Jak Beardsworth Tennis logo
Jak Beardsworth Tennis

JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Old School vs New School

There's a certain regularly occurring, distressingly unfavorable connotation that too often seems to attach itself to this lingering futile subject, one that, between the lines, views - presumptuously I might add - that whatever preceded the way the game is played today as patently inferior.

That's a very troubling notion. Try telling Rod Laver – winner of 2 calendar year Grand Slams (1962 and 1969) - that. I dare you. Laver was playing the so-called "modern game" back in the 60s, albeit with a 65" wooden racket with a stiffness rating half of today's sticks, and all gut strings, employing every shot in the book except the "tweener," since running down the lob to one's forehand or backhand side was preferred, and far more effective, versus today's flashier more crowd pleasing retrieval.


Having been in the game playing, teaching, coaching, and writing for over 5 decades - from Pancho Gonzales, Althea Gibson and Darlene Hard, to Laver and Billie Jean King, to Connors, McEnroe and Borg along with Chris Evert and Navratolova, to Sampras and Agassi with Hingis, Venus and Serena, to Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic and still Serena – I've been a very lucky and grateful witness of the game's changing stars, demeanors, and their approaches to shot making while playing the game at its highest possible level.

As the originally politically oriented, now ubiquitously adapted, phrase goes with license taken, "It's the evolution stupid."

Here's a recent shifting old vs new case in point: Today's Tennis Channel color analysts now unabashedly praise certain player's abilities to hit pin point accurate, relatively flat groundstrokes. Let's take Daniil Medvedev vs Nick Kyrgios in their recent high quality Washington final (2019) with multiple major's title holder Jim Courier commenting – one who knows a few things about extreme topspin – and marveling at the spin less laser beams that were repeatedly being traded back and forth. Medvedev himself, all gangly arms and legs, with his unorthodox style, was also admired by a previous victim, top tenner Stephanos Tsitsipas, as being "sloppy good." Near the end of his D.C. razor thin triumph over Medvedev, Kyrgios clocked a 113 mph thunderbolt laser like forehand "flatty." That one did not come back.

By the way, where's the extreme topspinner, ball basher Jack Sock today? Just saying.

Back to it. Q:
Is Ted Williams, regarded as the greatest hitter in baseball history, ever denigrated as old school inferior because he played prior to the "modern era?" I think not. Wait, there's that other annoying label that keeps coming up, previously aforementioned, and with still another negative connotation regarding preceding time frames in sport, any sport.

Q2: Or how about this.
Is golf legend Arnold Palmer dismissed as second-rate because of his quirky swing way back when? Of course not.

Did you happen to notice that Djokovic, today's meanest, cleanest, hitting machine, in his on-court victory speech after this year's Wimbledon final (2019), cordially recognize losing finalist, Roger Federer, as merely "one of the greatest of all-time." What? Some were immediately thinking he had egotisctically slighted Fed. No. It was because Rod Laver was sitting right there in the front row folks.

The Djoker gets the new-old canvas.

On a personal note, I always appreciate practicing and working with Punta Gorda, Florida based racket customizer, international stringer, and a fine player as well, Rich Vernsey. Our playing styles couldn't be more different. He having grown up on the slow Florida clay in the 90s, me on fast New England hard courts, indoors and out, in the 60s. That does not mean that elements of my approach, from back then to my own game evolution now, aren't positively compatible and coexistent with the game's, and Rich's, current nuances and techniques.

Interestingly, these days, happily, we are beginning to see more serve and volley as a tactic – mostly among the men - and more coming forward attacking tennis in general trending on both tours. Even one-handed backhands are enjoying a bit of a resurgence, not only exemplified by more true one-handers, but also by the still majority two-handers who can now all hit an effective one-handed slice on the stretch when necessary. And, yes, more and more flattened out groundies.

A couple of years ago top SW Florida director of golf, Steve Baisch, told me that he found watching tennis kind of boring. He had a point in that he viewed that every point contested was more often than not the same back court dueling over and over, a result, in part at least, of the tour's organizing bodies misguided efforts to homogenize the game's one time very unique and varied playing surfaces (hard, clay, grass, indoors) that once resulted in specialist's styles of play. I am hopeful that he was, now, a bit premature in evaluating his small sampling.

In any event, let's think about losing this nonsensical old, new, modern bias rubbish.

It's all good.

Copyright© 2019 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

Jak Beardsworth Tennis Home Page

Past Essays

  • September 2023 - Why good players are good players!
    [read more]
  • Auigust 2023 - On poaching and fake poaching: Becoming a Force at the Net in Doubles
    [read more]
  • July 2023 - The Beautiful Game is Getting Ugly
    [read more]
  • June 2023 - The Approach Dropper: Lob Killer
    [read more]
  • May 2023 - Why club players don't practice
    [read more]
  • April 2023 - DON'T FIGHT TIGHT
    [read more]
  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner - The "Switch"
    [read more]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
    [read more]
  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
    [read more]
  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
    [read more]
  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
    [read more]
  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
    [read more]
  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
    [read more]
  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
    [read more]
  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
    [read more]
  • May 2021 - The Focus
    [read more]
  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
    [read more]
  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
    [read more]
  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
    [read more]
  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
    [read more]


  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]


  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • 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.