in straight sets?

    I think Fritz got a kick out of me though because at the end of the second set, before the Super Breaker they play instead of a 3rd set in the 12’s, the tournament director said the parents could not clap anymore during the match. Because I have to admit, this little Russian kid was bothering so much, whenever Callum won a point, even when the other kid made a mistake, I was clapping and calling out, “Come on, Cal!” and this prompted the kid’s mother, who Fritz admonished during the match to stop coaching because her husband and her were calling out to their son in Russian, to clap for her kid.

    This Russian kid made an odd move after the second set and before the Super Breaker, and that was to leave the court, the second time he’d done this in the match (the first time was after a first serve that he thought was in and Callum called out; he had objected to many of Cal’s calls so he ran off and got the tournament director to call lines and the TD didn’t change any of Cal’s calls the rest of the match to the Russian boy’s annoyance) to go to the bathroom. The kid took about 15 minutes to go to the bathroom and Callum just walked around the court waiting for him to return.

    When the match resumed, the boy went up 2-1 and then Callum proceeded to win eight straight points and take the breaker 10-2 and the match 6-1, 5-7, 10-2. The boy choked and hit balls wide, long and in the net and again started to go into his little antic crying-screaming koan. Callum hit two big shots, an inside-in forehand winner and a down the line backhand Spadea-like bomb to win the match. I jumped up when Callum hit this shot and yelled, “Come on!” I’ve rarely been so excited by a tennis shot in my life.

    Today, Callum has won the quarters and semis without dropping a set and is into the finals that will be played tomorrow night. The trip in good traffic is like 75 minutes so this means this will be the fourth time tomorrow we’ve made the trip back and forth to play this tournament. Kind of crazy, but that’s junior tennis is what I’m learning. I was a basketball player at this age; you got into a bus as a team (your parents never drove you to a game) and went to games that were no further than 20-30 minutes aways, played one game, and left.

    Next week, in Queens Village, Callum is in the same side of the draw as this Russian boy again and they could meet in the semis. That should be very interesting. Most kids I’m told when they have to play this boy, get sidetracked by his behavior, but we’ll see how Callum responds and how this boy reacts, when and if they meet again.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 19, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Wow, incredible win by Callum overcoming an excellent player but also a master at distraction antics. Sounds like this Rissina kid knows every damned trick in the book and can concoct more on the spot if need be. Yet Callum kept it together. I’d say this sounds like a career best win. I might even try to go down to see the F. Also sounds like Fritz B is an excellent coach.

  • Hartt · November 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks, Dan, for this view into tennis that most of us never see. And best of luck to Callum for the final.

  • jg · November 19, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Way to go Cal, your name will now appear in Tennis Recruiting! Where Do they play the Queens tournament, just curious. Also the Cary Leeds Center has been getting some press, my son plays there and says there are some excellent players hanging out there, they are trying to get a challenger tournament.

  • jg · November 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    I think they have a similar thing for basketball recruiting, the Post had an article on a 6th or 5th grader from the DC area who is number 1 in college recruiting for his age, he already has endorsement deals lined up, and with basketball scholarship offers to middle and high school. I forget the kids name but he didn’t seem fazed by it all, kind of oblivious, but his mom was certainly into it.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 19, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    The Queens tournament is at the Alley Pond Tennis Center. He’s got another L1 tournament in December in the Bronx at the Stadium Club which I don’t like. Terrible place to watch a match. Cary Leeds is nicer, but they don’t seem to host the advanced tournaments and at least when I took Callum down there a year or so ago, they didn’t have anyone in the 12’s who was a high-level player.

    I’m all about getting Callum out there to play and train with the best competition. He’ll either rise to the top or get creamed, but he won’t have a false sense of how good he is.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 19, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Anyone who can name all the players in this pic from an old event at West Orange will get a copy of my next book I’m writing about my experience with my son on his fledgling tennis career.

  • stephen warren · November 22, 2017 at 4:11 am

    Dan, I’ve got a 3yo boy. A part of me would love for him to have the inclination and ability to play competitively down the track. But I honestly don’t think I could attend his games. I have to take a walk around the block between sets in televised Federer matches to calm down. The self-line-calling issues esp would be too much. So I’d be happy if he plays, but sad I’d only get to hear about. Your restraint is admirable imo.

  • dan markowitz · November 24, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    It’s not easy, Stephen. Tonight Callum played his 2nd round match in Queens and the boy he played was a boy who I wrote about on T-P a few years ago because at 8 years old I couldn’t believe how smooth his game was and how his one-handed backhand for a little kid was beautiful. But Cal beat him 6-1 in the first set and was up 2-0 in the second when the kid just started moon-balling which is an effective tactic to use against Callum because he doesn’t have the nerve to take the ball out of the air with overheads or swinging volleys.

    So I just muttered, with the boy’s father right next to me on the bleachers, “Can’t believe the kid is moon balling. How ’bout playing some real tennis?” Luckily, the boy didn’t stick with this tactic and Cal closed out the match 6-1 in the second set. But I try to keep a positive face and body language going, but sometimes it’s like I’m programmed to just lose and start going bonkers.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I think Callum has to become comfortable with moonball tactics as it will make him a more complete player. The best players can’t have that insecurity in the back of their mind that they will fall apart when moonballing happens. Callum can’t have any kryptonite. When he solves moonballing and can hammer moonballers too he will be an even better, more confident, dominant player. Who can confidently answer any question he is asked on the tennis court.

  • Da · November 25, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I agree with you Scoop. It would have been interesting to see how Callum would’ve handled it if the boy had continued to moon ball. For some reason, after he had success doing it in the third game of the set, he did it in the next game, but didn’t continue with it. It takes a certain mindset to moon ball. I don’t like it as a “nothing but” strategy, but it can work from time to time at this age and level.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Maybe your comment, Let’s see some REAL tennis discouraged and embarrassed the poor kid from continuing to do it! Moonballing works at every level. I had a match at Sutton East in an Open two years ago against a guy who played (and lost) in Futures and he was up 3-0 because he was too much from the baseline and I couldn’t outhit him. Then I slowed it up and started to hit high and deep, nothing but high and deep – and then he could no longer hit winners and dominate from the baseline. He lost his patience and made all the errors and I won 12 straight games thanks to moonballs or high slow deep balls. I was told the finals of the National 50s in Sarasota last year was turned around when the one guy started hitting deep moonballs. Mr Moonballer had lost the first set and then won the match with his moonballs. Moonballs are real tennis, thinking tennis, figuring out what the opponent likes and doesn’t like and strategizing accordingly.

  • dan markowitz · November 26, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I didn’t say it loud enough where either Callum or his moon balling opponent could hear it. I think moon balling while it might just be “real tennis” is a crock. You might’ve employed the tactic in one of your matches or a player in the 50’s Nationals might’ve used it, but when’s the last time you saw a pro player moon ball or even a top junior?

    It doesn’t happen and the reason it doesn’t happen is that it’s not a tactic that’s ever successful at the highest level of tennis. I lived in Palo Alto for a year in 1984 and went to see a lot of Stanford matches and I never saw any Cardinal player hit moon balls. I doubt seriously Dick Gould would ever recruit a player who used that tactic. And the simple reason is that when you’re playing at the highest level of the game, or that is your goal, which it is for Callum or any of these top juniors, hitting moonbeams will be a totally ineffective style of play because great players will just hit swinging volleys or overheads and win rather easily.

    Also, as a spectator, the beauty and thrill of the game is slowed and basically snuffed out when one player or both just start lobbing balls. Is there a skill to it? Absolutely, but it’s the most boring brand of tennis and in my mind, if you’re going to moon ball, just go play golf or some boring other sport. The thrill and challenge in tennis is hitting quick balls with lots of spin, slice or angles and reacting to those shots. When you slow the game to a snail’s pace, it’s almost unwatchable.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 26, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Another thing is…these kids are trying to win these events, but it’s 12-and-under, one kid is actually 8, his mom apparently was top 100 and played all 4 slams, but I didn’t catch her name, and he’s in the quarters today, and you want to see kids develop their games. You’re not developing your game by learning how to hit moon balls. You’re just not.

    Like Callum in his quarters yesterday played a boy who’s coached by Gilad Bloom and this kid had really nice hands, he served and volleyed, he hit three drop shot volley winners, but Cal grinned him down and basically out hit from the baseline and beat him 3 and 1. The kid was disappointed, but his parents weren’t. They know he’s playing a style that will probably serve him best when he’s 16-18 and it really matters because college scholarships are on the line.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2017 at 8:16 am

    You dont see moonballs in the pros because the pros can all handle it and will make any moonballer pay. I do recall Karol Kucera trying moonballs vs Agassi at US Open in the later 90s and it worked too.

  • JG · November 27, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    whatever happened to that woman player who had some success at US Open qualifying, I think her last name was Cohen, she moon balled consistently –I assume the tactic didnt last and everyone figured her out. I believe she was a teenager, is she playing college now?

    For those of us playing indoors in the winter, the tactic is extremely effective as you back up the person so far its impossible to get the ball back unless you come in, especially if you put topspin on it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    JG; That was Julia Cohen and she was mid 20s a few years ago but she disappeared. I saw her two years ago at a tennis store in bradenton but not since. She might have hung it up. No weapons but a fighting spirit and consistency.



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