Cork Tennis Blog

Welcome to the Cork Tennis Blog.

This blog will, hopefully, keep you up to date on the tennis scene in Cork, both socially and competitively. Whether you are new to the game, and looking for a club in your area to join, or just new to the area and want to pay and play, I can help.
You can contact me by email at

As well as local tennis news, there are also some very good articles written by local players and I am always looking for people to contribute to the blog, so don't be shy.
Please also feel free to comment on individual posts, or alternatively through the comment box on the right of the blog. I hope you enjoy reading through the blog and that it was of some use to you.

Enjoy your game, Rob

Friday, March 10, 2017

Its been a while!!

Well its been a while since I lasted posted something in here, so apologies about that.  It is difficult to keep up to date with what's happening at home on the tennis scene but thankfully this year I am getting to play more tennis.

With an amazing tennis facility here in Doha, 19 hard courts, 10 mini/midi courts,  it was surprisingly difficult to find people to play against.  There is no club structure like we are used to, so it wasn't a matter of joining a club and meeting people.
Shortly after we arrived there was one of the big local tournaments on.  This is sponsored by the QTF (Qatar Tennis Federation) and a big hotel here called The Intercontinental.  Really good prizes, so the best players the country has to offer were playing.  The standard was good, I would say on a par with the big events in Dublin.

Here I met a Spanish coach, who works for the QTF.  He was a former ATP tour player and he filled me in on how things worked out here.  I got to play him once at a different venue but because he works for the QTF he cannot play with anyone other than another coach at their facility, so I spent the next few months trying to organise games and not really finding people of a decent standard.

I did play in a very well organised event, run by the Filipinos.  It is a team event, which takes place every Friday night for 2 months.  There is a very big Filipino community in Qatar and they set up teams based on the area they live in.  It's taken very serious.  Each team is only allowed one non Filipino and I was it.
Played some very good matches and really enjoyed it and I was asked to play again this year.  So I am now an honorary member of the Filipino league.
The standard in the league can be varied, but the standard of the Filipino players here is quite good.  Most of their top players come here to coach.  The guy in this picture with the glasses, no not me! he was ranked as high as 5 in the Philippines and has some amazing touches.

While there is a very big tennis community in Qatar there is no structure to it.  The federation here only runs things for Qatari's apart from maybe 4 open tournaments in the year.  Trying to find out when these are on is the best kept secret in the Middle East.

If you want to get your racket strung here you can go to one of the big sports stores and wait 4 days for the privilege.  There are some individuals stringing but the quality of work isn't great and the strings are cheap imports.

So after going home for the summer to Cork I decided to bring back my own machine this time around.  I have now set up my own stringing room on the third floor of our house and happy to say I am very busy.

I now work with the brand Kirschbaum, as their official stringer for the Middle East and have a large selection of their strings to offer.

On arriving back in Doha in September I was contacted by a few other players about playing some matches.  Between my contacts and their contacts I set up a singles league which we call The Doha International Tennis League (DITL).  It really is international with players from South Africa, France, Spain, Pakistan, Turkey and more.  This went off very well and we are now a couple of weeks into DITL 2 where we have added another 8 players and increased the standard.  This has definitely helped with getting some more matches and also helped with my stringing :)

During my time in Cork during the summer I decided to upgrade my stringing skills and so I went to England to do 2 exams with the 2 largest stringing associations, the US Racket Stringers Associations (USRSA) and the European Racket Stringers Associations (ERSA).  They have a level called Pro Stringer or the next level up which is a Master Racket Technician (MRT).  I'm happy to say I qualified as an MRT with both organisations.  
Stringing really has become a passion/obsession of mine and the more I learn about it, the more I realise how an important part of the game it is and how important it is to give the right advice.
There are plenty of people around the world who string rackets but a very small percentage do it properly.

At the end of this month I head to Dusseldorf for the European Symposium and no doubt I will learn a lot more here from some of the best stringers in the World.  A lot of the guys here string at the Grand Slam events, maybe someday!

So all in all Qatar hasn't been a bad move. and to top it all off they host an ATP and WTA event every year with some of the best players in the world in attendance.  Last years final was between Djokovic and Nadal, this year Djokovic and Murray, how bad!

I would like to keep this blog as active as I can so if anyone has news, information on anything tennis related in Cork please feel free to contact me.

Thank you and see you all in the summer.

Understanding Polyester Strings!

Understanding Polyester Strings
The arrival of polyester strings has been one of the major developments in tennis in recent years.  It took a while for all professionals to change over from natural gut, but now nearly every professional player uses polyester in their string setup.
This may be as a full bed of polyester or in hybrid with natural gut.
To a professional player, a person who is training everyday and who hits the ball with incredible power, the benefit of polyester has been increased control and greater potential for spin.  It has helped bring their game to a new level.
For the club/social player the benefits are not the same.  The majority of club players do not understand how polyester performs and are generally using it for the wrong reason or through bad advice or lack of advice.
Polyester strings are advertised and sold as a string that gives you more control, more spin and excellent durability.  All of these things are true, if the player is capable of playing at the level required to achieve these benefits.
What we don't hear, too often, is that polyester is powerless, that you are more prone to injury, that it can be expensive and that its performance level (loss of tension) drops the quickest of all strings.
I definitely see the benefit of polyester, but what this piece is about is to help players 'Understand Polyester'.  To weigh up the Pro's and Con's of the string and then decide if it is the best choice for you or not!
Here are some points to consider:
  • Why do the pro's use it?
  • How does it perform?
  • What happens at impact and afterwards?
  • Durability versus Playability
To read the full article follow this link:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Signs of Overtraining by Helen Curtis

"Helen (Curtis) is a freelance writer specialising in healthcare, nutrition and fitness. After starting a family Helen decided to leave her job in the health sector and embark on a career in writing, something that she'd always been passionate about."

Signs Of Overtraining
Let’s be fair, now. The majority of us can’t really be accused of ‘overtraining’. We do our best, and we do very well, but often we’re forcing ourselves to exercise rather than forcing ourselves not to. The concept of ‘overtraining’, therefore, may seem like a strange one. Surely more is better? Well, not always. It all depends upon your attitude, and upon how much importance you afford the concept of resting in training. Overtraining can actually be very bad indeed for you. It can wear down your muscles, stress you out, make you obsessive, wreck your sporting form, and even make you fat. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? But it’s true. If you don’t give your body time to process and work through the exercise you’ve done, all that happens is that you stress your body out and wear it down without ever feeling the benefit. Overtraining is a bad thing. Many of us, however, don’t know we’re doing it. Here are some signs of overtraining to watch out for:
One of the strongest signs of overtraining is not physical, but psychological. Nobody is quite sure if obsession prefigures overtraining or vice versa. Over-exercising causes cortisol to be released, which makes us stressed, which could bring on exercise-related anxieties in a kind of vicious circle. On the other hand, those kinds of anxieties could have brought on the over-exercising in the first place. Whatever the cause, many people who over-exercise display obsessive behaviour around their training. They train compulsively, and get very anxious indeed when they find themselves unable to exercise. Some experts speak of ‘exercise addiction’. The validity of this term is debated, but it is notable that some overtrainers let exercise take over their lives to the extent that it’s damaging things like their relationships, their careers, and their mental health. If you find yourself worrying unduly when you can’t exercise, or notice that friends and family are commenting on the amount of time you spend training, it’s perhaps time to take stock of your attitude towards training and exercise.
Muscle Weakness
You’d think that working out would make you stronger, and improve your muscle tone. If you do too much of it, however, you can actually end up making your muscles weaker. When we exercise, we cause micro-tears in our muscles. These are later fixed by the body, which adds more muscle tissue on in order to prevent the same thing from happening again. This is how our muscles grow. However, this process generally occurs while we are asleep or resting. If you don’t give your body enough time to rest and repair the damage, all that happens is that you pile micro-tear on micro-tear, and ultimately degrade your muscles. It’s not ideal.
Fairly obviously, if you don’t allow yourself enough rest time, you’re going to be exhausted. Physical and mental fatigue are strong signs of overtraining. Often, we put this down to stress and time pressures elsewhere in our lives - but if you are finding yourself constantly tired, try taking a day off training and see how you feel afterwards.
Frequent Minor Illness
You’re supposedly making yourself stronger with frequent training sessions, yet you’re constantly coming down with colds and infections. What’s going on? Basically, you’re wearing your body out, leaving it less energy and resources to devote to your immune system. If you overtrain, your body has to work flat-out to try and keep your muscles going. Ultimately, it ends up diverting resources from your organs and your other systems into your muscles to try to fulfil the demands you’re putting on your body. If you prolong this over a long period of time, your immune system ends up getting depleted, which means that you end up getting sick more often.

The damage to your muscles and your general depleted state can manifest in tremors. We’ve all experienced minor tremors after a tough training session. If you find these persisting throughout your daily life, it’s probably time to start interspersing some rest with your training. Resting and recovering is just as important an aspect of your training regime as practising serves and strengthening your muscles. Without rest and recovery, all of your hard work might as well be for nothing!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Here's some advice for parents!

There seems to be a big focus on parents involvement in their childrens' sports lately, and unfortunately it's not all positive.

I came across this video recently, and while it is based on tennis the same principles can apply to any sport.

A note to sports parents!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

New Racket Restringing blog

Racket restringing is probably the most overlooked part of anyone's equipment.  

Players spend a lot of time researching a new racket to find the ideal one, they change their grips often (sometimes forced to because of weather), buy the latest clothing, update their shoes when they find themselves slipping but a lot of the time overlook the importance of new strings.

When I started out playing the mentality was strings should last at the very least a year, but as times change and research improves we find that leaving your racket too long between stringing can really affect your performance level.

There are so many reasons to restring and so many things to know about restringing, such as:

  • Tension 
  • String construction
  • String thickness
  • Hybrid stringing
And much more.  Below is a link to a blog that covers all aspects of stringing, that will hopefully help you when choosing your next strings and convince the non-regular stringers that it will be worth their while to string more often.

Tennis Ireland Workshops

Invitation to Tennis Ireland Participation & Club Development Provincial Workshop at the Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown, Co.Cork April 28th @7.00pm
“More Players, more Income, More Fun”
Updated Leaflet Page 1

The Tennis Ireland Participation & Club Development Strategic Objective is to:-
Assist Clubs to increase membership by 20% by 2020, creating an extra €2.4m through additional subscriptions.
This includes;
  • Extra 12k players average sub €200 = €2.4m Clubs plus extra income for coaches-€600k
  • At the recent workshop at DCU in February 2016 60 delegates from across Ireland attended and this was a good start to the engagement process. 
  • All Branch, Club Committee, Coach, Development Officer, Tournament Officials and Parks Tennis Officials are now invited to come along to the Tennis Ireland Participation & Club Development Provincial workshops.
  • Everyone is welcome as we seek to engage, exchange information and gain ideas to help Clubs develop Tennis.

The Programme for Provincial Workshops is as follows;
    • Leinster- Thursday 21st April 2016 at DCU
    • Munster - Thursday 28th April 2016 at Mitchelstown
    • Connacht- Thursday 5th May 2016 at Castlebar
    • Ulster -Thursday 12th May 2016 at the House of Sport, Belfast

Registration is at 6.30pm and workshops starts at 7pm, continuing to 10pm

The Provincial Workshop Agenda is as follows;
  1. Introduction & draft Tennis Ireland Participation & Club Development Plan & case study and key enablers for implementation- 40 mins & EB’s Club Checklist + questions 20 mins- total 60 minutes- George Lucas – Targets and sample Club Development Plan in Province of meeting RDO’s.
  2. Secondary Schools Tennis Initiative- Olwyn O’Toole - 15 mins & questions 10 mins – total 25 mins
  3. Club Development a coaches’ perspective- Liam Cassidy - 30 mins + questions 10 mins- total 40 mins.
  4. Child Protection- Roger Geraghty - 10 mins + questions 5 mins- total- 15 mins.
  5. Tournaments/Competitions/TI PIN/ITN/Software- Maria Kilkelly– 15 mins + questions 5 mins- total 20 mins.
  6. Feedback and general discussion- 25 mins.

If you would like to attend please forward your name and email address to Lauren Smythe at by 4pm on the Monday before the relevant Provincial workshop. 
Many thanks.
Eugene Bergin/Robert Cummins/Billy O’Reilly/ /Roger Geraghty/Lauren Smythe/Garrett Barry/Conor O’Callaghan/Peter Farrell/Brendan Moran/George Lucas


New Appointments for Munster Tennis

Munster branch is delighted to announce the appointments of our new Munster junior performance Officers. 
Cian Blake, Conor Twomey and Sinead Dunne have been selected to the roles to take Munster junior tennis forward over the next number of years.  Munster will now have three junior performance officers bringing a wealth of experience working throughout the province. 

We felt given the geographical size of the province that this will be the correct move for the province.
We would like to extend our thanks to all the other applicants and hope that all clubs, coaches and parents will embrace and support our new team over the coming weeks and months.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Coaching Movement

Coaching Movement is a Cork based sports specialist company.  It was launched in August 2014 and specialises in Skill and Athletic Development.

Their motto is simple "MOVE BETTER PLAY BETTER".

Coaching movement is run by Conor Twomey and Kevin Murray.
Conor is a TICA Level 2 Performance Coach as well a SAQ qualified coach, while Kevin has a B.A. in Strength and Conditioning.

They are available to hold workshops nationwide and can be reached on 087-1238585 or at coaching

They have a very active and informative Facebook page ( where you will find hundreds of instructional videos for you to try.

Definitely a page to checkout and if you are serious about your sport you won't waste time.

Qatar Futures Series


The Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF) hosts 6 ITF Futures events every year and 2 junior ITF events.
The senior events are run over two, three week periods.  The first series is run early in the year, March/April time and the second series takes place in November/December.
This year I was one of the stringers at the second series, my first professional gig, and I learned a lot from it.
Here's a few interesting facts from the events:
  • Wilsons' Blade 98 range and Heads' Prestige range were the most used rackets.
  • Luxilon Alu Power 130/16 was the most used string
  • The most used string gauge was 130/16
  • Tensions used ranged from 18 kilos to 27 kilos.
This series of events attracted players from all over the world, which was enjoyable as it provided an insight into how other nationalities value stringing.
A lot of the players stayed for either two or three weeks.  This would help them out a lot financially as they would be able to eliminate travel costs for this couple of weeks, which no doubt builds up over the course of the year.
The good thing for us, the stringers, is that it lets you become familiar with each player and what their preferences and expectations are from you.
A player who is tuned into the importance of stringing will ask for/do the following:
  • Ask for the same machine for all his stringing jobs (consistency of tension)
  • Ask for the same stringer (consistency of work)
  • Look at changing tensions during the week (morning or night match, different temperatures)
  • Ask for the rackets strung the night before or the day of the match.
  • Have a racket or two strung at different tensions to give them various options during a match.
I have to admit it was surprising how few requests we received for any of the above.  It would make you wonder, even at professional level, do players pay enough attention to their strings.


Here's the interesting thing though, out of the 4 finalists (there was 6 finalists but seen as 2 players made the finals on 2 of the weeks, I say 4 finalists) 3 of them were the ones who paid most attention to their stringing.  They were the ones who made the various requests.
Is this a coincidence? I don't think so!
From a personal point of view I had some new experiences too.
One player wanted his knots to be done in the same holes all the time, probably a superstition.  That was no problem, just meant you had to watch where you started.
I also got to string with Natural Gut for the first time.  Not a big deal to a lot of stringers, but coming from Ireland where our weather isn't conducive to natural gut, it was an interesting experience.  I have read about stringing with gut a few times and that it requires extra attention in how it's handled and how it's fed through the stringbed.
More often than not it would be used as the crosses in a hybrid stringing pattern, this time however it was to be used as the mains.  This made the handling side of it easier but it did mean when weaving the cross strings you would have to be more careful so as to prevent notching the string.
Thankfully all went well and I ended up doing quite a few more over the course of the 3 weeks.
My most interesting job of the few weeks was very similar to the natural gut one above, ie. gut in the mains and polyester in the crosses.  The pattern was 16 x 19, here's where it got interesting though.  This player wanted 14 of the mains done using gut and the outer 2 mains done using polyester, all the polyester (crosses and mains) had to be part of the same string.
I'm not sure what was the reason for this, so I asked a stringers group that I am part of.  This group contains Grand Slam stringers, some of which are in Australia currently as part of the Australian Open Stringing Team.
No one could come up with a beneficial reason as to why you would string this way.  Some of the suggestions were, to save cost on stringing (you could get 3 sets of mains out of a 12m set instead of the normal 2), possibly stringbed stiffness (this would need to be checked), cosmetic was another suggestion and finally to make him feel important :).  Unless the stringbed stiffness turns out to be the case (which I will test and get back to you about) it does look as though it has no real benefit to his game.

So all in all I had a very enjoyable few weeks and look forward to my next tournament, wherever that might be!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cork tennis arrives in Qatar!

Well my family and I are here just over a month now and I must say the tennis scene is very impressive here.

While Qatar wouldn't be a major player in world tennis, the facilities are second to none.  The QTF (Qatar Tennis Federation) bases itself in the capital of Qatar, Doha at its main stadium, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.
The centre has 21 courts and seem to be always in use.  On arriving I found that, had I brought my rackets with me, I could have entered the 8th QTF and Intercontinental Open.  This is an open tournament where the prize fund is 40,000 riyals plus membership to the exclusive Intercontinental hotel.  I have being over and back to watch it regularly and there are some very good players in the area.

This event is going to be followed up with 3 ITF Futures events running from the 28th of November to the 19th of December.  This promises to provide 3 very entertaining weeks of professional tennis.

These events will be followed, early in the new year, with 2 professional events.  There is an ATP event in January which always attracts the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and co.  This event will be followed in February with the arrival of the women.  The WTA event also attracts a top quality field.  Last years final was contested by Safrova and Azarenka.  So to say I'm looking forward to the coming months is a bit of an understatement.

I am also looking forward to my rackets arriving so I can start playing again.  The surface here is hard court, a surface I grew up on but I haven't played on it in a longtime so that will take a bit of getting used to.

Senior Interprovincial Champions 2015

Firstly I would like to apologise for not acknowledging this achievement earlier.  It's being a busy few months relocating to Qatar.

Huge Congratulations to Cian and his team.

I have played with and against Cian in the past so on hearing of his appointment to the position of Captain, I knew the team were in good hands.

Looking at the team, it had a good mix of experience and youth and this bodes well for the future.  Winning an Interpro is never an easy achievement so again I would just like to say congratulations to all in involved and let's hope this is the start of a run.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cork Parks Tennis near you.

A note on the Cork Parks Tennis provided by Munster Regional Development Officer, Conor O Callaghan:

Hi All,

With the summer period in full swing I am sure you are looking to see what to do with the kids !!! As many of you will be aware not all children are inclined to enter the junior opens which are running through out the summer period. However if they are looking for some competition you can find all of the junior Open dates and entries at the following link:

However if your children are just looking to have some fun in a structured environment then there are many camps currently up and running that may be of interest to you. Parks Tennis programmes are not too far from you. The parks tennis programmes have been up and running for 36 years and are operational in a number of venues through out the province. Please visit the website :

This is a great and friendly way to introduce children into tennis and it has been the building blocks for players all over the country for a number of years.

If you are looking to see the nearest parks programme to you please visit the following links:


Memorable Moments in Tennis provided by FBD Insurance.

The Most Memorable Moments in Tennis History

Since tennis first arrived on the sporting scene back in the late 1800s, there have been a wide array of memorable moments. Many of them will continue to be iconic moments that inspired a sporting generation, or created glorious memories for thoughts who witnessed them. It's difficult to make a small definitive list of the most memorable moments in the history of tennis, but here are just a few that will no doubt remain in people's minds for years to come.

First Ever Wimbledon Tournament in 1877

Wimbledon made its first appearance in 1877 with 22 male players competing for the inaugural championship. Spencer Gore became the first winner after a relatively straightforward 6-1 6-2 6-4 win in the final. Gore said that he thought the game of tennis was boring and decided to quit the game after losing his title defence the following year.

Ted Shroeder Winning Wimbledon 1949

American Ted Shroeder became known as 'Lucky Ted' after this championship and it is not hard to see why. He fought back in his first round match from two sets down to progress, and then followed that with a lucky miss-hit winner in the quarter finals. If that wasn't enough, his semi-final and final match all went to five sets. Remarkably, this was the only Wimbledon championship that Ted Shroeder competed in.

Arthur Ashe Winning Wimbledon 1975

Arthur Ashe made history in 1975 by becoming the first male African-American player to win at Wimbledon. He did so after beating Jimmy Connors in the final. It looked like Ashe was going to run away with it when he won the first two sets 6-1 6-1, but Connors fought back and forced a fourth set, where Ashe went on to make history.

Monica Seles Vs. Steffi Graf at French Open Final 1992

This truly was a clash of the titans game and it showed from start to finish. Even when it looked like Seles was about to take the title in the deciding set, Graff fought off four straight match points to keep the game going. Despite her strength, Graff eventually was worn down as she gave up the final set on an unforced error. It was a game that became an example for women's tennis, proving they could be just as athletic and as determined as the male players.

John Isner Vs. Nicholas Mahut at Wimbledon 2010

Even though this was only a first round game, the clash between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut become one of the longest and most infamous tennis games in history. Playing on court for a massive 11 hours and five minutes over the course of three days, Isner finally won the tie-break in the deciding set 70-68. It attracting the attention of the entire world and made news headlines everywhere. Never has a match in the first round of a tournament become so infamous.

Andy Murray Winning Wimbledon 2013

After nearly 80 years since the last British winner of Wimbledon, the wait was finally over when Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the final. Despite winning the first two sets in the sweltering heat at SW19, Djokovic fought back and forced Murray to play another difficult set before the Scotsman won the title. Nothing will have inspired a generation more than watching Murray make history in the manner that he did.

Here's a link to the very impressive Timeline, enjoy

Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Racket Restringing Service available

I am offering a new Professional Racket Restringing Service in Munster, called

I offer a collection and drop back service and also an opportunity for clubs to avail of a stringing service within your own club.

I can provide stringing for your open tournaments along with re-gripping and racket customisation.

For more information on Restringing and other services available check out my site

For any regular customers I offer a loyalty card system where you get every fifth restring free.

Check out the site for all other services available.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Professional Stringers course returns to Cork

Rushbrooke LTC will be the venue once again for the Professional Stringer and Racket Technician course on Tuesday 30th of June and Wednesday the 1st of July. 

The Professional Stringer syllabus covers all racket servicing skills and is aimed at beginners and experienced stringers alike. It's an ideal way to start off a successful stringing business and established stringers will always find new skills and knowledge. 

The Racket Technician course covers the skills and knowledge associated with customising rackets for the professional player or those with specific racket needs. Racket balancing, matching, changing overall weight, balance and swingweight, handle resizing, catering for Tennis Elbow and so on.  Ideally to do this course you should have first done the Professional stringers course.

The tutor will be Liam Nolan, UKRSA Technical Director and former Wimbledon Stringing Team manager. 

Its a 9am start on both days. Liam is offering special reduced prices for these courses.  The Professional stringers course will be €200 and the Racket Technicians course will be €130.

To sign up for either or both courses please contact Liam in advance on the email below.For more information on what will be included and to arrange course fee payment, please email

Meet Liam!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Date for your diary.

Ireland's next Davis Cup match is on the weekend of March 6th to the 8th in Castleknock Tennis Club.
  • Doubles, Sam and James

Ireland v Belarus in the 2015 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas

The Irish Davis Cup Team will play Belarus in Castleknock Lawn Tennis Club in the first round of the 2015 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Euro/Africa Zone Group II from the 6th- 8th March 2015.
The winners will  face either Turkey or South Africa  in the second round from the 17th-19th July 2015. 

Ireland maintained its status in Europe/Africa Group II after comfortably defeating Egypt in the relegation play-off in Castleknock Lawn Tennis Club in April of this year.

James McGee's two straight sets singles victories, alongside a doubles triumph for Sam Barry and James Cluskey, was enough to record a fourth win over Egypt in Davis Cup tennis. 

Ireland last played Belarus in the first round of the Davis Cup in January of this year when the team of James Cluskey, John Morrissey, David O'Hare and Daniel Glancy were defeated 4-1 at the tie which took place in the Olympic Training Centre in Minsk.

This match will also be Irish Tennis legend, Conor Niland's first match as Captain.  Come on out and support the boys!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rafa Nadal uses Babolat Play Connected

Nadal will be using the new Aeropro Drive Connected racket during the Australian Open.
Here's what he thinks about it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Irish Davis Cup Captain

Let me start by saying, Congratulations to Conor, he is a great choice for captain.  
Not only will Conor have the respect of the players, because of what he has achieved, but more importantly he will know exactly what they are going through in the heat of battle and be able to offer words of wisdom on how best to deal with the situation.  This kind of experience is crucial.
Conor will also know what our travelling pros will have to deal with and the mental state some of them may arrive to matches with, following wins or losses.  Conor previously wrote a very informative piece for this blog and it is definitely worth a read again.  Click here to do so:

Below is a piece taken from today.
Conor Niland has been appointed as captain of the Irish Davis Cup team for a two-year period.
Niland succeeds Garry Cahill, who resigned from the position late last year after a very successful four-year stint in charge.
The 33-year-old is Ireland’s most successful professional tennis player, reaching a career high ATP ranking of 129.
In 2011 he was the first Irish player to play at Wimbledon in 31 years and he followed that up with a first round appearance at the US Open against Novak Djokovic.
Niland played Davis Cup tennis for ten years and as recently as 2012 under the stewardship of Garry Cahill.
He had a distinguished career for the Irish team, winning 17 of the 29 matches he played in since making his debut in 2000 at the age of 18.
He retired from professional tennis in 2012 and started as coach with the BNP Paribas National Tennis Academy in Dublin City University, a role which he will remain in.
Niland said: "I am honoured to have been named the Irish Davis Cup captain.
"Representing Ireland and being in the team environment of Davis Cup is something I always loved as a player and I am delighted to have the opportunity to coach this team."
Ireland play Belarus in the first round of the Euro/Africa Zone Group II Davis Cup by BNP Paribas in Castleknock Lawn Tennis Club on the 6-8 March. 
Depending on first round results, Ireland could face either Turkey or South Africa in a second round match in July.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pro Tennis - Davis Cup - Coaching in Ireland by John McGahon

John is one of Ireland's top coaches and has also represented Ireland at Davis Cup level.  Recently John brought one of his top juniors, Maria Perla Biansumba, to the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida.  I asked John to put a piece together for me on his experiences and what I got back was an exceptional read.

Here it is:
As soon as I qualified as a PE teacher (PGCE awarded by Exeter University) in 2004 I set about achieving my childhood dream of playing on the men's professional tennis circuit.

My first step was to contact Mike Walker who had taken over the international high performance tennis academy in Wrexham which was formerly operated by legendary coach John Hicks of Great Britain. My hope was to base myself in his centre for the foreseeable future. As you can imagine, securing finance on the pro tour can be a major struggle for a player. So, I was very grateful to Mike and head coach Dan Sanders because they helped subsidise my training by giving me the opportunity to coach at their prestigious academy. At times, this regime was tough on the body because after completing 5 hours training I would coach for 3 hours daily each day during the week at the academy. On Friday nights I would fly home to Dundalk to run a junior programme during Saturdays and Sundays. Sunday nights were spent on the ferry back to Holyhead and 8am start on Mondays came around very quickly.

Although this routine definitely wasn't easy, it did help me finance myself in order to travel the world in search of ATP world ranking points. To be honest, I loved every second of it!! A typical block would be 6-8 weeks of training and coaching in order to build up my funds which were sometimes supplemented by success at men's internal money events in Great Britain. Then, I would get away on planned trips to compete in Asia/Africa/Europe.

Working at Wrexham International Tennis Academy not only helped me develop as a professional tennis player but it also helped develop me as a tennis coach because I worked under the watchful eyes of Dan Sanders, Mike Walker and John Hicks. I got the opportunity to work with some of Britains best junior athletes who competed at the boys and girls junior Wimbledon championships as well as working with some top senior athletes in Britain including top ranked British player at the time Matthew Smith #295 ATP and David Brewer from Scotland who was a top 10 junior world ranked player and top 800 ATP world ranked athlete. On some occasions I would travel as a travelling coach to futures events which again helped my overall development as a player and a coach.
At Bisham Abbey (Wrexhams sister academy in London) I even got to spar with the infamous Tim Henman whose highest ranking was no.4 in the world. Tim was extremely welcoming and I am very grateful to Mike for giving me the opportunity to train with Tim. I was certainly learning two trades at once at my time in Great Britain.

During a trip to Africa in 2007, I qualified and reached the Quarter Finals of a $15,000 Futures event (in Sudan) for the first time before being defeated by Adam Vejmelka from Czech Republic(ATP# 247) on a score of 6-4 3-6 6-4. This netted me my first world ranking points at the age of 24 and I was on the board in the men's ATP race!

In the same year, after improving my ranking in both singles and doubles I was selected to play Davis Cup for Ireland. I played Davis Cup for the first time alongside Conor Niland- my childhood friend and Irelands best ever tennis player to date- and the Sorensen brothers, Kevin & Louk. With a ranking of No.3 in Ireland (behind Conor Niland and Louk Sorensen) and an ATP world ranking of #891 and No.#679 in doubles, I teamed up in doubles with Kevin Sorensen. Seán Sorensen was the captain of our team offering a wealth of knowledge having played in the world group of Davis Cup.
(From left -right: Louk Sorensen, Conor Niland, Sean Sorensen, Kevin Sorensen & John McGahon)

In 2007, Ireland was in Group 3 of the Davis Cup which meant that we had to compete throughout the week in a round robin against various different countries throughout Europe/ Africa. I was honoured and a bit overwhelmed at being selected to play for my country. I recorded a 4-2 win loss record in the week with my partner Kevin in doubles. I lost in singles against Turkeys  Ergun Zorlu  2-6 6-3 13-11. I was gutted at losing this match but went back out with Kevin to take the win in doubles and another point for the Irish team. As we topped our group and thereby gained promotion to Group 2 Davis Cup, we celebrated in style by all jumping on a team of horses and trekking out to view the pyramids in Cairo.  Paddy Hickey, the Irish journalist who travelled to cover for the trip, got the raw deal and ended up by having to ride a wild horse over the Egyptian sand dunes for over an hour!

Sean Sorensen (left) & Paddy Hickey (Right)

Over the next two years, I continued this pattern of blocks of training/coaching followed by weeks on the road when I competed in the Davis Cup, the Four Nations and on the men's professional tour. (To the right: Winning Nigeria $15,000+H doubles with Ed Seator from Great Britain)

 As with all athletes, some incredible highs in my tennis career were followed by some lows. I remember one tough month in 2008 in Morocco after getting food poisoning in week 2 where I played a talented Australian (John Millman) and I decided to go to Elche Futures in Alicante, Spain on the way back before Ireland faced Ukraine in the Davis Cup. In Elche, I faced Inigo Cervantes, then one of Spain's top junior tennis players and a recent top 130 ATP player . After losing the first set which lasted 1hr 20mins in a tie break in 40 degree heat on the red clay of Spain, I snapped my ankle and had a full body cramp on court. I not only ended up on a drip at the hospital in Alicante but also lost my place for the following week on the Davis Cup team. Playing for Ireland was always a lifelong goal for me and I am very proud to say I have over 18 senior tennis caps between Davis Cup & Four Nations.

At the latter stages of my professional career, Garry Cahill (National Coach) invited me and Barry King- ex-pro and Davis Cup player- to start off an Irish senior squad at DCU National Tennis Centre. This was a great venture and helped me to base myself at home in Ireland. I also believe that it also helped develop younger up and coming players such as Ciarán Fitzgerald (currently based at San Diego University) and Sam Barry (currently Ireland's no.3 ranked player today behind James McGee and Louk Sorensen).

 In 2009, I decided to go full time into tennis coaching at my home club at Dundalk.  In addition, I planned to complete my Tennis Ireland coaching qualifications, levels 1 ,2 & 3, as well as the Director of Tennis course. As the manager and Director of Tennis at Dundalk Tennis Club, my priority was to put Dundalk Tennis on the map of Irish tennis. This ambition required considerable planning and work as we had no juniors featuring at the top end of Irish tennis and few players competing in tournaments throughout Ireland. Moreover, tennis in schools was non-existent. There were no leagues for junior or senior tennis players to play externally. Straight away, I set up a team of coaches to liaise with local schools to help boost tennis participation and to establish up a North/South league. Former Tennis Ireland President Lyn Jameson, from Portadown helped to create more inter club relations and competition, of course. This league is still running thanks to a dedicated committee and continues to grow in team numbers. Also I hosted Open Days at my club and invited Conor Niland as well as the late Elena Baltacha from Great Britain to boost local attention and press coverage. My aim was to attract new members for our increasingly active club. On St Patricks Day, I and our academy join the colourful march through the streets of Dundalk. This is an ongoing annual event when we celebrate both our club and the day. (Conor Niland near left & Elena Baltacha right)

 With a lot of encouragement and help from Rosa Stevens at Leinster Tennis I took on the job as referee of the junior Louth Open which is now known as the Fyffes Junior Louth Open. I have organised this tournament for the past five years in order to raise the profile of our club and attract increasing numbers of players to our tournament. Becoming a tournament referee certainly was a strange feeling at the beginning and has given me a deeper appreciation of effort required of people who run tournaments. Honestly, it's not the one week of the tournament that hurts. It is managing the weeks leading up to it! Massive effort required!

Marching through dundalk
St Patricks Day parade 2014

 In my five years of being head coach and Director of Tennis at Dundalk our team has developed over 40 players who have competed at national junior match plays/ Indoor Nationals at Riverview and in Fitzwilliam Open.Over the course of very few years, our performance academy has developed two home grown national No.1s, a Tennis Europe U-14 champion, seven internationally ranked juniors, nine interpro players, two national champions, two Leinster grandprix winners, three national matchplay runner ups, a Fed Cup panel player, Fed Cup playoff finalist, a junior U-14 Orange Bowl World Championship main draw player, and several aspiring professional and US scholarship college players. MacXtennisAcademy attracts juniors players from the four provinces of Ireland and abroad. Thats not bad for a club that works outdoors on astro courts for 12 months of the year.

I have been extremely fortunate to have benefitted from some great coaches and inspiring people from the beginning of my tennis experience. In addition to my extremely supportive mum, Jim Pringle- my coach in Dundalk- gave me great grounding as a tennis player and has always helped me on and off court to do this day (we work together at the dundalk tennis academy).  Michael Nugent, from Malahide, took me under his wing as I developed and gave me the belief in becoming a pro tennis player. Paul Casey was the national coach when I was growing up and he helped me develop as a junior player and a pro tennis athlete when he took Irelands top juniors abroad under the auspices of Tennis Ireland. He has helped me as a player and as a coach. I am very happy and proud that we work together today in my performance academy at Dundalk and together we arrange international and national trips with our top juniors. Paul isn't just a great coach, he is a great friend. His energy, passion for the game and wealth of knowledge is invaluable. I can't describe how grateful I am to have met Paul, and everything he has done for me as a player and a coach.                                                    
(Picture to right: Paul Casey with players from Dundalk & Glenageary)

 I also head up Leinster Tennis coaching and interpro teams with another great Irish coach and ex-pro Davis Cup athlete, Stephen Nugent. Stephen was Ireland's best junior when we were growing up and he competed at junior Wimbledon and the US Open. These days, we work together with some of Irelands top junior tennis athletes and we head up the junior Irish Tri-Nations teams. In 2014, we won the Junior Tri Nations on home soil at Lansdowne, in Dublin. Stephen led the U-18s, Lynsey McCullough was in charge of the U-12s and the U-14s were my team.  That win was an extremely proud moment for us, as coaches.

(TriNations:Stephen Nugent /John McGahon far left & Lynsey McCullough Far right)

 Recently I travelled to the junior Orange bowl 2014 which was an amazing experience for both Maria Perla Biansumba as a player and me as a coach. This was the first time for both of us to be apart of an event like this.
More than 1,450 players from more than 74 countries & the U.S.,  travel to South Florida to compete in one of the most prestigious world-recognized junior tournaments on the amateur tennis circuit. 
The list of champions could comprise its own Hall of Fame and includes Bjorn Borg, Jim Courier, Elena Dementieva, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, Mary Joe Fernandez, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Gabriela Sabatini. Other participants include Arthur Ashe, Boris Becker, Jennifer Capriati, Jimmy Connors and Yannick Noah.
The purpose of this trip was to show Maria the best athletes in the world. More importantly it was for Maria to watch these players. Watch their body language, how they composed themselves and how much they immersed themselves in tennis.
Everyday we immersed ourselves in tennis and spent everyday practicing. We travelled to warm up events around Florida and evaluated matches on a daily basis to see how we could improve for the next day. The trip gave Maria a taste of how a full time tennis athlete lives.

In the main draw of the Orange bowl, Maria faced top 20 US U-14 girl Mackenzie Clarke. Maria lost the match 6-1 6-4, but she didn't lose her fight or her heart. Maria fought like a warrior and represented the Irish with pride. I was very proud of Maria for our whole trip. She wanted to learn more and more everyday, and as a coach I feel this is the best quality you can ask for from a student. When a player gives all out effort, they are a champion in my eyes.

(John McGahon & Marie Perla Biansumba)

I feel very privileged to work in the tennis sector in Ireland. I honestly love working with players who have dreams and who aspire to improve daily. Our team ethos is very simple when we coach it is work hard, maximise effort and act professionally. These are the fundament elements that form the cornerstones of my work at Leinster Tennis and in MacXTennisAcademy in Dundalk.