Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thunder and lightning

Lightning over Oradea in Romania (Wikipedia)

I guess its common knowledge that we see the lighting first and hear the thunder later cos, duh, light travels faster than sound. But do thunder and lightning always occur together? Well, surprisingly enough I had never given it much thought. And since I have often heard thunder and not seen the lightning and vice-versa, there was never a reason to think there was a relation.

Turns out thunder is the sound CAUSED BY lightning. When a bolt of lightning hits, it results in a shock wave caused by the very rapidly thermal expansion of air - creating the sound that we know as thunder. Nice!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The two handed back-hand

If theres anything in the game more than the serve to be dreaded, its developing a good double handed backhand. I will invariably slice anything on my backhand; while its effective, it will only help me stay alive - not kick ass. So having taken my serve a notch up, I think its about time I give my back hand the due attention.

One thing, greatly wrong, that I have been doing is getting my right foot across. Since the time I have realized that was not a great thing to do, I do get some good ones on and off.

Right shoulder points toward the ball.

Racket head pints to the back fence, about waist high. For more power, at the expense of loss in control, take the racket head even further back.

Stay relaxed - The arms should really be transferring the power in the legs, shoulders and torso onto the racket.

Start with all the weight on the back leg(left) and transfer it onto the front foot just before hitting the ball. Do not plant the right foot across.

The left side of the body should follow through. Combine with a low to high swing of the arms.

If you tend to spin after having hit it, you've done good!

Now, the entire thing:

Ref:Master the two handed backhand(BBC Sports)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The summer of '07

Believe it or not; I had to move my cursor over to the lower right corner of the screen to complete that title!!

Staring at the Fall semester tomorrow on, still about half an hour to go before I take the bus to the tennis courts one last time this summer, I thought I'd recap. This summer has been long.

It started off with me swearing to improve my serve. Something I have been working of for what seems like forever. Its really a pain to have about six to ten balls stuffed in your shorts, trying to serve. Focus gets shifted to keeping the pants on rather than get the ball in.. So I looked up ball hoopers - had always seen serious players get them to Deccan Gymkhana and I always wanted my own, since. It wasn't to pricy after all and so began my serving nights out.

I have been playing almost every night, over the past three months and it makes me feel good about myself for just that. That my serve isn't too different from what it was, is really beside the point.

I guess it was early summer, when we just drove up to Apache Lake, Canyon Lake. We have been here before, but we drove upto Roosevelt Dam this time. I saw a jukebox for the first time at Superstation Saloon - a crazy place where the walls have dollars bills for wallpaper. People coming here have it nailed onto the wall, writing something that identifies them on the bill. A pic that catches them both-

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
Since few of my friends from Persistent Systems, were onsite at Redmond, I thought I'd meet 'em and see a bit of Washington. I got my driver's license about a week or two before I was to be in Washington. It was a 3 day thingy.

Day one - we went to Mt. Rainier National Park - awesome place, very scenic. Getting back was fun too, we lost our way, and without the maps that give an overview of different highways, which I always forget to carry, it took a great deal of time and gas to get back onto a highway into Seattle.

San Juan Islands, Washington
Day Two - After much indecision, we decided to go through with it. San Juan Islands. The reason for the indecision was - there were too many things we thought were beyond our control to get the most out of the day - there was a waiting time for the ferry onto the islands, the cost of the the ferry seemed a bit too much, mistakenly so, and of course doubts on seeing any whales - which was the key attraction for Sandeep.

All but the last one of the fears turned out to be just a scare. But the whales did desert us. But we did enjoy the nice cold 3-4hrs on the ferry. Learnt a bit about the islands, saw the Bald Eagle, sea gulls too I think and the highlight of the ride was of course the lone sea-lion trying to protect its hunt, desparately trying to fight off the birds..

By the end of it, it had gotten pretty cold and we did crave for those onion pakoras. Here however french fries are a more common substitute and I settled for a hot chocolate, others had a round of beers!

San Juan Islands is a very relaxing place. I would not recommend it for a one-day stop though. Going there over the weekend should be nice. Get yourself some bikes for rent, cycle around to the sculpture park, the wineries, the whale museum is recommended but whale watching? I think not:P

Space Needle, Seattle
Day three of the trip was spent, not too far from Bellevue as I had to make it out of the place that night. So, Snoqualmie waterfalls it was. Before the trip, going to the Space Needle was on my agenda, but it kept getting pushed for later and we decided if nothing, we'd at least drive past by it. But when we did, I had to go up there. It was nice to see the city from up there - nice, nothing spectacular though.

Snoqualmie Waterfalls
This was very awesome. I would put this before Mt. Rainier too. Very good view of the top of the fall, the fall itself and the river/stream that it becomes later on. There are wooden boards that get you fairly close to the fall, but if you are willing to take a chance and violate the rules there, as most do, you can get really close to the fall. Be just a few feet from it.

Indianapolis, Formula 1, US Grand Prix

Raceday was sensational - It one thing to hear the cars go past you one after the other during qualifying, but when they all roar and scream together, its surreal. And to top that, at the start, right as the US national Anthem concluded, two monstrous fighter jet, flew overhead real close, real fast. Seeing the two Ferrari's battle it out -battle each other; they lost to Hamilton, even before the race started perhaps.

Didn't expect to run into Madhu out there - a chance encounter!

Sedona, 4th of July
This was my first time here for the American Independence Day. The fireworks have always been hyped a lot and was keen to seeing them light up the sky. It was long - 45 minutes is really an overkill. But it was great and ended in style. Such things are done quite well here.

Acura Classic, Carlsbad, California
822 Miles - That is what it took to get to this match and back. It was fun. I have a history of getting lost since I have been driving myself in new cities. Thankfully it did not happen on the way to the match. Our timing could not have been any better. We got the last parking spot - its wasn't really meant to be a parking spot; it was behind this huge truck. The lot had just been all taken and we were asked to put it there. We get to the seating area and find out the national anthem had just ended and players were warming up. Not a point missed. Kewl!

The pace with which Sharapova plays seemed unreal.. was great to see her in action. Patty Schynder too, but she was kindda over powered all along..

The rest of the summer was all movies. Netflix is real cool... The movies I've induged myself with this summer include, but not limited to ;):

Live free or Die Hard
Mr. Brooks
Oceans 13
About Schmidt
Killing Me Softly
Failure to launch
The juror
Blood Diamond
Welcome to Mooseport
Hotel Rwanda
The morning after
The sum of all fears
Human Nature
Lost in translation
The Rainmaker
Thank you for smoking
The Mothman Prophecies
Meet Joe Black
Deep Rising
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Blind Dating
Fantastic Four
Its a boy girl thing
The January Man
The pursuit of happyness
Kohsla ka ghosla
Stranger than Fiction
Run Lola Run
The Full Monty
Casino Royale
Zero effect
Ghost Rider
Schindler's List
Finding North
Bourne Ultimatum
The Legend of Ron Burgandy
The Matrix

All of the movies are good and recommended, except Casino Royale - hated that movie; 3 hours of my life absolutely wasted!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pronation, explained!!

My First serves on video

Having spent most of this summer working on my serve and still not being as consistent and accurate as I'd want to be with it, I really wanted to have a look at my own serve. So, last week I went to the courts carrying the tripod and my camera, which fortunately can take a minute of footage.

Playing it back - frame by frame, revealed a bunch of stuff, which I hadn't noticed while actually doing it..
I was leaning way too far forward into the serve - the reason for that being my ball toss. My feet also seemed to move quite out of position, which I again attribute to the toss. I was quite pleased with my arm action and follow through - my racket does seem to go quite a way down my back before it bring to meet the ball. So, yeah I needed to work on my toss.

This week watching Roddick at the Cincinnati ATP Masters', I watched his toss quite closely. Thats when I noticed something - he started his toss, holding the ball to the throat of the racket; I have always been holding it at the sweet spot - the part of the racket with which I want to hit the ball. Soon I realized all the players were doing that.

Yesterday I started doing that, and most of my serves were going where I wanted them to. Very satisfying.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Me, Simpsonized!!

Thats me, upon being Simpsonized. Try it yourself:

Courtesy: Maryann - the kid!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The backhand slice

Grip: Continental
Hit outwards with a high to low knife-like motion.
45 degree angle of the racket face.
Step out with the dominant foot and lean into the shot.
Feel your spare hand extend out behind you for better balance as it counters the forward swing.

Hitting into the path of the ball leads to a clean contact than hitting across the path. Hitting across however, also adds some side spin.

A Slice will cause the ball to float in the air, making it easy to hit it deep.

If you want a sharper downward trajectory, make your string-bed tilt upwards more.
For more power, start the swing the backhand farther back

BBC Tennis

Get your feet moving

I believe in warming up before a game - I typically do the sidesteps and maybe run around the courts a few times. Here are a bunch of exercises that I found here.

The author, Jeff Cooper, recommends these be done in the order below, but it isn't critical.

Backwards Skip
Sidestep Slide
Backwards Snake

Backwards Slant Slide

Baby Bounds

Heel Kicks



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is my tennis ball any good?

I was reading this FAQ on tennis balls. I have a lot of them now and I'm not sure how good they are. This one helped.

A simple test for the bounce is: Drop it from around your forehead; if it bounces back up to your belly button its good enough.

Rules of the game: Dropped from 100 inches, it must bounce back up to about 53-58 inches.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hitting top-spin

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tossing that ball

Its often an annoying part of having crapped out on the service; the only thing more annoying is, right before you hit the serve, you know that your toss wasn't the greatest, but you can't stop yourself and get sucked into hitting it anyway.

Here's a bunch of things to look for, practicing the ball toss. As its said, a match is no place to fix your problems.
  • Have a good stance
    • Right foot parallel to the baseline
    • Left foot points to the right side of the net
    • Feet in their normal distance away (shoulder length)
  • Hold the ball in your FINGERTIPS
  • Start with the weight on the back foot and then bring it forward
  • Push it up to toss it, slightly forward and to the right. At about 1-o-clock.
  • Keep your eyes on the ball as it leaves your hands until you have hit it. Taking your eyes off it, will cause the head to go places and the racket usually follows the head.
  • Hit the ball at its peak. DO NOT toss it too high, or too low. The ball should peak at the point where you plan to hit it.
  • Keep the left hand(tossing hand) stretched up after you toss, until you begin to uncoil. Tuck it into your belly around the point of contact
Rudsedski's pop made him toss the ball, until it kept landing in the circle drawn on the court.

Additionally, this drill might come in handy:
Place a spare racket such that the tip of the handle is right before the toe of your left foot and the tip of the racket face, points to the right net post. Keep tossing the ball to get it to consistently land on the spare racket face. Also, keep the height to which it must be tossed in mind.

Use the same ball toss for all kinds of serve. This will ensure that the opponent is not in a position to anticipate a particular serve, from the way you toss the ball.

Rusedski's tips

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Know thy grip

I have been to this page of Jeff Cooper a few times before and never really looked into it much; his lingo here never meant much to me. Tonight though, I got my racket out, the first time when reading about tennis and it all came through. The handle of the racket is hexagonal!! I never noticed that until now :O

So here are the grips.

Continental Forehand Grip
The palm is on the upper, right slant of the hexagonal handle
  • The racket face tilts upwards
  • Appropriate for hitting a slice
  • To hit flat - need to meet the ball in a weaker, slightly farther back than with eastern
  • Poorly suited to hitting top spins
  • Best for handling low bounces

Eastern Forehand grip
Palm is along the side(Right vertical) of the handle.
  • Wrist is straight and relaxed - Very natural and physically secure position
  • Racket face remains vertical
  • Very versatile - easy enough to tilt the face to slice the ball, and can hit a top spin with a vertical face.
  • more western grips yield better top spin, hence are preferred more.

Semi-western forehand grip
Palm is on the lower right slant of the hexagonal handle
  • Results in a natural downward tilt of the racket face
  • To counteract this, meet the ball a bit farther forward than you'd for an eastern grip
  • You will generally need to swing upward more sharply, which encourages you to hit topspin
  • Good at generating top spin and handling opponents' the high bounces
  • Not so great for slices and on low balls

Western Forehand Grip
Palm is on the bottom side of the hexagonal handle!
  • Racket faces tilts downwards severely
  • Must meet the ball even farther forward
  • Most natural swing pattern is sharly upwards and very fast - heavy top spin.
  • Hitting flat or a slice is awkward

Hawaiian forehand grip
Palm is on the lower, left slant of the hexagonal handle!!!
  • Requires point of contact to be way in the front or quite high
  • Requires whipping upwards severely
  • Cant hit flat or slice
Wow, I had never thought there was so much behind each grip. Hopefully, knowing about this will help consciously choose the right one and possibly switch between shots. If I may borrow a pharse from cricket - playing according to the merit of the ball.