Match Day – Game On!

SHAHEED ALAM – People have compared a tennis match to a game of chess while running a marathon. An intense match-up could take around 2 hours to complete, with strategy and tactics vital in getting that win over your opponent. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that you head into every match with a good game plan in mind. Most importantly, decide on a game plan that has previously worked for you – one that you’re confident and comfortable with. In today’s article, I will be sharing 3 ways on how to have a good game plan. Take note that this is just a base for you to build on because the entire game plan can only be decided by you, and only you, because no one knows your game better than yourself

Playing To Your Strengths

Rafael Nadal using his Forehand to dictate the point

It is very important to understand your strengths. Understanding your strengths means having the ability to know what gives you the best chance of winning the point.  For example, if playing a hard and fast forehand is your strength, you would want to hit the first ball after your serve (assuming you’re serving). Rafael Nadal averages about 85% of the time he hits a forehand after his serve. Hence, if this is how you want to approach your game, you would want to plan beforehand on how you are going to use the forehand, especially on the first shot after your serve, to start dictating the points.

Defending Your Weakness

Just like how everyone has a weakest subject in school, everyone has a weakness in tennis too. Even the very best, like Roger Federer or Nadal. However, it is how efficiently they defend their weakness that makes them so good. For example, Roger Federer has been known for having a weak backhand against Nadal’s heavy forehand spins but over the years, he has changed his game plan to better defend his weakness. From playing slices to taking a step back, or even stepping into the court and taking it early (the best tactic in my opinion), Federer has changed up his style of playing to have the best chances against Nadal. Therefore, as important as it is to level up your weaker areas, it is almost impossible to escape from it during a match when you go head-to-head with an opponent of matching standards. Therefore, it is much more important to try and defend your weakness to the best of your abilities.

Roger Federer putting the slice to good use

Studying Your Opponent

This may be the toughest to do but if done well, you will (almost definitely) gain an edge over your opponent. For amateur matches, it may be difficult to study your opponent as most of the time you will be playing against someone you’ve never met before. But wherever possible, try to search him/her up. You can also ask your peers if they have seen how your opponent play. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of studying your opponent prior to the match so when you go into the match, you will be fully prepared on what to do. Dig out his/her strengths and weakness and use it to your advantage.

Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail so always go in every match with a game plan that will give you the best chance of winning the match. Don’t be shy to DM me on Instagram @shaheedalam_ if you have any question, I’ll be more than happy to answer! Till next time, continue to #hititlikeshaheed!

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE – JUNE 29: Shaheed Alam of Singapore celebrates winning his mens singles play-off match against Hesam Esmail Yazdi of Iran during day four of the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group III at OCBC Arena on June 29, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images for Singapore Sports Hub)

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. He is also supported by Grip String Sports and Pro’s Pro. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.

For inspiring stories related to running and sports, as well as discounts to local races, subscribe to ‘RunONE’ by adding +6588347638 to your Whatsapp contacts. Then send us the words, “Run With Me.”

Serving and Stroking It Right

 

SHAHEED ALAM – Tennis is a funny sport. The better you get at the sport, the more strokes you get introduced to, which might lead you to think that maybe you aren’t that good afterall. But don’t worry because if you’re just starting out with tennis, here are the 5 basic strokes most commonly used in tennis that you’ll need to know to have a good game with your friends, (and stroke your athletic ego)!

The Serve

Photo credits : Leong AC / SportSG
A picture of a tennis serve 📷: Leong AC/SportSG

Let’s start with the serve. The serve is arguably the most important stroke in Tennis because of a few reasons. It is the only stroke that you are completely in control of, as compared to other strokes which largely depend on how well your opponent hit his. The serve is also the first stroke that you start the point with, and therefore having a great serve can present a huge advantage in any game. One good thing about it is that you can practice it on your own! All you need is a basket of balls and a court! Remember, practice makes perfect 👌🏾

Groundstrokes

A picture of a forehand 📷: Leong AC / SportSG

 

A picture of a backhand 📷: Cheah Cheng Poh / SportSG

The forehand and backhand are the most basic groundstrokes that you would need to have a good rally with your friend. Having consistent, solid groundstrokes can tilt the match in your favour. Most players have a stronger forehand that they will use to dictate the points with – Nadal is a great example. However, having a good backhand is equally important because it does not allow your opponent to play to your weakness all the time. By having a good backhand, it can limit your opponent’s options and make him think twice about playing to your ‘weaker’ side.

Volley

The volley is when you are at the net and about to finish the point. This usually happens when you hit a strong attacking groundstroke and then approach the net to finish the point. When you are at the net for ‘the kill’, your opponent will have significantly shorter reaction time to respond to the oncoming ball which gives you a higher chance of winning the point – Federer is a master at this. However, do keep in mind that once you’re at the net, you will also have significantly less time to react as well so do make sure you have enough practice at the net unless you want to leave the court with a bruised eye (and ego) 🤣

Overhead / Smash

Once you’re at the net, your opponent might try to catch you off guard with a lob. This is when an overhead comes in play. Very similar to the serve, the overhead is an important shot as it shows that you have dominated the point and need to hit the overhead to finish the point. However, keep in mind that unlike groundstrokes, where the ball typically slows down after the bounce, the overhead is the only shot in tennis that the ball comes faster to you. Make sure to have enough practice on the overhead so that you won’t rue over it when you miss on an important point in the match!With that, these are the basic strokes of tennis for beginners but be prepared to learn many more variation as you get better and better. Drop shots, forehand and backhand slice, backhand smash, half-volleys are some to name a few that you will learn as you move up the scale! Till next time, continue to #hititlikeshaheed!

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. He is also supported by Grip String Sports and Pro’s Pro. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.

For inspiring stories related to running and sports, as well as discounts to local races, subscribe to ‘RunONE’ by adding +6588347638 to your Whatsapp contacts. Then send us the words, “Run With Me.”

A ‘love-hate’ Relationship In Tennis

SHAHEED ALAM – Don’t date a tennis player because ‘love’ means nothing to them. Some of you might be wondering what’s in this statement and looking for hints to my relationship status. Love can mean a lot of things to different people, but I’m not about to turn into a relationship expert here. When ‘Love’ is used during a tennis match, it refers to a score of ”0′, zilch, ‘kosong. Now that you have heard this interesting trivia about how tennis is different from other games, here are some of the basic rules to Tennis so you can learn how to fall in ‘love’ with it!  

The scoring system in tennis starts with Love (Zero), 15, 30, 40. Some say that they came up with these numbers based on the time on the clock but instead of 45, they selected 40 because it sounds better. It takes 4 Points to win a Game, 6 Games to win a Set, 2 Sets to win a Match and 7 Matches to win a Tournament. When a player reaches 40 and win that point, he gets 1 Game on the score board. While it normally takes 6 Games to win a set, any set that reaches a tie of 5 games apiece will be played on for 2 more games. If the deadlock continues and the set reaches 6-6, a tie-breaker game will be played to decide the set winner (whoever is first to win 7 points). Usually, a tennis match is played as a best-of-3 format so naturally the first player to win 2 sets would win the match.

Before the match starts, a coin toss would decide the player who begins serving first, with the winner of the toss awarded the choice to either serve or return first. If you don’t have a coin, you can always use your racket with the logo at the bottom of your grip representing ‘Heads’.

This side of the logo signifies ‘Heads’
This side of the logo signifies ‘Down”

A server starts each game on the right side and serves into the box diagonally left of them. If the first serve is a fault, a second service is allowed. However, two faults in a row (or what is colloquially known as a double-fault) will result in your opponent being awarded a point 😊.

If you’re playing a singles match, the alleys at the sides of the court are not considered within the play areas. That changes when you play in a doubles match and the play areas are expanded to include the alleys. During recreational or friendly matches amongst friends, there probably would not be an umpire so always be honest in your line calls! A very important thing to remember is that if the ball lands on the line, it means it is IN. 99% out = 100% in!

The difference between a tennis Singles and Doubles court

These are some of the basic rules and scoring system of tennis so the next time you play with your friends, ask them to not raise a racket when the game is not ruled in their favour! So the next time you Do follow my tennis journey on @shaheedalam98 on Instagram and feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions regarding the rules. Till next time, continue to #HitItLikesShaheed!

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. He is also supported by Grip String Sports and Pro’s Pro. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.

For inspiring stories related to running and sports, as well as discounts to local races, subscribe to ‘RunONE’ by adding +6588347638 to your Whatsapp contacts. Then send us the words, “Run With Me.”

What’s in my bag? Shaheed tells it all

SHAHEED ALAM – Ever wondered what’s in a tennis player’s bag? I get asked this question a lot, be it fellow tennis players or just general sports enthusiasts. Read on to find out what’s in my bag for training as well as competition day, and how different they are!

My go to training bag which provides so much space that I could fit everything inside it

Training Days

On a normal training day where I usually have double training sessions (8-11am and 4-7pm), my bag will be packed with about 6-7 tee shirts, 3 shorts, 2 caps and 4 wristbands. All of them courtesy of Asics which have been one of the most comfortable brand apparels I have had.

On top of these, I would bring along 2 rackets from Babolat every time just in case the string snaps on one of them so I will always have a backup racket to train with. (No excuses for skipping training!) I’ll also always have 2 spare grips from Pro’s Pro so that I can change it anytime if the grip gets too sweaty 😅 The best part of it? All these apparel and training equipment fits comfortably into my spacious Babolat Tennis bag!

This is usually what I pack for a typical training day!

Competition Days

On competition day, I would bring roughly around the same number of apparels, with the exception being an additional jacket to keep my body and legs loose and warm before the start of my match. This is important because you never know when the preceding match could drag on into a tie-breaker final set!

Another difference would be the 4-5 tennis rackets that allows me the flexibility of choice to use the one that suits me best on competition day, and also react and change my game approach if necessary.

I will also pack along a skipping rope to help me with my warm up. I usually do about 3-5 sets of skipping right before my match to get the blood flowing and legs loosened up before I step onto the court. Most of the time, the string tension will also change as the match progresses so it’s also important for me to bring a few sets of racket string so I can adjust the tension based on the conditions at the competition venue. Different countries, surfaces, and even altitude play a major role in affecting the tension of the racket. For me, this peculiarity also makes tennis much more interesting because there will never be two identical games even if the players are the same.

My go-to choice for strings are from Pro’s Pro, and I usually carry with me a reel of them so that I can string the rackets up when I reach the venue. A tennis tournament typically lasts about a week so I also have to make sure that I have sufficient grips as well, usually around 10-12. To be fully prepared to deal with any kind of situation, I will also bring along my medical kit which includes deep heat rub, ice cold spray, as well as different type of tapes like KT Tape, Rigid Tape etc. You never know when you might have a niggle on your body so it is best to be always over-prepared than under.

This is what I usually pack for a competition day!

Now that you know what’s in a tennis player’s bag, I hope that helps you get a clearer understanding of what is required for training and competition as you go about packing your own set of training gears. That said, every individual may have their preferred method and there is no one approach to this. So be sure to test it out over time and find the optimal routine and approach best suited for you to perform best on the court!

Till next time, continue to #HitItLikeShaheed!

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. He is also supported by Grip String Sports and Pro’s Pro. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.

For inspiring stories related to running and sports, as well as discounts to local races, subscribe to ‘RunONE’ by adding +6588347638 to your Whatsapp contacts. Then send us the words, “Run With Me.”

Did You Know? How ‘The Game of Palm’ Became Tennis

SHAHEED ALAM – At present, I can confidently say that tennis is one of the toughest sports out there due to the physical, mental, technical and tactical aspects of the game. At the recently concluded Australian Open, Men’s Champion Novak Djokovic spent a total of 14hrs 4mins on the court throughout the entire tournament, across 7 matches. That is an average of around 2 hours per match.

However, was it always like this when tennis began? Certainly not.

Before rackets there were palms

When tennis first appeared in the 12th century, it was played with the palm of the hand instead of a racket. This continued up till the 16th century when rackets were introduced by the French and English, although it was unlikely that the games then tested anyone’s endurance or speed.

A cartoon of tennis when it was played during the 12th century without the use of rackets.
(c) Stock image from Google

Evolution of Tennis with Technology

It is generally accepted that Tennis has evolved tremendously since the time of Rod Laver and Ken Rosewell (1950s-1960s). Along with the leaps and bounds made in racket technology came increasingly challenging tennis matches, both physically and mentally. For instance, the increased size of the ball dramatically slowed down the court speed court and this indirectly had a knock-on effect of turning tennis matches into an endurance challenge.

Left : Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe at 1981 final
Right: Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic at 2015 final

Notice the difference in the court. The picture of the left shows a lot more dead grass at the net area compared to the picture on the right, due to the evolution of tennis.
(c) Stock image from Google

Different playing styles and eras

With all these modifications to the game, players had to adapt by changing their playing style as well. With the ‘Serve and Volley’ game pretty much long gone (except for a few players), today’s game focuses more on the baseline.

(c) Stock image from Google

# Hit It Like Shaheed

With the sport itself having evolved through time, I can’t help but look back on my own journey too.

From a 5-year-old kid to a National Tennis Player. I’ve been very privileged to be able to have the opportunity to hold a racket and don the national outfit because tennis is a fantastic sport for all!

(c) ONEathlete

I’m especially excited to be able to don a pair of tennis shoes from Asics’s Tennis line and have my trusty Babalot racket on the Tennis court with me today!

Shaheed preparing to serve during his training (c) ONEathlete

Both brands have also evolved tremendously over the years and developed a number of products and prototypes that have gradually improved in response to how end-users (athletes) and the demands of the sport have changed with time.

This is something I, as an athlete, value and see in many of those who stay on top of their game. The key is to stay ahead of the curve and adapt with the times.

(c) ONEathlete

I highly encourage anyone to take up tennis as a sport because it is a great form of exercise. While it may be challenging to be hitting rallies from the get-go, once you get used to it, you will be having tons of fun with your friends in no time! While at it, remember to grab a pair of Asics Tennis shoe and Babalot racket – they might just give you the head start you need!

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.