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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Less Bling is the Thing

By Jak Beardsworth

All you need to relate to this title is to consider, or perhaps I should say observe, the accompanying images (see photo inserts and new video on site home page too) of the 21 year old wunderkind, Alexander Zverev, in his recent triumph at the 2018 year end prestigious ATP Final 8 Championships, where he handled Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back to back in straights(!) to capture the title.

Prior to his consistently spectacular play in the semis and finals at the O2 arena, he was rapidly becoming acknowledged as the most unfulfilled next gen player – showing great promise, ability, and results in lesser tour events, but always failing to impress in the majors despite his top 5 ranking. He seemed to lack that intangible x-factor to get him over the top, or even close to the top, when it really counted in the big ones.


His all too often self-absorbed optic, albeit youthful, was tennis' modern day version of the 80s television "A-Team" character Mr. T, with an array of gold chains fashioned around his neck, constantly fussing with them, and regularly placing one with an attached medallion in his mouth after a troubled point. Not even going there.

Lots of flash, but perhaps not enough focused dash.

Enter new coach Ivan Lendl, the dour, old school, hard taskmaster who previously transformed a similarly missing linker, the underachieving Andy Murray, from his histrionic Scottish self, sans kilt, to reach world #1 in 2016, and win Wimbledon in the same year to the great relief of the champion starved British fan base (no male British titleholder since, would you believe, 1936 when the long since departed Fred Perry won).

Understanding better than most from his own comparable experience – reaching a first of many grand slam finals in 1981 but failing to actually win one until 1984 – Lendl learned, knows, how to actualize the daunting transition, not to be trivialized by any means, from incredibly promising every day talent to Grand Slam champion.

Not only did Zverev show a new steadfastness and self-belief in the face of the formidable Fed-Djoker duality – as in not moping around when things got tough, sucking on his medallion, and folding like a deck chair in the pivotal moments – but also with an underestimated, new, important, symbolic toned down look that was a reflection of a new beginning.

One couldn't help but notice the Mr. T bling look was mostly not visible in London, not only typically hidden - possibly even fewer chains now - but not fussed with much as well while kept in check by his high crew neck Adidas shirt. Gee, I wonder who was responsible for the less flashy, more all business, non-costume jewelry look. You get three guesses and you won't need the last two.

No coincidence. That would be the Lendl factor.

All things optic being somewhat relative, that leads me to some of our often over accessorized, over the top, clubland warriors, men and women, sporting pro tour looks that would get them through the player's security entrance at a professional event.

Now don't get me wrong. I absolutely believe in dressing for success. There's nothing like a good clean, crisp outfit ("kit" as some tennis internationalist would say) to make you feel good and ready to play your best tennis. Although, being somewhat of a traditionalist, I am hopeful that the recent wave of garish wallpaper inspired outfits that I see being worn in ladies league matches would go the way of the 8-track tape. Thank you Venus Williams Designs.

Otherwise, that stated, is there really a need for a racket bag big enough to hold 6+ rackets, an extra pair of shoes, two changes of clothes, grip tape, multiple compression wraps, wrist bands, visors, hats, extra sunscreen, energy gels, first aid kit, and large quantities of electrolyte drinks, all of which would be applicable if you were going on a weeklong tennis safari somewhere off the beaten path?

Sure, one has to recognize that today's tennis equipment manufacturers have consumerized the game to the nth degree, beginning in the tennis boom of the 1970s. Prior to then, with no gold chains in sight - unless you were playing on the Jersey Shore - it was a Spartan affair with no one in club tennis showing up for a match with an overstuffed, Volkswagon sized racket bag since they had not yet been conjured up. It was 2 rackets in hand – remember those tiny little zipper covers that only covered the head of the racket - and maybe a hand towel you could place on your chair or bench, that is if one was even provided.

How times have changed.

Yet, I'm reminded of a fellow pro, a former Naples USPTA Pro-of-the-Year and a Div. I college #1, who showed up for a local charity event a few years ago with a small backpack over his shoulder, and those aforementioned 2 rackets dangling in hand. I happened to be standing next to a knowledgeable local 3.5 player who observed his entrance, never having seen him previously, who noted, "Here comes trouble," a recognition of his understated, yet considerable presence.

By the way, he turned out to be the best doubles player in the open division of the event.

Personally, I still have one of my very own giant racket bags – big enough for a weekend in South Beach - with my name specially embroidered on it in big letters, a gift from HEAD when I was a big deal with them back in the day. I now use it to store my classic racket collection, and I wouldn't be caught dead showing up for an event with it.

While I'm at it, I would be remiss if I left out having distressingly seen a few clubbers with one of those ridiculous new accessory bags, like the ones Federer and Serena bring to the court over their other shoulder. But that's a requirement of their Nike contractual obligations. C'mon folks, let's get real, unless of course it's for the post-match snacks.

So, hopefully inspired by the Lendl-Zverev example, albeit a variation on the above noted theme but, nonetheless, in the very same stratum, isn't it more about your game, how you perform, and not about your stuff, as George Carlin once famously coined it. Isn't a smallish, over the shoulder racket bag suitable for 2-3 rackets and a few basic necessities, or a backpack with the same capability, or a tote that I see some of the ladies now sporting enough?

Lisa Scully-O'Grady, in Tennis Quotations, had a good take on our game's true essence: "Playing a good tennis match gives you an overwhelming feeling of elation. Nothing else in the world matters at that point in time. All the stress and strain of the mundane, the housework, the nine-to-five job, are buried and forgotten as you concentrate on the game at hand."

Copyright© 2018 by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

COMMENTS WELCOME: JB1tennis@comcast.net

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Past Essays

  • December 2023 - The Forgotten Stop Volley
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  • November 2023 - "You're Only as Good as Your Second Serve"
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  • October 2023 - good misses vs bad misses
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  • September 2023 - Why good players are good players!
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  • August 2023 - On poaching and fake poaching: Becoming a Force at the Net in Doubles
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  • July 2023 - The Beautiful Game is Getting Ugly
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  • June 2023 - The Approach Dropper: Lob Killer
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  • May 2023 - Why club players don't practice
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  • April 2023 - DON'T FIGHT TIGHT
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  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
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  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner - The "Switch"
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
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  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
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  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
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  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
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  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
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  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
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  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
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  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
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  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
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  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
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  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
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  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
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  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
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  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
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  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
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  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
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  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
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  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
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  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
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  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
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  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
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  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
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  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]


  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]


  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.