Nov/19

25

Franco Davin Is A Master Coach

Franco Davin is rarely credited as a top coach. Despite achieving career best results with Juan Martin Del Potro, Gaston Gaudio and Fabio Fognini (they just split), Davin is largely under the radar for his professional tennis acumen. I read some of his Instagram posts and decided to share some of his interesting insights and advices here.

The importance of first shots

Let’s imagine whenever a match starts. What do we know from kickoff?

1) The first shot (serve) is gonna be disputed in every single point.

2) Second shot (return) is going to be disputed on the same or minor percentage. Whenever an ace or double fault takes place, it’s not happening.

3) The third shot will be disputed whenever we lack aces, double faults, winner returns or mistakes during the devolution. It’s logical to think that the third strike will appear in a less frequent way than the first two shots.

4) So here we can follow up with an endless succession of strikes, which will happen in a less frequent way than the previous one.

So let’s say, we can conclude that the important thing is to learn how to play for the first strikes, because they are the most frequent ones. Whenever we play a 10 or 15 rally, we cannot avoid the first one, two or three shots.

We can add also that the way a point develops is deeply influenced by the first strikes.

And something else: if we can direct our ball to one particular spot on the court, we are shortening ours rival area of responses (Tennis is very geometric). With the first strikes, we can force our rivals to direct the ball wherever we like.

———————–

Avoid thinking out loud

In my opinion, one of the most important subjects as a coach is to avoid thinking out loud.

Whenever I think a player needs to improve some aspects of the game, I don’t let them know immediately.

Why? Because I think improvements come after a series of steps:

1) Realizing certain observations from different perspectives.

2) Being sure that the change is necessary and imagining what I want to accomplish.

3)Designing a strategy to achieve the improvement, starting on how to approach the player, creating new exercises, the moment we should force the change and measuring the effectiveness of the work.

We should not forget: every single player is unique and a different strategy should be adapted to everyone.

I really think by highlighting a defect, we are not pushing towards progress. Actually it seems more counterproductive.

Watching, analyzing and take as homework building a strategy is, for me, the most effective thing.

———————

In my opinion, one of the most difficult as a tennis coach, is shaping our player’s profile during their formative process.

And what I mean with this is, imagining how our players will perform whenever they reach the pro level.

It’s right here when a lot of things happen: some of them will wonder how they would like to play, some other will try to adapt the game due to their characteristics and so on. An infinite number of variables will come up at the time of settling a conversation with our player.

Asking our players to highlight 4 main characteristics they would like to acquire to their game in their future help to us coach to organize and guide our work. Incredibly, this question marks us how well our player is walking towards their goals and it also shows us their perception of the game.

I always try to be creative in this process. A few years ago, we asked several U14 players if they could name 4 animals that may have a useful characteristic for playing Tennis.

Answers were pretty good but there were only two of them that came up to me as a complete surprise: “The ant because it will try to win every single point of the match: both the good ones and also the bad ones” (I really thought about Nadal) “The condor, because it will raise to a considerable height and would watch the match from above, understanding everything better” (I thought about Murray)

By watching a Tennis match from above (we’ll discuss this topic during the next post), we can assure that Tennis is a solely geometric sport and this, brings up some consequences.

Knowing where are we going, allow us to choose the best path.



————-

As regards pressure (the main subject we discussed during our last post), we reached @pablo_pecora and he told us: “Whenever players feel under pressure, it’s easy to notice how their systems become unorganized. It’s easy to witness how they give up quickly, they try to avoid the moment with complaints and excuses, they irritate, defeat is just around the corner.
Players who are submerged in their emotional world, absorbed by the consequences of the tie, are inmature as regards competitiveness and may be a victim of high pressure sports.
Only a small group can handle uncomfortable situations, can play to their 100%, continue struggling without a complaint, they stick to a pre-shaped plan, even if it’s the one for an emergency situation, they compete DEFYING THE MOMENT. What happens with the other players? The ones who even responding to an unconscious pattern are not able to overcome, to win. They travel to a predictable model of failure because they are not sufficiently prepared regarding their mentality.
Not knowing our player in order to anticipate pre-expected reactions and not finding these times to practice moments of tension, anguish with the work team, it’s an inconvenient.
We must break pre established beliefs, knowing which kind of emotion may kidnap our player during the middle of the match and have physical, mental routines to face the moment and overcome the situation.”

———–

 Epochs

In my opinion, it’s great to introduce young players into the conversation and discussions about Tennis. I think it’s both useful for them and us.

Not long ago, they told me that yesterday’s players wouldn’t be able to match up against the current players.

I’ll add something: I think that the best players from past times, would play differently in today’s Tennis. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t do the same things they’ve done during their peak: they’ll design a game strategy to overthrow the ones who are higher.

Actually, it’s the same thing they did during their times. They designed a game strategy to defeat their rivals.

Needless to say, they wouldn’t be able to perform the same game in today’s Tennis.

I close my eyes and I imagine myself watching a 14 years old Guillermo Vilas and I’m sure he’ll be planning a way of surpassing Federer, Djokovic or Nadal.

And I’ll go one step ahead: maybe present young players are not thinking about how they can defeat the top players, instead, they are probably copying them. Maybe, this is the main cause why they won’t overthrow them until the Elite players have a low performance due to their age or injuries.


In 2019 Davin published a book in English and Spanish titled “Game, Set and Math.”

177 comments

  • Andrew Miller · November 26, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Borfiga, wise coach. Wish we had him in U.S.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Hartt, I will try to dig up the quotes of Dancevic on his total destruction of Granollers.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    Andrew, remember Federer tried to categorize that Djokovic double MP down forehand slapshot return lightning bolt winner as a junior luck shot. Federer practically mocked that shot in the press conference as the luckiest shot he ever saw. But Djokovic corrected that mischaracterization by Federer, he revealed it was a shot that he and Coach Gencic were smart enough to master and perfect for when the the time came to unleash it. The moment of truth came and Djokovic reached into his bag of tricks and executed Coach Gencic’s secret weapon shot which to this day and forever is one of the all time greatest forehands the tennis world has ever witnessed. It may be the all time greatest forehand ever struck. I can’t think of another better struck forehand in such a pressure packed moment. That shot by Djokovic may be the most memorable stroke in tennis history. I can’t think of another.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Jon King and his daughter should read the Gencic interview once a week and apply it religiously.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    Frank Dancevic is one of the best Biofile interviews I ever did. Still remember some of this stories still now ten years later. Hilarious stuff.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    If USTA triples Borfiga’s salary – they should – he will be in Orlando in a week. Rumors swirling that Borfiga has had enough with Montreal icy winters and snowstorms and potholes and sub teen temperatures and he’s ready to relocate in sunny paradise Orlando.

  • Matty · November 26, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    @Scoop. You’re right about that Djoker forehand swinging slap shot. That one shot, besides saving match point, catapulted Djokovic into believing he could compete with the top two players. Until that time, Fed & Rafa took turns ensuring he’d win no majors. Thereafter, about 16 major wins and countless other championships….

  • Jon King · November 26, 2019 at 11:37 pm

    I am going to read the Gencic interview and learn more about her tonight.

    Scoop, USTA Orlando is a subject we know plenty about. What a political stew of nepotism. Kristina Adams is the power broker at USTA. She replaced Pat Mac with her friend, Martin Blackman, who she hired as head of player development. We knew Martin for years, his kids played tennis locally, basically he is a decent park coach and absolutely nothing more. His own kids were never more than below average local players. yet he was given full power over player development and the mega facilities in Orlando.

    Then below that you have Richard Ashby who gets to run the department searching and developing talented girls. My buddy who played for Ohio State 25 years ago used to work with him. His basic appraisal was ” he has always been an ahole”. Sure enough, he certainly is from our dealings with him.

    So unfortunately for anyone outside to break up the USTA development cabal, they would have to go to the board of directors, above Katrina Adams. Because her buddies are now firmly in control.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 1:24 am

    Hartt – I was wondering about the ATP program in Australia – don’t know the details but I certainly hope the scenario you suggest doesn’t happen. If there’s competition for courts the women probably will be pushed aside – particulary in Brisbane because the drawcards will be playing in Auckland. I’m generally in favour of mixed tournaments but not always.

    Re coaching – yes, I agree about women needing a coach all the time. Look no further than Kerber, and maybe Muguruza. Last year Angie was lost after she dumped Scheuttler. She didn’t seem to have a clue. And that after 3 GSs and at 31. Just one example.

    It’s looks like a kind of learned helplessness. Years ago many players, men and women, didn’t have a coach with them all the time – they couldn’t afford it. Martina did as she grew more more successful but she didn’t earlier. Billie Jean never did – she used to go to see a series of coaches over her career but they didn’t travel with her. Started to become a fashion in the 80s. Coaches became stars in their own right.

    And the constant turnover – that’s another bad thing. One or two losses and out they go. No patience and maybe no proper work ethic. That’s something the WTA could be looking at instead of the stupidity they go in for now.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 1:49 am

    I said ‘last year’ Angie parted from Scheuttler. Of course it was this year. I’ve already put 2019 in the past – imagine quite a few people, in various walks of life, would like to do that 🙂

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 7:51 am

    Catherine, I like the phrase “a kind of learned helplessness.” And of course the WTA made that worse with on-court coaching. I was glad Bianca answered “no” to the OCC question, and she rarely uses it.

    Michael Joyce talked about how a player may work hard for a while but if she doesn’t start getting good results soon may give up. He said that happened with Genie. When they started working together she worked hard and listened. He thought she was serious and he was optimistic. But after a couple poor results, I think at Miami and IW, she was suffering from burnout and an ab problem. She said she wanted a break, and he fully expected her to come back after a couple weeks. But after 4 or 5 weeks she phoned him and her trainer, Scott Byrnes, to say she wasn’t sure she wanted to put in the necessary work to come back. So she basically wasted all that hard work and the progress she’d made over several months. The sad thing is Michael Joyce thinks Bouchard is capable of being a top 30 player.

    Joyce said it was necessary to work consistently over the entire year. Even a brief break meant having to recover some of the conditioning, etc. He gave Sharapova as an example of the right approach. In the years that he worked with her she just took 2 weeks off per year, one in the spring and one at the end of the season.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Must be like banging your head against a brick wall, working with some women players.

    From what Michael Joyce says I doubt that Genie has it in her mentally to be a top 30 player. Makes all the difference.

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Catherine, our concerns about the Brisbane tourney were well-founded. The WTA expert on MCM just posted:

    “Pathetic. Due to ATP Cup, WTA Premier in Brisbane will not have access on center court until Thursday. If you’re wondering, 6 top ten WTA players will be in Brisbane. Not on CC. All top 3 (Ash, Ka, Naomi) and Svitolina, Petra and Kiki. I suppose ATP Cup has only top 10 players in the teams.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Bouchard has it in her to be top 5 and make major finals again. But someone like Davin or Sumyk and herself have to conspire together to dedicate and sacrifice to make it happen.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 9:21 am

    This takes me back. One reason I don’t like mixed events except at big tournaments (IW, Miami eg) or GSs. Given half a chance the ATP will roll over the women’s game.

    Bet the WTA does nothing.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Scoop – I’m sorry, I don’t think Genie is going to do that. She would have done it by now. She just doesn’t want to do the work. She couldn’t have made it clearer. Can’t make bricks out of straw.

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Maybe Michael Joyce will write a book. Sharpie called him like a little brother (not the most ringing endorsement!) but I think Joyce’s results are excellent and he is a disciple of Lansdorp, who if anything else made sure strokes held up under pressure (this was a constant for all his students – Spadea included!).

    Has anyone read Lansdorp on any of this stuff? He has a stream of consciousness blog on tennis but hasn’t updated. His quips have a mix of absolute pride and mocking and everything. The guy is salty but who am I to criticize Lansdorp?

    He sounds a little like Stefanki. He likes certain players and then notices their games collapse. Seems to like Sloane Stephens a lot, I do too! Just that she’s like Sock the lone wolf, in that she’s only up for tennis every few years and does stuff her own way.

    Lansdorp Blog Below. Bouchard I think said she wanted to keep working with Lansdorp but he was sick so shuttled her off to Joyce and she and Joyce were like sandpaper and whatever doesn’t go well with sandpaper. Oil and vinegar. Etc.

    If anything Lansdorp is amusing. I remember he talked about how he told Sharpie hey if you win big get me a sports car and she sent him chocolates or perfume or something like that. He took it as her acknowledgement that even if she believed fully that she was the universe’s gift to tennis that Lansdorp made a difference so he took what credit he could get!!!!

    https://robertlansdorp.wordpress.com/

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Yes, learned helplessness is a great description. WTA should never have had and should abolish all on court coaching. Both players should have to work it all out by themselves. Heck coaching is not even allowed in juniors except before a tiebreak if the kids split the first 2 sets. And even then most kids wave it off as to not be embarrassed.

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Andrew, love Lansdorp! His blog was epic but I think he has had health issues and does not update it. He still thinks Sharapova owes him lots of money for what he did for her!

    His rants on the USTA player development system were epic. He also did a long piece on how juniors can hit academy balls, USTA balls, or future pro balls, and that determines how far they can potentially go in tennis.

    There used to be some videos of Lansdorp giving lessons on You Tube. Salty is definitely the word, but the guy is an excellent coach.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Lansdorp claims he was the first travelling coach, with Tracy Austin, and he probably was. But he must be well advanced in years now.

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Jon, Lansdorp seems like a riot to me, a character in a good way. He and Annacone etc they are all competitors so he takes potshots and they are pretty amusing. I attribute it to “competitive nature” and fact he has a perch and standing from which to take the potshots. I like him.

    Yes you mentioned the bad health. I *think* I read something about Lansdorp saying he’d coach until the very last second of his life. Real warrior. Doesn’t just blow sunshine. Emphasizes footwork too which is a big deal!!!

    A coach we worked with was a Lansdorp follower, went to watch him coach, took notes, passed it on. Every single thing he said worked! Fixed whole family’s game. Felt like my gosh, I’ve been doing this wrong for over a decade!!!

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 10:02 am

    The Lansdorp blog was fun. It’s a shame he is no longer able to do it. There is no doubt about what he thinks, especially concerning a lot of topspin. He is a big advocate of hitting the ball hard, so I wonder what he makes of Andreescu, who hits the ball hard and, from what I understand, will use considerable topspin.

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 10:14 am

    It sounds like Muguruza is injury-free now. Let’s hope that hiring Conchita as her coach does mean better results. She is too talented to languish outside the Top 30.

    “Conchita and I have known each other for a long time, we have a very close relationship since always, we have shared many beautiful moments and her availability has meant that we can get together.” Muguruza told the EFE news agency.
    “She is a woman who has been in my situation. She can understand me better than other person and that has greatly influenced my decision.” She added.” (ubitennis.net)

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Catherine, Lansdorp is 81. He did travel to work with Genie for a while, but his poor health meant that could not continue.

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 10:50 am

    This is an article about Lansdorp by Colette Lewis in 2009. The article is interesting, but the comments section is even better. I noticed that a certain Jon King contributed.
    https://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.com/2009/03/talking-with-robert-lansdorp.html

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Yes Hartt, he is a big advocate of going for the shots at a young age which is totally different than most coaches. Most teach kids to get it in over and over and the power will come later. But in my experience, that is not often the case. If they do not develop the timing and mindset to go for it, and start winning by just getting balls back, eventually many of them never develop power and their games dead end.

    It takes a special kid to be willing to lose a lot at a young age and keep going for their shots until the control catches up.

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Ha Hartt…dang, I forgot about that, what an idiot I was 10 years ago! Just getting into junior tennis coaching and thought I knew way more than I did!

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Jon, you make an excellent point about young players. Shapovalov is a good example. Even as a kid he was an aggressive player with a one-handed BH. He was losing a lot, but his mother told him to stick with it, when he got bigger and stronger his time would come. In the meantime it was more important for him to develop his game than to win matches.

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Lewis summarized what Lansdorp said in their telephone conversation, including:

    “Lansdorp attributed that to eye-foot coordination, which he feels is much more important than hand-eye, and suggested it may account for the European domination of the game now. Other qualities he looks for in assessing a prospect (and although he will go as young as four, he seems to prefer the 8 to 10 age group):

    –Parental involvement. A parent dedicated to doing what it takes to get the child to the lessons, the tournaments, the practice matches.

    –Ball striking (my phrase, not his). He looks for a cleanly struck ball, with depth, and–this seems counter-intuitive to me–no unforced errors. They are a waste of my time, he said.

    –Willingness to be coached. Lansdorp is famous for throwing players off his courts if they do not show the ability to concentrate, absorb his teachings and try their best to implement his suggestions.

    –Independent thinking. If a player can’t offer his own feedback on the reasons for his errors or his winners, Lansdorp questions whether he can process information appropriately for high-level tennis. I suspect that mumbling “I don’t know” when asked why you hit a drop shot will get you thrown off the court in a hurry.

    –Love of the game. Although Lansdorp scoffed at this when I phrased it that way, he did say later that a player really needs to enjoy just hitting the ball, wants to hit the ball again and again.

    –Competitiveness. Wanting to play matches and caring about winning them. He went on to deride the USTA’s decision some years ago, since abandoned, to shield 12-and-unders from the pressure of competing.”

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 11:12 am

    That Lansdorp article mentioned Mariya Shishkina, had not thought about her in years. She was the first ‘it’ tennis girl we ever met. Our first trip to IMG they had her on their videos. She had sponsors at age 11, guaranteed to be the next Sharapova. We watched her work out with all kinds of medicine balls, balancing on giant balls while performing exercises. Everyone thought she was a can’t miss player. Her mother was the toughest tennis parent we had ever met.

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Jon, classic. I love that. Thanks for (finally) giving Lansdorp props!

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Jon, what happened to Shishkina?

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Hartt may be able to add some here as he read Sharpies book. Her peers for the most part in Russia trained under Safin’s mom at the Spartak club in Moscow (as well as some other legends there). Sharpie was different in a lot of ways, and is also heads and shoulders above other Russian champs such as Kuznetsova and Myskina and non champ solid players like Dementieva.

    Always amazing how much there is to tennis. Guys like Safin have a lot more in common with players like Tiafoe than we’d think, Safin’s parents both worked at the famous Spartak tennis club in Moscow which produced Russia’s best players in Safin and Kafelnikov, but not Sharpie!

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Shishkina: wrist surgeries and more. Clearly this player was overworked. Can’t do that to a kid.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Lansdorp used to shout out to Tracy from the stands when she was playing. Can’t remember anyone complaining but that was a long time ago.

    Gloria Connors was known for her vocalising too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Catherine, if Bouchard gives up her quest to braak Wilt Chamberlain’s record, anything is possible. The talent and fight are there. The software needs an overhaul.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Landsdorp heled develop Sampras, Austin, Tarango, Sharapova, and probably a few more. That’s quite a resume.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Nice of Sharapova to give Landsdorp a Wimbledon towel after she won first Wimbledon, as a token of gratitude for his coaching contributions. So generous of Maria!!

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Andrew, I am a “she” not a “he.” Although Sharapova showed her terrific talent from an early age, her game was developed in the States, not Russia. She worked with her father a lot when she was very young, and even after she started to train in the US.

  • Hartt · November 27, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Vasek Pospisil did a radio interview recently. He said his body is the best it’s been in 5 or 6 years, following his initial back injury in 2014. He is very excited about next season, although he understands there will be peaks and valleys. He said he is having a vacation right now, but is anxious to get back on the practice court. This is encouraging for Vashy fans. I hope he can fulfill his potential in the remaining years of his career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    I saw Shishkina about eight to ten years ago at IMG, she was training indoors, they were filming and photgraphing her, Murphy Jensen was there too, maybe he was doing a story on her. She was clearly getting the star treatment. Totally forgot about her. She was in perfect shape, very strong, great form, great attitude. Guess she got the star treatment way too early and it deformed her. Wonder what she is up to now and how far did she actually get in juniors?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Shishkina changed her name to Maria Genovese and she plays tennis now at Georgia Gwinnet College. She had some good wins in juniors, beat Kenin 6060 in 2012. Then lost to her in a pro ITF 64 64 years later. She had two wrist surgeries before age 18. Has not played at ITF pro events since 2017. Got to 90 in iTF juniors.

  • catherine · November 27, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    I wonder how many players appear and disappear over the years around the fringes of junior tennis and what strange stories are behind them. And how they cope when it’s all over.

    Shishkina to Genovese ? Bizarre.

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Great info Scoop. We were also visiting IMG when she was working out. They put her through workouts that NFL players would cringe at. Everyone there thought she was a guaranteed superstar.

    We chatted with her mother when we were there. She was an interesting character. Apparently a few years after that she got super involved with religion, like I mean as religious as is humanly possible, got born again, etc.

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Yeah, the Shishkina thing is strange. Her mother told us back then they were Russian, both mother and father. But on her college personal info page it says “Daughter of Carlos Ortiz and Marina Genovese”.

    I’m no detective, but Carlos Ortiz does not sound Russian to me.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Tennis is a tough sport, they essentially sacrificed her life for tennis and she got to 900 in the world. She had some competitive matches with Bellis and Bencic and Kenin. So she was in the ballpark. Who knows how much pressure was put on her from how many directions. At least she is still playing competitively. She’s a UTR 10. I know 14 year olds that are 11 already.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    The whole clan may have changed their names.

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    “Hartt may have more info, as she read Sharpies book”. Hartt, noted! Hope Jon, Scoop don’t pull this surprise I’ll be embarassed.

  • Andrew Miller · November 27, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Drastic name change. Sounds “messed up”. And playing for a NAIA school. Went into hiding in plain sight, maybe owed sponsors some cash.

  • Jon King · November 27, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Yes, she had a ton of pressure on her. I remember her being in Teen Vogue and having Nike sponsorships at like age 11. So she was not only going to be a top tennis player, but also a model. I think Monica Viele also had that dual expectations of player and model on her also.

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