Dennis Van der Meer - The Game’s Foremost Tennis Instructor Passes Away - UBITENNIS
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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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Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel

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Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.

 

Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.

Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

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Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo

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The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.

 

The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.

“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.

The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.

 

“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.

World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.

“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.   

 

 

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