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MAKING PLATFORM TENNIS MORE INTERESTING
HOME > EXTRAS > GUEST EDITORIALS > MAKING PLATFORM TENNIS MORE INTERESTING
Bob Calloway
09-05-2002

I read with interest the two articles in the May issue of PTM, one by Charles Vasol expressing the point of view that platform tennis lacks spectator appeal because the points and therefore the matches are too long and an opposing point of view written by Wayne Dollard. While I can document the evidence Chuck Vasol uses to support his position that matches are lengthy, I don’t think his solutions are necessary. Yes, in National ranking tournaments, men and women, matches average 1 ¼ hours per set from the round of 16 on. This is why the Nationals, when you have a draw of 128 teams and you run it in two days, Saturday is an endurance contest. However, I disagree with Wayne Dollard’s point: “The bottom line here is that platform tennis, like other sports will not grow from spectator excitement”.

Platform tennis points could be shorter and more exciting for spectators. It is just that not enough players have spent enough time developing “kill shots” to terminate points. Why has it not happened? It has to a limited extent. However, I feel most players are, for the most part, constrained by the paradigms of tennis strokes and habit and don’t spend the time and energy to develop and practice “kill shots”, shots that will end points. As evidence, a few of us had the pleasure to watch Brian Uihlein’s overhead attack against Mansager and Goodspeed, arguably as good a team from the backcourt as there is in the game, at the Sound Shore tournament in January of 2003. Brian repeatedly used an exciting variety of high risk, athletic overheads which produced spins and placements resulting in a number of outright winners. This is an example of a player who has thought, as Chuck Vasol suggests, “out of the box” and has developed some unique skills and is experiencing great success. In addition, there are now a few players who can hit overheads and serves so hard that the ball will cross back over the net. Further, I submit that I and any number of PPTA certified professionals could work with a reasonably skilled tournament player and in two weeks of daily skill development, practice and drills could make that player able to hit stop volleys that come back into the net on the opponents side, on demand and with confidence against any but the strongest drives. These are but a few of the skills which will produce “winning” shots, thereby terminating points, making points and matches shorter and, incidentally, more exciting from a spectators standpoint. There are many more which creative minds and willing, risk taking, players could develop.

The top players are so good today that length of matches is definitely a problem. I recall listening to a conversation among several top tournament players who agreed that one could tell with reasonable certainty who would win the quarterfinal matches by looking at the draw for the first two rounds. If a top team had a draw in which they were going to have to play a tough match in either the first or second round, or both, their chances in the quarters would be severely affected. So the length of matches and the resulting drain on energy is an important and possibly deciding factor. I think players and teaching professionals should therefore do more thinking “outside the box” and become more creative in their approach to the game. This will entail accepting greater risk and test a player’s confidence. However, the benefit will be shorter, less energy stripping, matches. To me, this is the direction the game should be taking rather than changing the rules or accepting the fact that platform tennis is not an exciting sport to watch.



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