I remember watching Roger v Rafa in the hotel in Deia, and lying in the sun reading the brilliant Double Fault by Lionel Shriver. (BTW if you've not read this brilliant portrayal of rivalry and failed ambition among 2 aspiring tennis pro's, do check it out. So good)
So there I was watching and reading and thinking about tennis but I couldn't get a game with anyone. By the time I got to Barcelona I was itching for a hit!
So I dropped by the Sanchez-Casal academy to join in an afternoon of drills in the baking sunshine on superb clay courts.
Their trademark was a variety of different 4 ball drills. You'd start with a deep ball to the forehand to which you play a defensive return, short ball hit to your backhand for the approach shot, a deep ball to your backhand that has you back peddling before a short ball to the forehand which is crying out to be smacked down the line. Repeat again and again with different combinations of shots.
It was a great experience all round. As well as working on the strokes it was so cool to walk around the grounds where so many pro's have cut their teeth.
I'm still on the distribution list for their e-newsletter which arrived in my inbox the other day. It includes an interview with Feliciano Lopez who trained at the academy before the hard court season. In it he speaks of his love for the game, not just the benefits from the lifestyle but also how tennis, like any sport, creates healthy habits and disciplines.
So good to see a pro who is clearly still enjoying what he does.
Interviewer: What values are important for you as an athlete?
Feliciano: “The sport helps create habits, a discipline and routines that help you in your professional and personal life. It is very healthy and I recommend it; because you move around a good atmosphere no matter what sport you practice, and especially in tennis, which is my sport and I love it. Any child who practices a sport will be in contact with good things; the sport helps you think positively and in tennis more so.
I: What does tennis contribute to you and how does it help your life?
FL: “Since I was a kid I practiced much sport, quite a lot, and tennis is a marvelous sport. Mainly having to travel to so many countries gives you experience, you meet many people, different people, talk different languages…that helps you mature; travelling to many places…tennis helps you mature, and mature very fast.”
I: How does a player live the change from Junior to Professional?
FL: “In Spain we are very lucky because all young players have the option of competing in many tournaments at different levels, without having to travel too far. That is one of the most important aspects and that is why we have so many players who are currently standing out from the rest. I began to gain experience in these tournaments, playing in much in Spain, with illusion and then slowly I was able to begin taking the first steps in the professional world.”
I: What message do you give, as an athlete, to other young players?
FL: “What is most important is to be involved in sports, to enjoy it and to continue playing and having fun. Tennis, at the professional level, is very difficult and you must like it very much if you want to continue involved with what you are doing. Besides having qualities, you must have the illusion, motivation and like what you are doing. It is a great sport and all tennis player who I know that are standing out and getting good results, love what they do and feel the tennis game inside of them.”