Modern vs. Classic Teachers (63)

Changing to a proper service grip is an example of where this technique may be used;   or playing with a continental grip for all volleys;  or moving the ball toss to the right move for the service;  or any number of other changes that are sound and needed.   If this all sounds like it is moving toward the Classic vs. Modern coaching argument, it is.   And no tennis debate is more heated than debate over the current widespread use of Western forehand and two-handed backhands. Coach Leighton invited me for breakfast with Chet Murphy at a USTA Teachers Conference.   After listening to these two great teachers, I was particularly struck with one statement:  Mr. Leighton asked Mr. Murphy what his assessment of the classic method of tennis instruction that their careers had sanctioned.   Mr. Murphy pondered, then responded, “I think we did a good job, though we probably should have been more tolerant of Western forehands.”

It is tough to be a “purist” today.   There are so many varied and successful styles.   I don’t think there’s a stroke Greg Holmes (1983 NCAA Singles champ) didn’t use.   Borg, Evert, Connors, etc. all use some shots that vary from the classic or Ken Rosewall style of play that so many used as “copy” for years.   Many of the variations offer improvement, and certainly there is a “classic” way to hit any shot, new or old.   One problem some teachers have is that many played before these new “inventions” and we have to “retool” our knowledge.   Coaches to follow will have the same task.

Welby Van Horn took time to talk tennis with me at the summer resort in Pinehurst (North Carolina).   One of his concerns is the lack of proper “copy” for young players.   Who to imitate becomes a modern problem that perhaps players from an earlier era did not have.   There has always been copying or imagery, but never has there been such a wide panorama to choose from.

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