Not long ago I received a call from a man named John Ormsby from Southern Pines , NC, once a hotbed of Six Man Football. I had played this game designed for small schools and told him what I knew. His book entitled THE HISTORY OF NORTH CAROLINA 6-MAN FOOTBALL is quite detailed. Completing our interview I asked John if he had played the game. No. Why then did he do this detailed work on a seemingly obscure topic? He replied, “… I wanted to be more knowledgeable than anyone on one subject.
One tennis player comes to mind when I ask “who was the most unique player I saw play”: Charlie Owens. The South , and North Carolina specifically, had some great “post-boom” open tennis greats. And great players to copy. Allen Morris had a backhand we marveled at. Tim Wilkison was a boy genius no one could out work. John Sadri’s serve stunned everyone, including McEnroe. But, Charlie.
Allen Morris recently told me “…Charlie beat me one time in a close match, but playing him was so much fun, I really did mind losing. Much. “
Maybe fun is the operative word for Charlie. Personally I never saw anyone close who could play as well while entertaining every one. It wasn’t clowning. Charlie was a world class player that simply had a bag of tricks. Mostly defensive tools, such as a deathly placed lob. Chips and angles, changes of pace and strategy. “WHERE DID THAT COME FROM”?
Satchel Paige said he called his money pitch his “BE BALL”, because it “always be where I want it to be.” Charlie’s ace was that drop shot.
Now a fine teaching pro at Landfall Country Club in close by Wilmington, NC, Charlie granted me some old coach conversation time. Below I have copied writings I have done related to the modern day need to add this tool to American games. The first is from about 2010 until this article. Please excuse the repetition, but I became more convinced of the need to cope with this tactic in American tennis.
The more I wrote the more I thought, I wonder what Charlie would say about this?
Here are some thoughts the “master” shared:
1. The most adamant statement contradicted that this was pure talent. That those great hands were simply heaven sent. No way. He cited several older men from his local club who spent the time beating him with lobs, drop shot, and guile. As a small youngster, one older “wizard “beat me 100 times before I beat him at his own game. He never beat me again”. No, those “tools” were hard earned, no short cuts, but a lifetime of fun and victory.
2. He agreed with the special qualities of this game. It tires opponents at a whole new level. It frustrates and angers even high quality players. It is an option and is capable of making an opponent play in an new and unpracticed game
3. Mini-tennis is the best way to practice the skills needed. Plus play practice.
4. He shared names to remain unspoken who, some world class players, could not adjust to this game.
5. He agreed there are four corners on each side of the court.
6. He agreed women are included in the use and defense of this tactic.
7. “There is no graceful way to run up and dig it out. That’s hard.”
8. “Every one needs plan B”.
9. Families have to support the hard work and discipline required of the student by the pro.
10. It has to be hit “up some’
BELOW ARE SOME EXCERPTS AND ARTICLES FOR MY BLOG THAT SHOW A PATTERN OF DEVELOPING BELIEF IN THE DROP SHOT , AND AN AMERICAN TENNIS NEED ( WWW.TOMPARHAM.WORDPRESS.COM):
2. In pro tennis both men and women have learned the virtues of the drop-shot. One–it tires opponents quickly.
Secondly, it has a subtle psychological effect that discourages opponents. Years back I suggested Djokavic and Murray
were the most diligent in pursuing it’s perfection. Didn’t the 2016 French Open prove that. American juniors: Take
heed. Develop your drop-shot. And your DEFENSE AGAINST THE DROP SHOT. That starts with conditioning and footwork/posture.
The theme of blog #10 predicts the increased use of the drop shot at the high levels of the game. The French Open 2015 doubles down on this idea.
The Men’s singles finals yesterday was Andy vs the Joker. Since 2010 my strong feeling has been that these two had realized the value of the offensive and defensive demands of great drop shots, and worked the hardest at developing the necessary skills.
Yesterday’s rain delay and other duties caused me to abandon my drop shot chart. Over the first several games Novak won 5 of 6 drop shot attempts. He had a wide open down the line pass on the one point he lost. Andy tried two and won both points when I had to miss a lot of the match.
I would love to know the feeling of these two champions as to 1. doesn’t an effective drop-shot have a particularly tiring or fatigue potential 2. as well as a psychological damage that is a corollary weapon.
I don’t think this is going to “back off” any. And I would remind all players that you have to develop defensive quickness, and movement patterns and postures that offset this demon.
“This also makes me wonder about the upward evolution of the game, and who will achieve the next level. Djokovic has almost perfected “corner to corner” baseline strategy. One thing that does seem to be growing in effectiveness is the drop shot. The old adage that “you can’t drop shot on a hard court” is being tested more at the top level.
There are four corners on each side of the court. Two are up at the net. The only player I have seen who could hit a un-returnable drop-shot from the base line was Charlie Owens. Many watched Charlie dismantle quality players with a disguised, feather like drop shot that confounded even great players. Maybe there is someone coming along with this unique touch, who combined with the other tennis skills needed will produce the next level in the never ending evolution of tennis.
Women players might be well advised to note this possibility. And to be aware that not only should she be able to hit drop shots, she must be able to defend against them. My guess is that many players and teachers have realized there are four corners on each side of a tennis court.”
I just watched the Wimbledon men’s single semi-finals. If you go to these three strategy articles in review, I think you will find I was pretty close: (1) Basic Tennis Strategy (2) The Circle Stinger and (3) Rafa vs. The Joker.
In the latter, I predicted this season would feature a lot more drop shots (Andy Murray vs. Baghdadis for example). To follow up, or evolve, as a teacher/coach, it then seems we must learn defense against the drop shot. In addition to the basic strokes of tennis there are auxiliary shots (returns, approaches, passing shots, etc. ) with different techniques to be mastered. Drop shots are one of these now more than ever. There are also an unlimited “awkward” shots in tennis (for example a backhand overhead, or running down a “shanked shot”).
These shots, including defending against drop-shots, must be identified, the proper techniques practiced, and implementation mastered. Please remember, players and parents, that this isn’t easy work. Don’t abandon the insightful pro who pushes this mastery, for a guy who simply moves you left and right.
****But the number one rule (I suspect for many women) is…I won’t make you hit awkward balls (up and back movement) if you won’t make me. Deal, left and right only. This one puzzled me. And I tried to develop “Plan B.” Simply stated, “Plan A,” or rallying corner to corner, is okay as long as you can win this way. Once you realize she’s better at this, then we’d better modify.