Sunday, February 21, 2016

Filoli Gardens, Woodside

Today, we decided to return to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, to witness the blooming of many beautiful flowers. Despite it being late February, a lot of flowers were already past blooming in Northern California.

Last time I visited Filoli was in May, 2011 and it looked a lot different than today. In February, many of the flowers (such as roses) have not yet bloomed, but others, like dandelions and early tulips were already reaching their prime.


It wasn't very crowded and the walks among the many gardens were very relaxing. I hope to return in May to see the blooming of roses.




It's always refreshing to smell freshly blooming flowers.












There were fields of blooming yellow and white dandelions.




A few tulips were also blooming.




Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tennis Strategy

  1. Always watch the ball (Try to figure out whether it is a top-spin, back-spin, or slice)
  2. Stay in the present. Don't think about winning or losing. Focus only on the current point (forget all past points won or lost)
  3. Learn how to relax. The body performs best when it's relaxed
    • On a count of 4, breathe in/out. Slow breathing helps to calm nerves
  4. The time to think is during changeovers. Don't evaluate your game, while it's going on
  5. Keep your shots landing deep (to prevent the opponent from approaching the net), close to the baseline is better. 
  6. Add top-spin to keep your opponents farther back
  7. Don't try to win points during return of serve
  8. Hit most of your shots cross-court (statistically best shot)
    • The net is lower by 6 inches at cross-court
  9. Drift back to the center of the court after each ground stroke
  10. Never change the style of a winning game (always take chances when losing)
  11. Keep the first two shots on the court (majority of games are over after the first 4 shots)
  12. Separate balls into two types: Green and Red
    • Green balls are balls that can be hit with any stroke you want. Hit to your opponent's weakest side with your best stroke
    • Red balls just need to get over the net. Use whatever shot you can to do so
  1. Attack the net at every opportunity
  2. Play the percentages
  3. Under pressure, play the right shot (not the SAFE shot)
  4. When forced, get the ball up
  5. Breakdown your opponent's rhythm
  6. Overplay to your opponent's strong shot
  7. Hit cross-court ground strokes
  8. Hit with purpose
  9. Play with a game plan
  10. Basics of a sound strategy:
  • Every shot is very important because it could be your last. 
  • Anticipate opportunities and hit the first short ball.
  • Instinctively move forward not back. 
  • Mentally know that you are here for the whole match. 
  • Forget the winners that your opponent hit, just play. 
  • Buy time at every opportunity so you can be prepared to hit.
  • Get all your serves in deep. The first puts pressure on the returner the second on the server 
  • Keep the ball down the middle and deep consistently
  • Swing through your shots don't shorten your swing if you hit long at first. 
  • Keep moving and aware of your balance. 
  • Strive to hit technically correct shots during the match. 
  • Visualize your shots as you hit them, mental pictures produce physical results.


  1. When the ball comes cross-court to your partner, only briefly look. Then return to focus on what your opponents are doing.
  2. When to poach?
    1. When the server's ball is bouncing in the service box, run to the net's center
  3. Essential doubles strategy
    1. Hit volley back to back
  4. Tennis Double Shading
  5. Decide where to serve
  6. Overcome any hurdles to communication
  7. Understand what works for you
  8. Become Fluid movers
  9. Learn the power of less pace
  10. Ease your way forwards
  1. Always watch the ball
  2. Exhale when  serving or returning a shot (relaxes muscles)
    • When opponent hits the ball, I inhale
    • When I am about to hit the ball, I exhale (this relaxes the muscles)
  3. Focus on getting the racket back as early as possible (early preparation for the next shot)
  4. Focus on finishing properly (long, extended follow-through is required)
  5. Focus on split-stepping during the return of serve
  6. When serving, hit the ball at its highest point
  7. On serve return, focus on front of the body (imagine wall behind me), don't take racket back too much (like you would in a normal ground stroke)
  8. On volley, contact at the front of the body

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tennis Volley

Tennis Volley
  1. Grip
    1. Use Continental(2) or bevel (2) grip. It minimizes grip changes during the game
    2. Slide the hand further than normal on the grip for more control.
  2. Preparation (when opponent hits the ball)
    1. Knees are slightly bent
    2. Racket is held in front at a 30 degree angle
    3. Watch the ball
    4. When the opponent hits the ball, do a split step in the direction of the ball. 
    5. Decide between Forehand Volley or Backhand Volley
  3. Forehand Volley
    1. Turn right foot 45 degrees
    2. Move the racket to a vertical position with a bent arm
    3. Step forward with your left foot
    4. Execute a short "karate" chop motion
    5. You should contact the ball 1-1.5 feet in front of your chest (racket tip should still be up)
    6. Right arm fully extends after contact
  4. Backhand Volleys
    1. Turn left foot 45 degrees
    2. Move the racket to a vertical position with a bent arm and turn the shoulders
    3. Step forward with your right foot
    4. Execute a short "karate" chop motion
    5. You should contact the ball 1-1.5 feet in front of your chest (racket tip should still be up)
    6. Right arm fully extends after contact
  5. Completion
    1. Bring arms back
    2. Get ready for the next volley
    3. Move your head to observe the ball
  6. Refinement
    1. Goal is to hit sharp angles to the side of the court
    2. Try to hit volleys at shoulder height as you can hit them much harder than low hit balls
    3. Keep arms in front to minimize extra movement. Never bring elbows behind the body.
    4. The swing occurs during forward body movement


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tennis Slice Backhand

Tennis Slice Backhand
  1. Grip
    1. Choose Continental (2) grip
  2. Initial Preparation (before incoming ball bounces)
    1. When the opponent hits the ball, do a split step into a Closed Stance in the direction of the ball. 
    2. In Closed Stance, load up the back leg (70% back, 30% front), front foot pointing at 45 degrees, right at 90 degrees. Make sure that the back foot is 3 inches behind the front foot!
      • Bring left arm back and above the shoulder. The racket should be parallel to the ground with its face open
      • You should visualize the height and direction of the returned ball
    3. Backhand Slice Stroke
      1. When the incoming ball bounces, breathe in and start the backhand stroke
      2. Be sure to accelerate gradually (not suddenly) and build up maximum racket speed when about to hit the ball. You may need to initiate strokes earlier than you're used to. Making the noise of "vrrrooooom" will help  you to achieve this new timing.
      3. Kick off with the back leg
      4. The right arm drops down in a chopping forward motion, moving straight down
      5. The longer the swing from high to low, the greater the power
      6. Breathe out and hit the ball with the right arm fully extended at waist level (ball should be 1-1.5 feet in front)
      7. Your head should be as still as possible during the backhand stroke, with the eyes tracking the ball. Do not move the head to look where the ball is going!
    4. Completion
      1. Finish the stroke with the shoulders pointing forward
      2. The left arm should be going backward (counter-balance)
      3. Move your head to observe the ball
    5. Refinements
      1. Hitting the ball more in front of you (instead of to the left), adds more slice (curves the ball)
      2. Finishing all the way to the side (with your right hand) adds more speed
    Tips
    1. When should I hit the slice (forehand or backhand)?
      1. General change of pace
      2. More favorable to use on the backhand side (forehand topspin is a more powerful stroke)
      3. Slice shots tend to stay lower, making the opponent bend

    Tennis One-Handed Backhand Drive


    1.    Grip
    1.    Use Semi-Western Backhand (8) for high balls
    2.    Use Eastern Backhand (1) for waist high balls
    3.    Use Continental (2) for low balls
    2.    Initial Preparation (before incoming ball bounces)
    1.    When the opponent hits the ball, do a split step in the direction of the ball. 
    2.    If you decide that this is a backhand drive, immediately execute the following preparation steps:
    3.    If you want to hit the ball straight ahead, aim for 6 o'clock on the ball. For left, aim for 5 o'clock on the ball. For right, aim for 7 o'clock. These adjustments are best made by setting up the stance slightly pointed left or right prior to executing the stroke.
    4.    Watch the ball and decide to hit it with a backhand drive and prepare for the Closed Stance or Open Stance
    5.    In Closed Stance, load up the back leg (70% back, 30% front), front foot pointing at 45 degrees, right at 90 degrees. Make sure that the back foot is 3 inches behind the front foot!
    6.    In Open Stance, load up the left leg (70% left, 30% right), left foot pointing 90 degrees
    7.    Bring left arm back. The racket tip should be pointing up.
    8.    You should visualize the height and direction of the returned ball
    3.    Backhand Drive
    1.    When the incoming ball bounces, breathe in and start the backhand stroke
    2.    Be sure to accelerate gradually (not suddenly) and build up maximum racket speed when about to hit the ball. You may need to initiate strokes earlier than you're used to. Making the noise of "vrrrooooom" will help  you to achieve this new timing.
    3.    As you move the shoulder 45 degrees back (with back pointing to the ball), the right arm drops down, with the racket lagging and the butt cap pointing parallel to the baseline. The racket should become parallel to the ground.
    4.    Kick off with the back leg, rotating the hips clockwise
    5.    Rotate the shoulders
    6.    The longer the swing from low to high, the longer the flight path of the ball
    7.    Breathe out and hit the ball with the right arm fully extended at waist level (ball should be a few feet in front)
    8.    Your head should be as still as possible during the backhand stroke, with the eyes tracking the ball. Do not move the head to look where the ball is going!
    4.    Completion
    1.    Finish the stroke with the right arm pointing up, with the butt cap pointing forward
    2.    The left arm should be going backward (counter-balance)
    3.    Pivot on the left leg and step forward with your right leg after hitting the ball. Forward momentum is critical for maximum power transfer
    4.    The chest should be facing forward on completion
    5.    Move your head to observe the ball
    5.    Refinements
    1.    A more vertical swing adds more topspin

    2.    Larger knee bend (and straightening out the front leg) adds more power and topspin

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    Tennis Forehand Drive



    Tennis Forehand Drive

    1.    Grip
    1.    Use Eastern Forehand (3) or Semi-Western (4), with index knuckle on bevel (3) or (4)
    2.    Be sure that the wrist is loose, only the ring and pinkie fingers are holding the racket (to allow for a smooth racket rotation)
    3.    The pinkie finger should be wrapped around the tapered bottom of the racket
    4.    The index finger should be spread out "Captain Hook" style for more control
    2.    Preparation (before incoming ball bounces)
    1.    When the opponent hits the ball, do a split step in the direction of the ball. 
    2.    If you decide that this is a forehand topspin drive, immediately execute the following preparation steps
    3.    Select either Closed Stance or Open Stance to receive the ball
    4.    In Closed Stance, load up the back leg (30% front, 70% back), front foot pointing at 45 degrees, back foot at 90 degrees (Legs are perpendicular to direction you want to hit). Legs should be 3-4 inches wider than shoulder width.
    5.    In Open Stance, load up right leg (70% right, 30% left), right foot pointing 90 degrees.
    6.    If you want to hit the ball straight ahead, aim for 6 o'clock on the ball. To aim left, aim for 5 o'clock on the ball. To aim right, aim for 7 o'clock. These adjustments are best made by setting up the stance slightly pointed left or right.
    7.    Use the left arm to move the right arm into "L" position, right arm is horizontal with racket at 3 o'clock (ball is coming from 12 o'clock). Once in position, the left arm tracks the ball. The left arm can be further extended (to load up) for additional power.
    8.    For added power, the left arm could extend further out, to enable more shoulder rotation
    9.    You should visualize the height and direction of the returned ball
    3.    Forehand Drive
    1.    When the incoming ball bounces, breathe in and start the forehand stroke
    2.    Be sure to accelerate gradually (not suddenly) and build up maximum racket speed when about to hit the ball. You may need to initiate strokes earlier than you're used to. Making the noise of "vrrrooooom" will help you to achieve this new timing.
    3.    Kick off with the right leg, rotating the hips counter-clockwise and pushing off the ground
    4.    Rotate the shoulders, by using the "yes" motion of the left arm
    5.    Right arm drops down, with the racket head lagging and the butt cap facing the ball
    6.    Twist the door-knob (counter-clockwise) on the right arm to add more topspin
    7.    Hit the ball with the right arm fully extended at waist level (ball should be a 1-1.5 feet in front of your body) while breathing out
    8.    Your head should be as still as possible during the forehand stroke, with the eyes tracking the ball. Do not move the head to look where the ball is going!
    4.    Completion
    1.    Finish the stroke with the right arm near shoulder and elbow pointed at the opponent 
    2.    Pivot on the left leg and step forward on your right leg, after hitting the ball. Forward momentum is critical for maximum power
    3.    The chest should be facing forward on completion
    4.    Move your head to observe the ball
    5.    Refinements
    1.    A more vertical swing adds more topspin (use Semi-western grip)
    2.    More knee bend adds more topspin (while straightening the front leg)
    3.    Using Semi-Western(4) grip allows for more top-spin at the expense of power
    Roger Federer’s slow motion videos show how an ideal forehand drive should look.

    I have been watching lots of YouTube videos, in trying to improve my forehand groundstroke. The book Championship Tennis by Frank Giampaolo and Jon Levey has been extremely helpful, especially in illuminating the concept of Strike Zones.

    I did not realize that the forehand grip needs to change, depending on where the ball is in the strike zone.
    The grip influences the angle of the racket (Open or Closed) and your ideal swing.
    The index knuckle is the best indicator of the grip.
    1.    Use Continental (2) for below-the-waist shots (Open Face)
    2.    Use Eastern (3) for more power or waist-level shots (Closed Face)
    3.    Use Semi-Western (4) for a lot of spin or shoulder high shots (Closed Face)
    Strike Zone

    The Strike Zone is the 3-foot racket path window in which the string may contact the ball
    1.    Waist-level Strike Zone
    1.    Use Eastern (3) or Semi-Western (4) grip
    2.    The ball is hit when it reaches the player's waist
    3.    Use a compact loop back swing, along with a closed racket that drops about a foot below the contact point before accelerating to the strike zone
    4.    At impact, the racket face should be quiet and vertical
    5.    Do not move your head during ball impact!
    2.    Below-the-waist-Strike Zone
    1.    Use Continental (2) grip
    2.    Use abbreviated loop back swing (or not back swing at all)\
    3.    The lower the ball, the less back swing is needed
    4.    If the ball is too low, player should switch to Continental grip (more open face), making it easier to get underneath the ball over the net
    5.    The player should accelerate forearm speed to lift the ball 
    6.    At impact, the racket face should be quiet and vertical
    7.    Do not move your head during ball impact!
    3.    High Strike Zone
    1.    Use Semi-Western (4) grip
    2.    Use compact loop backswing and vertical racket face at shoulder height
    3.    Do not move your head during ball impact!

    Typical Problems
    1.    Use Eastern(3) grip, with space between index and middle fingers, for topspin
    2.    Use Semi-Western(4) grip for more topspin
    3.    The hook will help with the wrist snap
    4.    The forehand swing is moving at 45 degrees to the incoming ball
    5.    Stay away from Continental(2), as it inhibits topspin
    1.    Watch the video for proper wrist snap technique. This adds a lot of power!
    1.    Rotation (body rotates)
    2.    Table top (racket is horizontal, as if being placed on a table)
    3.    Tip lag (racket lags behind the body, with the cap pointing at the incoming ball)
    4.    Release the wrist
    1.    Keep the hitting arm fairly straight throughout the swing
    2.    Twist the hitting hand (like a door knob right, to pre-load) and snap back during the return
    3.    See these slow motion videos
    1.    Keep the hitting arm straight (don't bend it)
    1.    If the ball is falling short, I can initiate the stroke after the ball bounce and still hit it in front of me
    2.    If the ball is deep, initiate the stroke blind (you cannot wait to see the ball) before the bounce. (Otherwise, you will be late!)
    1.    For fast balls, initiate the stroke blind (before the ball bounce)
    2.    Don't panic - be smooth in your stroke (and don't speed up the stroke)
    3.    Don't rush your racket speed (a fast racket against a fast ball does not work)
    1.    Move back to hit the ball at your preferred height
    2.    Move in and taking the ball early (on the rise)
    3.    Drive volley (no ball bounce)
    4.    Hit the ball at its peak (off the bounce)
    §  The backspin (racket preparation) needs to be higher than the ball (you may need to jump, while moving forward)
    1.    Use the Strike Zone
    1.    During a return, hold both hands together on the racket, open up immediately
    1.    The key is timing. The moment when the racket hits the ball determines whether it will go straight or cross-court.
    1.    Closed (Perpendicular Stance)
    §  Advantage: Heavier/harder hit on the ball
    §  Disadvantage: It takes one extra step (slower to get to the ball)
    2.    Open (Parallel Stance)
    §  Advantage: Get to the ball much sooner (fewest steps). Keep forward movement!
    §  Disadvantage: Lighter hit on the ball
    1.    Problem: Most Tennis players mess up shots for two reasons:
    §  Too much tightness/tension in their body
    §  Not hitting a clean shot (off-center contact)
    2.    Solution:
    §  Keep the head steady and watch the racket. Do not look where the ball is heading or look at your opponent
    §  Hit the ball well in front of you, where you can see it
    14. When should I hit the slice (forehand or backhand)?
    1.    General change of pace
    2.    More favorable to use on the backhand side (forehand topspin is a more powerful stroke)
    3.    Slice shots tend to stay lower, making the opponent bend
    15. Footwork
    1.    After hitting the shot, get back (even if you think you hit a winner)
    1.    Lightest rackets for beginners
    1.    Easier volleying
    2.    Less deflection (more control)
    2.    Heavy racket for professional player
    0.    More topspin
    1.    Can hit ball more off center
    2.    More deflection
    Forehand Stroke Types
    1.    Topspin drive
    2.    Topspin loop
    3.    Short angle or side door
    4.    Slice
    1.    Start
    2.    Loading ("It's all in the hips!")
    3.    Lock In
    4.    Acceleration
    5.    Contact
    6.    Extension
    7.    Finish

    1.    Larger Head leads to more topspin (more string flex)
    2.    Wider string spacing leads to more topspin
    3.    Lower string tension leads to more topspin
    4.    15 gauge string has less spin (but breaks less often)
    5.    Poly string helps to get more topspin (more flex) and is more durable