Sep 27 2014

Hacking the NTRP

League Tennis | NTRP | Rules | Team Captain | USTA       Clif Render      
Hacking the System

This past month I competed in our state Mixed Doubles Tournament. Our team didn't win our division but we performed respectably. The team that won our division, however, did not. This is the true story of how one person on their team found and exploited a loophole in the NTRP's self-rate system.

In the world of technology, there are two kinds of hackers: White Hat hackers and Black Hat Hackers (yes, in fact, that is a cowboy reference). Black Hats hack systems for nefarious purposes while White Hats hack systems for the good of others. When a White Hat hacks a system (or become aware of a hack to a system), they typically notify the vulnerable parties, give them a period of time in which...


Sep 1 2014

The Babolat Play Pure Drive (Part 3)

Babolat | Equipment Review | ITF | Racquets | Technology       Clif Render      
Babolat Play Pure Drive

This is the last part of a three part series on the Babolat Play Pure Drive racquet. In the first part, we talked about the racket's origins, my history with the racket, and the different applications that make up the Babolat Play Ecosystem. If you haven't already, you might want to give Part 1 a read through. In Part 2 we dug down into the details of capturing data and what the data looked like in the various application interfaces. Part three is a detailed analysis of Babolat's take on Shot detection: How it works, how good it is, and whether or I'd consider it a Buy or a Bust. I also have some specific advice for Babolat on what they need to do to ensure that the Play line of products lives on. So let's dive in.

The core function of the Babolat Play Pure Drive (and its associated applications) is shot detection - its ability to detect shot types (Backhands, Forehands, Serves, and Smashes), spin types (Topspin, Slice, and Flat), First Serve versus Second Serve, and general Impact Location. Overall, I found shot detection accuracy to be pretty good. I went through a fairly all-encompassing series of controlled tests to measure...


Aug 21 2014

The Babolat Play Pure Drive (Part 2)

Babolat | Equipment Review | Racquets | Technology       Clif Render      
Babolat Play Pure Drive

This is the second in a three part series on the Babolat Play Pure Drive racquet. In the first part, we talked about the racket's origins, my history with the racket, and the different applications that make up the Babolat Play Ecosystem. If you've not read Part 1 yet, you may want to do so before continuing. Part two will dig down into the detail of capturing data, what the data is and what it looks like in the various application interfaces so, without further ado, let's proceed...

The Babolat Play Pure Drive data capture process is fairly straight forward assuming your racquet is charged. If it isn't then you need to use the provided micro USB cable to fully charge it before use. Once the racquet is sufficiently charged (the LED on the butt cap glows green when plugged in and fully charged), simply long press the power button (the shorter button) on the butt cap of the racquet and the LED will begin to flash blue. This indicates that the racquet is active and tracking shot data. Once you are done playing, long press the Bluetooth/Tag button (the longer one) and the color of the LED should change from blue to purple. Your play data is now ready to be synced up with your smartphone or tablet...


Aug 16 2014

The Babolat Play Pure Drive (Part 1)

Babolat | Equipment Review | Racquets | Technology       Clif Render      
Babolat Play Pure Drive

One of the first products to market in the newly defined category of Player Analysis Technologies was the Babolat Play Pure Drive Racquet. This will be the first in a three part blog series analyzing Babolat's take on Player Analysis Technology. I originally planned on doing this as a single blog post but over 5,000 words and a month and a half later, I've decided it might be better to go ahead and publish it in smaller pieces. Besides, if I don't start publishing pieces now, it may completely out of date by the time I finally get it all done. So, please keep in mind that this analysis and review has been made at a specific point in time. Problems that I find and mention may be corrected by the time you read this. Functionality behaviors may have changed. I will continue to update this post as I notice changes but if you have any issues with the content here or notice any changes that I'm not aware of, please email me or add comments with corrections...


Jun 17 2014

Help with the Coman Tiebreak

League Tennis | Rules | Tennis Gear | USTA       Clif Render      
Tiebreak Helper Logo

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about the Coman Tiebreak called The Coman Tiebreak Demystified. In this post, I went into detail about how to play a Coman Tiebreak and included all the little rules and eccentricities that you don't even realize are issues until you run into them during gameplay.

The guidance that we are usually given regarding how to play a Coman Tiebreak goes something like this: "You play a Coman Tiebreak exactly as you would play a Standard Tiebreak but you switch sides after the first point and every 4 points thereafter." That guidance is true but is far less comprehensive that one might like. There are several little details to playing a tiebreak that always seem to catch players off guard. For instance, do you know who serves first after a Set tiebreak? Here's a hint: "It's probably not who you'd think."

So, if you just want to dig down into all the gory details, please check out that post. If you're like me, though, and you'd like to also have that information with you when you go to the court, I've got a couple of great new options for you...


Jun 6 2014

Tennis, Smartphones, and Tablets, Oh My!

Babolat | Equipment | ITF | League Tennis | Racquets | Rules | Technology | USTA       Clif Render      
A Tennis Player Texting on Court

Recently my wife came to me with a Tennis question. Her niece was playing a very competitive tennis match in a tournament in North Carolina and at every changeover, her opponent would pull out her smart phone and spend the entire changeover blissfully tapping away. It was really irritating to our niece and a little concerning as well. In our modern connected era, it would be all too easy for her to be texting with a coach or friend to ask for help with the match. Receiving coaching would be a clear violation of the tournament rules but she wasn't sure that was what was happening. So, this brought up the question "Is using a phone during a match legal?"


May 22 2014

Switching Hands and the USTA

League Tennis | NTRP | Rules | Singles | USTA       Clif Render      
United States Tennis Association

I recently wrote a post about my injury laden 2014 spring season and my decision to switch over to playing with my left (non-dominant) hand. One of the things that you may be interested in knowing is just what the USTA has to say about changing up the hand that you play with. My level of play has dropped drastically. Does that mean that my NTRP rating will change or does it stay the same? Are there any rules against changing hands mid-season? All good questions.

As it turns out, the USTA does not care whether you strike the ball with your left hand, your right hand, or both. You are free to play with whichever hand you wish to at any time. That is why player listings in Tennislink don't list a hand dominance. If you wanted to, you could switch hands on every serve depending on which serve would give you the greatest advantage. You could even go so far as to switch hands for every ball strike if you wanted to. I wouldn't advise being quite that aggressive with the switching, of course, but switching it up every few serves might not be a bad idea...


May 11 2014

Road To Left Handed Tennis

Health | Injury | Injury Prevention       Clif Render      
Okay X-ray

As an avid USTA tennis player and sometime captain, I have come to expect the unexpected. There have been times when the team that I thought would be trouble has had a bad day, and we ended up winning far more easily than we should have. A lower rated team that I thought would be a pushover ends up on the winning side while I sit scratching my head trying to figure out exactly what happened. The weaknesses that I know we have may end up being the driving force behind a loss or it may be a complete non-issue as our opposition either never notices or cannot capitalize. Every day on the court is a new day, and every surprise seems more unexpected than the last. Well, my latest surprise is certainly no exception to that rule.

During the Winter, I was bumped up to a new rating level which brought with it the promise of new teammates, new opposition and new opportunities to improve my game through stiffer competition. I was really excited and dove in head first signing up for three teams at my new level determined to get acclimated to the speed of a faster game as quickly as possible. I was really looking to this new challenge. Little did I know, however, that along with this one new challenge would come several additional "unexpected challenges" (e.g. injuries) that I didn't see coming...


Mar 25 2014

The Lesson of the Third Ball

Apparel | Birmingham | Doubles | Equipment | League Tennis | USTA       Clif Render      

A typical can of tennis balls has three balls in it which is quite convenient: One for first serve, one for second serve, and one to replace the one you just hit over the fence. Perfect! Well, perfect, that is, unless you haven't hit that third ball over the fence yet. During typical match play you have three balls and a choice. It's a choice that I have given many a new partner: "Are you a Two Baller or are you a Three Baller"?

A little while back, I wrote a post entitled "Six Key Questions to Ask Your New Doubles Partner" for P.J. Simmons' Road to 4.5 Tennis Blog. Well, this is another good question that you could certainly ask your new doubles partner but it is also a good question for you to ask yourself. So, when you serve, how many balls do you like to have in your possession? One, Two, or Three...


Feb 15 2014

Snow and Professional Tennis: Unlikely But True

Birmingham | Pro Tennis | Singles       Clif Render      
Andy Roddick on his knees

Of all of the things that happen in the state of Alabama, two of the most rare and wonderful happened on Thursday, February 13th: Snow and Professional Tennis. If you were anywhere near the TV for the last month or so, you heard numerous tales of southern states struggling to make it through some of the most unexpectedly extreme winter weather conditions in memory. Thursday was something of an aftershock of all that. Snow fell overnight leaving some areas of town with 3-5 inches of the beautiful white fluffy stuff. Other parts of town (like Alabaster where I live) received little to no snow and what little did fall was mostly all gone by morning. All area schools (still in shock from Snowmageddon 2014 two weeks prior) decided to stay closed, and many businesses opened late so that the bulk of the ice and snow could melt. On one hand, my son was bummed to see that there was no snow on the ground when he woke up. On the other hand, however, he was relieved because that meant that his main birthday present, front row tickets to the PowerShares Series Champion's Shootout would not, in fact, be cancelled. How awesome is it that my son's favorite birthday present is something that I love almost as much as he does...