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Dennis Van der Meer – The Game’s Foremost Tennis Instructor Passes Away

Dennis Van der Meer was the game’s foremost tennis instructor. He was charismatic and dynamic. Read about the life of the teaching legend who passed away on July 27th…

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Attempting to explain the impact Dennis Van der Meer had on tennis is next to impossible. He did so much for so long that his accomplishments as an instructor overwhelm definitive record keeping. Not attempting to be cliched, the “Game’s Einstein” passed away on July 27th at the age of 86, in Hilton Head, South Carolina. (He had been in ill health for a lengthy period of time.)

 

It is often said “if you can’t play really well, you should teach.” That is basically what happened with Van der Meer. He was born in Namibia to parents who were South African missionaries and raised in the Capetown area. He became good enough to be invited to try out for South Africa’s Davis Cup team. In his candid fashion, years later he admitted to “choking.”

Self-doubt stalled his high level competitive career, but at the suggestion of a coach he began teaching, in order to restore his self-esteem. Not only did he blossom, he excelled in his new profession. For those in the tennis industry who knew him, the idea that Van der Meer, at any time, lacked confidence is really difficult to grasp.

It seemed that the bigger the stage, the more dynamic he was. He could be boisterous and bossy (and this I know from personal experience). On court, he was “The Boss.” He was strict and could, on occasion, be crusty when offering an opinion regarding an instructor’s teaching skill and/or playing ability.

But, away from the court, he transformed. He became engaging and entertaining, often telling wonderful stories. He was quick witted, humorous and from time to time, self-deprecating. Actually, he was captivating wherever and whenever.

Van der Meer arrived in the US in 1961. He began teaching at the Berkeley Tennis Club in the eclectic City by the Bay. Eric van Dillen and Jeff Borowiak were among the elite juniors he guided. He also worked with Billie Jean King and Margaret Court, too. But, he was truly in his element dealing with youngsters under ten, who were just beginning to play.

He did it with off-the-charts creativity. Because of the court restrictions he often faced, he used ropes to divide a single court into play areas and involved the kids in games in which they realized success.

As a teaching professional who worked for him for ten years said, “He taught kids how to learn tennis…and they had fun doing it.”

He regularly invented methods to develop proper stroke technique. One of his all-time best was a way to help those who opened up too soon, pulling the elbow away from the body, when hitting a backhand. To correct the error, he had the player place the top from a metal tennis ball can, (yes, this was in the old days), under the arm pit. If the player opened up too soon, the top dropped, and clattered on the ground. Keeping the elbow tucked appropriately produced a clean stroke and the top would drop as the ball was struck.

In 1963, he married Linda Vail, a talented player from San Francisco, who is one of only five women to sweep the National Collegiate titles. In 1960, competing for Oakland City College, Vail claimed the singles championship and teamed with Susan Butt of University of British Columbia to take the doubles. The year before (1959), she was a Wimbledon competitor. Over time, she became better known for her relationship with the rising teaching star and the fact that they had a Cheetah named “Drop Shot” that they kept at their home. (They divorced in the 1970s.)

He teamed with King to start Tennis America. Under that banner, the organization held summer Van der Meer-King Tennis Camps at the Incline Village Tennis Club on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Always a keen observer he soon realized the instructors who were working for him didn’t use similar approaches. One taught one way, and another went about teaching in a completely different fashion.

This led Van der Meer to launch TennisUniversity. It focused on establishing a Standard Method of Teaching (SMT) the game. In 1976, he founded the US Professional Tennis Registry (USPTR) that has become the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). It is acclaimed nationally and internationally for certifying teaching professionals who utilize the instruction format he developed.

Around this time (in the ‘70s), he moved his operation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and opened Van der Meer Tennis University. He worked constantly to inform the tennis community about the importance of standardized teaching. During one of his presentations in 1980, a clinic attendee caught his eye. In truth, it did more than that since the individual was not only striking, but a former player who had decided to become a certified instructor. That special lady became Pat Van der Meer in 1981.

During his career, he received more accolades than a head of state. He was named Tennis Coach of the Decade in the 1994 Tennis Buyers’ Guide Readers Poll; Development Coach of the Year, US Olympic Committee in 1997; US State Department Exceptional Coaching Performance in the Middle East in 1972. He has receive countless other tributes, but the most meaningful was becoming the first PTR Hall of Fame inductee in 2013.

In 2011, at 78, he suffered a debilitating stroke at Hilton Head. In life and love, what comes around regularly goes around. Pat had been critically ill years before and Dennis nursed her back to health. For the past eight years, she has done her utmost to make his life fulfilling. (She was by his side at the PTR Hall of Fame ceremony.) Together, they worked even harder (because of his incapacities), on ways to make wheelchair tennis more rewarding to play. Until the end, they shared over thirty years of special memories…

While Dennis Van der Meer was bigger than any story that can be told about a tennis educator, Pat played a critical role in making the book a best seller. Her importance should be recognized as the deserved tributes are paid to the individual who defined innovative tennis instruction.

 

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Casper Ruud rallies from one set down to beat local star Matteo Berrettini in Rome quarter finals

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Norway’s Casper Ruud came back from one set down to beat local favourite Matteo Berrettini 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) after nearly 3 hours on the famous Nicola Pietrangeli Court reaching the first Masters 1000 of his career at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Ruud has improved his win-loss record to 12-2 on clay this season after winning the Buenos Aires title and reaching the final in Santiago de Chile in last February’s Golden Swing last February. 

Ruud now leads 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against Berrettini. The Scandinavian player player Berrettini at Roland Garros last year. Berrettini scored his only win over Ruud at the US Open this year. 

Ruud has improved on his father Christian’s record at Masters 1000 level. Christian reached his only quarter final at this level in Monte-Carlo in 1997. 

Berrettini broke serve after a double fault from Ruud on the break point in the first game. The 2019 US Open semifinal saved a total of three break points in the second, sixth and tenth games. Berrettini closed out the first set with a drop-shot on the set point and closed out the first set 6-4 with a forehand volley.

Ruud earned his first break in the second game of the second set to build up a 3-0 lead taking advantage of forehand errors from Berrettini. 

Berrettini saved a double break point with an ace at 2-5. Ruud held serve at love with a backhand error from Berrettini to close out the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the decider. Ruud converted his fourth break point in the first game to take a 1-0 lead with a forehand winner up the line. Berrettini broke back on his second chance in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Ruud came back from 2-4 down to win the tie-break 7-5 claiming his 17th win of the season. 

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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal Hail Return Of Fans To Italian Open

The top two players on the ATP Tour give their reactions to the return of a crowd in Rome.

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Tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have welcomed a government decision allowing fans to attend the Italian Open during its final two days.

 

On Friday Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed that 1000 people will be allowed to attend the event on both the semi-final and final days. A move the government minister describes as a ‘first but significant, step toward the return of normalcy in sports.’ Until now the tournament had been held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears that allowing a crowd to attend the event may trigger an outbreak of the virus. As part of the conditions there will be rules in force concerning mask wearing, social distancing and reserve seating.

“If we are going to have 1,000 people, it’s better than no people for sure because we all miss the fans, and part of our professional careers in sport is playing in front of them,” Djokovic said following his third round win over Filip Krajinović.
“I’m really glad that that’s going to happen.” He added.

The Italian Open will be the first major tennis tournament on the men’s Tour to welcome fans since resuming after its five-month break due to the pandemic. Both the Western and Southern Open, as well as the US Open, were held behind closed doors. Meanwhile, at the upcoming French Open plans for 11,500 fans to attend the event daily has been more than halved to 5000 following a ruling from French officials.

“The situation is how it is. Very difficult and very unpredictable, so it is normal that things are changing quickly,” Nadal commented on the changes surrounding crowd capacities.
“It is normal that the people who have to make decisions, they do with the best precaution possible. I don’t expect easy decisions and I don’t expect things are prepared in advance because it’s difficult to know how the pandemic evolves during day situations.’
“Changes can change a lot. So if the situation is good enough, fantastic.”

When it comes to where the semi-finals and finals of the tournament could be played due to the admission of fans, world No.1 Djokovic is hoping officials will stick to the premier court. Arguing that it is ‘much better quality’ than the other courts at the Foro Italico.

“I heard also they are considering to use Pietrangeli or NextGen court for semi-finals and finals,” he said.
“I hope it’s not the case, because the quality of the clay and quality of the centre court is, in my opinion, much better than the other courts.”

In order for both Djokovic and Nadal to play in front of Italian fans they must both come through their quarter-final matches. Djokovic will play German qualifier Dominik Koepfer and Nadal locks horns with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

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Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome

Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@ATPTour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.

 

Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.

Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.

Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.

After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.

The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.

Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.

Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.

In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.

Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.

There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.

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