New memberships are currently on hold – we’re re-thinking the format and layout.
My situation is probably unique – I mean, how many writer/photographers do you know of, who ended up teaching tennis by chance (for almost 20 years), built up an archive of (tens of) thousands of hi-speed tournament sequence photos, wrote their own instructional manual based on strokes of the world’s best players, and developed still-image stroke animations as a teaching aid? You now know of one.
1: … THE IMAGES AND ANIMATIONS
I originally shot tournament sequence photos to run the width of my tennis magazine articles – frame-by-frame – but digital imaging offered up the opportunity for educationally enhanced stroke sequences.
When I first showed one of this new batch of animations to am old friend (and Graphic Designer of note), he straight-away understood that which I did, when I first made a stroke sequence into a GIF animation over 20 years ago – the slightly jerky nature shows you each separate element within the full stroke.
In-depth tennis techniques can be served out in logical, visually stimulating portions and made sense of by the surrounding sentences.
There are currently two ways of seeing the stroke in motion on this site:
Click-Through Tennis Strokes
By clicking-thru the stroke frame-by-frame, you can go at your own pace and I can highlight any given element within the full movement, and point to a specific frame where relevant
Free Running Tennis Strokes
From my end, these free-running stroke animations can be shaped to shed light on any aspect of stroke play, for easy absorption, and every animation has been engineered to a specific purpose.
2: … THE WRITING AND STRUCTURE
People come to the tennis court – and tennis pages – with varying degrees of skill and knowledge.
For this reason, I’ve shaped (what I shall call) The Foundation Pages into a sort of technical climbing frame, intended to fast-track the reader to advanced tennis techniques, in logical, easy-to-grasp stages, and to which they can return time-and-again.
And – health, wealth and circumstances permitting – these pages are merely the first installment.
Remember – not only are you familiarising yourself with strokes, but also a very personal style of writing, which has developed in tandem with my own understanding of what happens on tennis courts at both the highest and lowest level.
3: … ‘ME, ME, ME’
I came to tennis from the wrong side of the English tracks when I joined a school trip to a tennis tournament, organised by our long-suffering Maths Teacher (and Wimbledon Umpire).
I went along just to skip lessons, and if I hadn’t been thrown out of the hospitality tent, for drinking beer and trying to pilfer the bar optics, I would never have laid eyes on one Jimmy Scott Connors, for it was he who convinced me – right there and then – that tennis was the real beautiful game.
As a youngster I couldn’t afford lessons and my first ‘coaching’ came at a College Evening Class when I’d left school, where I got to enroll free of charge with my UB40 (Unemployment Card).
I had my first pictures published in Blues & Soul magazine when I was still at school and around the same time I wrote a monthly column for Black Echoes music mag (about rare soul records) for a few pence a word.
As a fledgling writer/photographer I was proposed for membership of the National Union of Journalists by the late/great Malcolm Muggeridge (still got the letter) and my first grown-up cheque came via Editor Eric Bailey at SHE Magazine, for a words & pics feature on (Saint) Mother Teresa and her Sister’s in Calcutta.
I wandered into tennis coaching almost by accident (a longer story) and spent the best part of 20 enjoyable years teaching the game.
I got my first photographer credentials for both Miami and the French Open in 1988 (I think) and have been an intermittent visitor ever since.
I provided pictures, tournament reports, player interviews, features and instructional articles for tennis magazines in Europe, the USA and Britain.
I wrote (and illustrated) my own technical analysis series in the (then) top German tennis magazine, Tennis Revue (above), sold a series to the WTA’s ‘Inside Women’s Tennis’ mag, was a finalist in (the late Gene Scott’s) Tennis Week ‘Great American Tennis Writing Awards’, unloaded my tennis cock-up photos to the BBC’s ‘A Question of Sport’… and other pointless journalistic fluff.
From the outset, I covered tennis tournaments primarily to shoot hi-speed sequence photos for instruction, and I’ve built up a personal archive of many thousands.
I used my first sequence photos to analyse the stroke-play of the game’s best players and started writing my own coaching manual based on what I saw.
The knowledge on these pages has been written and structured in jargon-free language, and animated – from still images! – with due reverence for the skill of the game’s participants.
Along with many of ‘the greats’, there will be plenty of quirky strokes and lesser known gems, and what better reason to step up into the Covid (and pre-Covid) void, than to translate quality tennis strokes – and how to develop them – into common knowledge, for every age and standard?
Ultimately, The Tennis Book isn’t about how others hit tennis balls, but of how knowledge of excellence – if shared, understood, absorbed and acted upon – can effect everyone else, and I shall work to shed light on every stroke in the game, and make these pages as entertaining, informative and stimulating as possible.
Deny yourself the opportunity at your on-court peril!
4: DECLARATION OF INTENT
Raise up technical tennis as a words-and-pictures art form, do justice to the real beautiful game and the strokes of (as many as possible of) its gifted participants from the past 3 decades.
Make in-depth technical knowledge, and the opportunity to learn, available to anyone who can afford racket and balls (and if this site makes money, I’ll invest in those who cannot).
Promote the joys of the learning process, active participation, a healthy pursuit of excellence, realistic expectations and endorse a competitive spirit that accepts the outcome of every match point and stays the right side of ugly egomania.
The above I can attempt alone.
But if The Tennis Book achieves more than a modest membership, I shall foster a space in which individual gifts – human, artistic and sporting – are encouraged, especially in the young, and where people who pool talents in the right spirit, will be offered a platform from which to shine more brightly.