Get your pro spring swing on! I love this time of year. The weather is warming up and there is such positive energy around the tennis courts.
On the Pro Tour, the American swing in Indian Wells, Calif. and in Miami are so much fun for the players. I was a player that loved the road and being on the tour. From week to week, there was always a new awesome adventure. Some players needed more time off the Tour, but I was a player that didn't feel good when I was away from the courts. I always felt that the week I took off was the week I could have won another tournament.
I was so locked in for the Grand Slams. The on- and off-the-court training. Even my mental and tactical approaches changed to approach every Grand Slam with a “winning it all” attitude.
The mindset changed for Indian Wells and Miami. For some reason, I just had more fun at these events. I had mixed results on the court during my career, but off the court, it was a time of the year where it charged me up for the long European tour that would go from March until July. A tournament every week in another country every week needed a full tank of emotional fuel.
During Indian Wells and Miami, I would skydive, swim with dolphins and play with the tour rock band at the Hard Rock Player’s Party. Sometimes, this was done the day of or before matches and it was a blast!!!
The fans were always on spring break from a long winter and they seemed to be a bit nuts as well. These tournaments are really geared for the fan. You can get right on the rail for practices and matches to see the stars of the sport. I found this atmosphere made a strong connection between player and fans.
I remember fishing in Miami, in a spot right behind the courts waiting for my match and some fans came over and hung out with me. It was so cool to be at one of the biggest tour stops in the world and just a few feet away from world class tennis, while I was fishing for tarpon with some tennis fans from around the world.
If you get a chance to book a spring tennis trip, I highly recommend taking a shot at either the East or West Coast. They both have their own personality and are considered to be the fifth and sixth most important tournaments on the Pro Tour today. I promise you won't regret the up-close-and-personal vibe you will receive at these events that you won't receive at the Grand Slams.
I will leave you this issue with a Roger Federer observation … I lost a ton of sleep watching the Aussie Open with all of the upsets on both the Men's and Women's sides of the draw. It was worth it watching Fed come back after six months away from the Tour. Now 35-years-old, Fed continues to amaze. Remember when Andre Agassi reached the finals of a Slam at the age of 35 and was still very competitive? Fed, like Agassi, watches the nutritional approach and fitness approach for an aging and beat up body. I see Fed taking the ball earlier and on the rise. Some tennis circles call this “off the bounce.” This allows Fed to take reaction and recovery time away from his opponent.
The next time you watch Fed, look for this kind of ball control and see if you can implement it into your game.
Enjoy the American spring swing through Cali and Miami before the mud rolling begins towards the French Open!