Oct. 16, 2020

All The Little Things

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Tennis is won or lost over a few points. Learn how all the little things add up and can change the course of a match or career.

Coach: Dennis Ralston, American tennis legend and Hall of Famer.
Bio:Right-handed, former American tennis legend whose playing career spanned the 1960s and 1970s. NCAA titles and USC, five major doubles crowns, and Davis Cup wins for the United States both as a player and captain. Coached by the great Pancho Gonzales. As a 17-year-old in 1960, he and 21-year-old Osuna became the second-youngest Wimbledon Gentleman champions in history. After retirement in 1977, he coached Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini, and Yannick Noah, then embarking on a college coaching career at SMU. Joined International Hall of Fame in 1987.

Birthplace: USA

Length: 3 min 10 sec
Theme: Motivation

Other tracks by Dennis Ralston:All The Little Things, Don't Look Around, Best Of Five Sets.

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One of the things I learned at a pretty young age (I was lucky enough to have the great Pancho Gonzalez be my coach) and when I turned pro my 'mentor' when I played professional tennis. And Pancho was really a stickler for all the little things that made a difference.

He taught me to look for the slope of the court because that makes a difference. Sometimes you're serving uphill, sometimes you're serving downhill. To check the wind. You know, to make sure that net was the right height. To understand which way the wind was blowing and what to do in all circumstances. And, and to write things down. He said, If you don't learn anything, losing a match, it's a waste of time.

And, when I lost, which, like everybody, you're going to lose a lot, (hopefully, you're going to win more than you lose) I would learn things. So, I would write big long dissertations of when I lost, what I did, right, what I did wrong. I wrote down my opponents' names (be)cause I knew I was going to play him again. I wrote down their tendencies. And, I tried to pick up on what my opponents did. Rod Laver had a really great backhand volley, and on all the big points, I'd play his forehand volley. I played Ken Rosewall, who was one of the great players from Australia and had one of the best backhands, if not the best, I've ever seen. Pancho used to tell me, he said don't play his backhand on any big point. And boy, that's hard to do when you're playing you know, you're thinking couldn't be expecting me not to go there. But, I followed Pancho's advice, and I had pretty good results against Rosewall. I played his forehand on every big point stay away from the strength on the big point of the opponent.

I looked for things when I was coaching Chris Evert. I watched everybody she played. I watched every match and I tried to figure out ways for her to beat Martina Navratilova. At one stage Chrissy lost 13 times in a row to Martina and for years we've been trying to get Chrissy to understand she had to learn to volley she's going to have a chance against Martina.

 So, after the 13th loss, she lost 6-0, 6-0. She was number two in the world. She was ready to throw in the towel and quit. Seriously, this is the honest truth. She was ready to give up the game. She said I can't beat her and her husband at the time John Lloyd and I were both helping her and we said you got to go in on Martina's backhands. She can't hurt you on the backhand, you got to go in on every short ball. You got to learn to play the net and you got to learn to hit a topspin lob.

So, in 1987 at the French Open Chrissy and Martina played in the finals. It is one of the great matches of the French Open. Chrissy went to net 17 times and won 15 points and hit five topspin lobs and won 10-8 in the third. An unbelievable match she finally proved that she could win against Martina and from that stage on in their careers she was 50/50.  She'd win half and lose half against Martina.

And I'm a big believer that 'all the little things' can add up to one or two points in your favor that can swing the match for you.