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10sBalls Shares A Report From The Tennis Congress By Craig Cignarelli

Photo of PJ Simmons by Craig Cignarelli



After an impassioned speech by Ollie Stephens, on Thursday evening, creator PJ Simmons banged the gavel and launched the 2017 US Tennis Congress. When the sun rose the following morning, two-hundred fifty participants began a four day journey into tennis’ hinterlands. The curriculum here is grueling. The players work with private coaches several hours per day and then head back to their primary coach for instruction on point play and technical issues. Throughout the day, they attend course in every genre of tennis, from nutrition to pre-hab, and tactics to tiebreakers. Strokes improve, movement increases and bonds form. Still, there is so much more here.


As the sun set, groups of people joined at dinner tables to discuss the days’ activities. Simmons refers to them as amateur athletes, but these are not normal humans. Before “hello,” comes “can you fix my forehand?” When they pass a coach in the halls, there’s a quick glance at the credential to make sure it’s faculty, and then the interrogation begins – “How do I beat a pusher?” “Is my knee bend correct on my serve?” “Can you demonstrate the unit turn?” When a tennis can pops, there’s a mass Pavlovian head turn and you can sense the group inhale. This group is obsessive in ways that make pants-pulling and ear touching seem mundane. They hold tennis balls like a lover’s cheek and think touching the lines on the court is like smudging the Mona Lisa. One senses inner frailty when they call out the game scores. Imagine a small child in the midst of a puppy litter and you get the idea of what this feels like. It is love and joy and giggling and face-licking (infrequent) and rolling around and the hope that when it’s over you’ll be able to take it home with you.


Tonight, Jeff Salzenstein and Jeff Greenwald played an exhibition match. Both wore microphones and related the inner workings of a tennis mind. There was psychology and strategy, humor and some heavy breathing (Salzy needs to hit the treadmill) and a night of informative entertainment which left the crowd wanting more. Unfortunately, it is nearing 11pm and everyone has to be up for breakfast by six. Thus, there is a retirement in order and it begins now. More to come….

Photo of Ollie Stephens by Craig Cignarelli


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