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Respected tennis writer Joel Drucker answers your questions about the thrills and spills of the recreational player. Got a hole in your game or a question for Joel? Drop him an email at therovingplayer@thetennischannel.com and you may find yourself in a future column.
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Q) My name is Jorge and I live in Brazil. I play tennis since I was 12 years old and I love the game. Now I'm 46 and I play 3 times a week. My doubt is about the grip. I've noted that, nowadays, professional players are grabbing the racket almost like a hammer (I think it's called continental). Is that grip correct? It protects the elbow, wrist and shoulder best than other grip? My grip is eastern. I'm trying to change my grip to the pro's position (like a hammer grabbing) because I think I could get more power and avoid tennis elbow suffering. But it's very difficult to hit forehand and backhad top spin that way. What do you think about that? - Jorge Bittencourt

A) Dear Jorge:
Why would you want to emulate today's pros? You are twice their age and more likely to hurt yourself trying to use so much torque to hit the ball. So you know, the forehand grip many of today's pros use is not a Continental but more of a Western - that is, akin to picking up the frame as if it was a frying pan, flat on the ground. Pros can get away with this grip because they are extremely good at striking the ball with their entire body - and maintaining the flexibility and strength necessary for doing just that. We recreational players tend to use our arms and wrists too much, which is one reason why injuries can occur. I'd recommend you find a teaching pro who can examine your technique, see what might be causing pain and help you strike the ball efficiently with the help of your hips and shoulders. Rest assured, the Eastern grip is quite useful.

Q) My boss wants to play tennis with me, but from what he's told me about his tennis life -- calling himself a "pretty good B player" -- I suspect I could beat him quite easily. What should I do when we finally get on the court?  - Baffled in Boston

A) Dear Baffled:
When I was 25, working in San Francisco, I had to take a Sunday morning to play the firm's 65-year-old founder-CEO who'd come to town from its Chicago headquarters. After I beat him 6-0 in the first set, he yelled out, "Kill me again!" After another bagel, he asked for more. With me up 4-0 in the third, I missed an overhead, he won a game and screamed, "A chink in the armor!" Two games later we shook hands.

The next day, he kicked off our staff meeting by saying that if we managed clients as efficiently as I'd dealt with him on the court, our office had nothing to worry about. Was it blarney? Perhaps, but keep in mind that tennis is a great tool for adding dimensions to your profile and helping you build business contacts. It's odd how this works, but believe me, it's true.

So in matters of competition, since I suspect you were not ranked in the top 200 in the world, the last thing you should do with your boss is patronize him by playing so-called “customer” tennis. Who the hell do you think you are, Roy Emerson, cheerfully conducting a clinic? Yes, you might be better, even significantly better, but you're still just another racket-toting civilian, so if you can't turn this into a doubles match or hitting session, do what I did: Kick his ass six ways to Sunday.

Do it more like Todd Martin - polite, effective - than Lleyton Hewitt. There's no need for fist pumps or yelling. Just quietly go about hitting effective shots. After all, isn't credibility and authenticity the foundation of every business? If your boss' skin is so thin that he can't handle a loss, then you should wonder if he's worth working for. And if he makes bad line calls, worry even more about your firm's bookkeeping and ethical practices. 


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Oakland-based Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Author of the book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, Drucker's work has appeared in a wide range of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, CBS and The Tennis Channel. For The Tennis Channel he's worked as an on-air analyst and is co-producer of the program, Center Court with Chris Myers. An avid recreational player, Drucker's lefthanded 4.5 game attempts to combine the tactical array of Brad Gilbert with the variety of John McEnroe, a style he fondly refers to as "Spinning Ugly."

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