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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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Belinda Bencic battles past Marketa Vondrousova to win gold in Tokyo

Belinda Bencic won the gold medal beating Marketa Vondrousova in three sets.

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Belinda Bencic (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

The Swiss world number 12 won her first-ever gold medal beating the Czech in a tough three-set match.

 

Belinda Bencic is your Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist after beating world number 42 and Czech Marketa Vondrousova in three tight sets 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in the tournament’s longest match at two hours and 30 minutes hitting 29 winners in the victory.

It was indeed the Swiss who got off to the faster start and after holding serve in the opening service game went right to work looking for the first break of the match setting up the first breakpoint with a stunning backhand winner.

She earned the first break of the match but the lead didn’t last long as the Sokolov, Czech Republic native broke the world number 12 to love to go back on serve.

At 2-2, it was the Czech setting up two more chances to take the lead this time with her powerful forehand and at the second time of asking she took her first lead of the match but just like earlier in the set relinquished it the very next game.

Vondrousova’s next opportunity to try and get a break and hold a lead was at 3-3 but the Flawil, Switzerland native saved both and stayed on serve until 6-5 when Bencic had a set point took it to win the first set.

The Czech wasn’t going to back down and this time she would break in the first game of the second set and managed to turn it into a double break and served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

Again, the world number 42 earned a break of serve in the first game of the third set, but the following game took the Swiss three chances, but she broke back on serve at 1-1 with another forehand passing shot winner.

At 2-1, the world number 12 earned three chances to break and took her first lead of the set when Vondrousova served an untimely double fault but responded by breaking her back the very next game to go back on serve.

Bencic took a medical timeout at 4-3 to have the trainer tape up her big toe and the treatment seemed to do wonders for her as she broke the Czech to love the very next game.

With the Swiss serving for the win and the gold medal, she faced some heavy pressure facing two breakpoints but saved both and on her second match point she served out the match and the win.

Earlier Elina Svitolina won the bronze medal beating Elena Rybakina in three sets.

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Novak Djokovic Faces No Regrets Over Olympic Participation After Missing Out On Medal

Novak Djokovic has no regrets about being in Tokyo despite walking away with no Olympic medal for the third consecutive games.

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Novak Djokovic (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has revealed he doesn’t regret competing in Tokyo despite missing out on an Olympic medal.

 

The world number one lost his bronze medal match to Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in 2 hours and 48 minutes.

A frustrating last 24 hours was capped off with a hard-fought defeat that saw him withdraw from his mixed doubles semi-final due to a left shoulder injury.

As a result Ash Barty and John Peers claimed the bronze medal which sees Djokovic without an Olympic medal for a third consecutive Olympics.

However after the loss to Carreno Busta Djokovic said he has no regrets about competing in Tokyo, “I don’t regret coming to Olympics at all,” Djokovic said to Sasa Ozmo.

“I believe that there are no coincidences in life, everything happens for a reason. I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympics and big tournaments, and I know that those losses have usually made me stronger.

“I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country, both in singles and mixed. I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today. Level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion mentally and physically.

“I know that I will bounce, I will try to keep going for Olympics in Paris, to try to win a medal for my country. I am sorry I disappointed a lit of fans in Serbia, but that’s sport, I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much.”

After failing to win a medal in Tokyo, Djokovic now has gone three consecutive Olympic games without a medal.

Despite this latest setback Djokovic is still on course to achieve the grand slam ahead of the US Open.

But in his post-match interview the Serb admitted that before he can think about that he has to take care of a few injuries, “I hope that the physical consequences won’t create a problem for me for the US Open,” Djokovic admitted.

“That is something I am not sure about right now, but there are no regrets, you have to give your all for your country. I have withdrawn (from mixed) because of injuries, not only one. I hope that won’t stop me for playing the US Open.”

Djokovic’s next scheduled tournament is in Cincinnati on the 16th of August although it’s possible that the world number one won’t play until the US Open on the 30th of August.

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Rafael Nadal Returns In Washington Ahead Of Historic US Open Bid

Rafael Nadal returns to action next week when he competes at the Citi Open in Washington.

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Rafael Nadal (@CitiOpen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal makes his return to the tour in Washington this week ahead of a history-making two weeks in New York.

 

The top seed will enter the Citi Open next week playing his first tournament since losing in the Roland Garros semi-finals to Novak Djokovic.

Nadal leads the field as he prepares for a crucial few weeks coming up with history awaiting at the US Open.

Heading into the tournament at Flushing Meadows, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are all level at 20 grand slams.

With Federer still recovering from his knee injury and Djokovic looking exhausted from his Olympic bid, Nadal will look to capitalise on a golden opportunity to get in-front in the race to being the greatest of all time.

In Washington, Nadal will begin his campaign against either Jack Sock or Yoshihito Nishioka.

A potential third round meeting with Lloyd Harris could await while Nadal could face 7th seed and in-form Cameron Norrie in the last eight.

Norrie is coming off of a title in Los Cabos having won the third most matches this season behind Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev.

Also in the Spaniard’s half is Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios, Benoit Paire, Taylor Fritz and Dan Evans.

In the bottom half of the draw Felix Auger-Aliassime will face Andreas Seppi or a qualifier in the opening round.

The Canadian is also projected to meet Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka en route to the semi-finals.

The likes of Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda and Alex De Minaur are also in Auger-Aliassime’s half of the draw

Play starts on Monday with Nadal’s opening match set to take place on Wednesday night local time.

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