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A Hard Pill To Swallow

You may be familiar with a Tennis Warehouse Talk Tennis forum member whose username was Kaptain Karl (KK). I haven’t seen any recent posts from KK and with further investigation, found that he has not participated in the forum since 2014. Finding him might be the subject of a future post but for now I’d like to tell you a little about one of his most popular posts, “The Six Playing Styles Described”.

Sooo...I have this shot in my arsenal that I pull out now and again. It made it’s way into my game when I started playing tennis somewhere around 8 years of age (circa 1972). I took a a handful of after-school lessons and entered a few local tournaments but for the majority of my formative years, my opponents were my two older brothers, my younger brother, my dad and his friends.

We all played with my dad and his compadres who loved the game but to my recollection, may not have enjoyed the running aspect of the game so much. Ironically, as you will read later, they were all doctors by profession and I believe, looked at a tennis match as a way to unwind and relieve a little stress. So as not to break too much of a sweat, they would spin and drop and chop every ball that came to them. Whenever their ball came back and bounced onto my side of the court, I would undoubtedly have to chase it in at least 2 different directions. And since their shots were difficult to return, the points ended very quickly. The spin was their strategy and they mastered the art. My brothers and I were oftentimes their victims but unknowingly became their apprentices.

Kaptain Karl, from the Talk Tennis forum actually defined this type of player:

Play Style #4a - The Spin Doctor

"Spin Doctor players are the highest developed of the Junk Ballers. They stroke the ball with pace (when they wish) but also with crazy slices, side spins, topspins and some spins we don’t yet have names for. Spin Doctors keep you off-balance, wrong footed and clumsily compensating for their shots by altering your own strokes. They are serious threats to both players who Attack the Net and Baseliners.

These days, I don’t use the Spin Doctor techniques as often as I did growing up but every once in a while I will dig them out of my bag.

A couple of years ago, I had a match with opponents I had not met and had no prior knowledge of their game. As I do with all my opponents, I watched them at warm-up and made my own assessment of their conditioning, mobility, strength, effort and general physicality. I realized quickly that it took slightly more effort for one of the ladies to get to the net from the baseline. I filed the information and proceeded with the match.

As the score drew tighter and tighter and my mind began to intermittently remind me that carpool time was approaching, I put into practice my best Spin Doctor shots chopping and slicing at every ball that came in my direction. And as I’d deduced earlier, she was unable to return them. We shut them down quickly and reached what would be our final match-winning game. I sliced a backhand return-of-serve forcing her to stumble helplessly and unsuccessfully to the ball. Then from nowhere, her opponent, red faced with nostrils flaring, glared at me from across the net and asked, “What are you doing?!” in a not so pleasant tone. I had no idea how frustrated and angry my Spin Doctor moves made them and therefore, had no answer for her.

From then on, I’ve used my manipulative shots only sparingly while my doubles partners encourage me to use them every chance I get. Last week I offered the spinny balls to an opponent who desperately tried everything she could to return them until finally they got the best of her. Frustrated and angry and maybe slightly embarrassed by now, she charged ahead. With her arms spread like an eagle and racquet drawn way too far behind her she connected with my heavily back-spun ball just as it started its retreat and caught it squarely on her strings! With a wild and flailing swing accompanied by an audible guttural expulstion (not too dissimilar to a mother’s final grunt while pushing out her first born), she sent the ball careening over the net, over the fence and into the parking lot! Strangely enough, it was me who was mortified fearing she was coming for me next. Thankfully, she did not and we won the match.

So my questions to you…I don’t like that the Spin Doctor prescription, although unintentional, can cause side effects such as irritability, anger and humiliation which then cause me to have personal discomfort. BUT, on the other hand, I whole-heartedly admire that it is a proven treatment which can be a potent strategy toward winning a match.

What do you think? Is spinning winning? Should I spin it to win it?

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