Coaches' Corner


interview with john newcombe AO, OBE

Paul Francis chats with tennis legend John Newcombe


You’ve played and been involved in tennis all your life – who do you believe is the greatest tennis player you’ve ever seen, perhaps not one you’ve played against but the greatest player you’ve seen?


That’s a very tough question to answer because it spans two totally different generations, generations of not so much players but generations of equipment.  So I would have to talk about the greatest player I ever saw with a wooden racquet and the greatest player I have seen playing with today’s equipment.  Because they play two separate games it’d be Laver in the first case, playing with the wooden racquet and probably Federer in the latter part. 


Federer is my favourite player to watch but I get frustrated watching him.  Sometimes his application playing a certain individual, ‘on how to play that individual’ looks to me a bit lacking, like he needs a game plan to carry it through


I share those feelings; Roger’s got an all-court game but doesn’t use it. I can only think that he is beating 95% of the players in the world playing a certain type of game which is kind of when he got to the top quickly – it developed into just playing mainly from the base line.  His first Wimbledon that he won against Roddick he served and volleyed on every ball, and that’s just gone away from his game because he doesn’t do it anymore - he’s lost the art of serving and volleying.  So when he does serve and volley and gets passed you can see him thinking straight away ‘I am not doing that again’, he doesn’t commit himself to the serve and volley. He runs in looking for an easy volley, not like a serve and volley and then you’d be expecting you’re going to see a tough volley. Think of Edberg or Rafter coming to the net behind their serves. When he was working with Tony Roche for two or three years they were working on improving the volleys especially the forehand volley, the backhand slice and his second serve. Since he stopped working with Tony, the volleys have gone backwards and the backhand slice is now more of a chop, where it doesn’t have enough pace on it and he doesn’t use it a lot in his game.  He’s got a beautiful drop shot but he doesn’t use that very much so there’s an all-court game that he produces against Nadal and it will win him a set 6-1 or 6-2 and the next set he will go back and try and beat Nadal from the back of the court, which doesn’t happen very often, so it is a little bit hard to understand.


I remember saying to somebody the other day and I felt almost stupid saying it, that Federer is possibly the best player I have ever seen but I think he is under achieving.


Well take his approach shot especially off the forehand, he hits it as hard as he can with top spin and runs to the net. Well, the art of the approach shot is to get you into net position, and the number of times when he plays, especially against Nadal, is a great example where he will get caught at the service line and he’s dead meat. It’s very hard to understand why he keeps doing that.  Pace on the approach shot is not the success of the approach shot, it’s the position and depth and spin. The under spin is obviously better than the top spin approach shot as the bounce is lower, whereas, top spin bounces higher right into the perfect hitting zone of your opponent.



What would be your greatest memories from tennis, let’s say perhaps even from a match?


Well there’s a lot, so many.  I suppose two of the most treasured memories were the 1970 Wimbledon Final where I beat Ken Rosewall 6-1 - in the 5th. It was very special as it was the second Wimbledon I had won but I was now in open company and Ken was someone I had been watching since I was ten years of age, and dreaming I could play Davis Cup as he was as a 19 year old. Here I was in a Wimbledon Final with him and I probably played the best 5th set of tennis for many reasons, 6-1 in the 5th, I had led 2 sets to 1, 3-1 and lost five games in a row to lose the 4th set. 

I was in a very bad mental state at 2 sets all. I had let the whole occasion get on top of me, the crowd had turned 100% for Ken and I was getting irritated at everything, so at the sixty second change of ends I was able to turn a total negative state into a total positive state in sixty seconds! I went out on the court and put myself in a zone where nothing existed except a tennis ball and someone else at the other end of the court.  So a couple of days later I was thinking about it and I was very proud of the fact I had won Wimbledon but I was more proud of what I had been able to do in that sixty seconds to my state of mind and body, that to me, under that sort of stress and pressure at a Wimbledon Final, I thought was a real accomplishment that I felt very proud about.

The other one was the Australian Open against Connors. Paul, you actually gave me a video of that match and I had not watched it, and I think it was about 14 years afterwards you gave me a copy to look at.  I since watched it a couple of times and it was a lot closer than I thought. It wasn’t just beating Connors in the final it was the fact I wasn’t playing the tournament, I had told the organisers I was sick of not being home at Christmas, as they were playing it over Christmas and I was ready to retire anyway. Then, ten days before the tournament I found out that Connors was coming - I was number one in the world half way through the year when he finished the year as number one and I was number two but we never played all year so I wanted to play him.

We had only played once before in the US Open Quarter Finals the year before in 1973 and I won that in three sets. When I went into the tournament I hadn’t played a tournament for a month so I was under prepared.  I won the first match in five sets and I struggled with my form but I got through to the Quarters - there had been a lot of rain. The Quarter Final was on Monday and I beat Jeff Masters 10-8 in the 5th, then played a Doubles match after that and the next day was the Semis. I played Tony Roche and won 11-9 in the 5th after coming back from 5-2 down saved 4 match points. After the Masters match I went to Stan Nicholles, our Davis Cup trainer for two hours who worked on my legs. The next day I was exhausted and I had no memory of the last forty five minutes of the match. I was playing in on some inner body experience that I had never physically been through before but I just had this great desire to get to the Finals and play Connors. I had to say to Tony after the match that we had to default the Doubles because I was dead and I had to play Connors the next day on New Year’s Day, which was on a Wednesday.  Stan worked on my legs for another two hours and I got up Wednesday morning and my body felt alright so I actually went and jogged for a mile to see if there were any kinks there. I went out and played Jimmy and I beat him 7-6 in the 4th. He had a set point at 6-5 in the Tie Break and he still goes crook at me today as he hit a first serve to my backhand and came in and I hit a backhand winner and I won the tie break 9-7. I think it was 9-7 or 10-8.  I don’t know what would have happened on the 5th set because I was running on reserves, and when I did watch the tape of the match I could see that throughout the whole match in between every point I was walking slowly and breathing as calm and deep as I could. Just conserving every little bit of energy, because I knew what I had been through to enter the Finals. Usually when I played Grand Slams I was 100% fit and it wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but when I came into that tournament, I was about 80% fit so I had been going on reserve energy for a couple of days. It was an amazing lesson to me because I had never been through that sort of thing before and what the body and the mind can accomplish if the will is there to actually do it. This Grand Slam was definitely the most physical that I’d ever had to go through.


Mentally you were obviously really strong so I was interested before when you talked about the match with Ken Rosewall at Wimbledon where you gave yourself a good talking to because mentally, you were down and with sixty seconds changing ends you were able to totally change your mental state. Do you have any tip for the average punter, as this can effect everybody?


I am actually working on a book with a friend who is a corporate mentor on this whole subject, which is going to be out in a month or so on e-book and we get into quite a lot of that. It really didn’t happen in that sixty seconds, I was 26 years of age and things that had built my mental strength had been building since I was eight years of age.  So there were many, many lessons of learning about myself and I was always keen to learn more and more if I could about myself through those years from 8 – 26. You’ve got 18 years of building up your knowledge of who you are and what you are and having said that here I was at 2 sets to 1 and 3-1 up on the 4th and I had won my 2nd set 6-2 and the 3rd set 6-3 and I was up 3-1 in the 4th so I was comfortably winning and I allowed myself to become completely and mentally distracted because the crowd suddenly got behind Ken 100%. I had always been popular at Wimbledon and it threw me and I had allowed myself to get upset despite all the knowledge that I had.  In a short period like this I can’t give you a definitive answer to help someone,   but I can say that it comes down to developing a complete understanding of who you are and what you are and developing techniques to get that extreme self-belief.


I look forward to reading it; I really do, because it’s a huge part of tennis no matter what level you are. Dealing with mental issues, whether you’re a beginner and just nervous or you’re scared of failure.

Quite often people are asked who they would most like to have dinner with. Instead of dinner, who would you pick to have a game of doubles with?


A game of doubles?


Not necessarily tennis players, people whose company you think you might just enjoy having a game of doubles with.


I had a lot of fun with George Bush, George senior we played lots of times when he was a congressman, when he was director of the CIA, when he was vice president, when he was president, so he was a lot of fun to play with.  I had really good fun playing with Bill Cosby he was terrific.


What about if you had to pick a woman? You can’t have all men.


I can’t think of one that I played with that I know about off hand


Who would you just like to see on the other side of the court?



They might not be that much fun playing though, that’s more having dinner with. Amongst that group an interesting one might be Benazir Bhutto I think she was a pretty interesting person.


That’s great and would make for a very interesting game.  Australian Tennis has had its ups and downs lately but probably more downs than ups, there may be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.  We have often talked about it, and your passions for it, and the huge involvement you had with a generation of players throughout the Davis Cup, like Rafter and Philippoussis, Hewitt etc. Before we comment on where you think it might be going, what would you do differently, anything?


I think we are getting on the right track now - a year or 18 months ago I probably would have given you some opinions, but we are on the right track now.  The big move was getting Pat Rafter as Captain of the Davis Cup and Pat selecting Tony Roche as the coach.  I had been trying to get Pat to do that for two years and when he was going to, I was in Texas and he rang me and said I’m going to tell them I’m going to do it. I couldn’t be happier and I asked “Who do you want for your coach, who would be your first choice?” He said, “Tony” but there were other people Tennis Australia had in mind. 

My advice was for him to tell them he’ll do it but on the condition that Tony was to be coach, which is what happened. And, from Wimbledon last year you could see the whole mood changing and of course I was aware of things that were being done, being close to Pat and Tony.  As Pat said to me the other day “Mate, I’m just putting into practice the things you and Tony did in the nineties when he came up” and there is a sort of no prisoners taken attitude now. If they don’t want to be involved in what Pat and Tony are trying to do, and in the team spirit, then that’s fine but they are off the team. 

Pat remembers well the time in Hungary in September 1995 when we were playing in Budapest. We didn’t pick Pat to play and we lost 3 matches to 2.  Pat at that stage was behaving very badly and he said to me after the match that he never wanted to sit on the sideline again and have to watch. I said, “Well, mate, you stop behaving like a shit and we will pick you”.  He looked me right in the eye and he said, “That’s fair enough” and so, they were part of the process of Pat becoming who he finished becoming and he is aware of all that - what it takes to make  a proper champion, the lessons you have to learn along the way.


I can remember very well the match at White City against Cedric Pioline and the “War of Attrition”.


That was 18 months after and that was when Pat turned his tennis future and his life around by winning that match. Eight months later he won the US Open. When he won that match at White City he was ranked 63 in the world. He had dropped from 20th in the world over two years to 63rd and he had no self belief. He had lost knowledge of who he was and what he was, he had lost his inner spirit and we managed to get that back in the game.   

So Pat has now bought the fanatics back into the Davis Cup, they haven’t been there for years, as they were discarded. As you would know Paul, you were one of the ‘train’; I call them the ‘train’, in the nineties, as you followed our team around everywhere. There were about 150 – 200 hundred of you, the train,  who would come to all of our matches and all of you got to know one another and we made the team,  ‘the people’s team’ and so all of you who came to the matches felt like you were part of the team.  We did that on purpose as it helped make the spirit among the guys and after five years the team felt like they could beat anyone, anywhere, at any time, which we did. We became the best team in the world. 

Players like Wayne Arthur, who had never been in a Davis Cup team before - at 28  years on age he played like a maniac, destroying Kafelnikov who was ranked number two in the world, and the potato patch, there are so many memories of those years but it took us five years to finally develop all of that. Pat knows it’s going to take him 4-5 years to get where he and Tony want to be.


There is so much interest in tennis at the moment and I think the Australian Open was fantastic and the ratings were so good and the new Hot Shots program is really growing, it’s a real step forward. 


There are a lot of good things happening now. I wasn’t impressed for a few years on the direction and the way some things were done. Tony and I were of the opinion that our young players were all soft and it went back to the coaches. We were brought up under Harry Hopman and an iron discipline and so people thought they were working at 100%, and we thought their 100% was our 60% and of course young players overseas were working at real 100%. We were only working at 60%, so who’s going to become the better player? That’s what was happening for some time, people like Tony and myself were not being listened to.

We were the old school. We didn’t know that the supposed new methods were the way to do things. Of course it’s pretty simple, as its hard work, hard work, hard work and more hard work after that and having knowledgeable people around you that know what it takes to get to get to the top of the mountain.  If you’ve never been to the top of the mountain its pretty hard to show someone how to get there.


Early on, you had a huge part to play with Lleyton Hewitt - you stepped in to make sure the bar was raised a bit.  Having watched Lleyton Hewitt over the last few years, it’s lovely to see the Australian public now falling in love with him. Whereas I think before, sometimes they really didn’t understand him.


Well there are many endearing things about Lleyton to like and unfortunately things were made public - the public relations about him were terrible. At one stage I think he had lawsuits against the New York Times, the ESPN and the ATP and there were about five different lawsuits, everyone was getting sued.  I could never understand why this was happening because I always found Lleyton a pretty easy guy to get on with, one-on-one. Whoever was directing management certainly did Lleyton no favours because the general public never got to know Lleyton and the good qualities about him.  So I think probably they are getting to see that about him now, the thing that impresses me about Lleyton today, there are many things that impress me during his career, but today his desire to keep going through all these injuries. I can understand that because I am sure he wants to finish on his terms and not through being forced out by injury. Let’s hope his latest operation turns out alright.


I know I spoke to Roche a while ago and he said he had been playing with a lot of pain and painkillers.


Yes, and having injections in his toe every time he played. That’s why he had to have another operation because he couldn’t keep doing that.


Alright, that’s fantastic. I love talking to people like yourself, passionate people and I sit here and listen to you and look at you and I look at the bottle of red wine on your desk which reminds me of another passionate person, wine expert James Halliday.  I love talking to people like yourself and James who are truly passionate about what they do. I talk to James about wine and I could sit there all day, and I talk to you, and I could talk tennis all day. Thank you, is there anything else you would like to say?


No. I think that’s good, good to get in the bit about Pat and Tony, they are on the right track and just little things like getting the fanatics back.  You know my mate Angus Deane from Qld? Well, Angus was such a part of all that, and he didn’t feel very welcome after we had finished our ten years.  Pat rang him up and for the match in Brisbane, he said, “Angus, we want you down there, Lleyton wants you there” and so Angus is going to fly down for the match. You can see what Pat is trying to do.


It was fantastic; people came from all over the place. It wasn’t just the local Davis Cup matches; we travelled all over the world to be part of the group.


The parties we would have afterwards, I don’t think Tennis Australia officials were that impressed.


You created a real culture and bond.  The spectators were part of it; some of my fondest memories are around those Davis Cup years.


They were great years. Pat said to me how did you get those people to come, I said it was just friends that I had that I knew loved tennis and I personally said to them you have to come to the Davis Cup match. When they came along, I made them feel like they were a section of the crowd and said this is for you guys and made sure we acknowledged them and all of that.  After Nice when we won, the boys went to a night club. I went to the night club about two hours later and spent two hours drinking with all of you guys, the train, because I wanted to acknowledge how much I felt you guys meant to the spirit of the thing.  


It was fantastic the sort of people you bought in, they were really good people and came in the spirit of it, they weren’t try-hards or wanabees!! They simply felt part of that great Australian spirit that you and Tony created around our Davis Cup team.

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Playing a let !

In a doubles match on a windy day, my opponent hit a high, loopy crosscourt shot. As I watched the ball drop, I saw another ball rolling toward me from the adjacent court. I immediately called a let. At the same time, a wind gust blew the ball 3 feet out and stopped the rolling ball. I offered to replay the point but my opponent refused, saying that he thought his shot was going out anyway. Was that the right call?

Your opponent is a gentleman and fair to a fault. He was entitled to a let. Rule 26 states, "The point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player's own control. "You were distracted by a ball approaching your court - something out of your control- and reasonably called a let. It makes no difference that unforeseen circumstances prevented the interference.

Keep posted to this site for more new tips !


Enjoy your Tennis!

Robert McGuigan


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Practice Tip - by Mark Roger


its really important to concentrate when you practice !


A lot of players feel that they play great in practice but just cannot find that magic in a match.

We have all been through that !

A good way to start turning that around is to practice like you are in a match, so try these few tips:

  • Simulate your match by playing points that count - ie you win or lose the point as a result of your rally
  • Start playing a game from different score lines - ie 30/30, 30/40,  15/40 etc and complete the games.  Or play from different set scores ie 4-4, 30/30, you’re up 5-4 and serving etc and complete the sets - try to think of situations in matches that trouble you and start from there
  • Play first to 15 or 21 and serve the whole time and swap, this will help teach you how to concentrate for longer

Learn to develop the same mental and physical rituals in practice that you want to use in a match. 

You cannot expect it to happen in a match if it does not happen on the practice court.

  • Have very specific outcome goals for your session.  Write them down, review them continuously and make them your focus - not whether you are winning or losing points at this stage.
  • Take note of how feel in practice: you are probably relaxed, more confident and not feeling much pressure.  Guess what, we need the same person in your match!!!
  • Has anyone ever hit back the perfect return but it just happened to be on a fault?  Funny that don’t you think????
  • Try to set up yourself for good practice to make for good match play!

Keep posted to this site for more new tips !

Happy hitting !

Mark Roger


 " Tennis is mind over matter and at the end of the day - it just does'nt matter "

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Stringing - by Mark Roger

Pro Shop

The world’s best players get their racquets strung after each match 

WHY ? ......   So they do not have to adjust their swings

If you don’t restring your racquet regularly it loses its playability: simply the ball does not come off the strings at the same trajectory as it did before.  Hence the shots you hit do not clear the net by as much as and therefore land shorter, you may think at this stage that your racquet is losing power.

You end up changing your swing to compensate for this loss of power. After a new restring a lot of people can complain they are now hitting long but this is a result of not restringing their racquet on a regular basis and having to adjust their swing.

Did you know how much was involved in restringing your racquet ?

Let’s try to clear up some issues relating to how frequently you should restring your racquet and which type of string and tension are best for you.

How often should I get my racquet restrung ?

Well a general rule of thumb is to restring your racquet per the same amount you play per week.  So if you play once a week, then restring your racquet once a year, if you play twice a week then restring twice a year and so on…

What tension should I restring at ?

The racquet tension will largely depend on you as a player.  The looser you restring your racquet, the more power it will give you; but the tighter you restring it, the more control you’ll have.  Be careful if you have arm/elbow problems as a tighter restring may do you more damage.  Try to experiment with some different tensions and find one that suits you and stick with it.  Remember that a racquet used frequently (ie 2 to 3 times per week) will lose tension and may perform differently - this means it’s time to get a restring so you can keep playing at your optimum level.

What type of string ?

Strings have different gauges (thickness) and this can also produce a different feel to hit with.  A thinner gauge string may feel like it is more “playable” but will probably not be as durable, while a thicker string will more durable but not as playable.  By playable I mean that you will feel the ball off your strings better, therefore giving you more control and finesse!!!!

Please fell free to contact us on 9901 3144 and talk to our String Doctors to see if we can give your game an edge !

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tennis tips -  by craig w smith

Serve - Coaches Tennis Tips


1/. Target practice (use a big target to start with (eg: chair)

and as you get better try a smaller target (eg: ball can).

2/. Practice your 1st and 2nd serves.

3/. PRACTICE ..... practice, practice



1/. Move back (this allows you more time to get your backswing)


2/. Block the return (use a more compact backswing and use the servers pace)



Keep your eyes on the ball



1/. Eyes on the ball (watch the ball all the way onto your racquet)

2/. Move your feet (get into position for the shot then recover your court position ready for the next shot)

3/. Percentage tennis (hit high over the net and hit cross court)


4/. Topspin (the ball will dip after crossing over the net)





Improve your serve


1/. Finger tip control (hold the ball with the tips of your fingers and thumb)

2/. Place the ball above you (with a straight arm by pushing the ball

up and not 'flicking' the wrist)

3/. Point at the ball (extend the arm up as long as possible before your swing on the serve)


Practice !

    ...... the more you practice the better you get

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court of appeals - by JEFF SNELLING


During a doubles match, one of our opponents hit a high lob with backspin.  It landed about two feet past the net.  He and his partner retreated, leaving me with an easy drop shot.  As I went to hit the ball, I realized the backspin was going to take it back over the net without me touching it.  Our opponents claimed the point because I didn't hit the ball.   Were they right ?

Trick shot artist Mansour Bahrami would have been proud of this shot, but next time don't just watch it, hit it.  You can even reach over the net for a shot like this, where the ball has already bounced on your side of the court, provided you don't touch the net (Rule 25b).  Otherwise, if a ball lands in a spins back over the net, the point goes to the team who hit the shot.




At 8-8 in a 10-point tiebreaker in an intense singles ladder match, my opponent and I ignored a ball that came onto our court.  After I won the point, my opponent claimed he was hindered by the ball.  I told him he should have immediately called a let.  he wanted to replay the point, but I refused. I won the next point and the match. Was I right ?

Yes, you were.  If your opponent had immediately called for a let, he would have been entitled to it.  According to The Code Item19. " The player loses the right to call a let if the player unreasonably delays in making the call".  The rules don't allow players to call lets depending on the outcome of a point.



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