Talking Tennis With Marty

If you’re looking to talk tennis with Marty, a simple conversation on how to teach it, how to play it, and even his principles of life as they pertain to the game gets him fired up and anxious to share his views. You always come away learning something and marveling at his knowledge and insights. I did just that in a recent sit-down with the master.

Marty loves teaching and, at 88, what gives him the most joy these days (besides playing golf) is his teaching sessions with the many women who keep coming back for his popular drills. He calls them “my ladies” and he calls his court “a working laboratory.” The “ladies” have equally high praise for their teacher and for how much they’ve learned from him. And he likes to tell anyone who will listen how proud he is of his ladies and how great they are.

“People say that baseball is one of the most skilled sports, but tennis is more than that. It is the ultimate sport for needing [to develop] difficult skills.” Marty notes that racquetball and pickleball do not require those same skills and so are not as hard to play. 

He calls today’s professional tennis game “power-charged.” Everyone hits the ball so hard from the baseline, so you see mostly power-to-power baseline rallies. Volleying skills are not there yet but are catching up, according to Marty. Strings have also changed the game in that the strings used today allow the pros to use more of the court with acute angles and spins.

“The pro game doesn’t have the variety that I teach,” he said. “They [the pros] all can do it [use a variety of shots], but they don’t implement it because of power. Power has hurt the game.”

Marty says that whether you’re teaching pros or recreational players, what matters is shot selection, consistency, and mental toughness/focus. Variety of shots gives you more options for making decisions. As for consistency and mental toughness/focus, “You surrender to habits and then they are on autopilot.

Which brings us back to Marty and his ladies. With his guidance, they have added numerous shots to their repertoire. There’s the unique Nadal forehand, three kinds of spin, drive, slice, and whatever else they may discover during the drills or learn from each other. Marty encourages them, makes the drills fun, and makes sure they practice “First Strike” tennis, an important component of Marty’s teachings. This can be accomplished with any number of things—power, depth, spin, “ugliness” of shot, angle, touch. Whoever goes for one of those aggressive shots first gets control, and often wins the point. Marty believes you can’t manage what you don’t understand so he gives them the hows and whys so they can figure out when to hit each shot. Marty was a grinder in his day, but he is teaching them to be shotmakers.

“I’m a better teacher than I’ve ever been a player,” said Marty. That’s saying something from a guy who has an impressive tennis resume of gold balls and high national and international senior rankings. And, he adds, “I’m better at understanding life than most people.”

Ann LoPrinzi 08/23/21

One Comment

  1. Ben Lee

    Beautiful Anne and extremely accurate! Marty has become the biggest inspiration to me in the last 5 years and I am thankful and blessed for that! He is truely a gift to all who have had the pleasure and honor of having him in their lives! Love ya ‘Big Buddy’!

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