US Southern California Summer Tour 2011 Day 1 - Day 10

Benny Lin
Founder & Academy Director

US Southern California Summer Tour 2011 Day 1 - Day 10

Posted at : July 20, 2011

Day 1
Our team had arrived to LA safely. For some reason it took ages to get out of LAX airport as both immigration and custom were packed with passengers and the lines were so long. I had to wait for over 2.5 hours before our team came out from the custom.

We drove straight to our hotel and had a short team meeting. During the meeting I reminded the kids that they are here for tennis, not for holiday or vacation and I expect their very best effort in taking their game to the next level. However most importantly I told the kids to learn from this touring experience to improve their life skills. I want each of the kids to learn how to adapt to any given situation here so they can learn this extremely important life skill. Quickly adapting to any given situation will make these kids a better/ smarter individual and successful person in the future. Bottom line is I want the kids to learn how to be a world citizen.

If you need to reach me, you can call my US mobile at +1 732 4916673.

Our hotel information:

Day 2
I let the kids rest a bit longer this morning so hopefully they could get some much needed rest. We had breakfast at 9:00am and left for the court around 9:45am. The tournament venue is located in Newport Beach – one of the nicest areas in Southern California. We could not ask for a better weather for tennis. The weather here is just perfect for tennis – humidity about 50% and temperature around 23C. The Pacific Ocean is only about 1 mile away from the tennis courts.

In the morning session I emphasized to the kids the importance of acclimatizing to the courts and surroundings because this place will be their battle ground for the next 5 days. I reminded the kids to create that “good feel” for the venue because they could perform better if they like the venue. We had about 2 hours hit in the morning and I also gave the kids some light fitness to get their legs and muscles in better shape for tomorrow’s matches.

In the afternoon, our team had another 2 hours of practice focusing on just match play as tomorrow everyone will take the court to begin their first round. During our daily meeting, I told the kids no matter what the outcome tomorrow I want each of them to fight hard and give 100% effort because those are the only things that they can always control and within their grasp. Nothing else is matter and if they could give 100% effort, regardless the outcome they will walk out as a winner in my eyes and they own eyes too. I also told the kids that they can be nervous and it is normal, but do not be afraid. Some kids afraid to lose – which is good, but some kids afraid to win or afraid to fight – and we want to avoid this.

I have posted pictures on HKITA facebook account:
To see the draws and results, please click here:

Day 3
Most of our kids played hard today but some were troubled by injuries. A few of our kids had a tough match and was a bit unlucky on big points. Winston and Marco’s match were very entertaining as both players played some of their best tennis and exchanged hard-hitting rallies with their opponents.

A few of our kids were beaten quite badly as they lack match experience but we also had easy wins. As the tournament progresses our kids will be facing tougher players. Overall our team had a good day.

Those kids who are already out of the tournament, coach Yoshida and I took them for a fitness session in the afternoon and we will continue to do so in order to better prepare them for the next 2 tournaments. Regular practices will also be arranged for those kids.

I have posted pictures on HKITA facebook page.

Day 4
Helen is the only player left in the singles competition. Yesterday she played and destroyed the No. 5 seed rather easily. She was just one level above her opponent. Helen has quite an aggressive lefty attacking game which I think is very useful for hardcourt surface. She however needs to improve her serving tecnique. Nevertheless she played really well throughout the match and what I liked most about her was how she kept her head cool and a good level of concentration throughout the match. Today and the next days (if she wins) she will be tested by tougher opponents.

Winston’s opponent was just a bit better today. He tried and gave everything he got but his game is not solid enough. I explained to Winston and the rest of the kids too that no matter what consistency is very important and at their level consistency should not be a tactic or strategy but it should be a condition. Winston can play good tennis and can hit good shots but he can only hit 2 – 3 good shots and after that those shots will usually follow by a mistake. I told the kids the mistake will actually deprive the first 2 great shots that they hit earlier. Everything become useless. It is like you cook a delicious meal and on the way to serve it you trip and everything falls on the ground. Yes you cooked a delicious meal, but you can’t eat it. Hopefully the kids will understand this metaphor and truly embrace the importance of consistency because in tennis the last player who hits the ball in wins.

Jasmin and Helen also won their doubles match today. Our pair was just too strong for their opponents today.

As for the rest of the kids, they had a training in the morning and again in the afternoon. We trained those kids who are already out of the tournament harder today so they can get ready for the next two tournaments. In same cases I had to push the kids really hard to make them work harder and I know although they all complained that the training was too hard or too much, but one day they will all thank me for pushing them harder.

Day 5
Helen played really a good match today. Her opponent was a double handed player who does not miss that much when hitting from a waist area. After losing the first set, Helen came back and took the second set mostly due to a lot of unforced errors made by her opponent. Before the start of the third set as the players get a 10 minutes break, I told Helen to mix up her shots with low, high and wide balls because double handed players don’t like to hit balls above or below their waist and also they have shorter reach distance compared to single handed player. Helen was able to mix up her shots effectively and did not hit too many balls around her opponent’s waist. She took an early lead and never looked back. I was happy to see Helen was able to follow my instructions very well. She’s now in the semifinal and will have a tougher opponent waiting for her. The only worry I have for Helen is her lack of experience dealing with American players as there is no umpire in all the matches played here. She was a few times intimidated by her opponent today during close calls. I told her to stand firm with her call and do not just stay quiet when she is challenged or when there is a questionable line call by her opponent. I told her to always ask: Are you sure? And: I am sure the ball was out – if she saw the ball was out. American kids are very competitive and our kids need to learn how to defend themselves and not be intimidated or be timid on the court because if you don’t say anything or stay timid, you will be taken advantage of.

Doubles were played this afternoon too. Jasmine and Helen played against a better doubles team today. They gave everything but the other girls were just too good for them. Jasmine was rather intimidated and thus did not play her best tennis. Our girls were always under pressure while the other girls - who I think were not a better singles player – knew how to play doubles and played as a team, while our girls played more like two singles players playing half of the court in a doubles match. Coach Yoshida and I will be working on their doubles in the coming days.

Justin and Marco had an easy win. They were too strong for their opponents. Today in the semi final match their partnership will be tested.

The rest of the team had practice in the morning and afternoon. We also did lots of fitness exercises as both coach Yoshida and I are planning to make the kids physically and mentally stronger in the next few days and will continue to do so till the end of this tour.

Day 6
It was great day for our team as Helen dismantled the No. 1 seed and our doubles pair of Justin/ Marco fought a close battle and secured a place in the final too.

Helen’s opponent was one of the biggest hitter I have seen in Under 14 Girl’s category. I have never seen too many girls who could hit the ball so hard, almost like a professional player. Her forehand and serve were so powerful equivalent to much older players’ power and pace. However Helen played very smartly by mixing high balls and wide angles that caught her opponent off guard. Helen’s agile left hand also helped a lot as she could mix up well slice, topspin and flat shots. What I really admired about Helen’s game is her ability to adapt to any given situation. She was able to quickly analyze her opponent’s weakness and strength and adjust her game accordingly. She’s not limited to just one strategy or game style and this shows that she is a smart player. Having said that, she needs to work on her serve because she has a few technical flaws in her serving technique.

Justin and Marco could have won the match in 2 sets. They were too nervous and held back on big points in the first set. After leading 40-0 or 40-15 many times they didn’t go for their shots or they didn’t play the game that got them to 40-0. On those lost important points, they just sort of push the balls back and hoping for the other side to make a mistake – which is totally a wrong mind set because you should play your winning game or you should always play your own game and execute your tactic regardless the score because good players win their match while conservative/ careful players sometime are given wins. We want to control our own destiny, not controlled by our opponents. So no matter what, play your game and go for your shots. Win the match, do not be afraid to take it.

Having said that Justin and Marco fought like warriors, they also gave everything they had which was great to see. Both kids showed excellent fighting spirit and they were determined to give their very best effort.

The rest of the players had usual training in the morning and afternoon again. Helen also had a good practice in the afternoon. Justin and Marco also did some extra fitness after their doubles because coach Yoshida and I wanted the kids to improve every aspect of their game, fitness condition and mental toughness throughout this tour. We want the kids to improve and get better and in order to do that they have to train regardless.

I have posted new pictures on HKITA facebook account:

Day 7
Helen was a class above her opponent. She had no problem dismantling her less skillful opponent. We, as a team, are very happy and proud for Helen in winning this tournament. In the past we had girls winning this tournament, but no one had won it as comfortable as Helen. One thing about Helen which should be copied by other kids is her ability to adapt to any given situation and she does not play with just one style. She would confuse her opponents with topspin, slice, flat, high balls, low balls, etc. and in junior tennis many players only know how to play against one dimensional player – pace hitter from the baseline. Not many junior players know how to use the whole full court as Helen by using angles, drop shots, slice, etc. That’s why most of Helen’s opponent played subpar when they faced Helen. Congratulation Helen for winning her first ever overseas tournament.

Our boys doubles of Justin and Marco could have won the tournament too. Before the match I reminded the boys to “take it from their opponents” if they want to win. However, they were not able to play as a team on big points. They lost most of the important points which made the difference between winning and losing. The boys just broke down on big points, played too carefully and didn’t play aggressive enough on big points. Having said that I admired their fighting spirit and team work – but not their team work in executing a play. In the next few days I will work on Justin and Marco’s volley because their blocking style volley was one of the main reasons they lost their match today. The boys must understand that “blocking volley” is not good enough for playing at this level. At their level they should be putting “something” behind their volley, otherwise it’s like giving a free point to your opponent because a soft volley will for sure result in you being past or killed.

The rest of the team had a good session in the morning with coach Yoshida. They also watched the finals and in the afternoon I took them to world’s famous Laguna Beach. The kids thought they were there just to relax but we did 1 hour of fitness on the beach sand. I just wanted to make sure they will get stronger for the following weeks and also tomorrow they will have a day off as we will take the kids to California Disneyland. I was going to originally take them to Universal Studio but one of the major highways here (405) has been shut down for the weekend creating what the media called “Carmaggedon”. Disney is located near where we stay.

New pictures have been posted on our facebook account. Below is additional report by coach Yoshida.

Day 8
All the kids had a great time at Disney today.

Tomorrow although it is Sunday coach Yoshida and I will take the kids for training in the morning to get ready for the next tournament in Costa Mesa. Most importantly I want the kids to play at the tournament venue so that they can acclimatize to the court surface and surroundings. Yesterday was also Helen’s birthday so we as a group sang a happy birthday song to her! Happy birthday Helen.

Draws for Costa Mesa Junior Open can be seen here:

Day 9
Our team had a good morning practice working mostly on tactical applications. I also made the kids do some fitness training to maintain their fitness level for tomorrow’s second tournament. During our training I played some points against Justin, Winston and Marco. I told them if they could beat me I would buy them 5 bottles of gatorade each – so you could imagine how motivated they were. Unfortunately for them, none of the kids beat me :-D but we had a good time and the kids learned how important consistency and accuracy in tennis. The rest of the kids played points against each other and we ended the training with a fitness training.

In the afternoon I gave the kids a rest so they can be fit and ready for tomorrow’s competition. So far all the kids are having fun and they are getting closer and more comfortable with each other, which is good to see. The older kids are always in look out and sometime taking care their younger teammates.

New pictures have been posted.

Day 10
Marco gave his very best and he wanted to win so badly but his game was easily broken down by his more consistent and steady opponent. Although the score tells us the match was easy but it was actually the opposite as each game both players were battling out each point. The problem was Marco couldn’t close each game because he would beat himself with unforced errors. He needs to immediately learn how to slow down and better select his shot selection to avoid unnecessary or avoidable unforced errors, which was the main reason he lost his match – basically he beat himself today.

Jasmine had exactly the same problem as Marco. She couldn’t hit more than 2 – 3 balls in the court. And at this level if you can’t execute consistently at least 4 – 5 shots with good pace, you just can’t win. There were too many unforced errors by Jasmine. One game I saw her hit at least 5 unforced errors – just like Marco, she beat herself today. There are other areas she needs to improve but improving her consistency should be the top priority. Otherwise how can you win if you can’t hit the ball in?

Winston had a good fight and he played well today. He told me that he learned from Marco thus he didn’t want to make the same mistake. Winston played with patient, structuring his points well using his forehand and went for it when opportunity presented itself. He fought hard too and pumped his first high and firm in a few occasions. What I liked about Winston’s match today was the fact he was able to play “controlled” aggressive tennis – he did a great job structuring his points too.

Helen’s opponent was a level below her level. She had no problem dismantling her opponent.

The rest of the kids will either play their first match tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Doubles will start tomorrow too for some age group.

During our afternoon work out session I told the kids how important consistency is for their game. Since there is not much time to improve physically and technically, I gave them a few tips to increase their consistency:

1. Hit more cross court
2. Avoid aiming too close to the lines
3. Use your best shot as often as possible
4. Wiser shot selections – avoid going for low percentage shots

Of course the kids can also hit the ball higher with more spin and reduce the pace of their shot but the above four points should be able to turn on the switch on their head.

Consistency is a condition that you must have. I told the kids that if they do not have consistency when playing a match, it’s like going to school, taking the tests, but not graduating (not getting the diploma). It sucks and but this is reality.

Hope the kids understand this and throughout this tour coach Yoshida and I will work on this area.

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