Perhaps the most common sentiment shared by players who competed in tennis’ recent pop up tournaments from Germany’s Tennis Point Exhibition to UTR’s Pro Match Series, was the beauty of having something to train for again. Players have admitted to losing their competitive edge. Some, like Rafael Nadal, Steve Johnson and Denis Kudla, admitted they’ve hardly hit a ball in the past two months, while others, like Jamie Murray have had no issues staying motivated.
On this week’s Coaching in the Bigs, Paul Annacone connected with his good friend and ATP coaching veteran Craig Boynton to discuss how he and his current pupil Hubert Hurkacz felt about the downtime, and subsequent return to the court.
“Obviously this pandemic has been very negative,” said Boynton, “But we turned the negative into something positive for us, this gives us time to address issues we wouldn’t normally have time to address.”
Hurkacz' coach, Craig Boynton, pictured left, has coached Jim Courier, Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Steve Johnson- Getty Images
Hurkacz crushes serves and blasts heavy groundstrokes from both wings, but his transition and net game leaves a little to be desired, especially for a 6’5” athlete of his caliber. Boynton said they have been using the down time to develop that area of his game, something they wouldn’t normally have the time to do during the nonstop 11-month season, where the primary goal is to increase your ranking and earn prize money.
“It was great to play for something that was a little more than pride,” Boynton said, “we all felt like tennis coaches and tennis players again, we felt like we were normal again.”
World no. 19 Alison Riske, who is set to headline this weekend’s UTR Pro Match Series, echoed Boynton’s thoughts. “Having this event to gear up for has brought me some normalcy to the quarantine times, I’m so excited for this event."
With no official ATP or WTA events for the foreseeable future, these events, much like the “Home Court Advantage” exhibition this past weekend in Rolling Hills, CA, which featured some of Southern California’s best players including 10-time ATP title winner Sam Querrey, inject much needed life for both the players and fans.
“I think this is a great stepping stone,” Boynton said of the UTR event. “My first thought after the tournament was when can we do this again?”