Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hello from Paris… Shahar is through to the quarterfinals at the Paris Open...Dubai Next Week!

Hello once again and thank you for tuning in…

I am in Paris where it is really cold and we have had some nice snow in the last few days. They say it is the city of romance and though this has been the case for me here in the past this time around is strictly business.

I am here with Shahar for the Paris Open a big tournament with some great players. Shahar is through to the quarterfinals after her victory over Karolina Sprem from Croatia. It was a tough match as Karolina is a former top 20 player and is on her way back again. She plays a very powerful game and has a big serve which makes it very difficult to get into the points.

We have been working hard with Shahar and it was important to keep the momentum going after the very positive start we had to the year in New Zealand and Australia. This is very important, as it is wins under the belt that give a player confidence to take those extra risks when the point really counts. This as I told you in the past is one big difference between the top players and those that follow.

Shahar is slowly learning to be a top player again. She has come a long way from the girl I first started working with in November 2008, and the exciting thing is that she is continuing to move forward. Her come back is complete. Now we need to find a way to help her breakthrough to the top and stay there.

To do this is about the small details that make the difference, and in fact that’s what a professional is about, making sure he or she are taking care of the small details as they are the ones that make the big difference. These details are vast and they are difficult to master quickly. They must become part of who you are. To do this you must practice them every day and in time they will start to show up without the player even trying.

This is the aim as what comes natural is what holds up under pressure and again is what you do under pressure that makes the difference between winning and loosing, between braking through and staying on the fringe.

Tomorrow it looks if things continue to go, as they are, that we will be playing Lucy Safarova from the Czech Republic. Lucy is a very tough player and Shahar will have to be on her tiptop form to be able to beat her. This will be great, as it will continue to aid our preparations for the next event in Dubai where Shahar will be attending after not being able to play there last year because she was not granted a visa by the government of Dubai. I am sure many of you will know this story as it made the headlines in all the countries of the world. She was even interview by Wolf Blitzer of CNN.

As we get closer to Dubai I will share more and more of what happened last year and how it felt to be the one that had to deliver the news to Shahar that she was not going to play there after having been reassured by the Dubai authorities that she was up until the moment she stepped into the court to play the semi finals in Pattaya, the event we were at before we were supposes to go to Dubai.

See you tomorrow and stay warm….I will do my best to do so!
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The Final Curtain Has Been Drawn! - January 23, 2010

Good morning fellow bloggers,

I have just woken up after finishing last night 30 minutes past midnight. Shahar unfortunately lost her singles to Carolina Wozniacki in two sets.

She dominated the first set and had three chances to break whilst 4-3 up on the first set. I believe that should she been able to do this the match would have been a totally different affair. Up until this stage Shahar applied the agreed tactic between us flawlessly. Carolina had no real answer to it and was slowly bowing to it. Unfortunately as with all top players if they are even given a chance to recover they will more than likely recover and beat you. That’s why they are at the top and as long as they do this they will remain there.

I believe much has been learned during this trip. Shahar will be nearly a top 20 player again when the new rankings come out a week this Monday. So in this respect we continue to move in the right direction, even though is her development and reaching her performance goals that really matter.

I leave Melbourne pleased but also a bit disappointed, as last night it could have been a very different affair, however that is tennis. One ball, one shot, one decision can make the difference between winning and loosing. We will continue to work hard so in the coming months Shahar can make better decisions and hopefully clear hurdles like the one she came close to but was unable to last night.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog and have been able to capture something of what life is like inside the professional circuit. I know I have enjoyed sharing it with you and of course hope that you have added something, no matter how small, to your tennis knowledge and will hopefully be able to apply it into your own path as a player or life.

I sign off and look forward to seeing you all again somehow somewhere in this wonderful site Rafael Font De Mora and his team of experts are putting together for the common benefit of every tennis player across the globe no matter what creed or ability.

God bless you and keep you strong!

Rod Laver Arena Here We Come!... - January 22, 2010

Hello everyone from a cloudy Melbourne.

Still as I promised you yesterday I will explain what I meant by a players tennis winning though they loose the match. Yesterday was a perfect example of this. I asked Shahar to go out there and practice and put into play exactly what we had been working on. To take her chances and take risks and look to win like this. This she did but unfortunately her opponent did not do this but instead chose to be careful and try and protect what they had been able to gain up until that point and because of this missed some very easy shots.

You see I am a great believer that “destiny favours the bold” I believe if a tennis player goes out there and plays like she trains and does not allow the nerves to dictate and cause her to push the ball and compromise her strokes in order to keep the ball in the court then though she might loose her tennis would have made another positive move forward. Taking risks can be scary especially when you are playing a close match and you have fought for hours and you are one point away with your opponent just behind you. Every player will be tempted to push and be careful. The great ones will hit and hit it harder and take their chances, hence why they are great and things tend to go their way.

In life we take risks every day from the moment we step out of bed, so is in the tennis court. I encourage my players to enjoy taking risks, to enjoy when they hit that down the line that there is a chance to miss it but there is also a chance to make it. If they cant do this then more than likely when it really matters they will miss.

Tonight we play Carolina Wozniacki on the big stage. Shahar needs to come out looking to play in a particular way otherwise it will be very difficult to beat Carolina. Having said this come what may, I want to see Shahars tennis win and not loose even if the result does not go our way this time.

I hope you guys can tune in wherever you are in the world and watch her in action.

Have a great day!

Gaining momentum… - January 21, 2010

Hello and welcome.

I am very pleased to tell you that once again yesterday we had a very positive day.

Shahar won both her second round singles and her first round doubles. Her singles was played first against a player called Pironkova from Bulgaria. It is amazing how deceiving sometimes a ranking in the women’s game can be. This girl has very good victories over top ten players like Azarenka. She has very powerful backhand and forehand which wont hurt you but will definitely invite you to get yourself in some deep waters if you are unable to deal with the kid of ball she gives you.

Pironkova used a shot that more girls are using these days and that shot is the slice. The slice is a very good tempo changer but also can be used to defend when under pressure. We have been working with Shahar on this shot quite a bit during our last pre season and of course continue to do so whilst on the road.

To develop and train this shot I have been using several of the video library drills that you can find here on the ITUSA tennis .com site. They have been particularly useful in helping me to build a realistic progression for Shahar that has every time challenged her a bit more in order to help her make her slice the shot that it is today.

She won in straight sets, which was very nice and now faces the number 5 seed next round. We have played Carolina Wozniacki a few times, with Shahar having to retire the last time with a broken toe. I believe that the match will be an interesting one if Shahar can apply the necessary tactic and sustain her emotional composure throughout the match. If she can do this then she has a very good chance of going through though it will a very tough test to pass.

The doubles was also a straight sets victory and today they face last years Masters winners. Again it will be a tough test for both Shahar and Galina and all that I am hoping is that weather win or loose, that Shahars tennis will win when the match has finished.

I will explain a bit more what I mean by “her tennis winning” tomorrow.

Have a blessed day.

We Got A Green Light - January 20, 2010

Hello everyone once again from the home of the Oz Open!

I am very pleased to tell all of you that we finally got our 2010 Oz Open on the way this morning and it was with a win.

Shahar played another player she had lost to before but was able to turn the tables this time. The player we played against has a very powerful serve at times hitting over 195 km/h.

We knew that this serve would be big and so yesterday we spent some time training the returns. We used a few of the drill that anyone can find on the video library on

This served Shahar very well and it proved to me yet again that the best form of defense is to be aggressive and lead the way by attacking your adversary all of the time. Even when you have serves coming at you as if they were bullets.

Usually breaking the serve of a big serve will mean beating them. They will rely on this weapon heavily and often neglect the other areas of their game, which will not hold up when they loose their serve and thus loose their momentum.

After the match we went to the gym where Shahar spent 10 minutes on the stationary bike and then I helped her stretch. She then went to shower and attended the press conference before having lunch. She is now at the hotel resting as I write this. Something that is very important for the players which is not too spend any more time than they need to at the tournament. This often drains you emotionally from all the hellos and conversations one has in an event of this nature. Not to mention making it very hard to keep your focus on the things are important and not who is going out with who, etc.

The tournament has already thrown a few surprises into the mix with a few top players going out earlier than expected. I think we are going to see many more upsets as the days go by and of course we are hoping that we can be responsible for several of those as we continue on our quest to make it to that magical second week of a Grand Slam.

We play again tomorrow as our match was cancelled on Tuesday so I hope to be able to report back with some more good news.

Have a profitable day!

We were ready but… - January 19, 2010

Hello everyone,

I was hoping today to tell you about the day of our first match here in Melbourne but unfortunately due to the inclement weather that took place here yesterday we were informed last night at midnight that our match had been cancelled.

We were of course disappointed, as we have been looking forward to this match since we arrived in this part of the world back at the end of December 09.

I had to improvised this morning very early what to do and thankfully I know of a male hitter here in Melbourne that was able to fit into both of our practices today. We played already this morning for an hour and worked on specific tactics that we will be using tomorrow against the player we are playing against.

I visited the ITUSAtennis site to pick up a few drills and ideas to help me piece together the practices and I must say that I continue to be impressed each time on how fast the site is developing and the amazing cutting edge technology it boasts.

I remember when I was learning to play tennis and even when I was playing competitively, how different tennis would be if we would have been able to tap into the kind of tools that this web site offers to everyone who wishes to improve their game.

Shahar is with her psychologist as I am writing this making the most of his presence here at the tournament as he does not come with us all the time but is only able to visit a few tournaments a year. We will then have one more practice and then she will work with her physical trainer on some last things before we go back to the hotel to rest and prepare for tomorrow.

I am pretty sure we will be playing first so we will have an early night and wake up at least three hours before the match so that her body will be fully awake once she steps into the court.

I hope to be able to write about a victory tomorrow and share with you how well the tactical plan worked and that our 2010 campaign in this Grand Slam began with the right foot in front.

See you tomorrow.

First Day and Is Raining… - January 18, 2010

Good morning from a rainy Melbourne.

So here we are first day at the first Grand Slam of the year and is it soaking wet!

This usually happened only during Wimbledon, however in the last few years Paris and now Melbourne seem to have inherited the nasty weather as well…. maybe they laughed too much at the Brits and now is their time to endure it…. nevertheless we must continue to remain focused.

This is very hard to do when unexpected elements like the weather kick in and disturb the plans one had made for the day. Thankfully we don’t have a match today so is not so bad, still it is important we play today as Shahar had a day off yesterday.

This of course is something that happens in tennis and like all the other areas one must be ready to cope with it. To remain focused Shahar will spend some time in the gym with her trainer. As her psychologist has joined us here for the Open she will also use the time to chat with him and go over some of the things that she needs to still work on or just practice so that she is able to better implement them once the match is here.

What is very important, and many players make this mistake, is that she does not hang around the tournament site all day long, as this tends to tire the mind and the emotions unnecessarily. Is better to do what you have to do and then go back to the hotel where you can relax and focus in the task ahead.

I have to run to go and check on the courts as the sun seems to have come out.

Stay warm, stay cool, and better yet stay dry!!!!

All the best from down under.

See you tomorrow.

Melbourne here we come!!! - January 17, 2009

Hello everyone from Melbourne Park.

We arrived last night after Shahar finished her final in Hobart. The flight was not very nice as there was a nasty front that had moved in from the south and boy did the tail of that plane move when we were landing.

Thankfully we arrived well. Transport met us at the airport and took us all to the hotel. In Hobart Shahar’s psychologist joined us so I have a roommate for the next few weeks.

I like Ruben a lot as he is a very close friend of mine and so it is nice to have someone to talk to and share my time with, as it can get very lonely on the tour at times. I particularly enjoy being with Ruben as we have much to speak about and share many common values and philosophies.

Over time I have come to appreciate how important is to have a few close friends we can trust and rely on for support at times when we are low. How similar is this to the relationship a player and a coach need to have in order to find that magic that can ignite a professional relationship where two people can combine their gifts to create an environment where both the player and coach can maximize each of their potentials by working with each other.

This environment is very easy to speak about but not so easy to create it. This takes time and much effort from both people. Each player I have worked is very different from the other so it is important that I listen a lot, learn, and understand how they are what they like and how I can compliment them. The key to the success and in my opinion the most important element in a females player repertoire is her emotional stability so with that in mind I focus very much in making sure that the player is happy and feels like she is being cared for and is receiving the best possible help in order to achieve the success every player desires.

As they say is the little things that make the big difference in life so I will wrap up here as I need to meet Shahar for lunch as she wants to talk about a few things which in my opinion are not that big of a deal, however because they are in her mind I must make sure that I listen and show interest in them as this will make her feel good and keep her happy…which will hopefully mean a good start in our first Grand Slam of the year.

Tomorrow we start to practice again as we are having a much needed day off today.

Enjoy yours too.

See you tomorrow.

So close but so far… - January 16, 2010

Hello everyone once again.

The good news is that last night we made it to the final by beating a very good player called Sara Errani whom is a member of the recent victorious Italian Fed Cup Team.

Shahar played a very exciting and aggressive match. She won with a very impressive score of 6-2 6-0 to go through to the finals.

I am glad I shared with you already about tennis being a deep sport and that it comes from within the player and not from without. This was very obvious yesterday in the change Shahar made at 3-2 up on the first set. On the tour the players are allowed to invite their coaches on court once a set to ask for advice. For us as coaches is not easy to do this as most of us realize that you can either make or break the player by what you say when you go in there.

Yesterday I was very straight and stern with Shahar, and even though I knew she would not like it, I knew this was necessary for her to wake up and somehow connect herself and her game again and play what she is capable of playing. This obviously worked and she went on to win 9 games in a row.

Today, in the final, it was not quite the same as she lost a match she could have won should she have been in touch with herself and her insides. This was unfortunately not the case and therefore her tennis did not flow as it has done for most of this and last tournament. It is true that I have said that great players win even when they are not flowing, and this of course still gets my vote even after today’s result and goes a long way in showing me that we still have work to do with Shahar so she can become the great player she aspires to be one day.

We leave to Melbourne tonight, and tomorrow we will be having a day off as we found out yesterday that Shahar starts her singles campaign on Tuesday at the Australian Open.

Between now and then most of the players would have done, and finished their preparations for the Grand Slam, by the Thursday before the tournament starts. Meaning that the remaining days will just be about feeling the ball and getting psychologically and physically ready for the start of the event.

It is a very exciting and vibrant time and one that as a coach I enjoy very much, however the players…mmmmm I am not sure enjoy it as much unless of course they know inside that they are great and whatever they are bringing to the table will make the grade every time.

Have a great day and see you tomorrow hopefully from my base camp in Melbourne.


Mental Toughness……it sure does make a difference! - January 15, 2010

Buenos Dias as they say in my native Argentina…….

Well did we have a marathon last night. Shahar came through to win after nearly three hours on court 7-5 on the third set.

She didn’t play her best tennis, which meant that for most of the match she was behind yet still managed to win at the end. Often people ask me why are great players great. Every time I answer them that it is because their mentality is such that it enables them to find a way to win even when they are not playing their best tennis.

Tennis is a very deep sport. I often say that the racket and the balls are just there so that people outside can watch something and be entertain, yet the reality of what they are watching is very different. In the court there are two individuals fighting against each other mentally and emotionally and with most players themselves as well. The outcome of a point, match, etc often comes at this level to the way the player can conduct himself or herself during that point and how much confidence and faith they have in their ability to make whatever needs to happen actually happen.

For example in Shahars match last night she faced a player on form that was hitting the ball very well. Ws clearly confident and had nothing to loose. She was a set up and four two up serving, everything indicated outside that she was on her way to a comfortable two set win, however inside her the matter was very different. Without any technical or tactical reason she began to make mistakes she had not made the whole match and through these opened the door for Shahar to get herself back in the match. Many were surprised when this began to happen, I however wasn’t as I know the fact that I shared with you before.

Most players have a psychologist they work with who helps them to learn to discipline and control their thinking, especially when they are under pressure. Players often develop rituals that help them to prepare themselves mentally before a match as well as control their mind during the match. These are disciplines that are developed and practiced over time until they become like a second nature to the player.

We are on first today which is not easy as we finished at 10 pm last night and didn’t get to bed until midnight…still we have done our homework so we are ready physically and mentally. Lets hope for the best

See you tomorrow!


Physical Fitness in the Professional Tour - January 14, 2010

Good day everyone from Hobart, Australia!

Shahar won her second round last night and is through to the quarterfinals where she will meet Carla Suarez Navarro from Spain.

Last nights match was an interesting match as Shahar beat last year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Jelena Dokic. Playing late at night is exciting for the players as the stadiums are usually full like it was last night and the atmosphere is usually electric especially when you play against a local player like Dokic. Not forgetting that it also usually means that you are doing well and the tournament directors believe that you will be a good earner for them.

Night matches have also a way of showing how important the physical fitness of today’s players is. Finishing late at night means going to bed late. This would normally mean less hours in bed and so less time to recover. Players that are prepared properly however are able to recover quicker as there bodies are fitter.

In order to achieve this fitness players have a pre season before the year begins which usually lasts between 4 to 6 weeks. The training focuses the first two weeks on building up the physical base of the player by doing a lot of aerobic fitness. The next half is usually spent transferring that fitness and strength that has been built in the running track, tennis court, and gym into explosive power. During all the phases of training we use the tennis court to help build these systems by doing several drills so the players fitness is built up in the very environment it will need to be used.

Many of the drills that we use to work on these systems and other parts of Shahars’ game can be found in the extensive video library on ITUSATENNIS.COM

During the tournament season the fitness trainers put together a maintenance plan for the player so that he or she can maintain what has been gained. This is usually done in a gym and each session usually lasts between 45 minutes to an hour. During tournaments players should never look to improve their fitness, as this will over load their bodies and most probably prevent them from playing to their full potential or in the worst cases injure them.

I hope this has helped you to understand a bit more the physical aspects of the tennis player and the preparation that goes into building and maintaining these.

I am off to the club to start with our day and prepare for another evening match. Is good to know that we did our homework this last pre season for as you can see until now it has been evening matches galore!

May they long continue, that’s all I have to say!

Have a great day!

How a player prepares herself mentally before a match - January 13, 2010

Hello from Australia.

My name is Pablo Giacopelli and I am currently working on the WTA Tour with a player from Israel called Shahar Peer.

Shahar and I have been together for over a year and have just began our 2010 campaign in Auckland, New Zealand where she reached the semi finals. We are now in Hobart, Australia, which is last warm up tournament before we travel to Melbourne for the Australian Open next week.

I am going to be writing a daily blog for all the members of ITUSA in the attempt to give you an inside view or experience of what is like to be on the professional circuit and how the pros or at least this pro does it.

Today I would like to focus on how a player prepares himself or herself for a match. Today our match is at 7 pm as we are playing a local player called Jelena Dokic. As the match is in the evening we can get some extra sleep in the morning, which is always nice. Shahar woke up at 9 this morning. We had breakfast and began our warm up at 10:45. We stepped on court at 11:15 and hit with another player for 45 minutes just making sure all is well and there was nothing Shahar felt needed to be touched up before the match tonight.

We then had lunch and returned and had a brief hit for half hour at 17:30. After this hit we will discuss the match briefly and put together a plan of play from the information we have if we have played the player before or the scouting I was able to do in the opponents match in the round prior to the one we are in now.

After this chat Shahar will get changed and then begin her mental routines that she uses. These vary from player to player. Many will listen to music and go to a corner on their own and visualize what they want to feel during the match and or the desired outcome they want or the way they would like to play or perform. Others will read a book, others will play cards, and others will just simply sit down and talk with their team.

The important thing is to have done the necessary work before hand focusing on technical, tactical, physical, and emotional aspects of your game. The last two aspects I mentioned are done differently with every player as these depend on the player and the way they are as people and what kind of physiques they have etc. For the first one and second one, the Technical and Tactical, we use a massive amount of video, as this is the only way to truly appreciate the difference the changes make and also help us like nothing else to identify the changes that need to be made in the first place.

Many people learn by watching and so it is with Shahar, is a combination of watching and doing. We have used the Stroke Analysis and Match Analysis tools in the ITUSA academy with great success for these two areas and have been able through them to save much time by addressing the real problems in her game by confirming what we already can see but also revealing the things that sometimes he naked eye just cant see no matter how well trained and experienced it is.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s blog. See you tomorrow.