The weather continues to be terrible, meaning I have not had as much time to continue with the playtest as I expected. However, it has been a couple of weeks since my last diary entry and there has been some progress.
Two weeks ago I used the racquet to warm-up for a league match and started out with it. After two games I realized that I was focusing too much on changing grips and was too worried about shots I had not practiced (volleys and overheads in particular) and went to my normal racquet. I ended up losing a close match due to my weak forehand and in retrospect suspect I may have had a better result if I had been brave and gone for it with The Natural.
This Sunday I went into the doubles match fully committed to using The Natural. After warm-up one of my opponents commented that he had played tennis for many years and had never seen anyone play with a two handled racquet. Little did he know he was about to be defeated by this strange looking stick.
Because I had some serving practice and repetitions, I found the grip changing issue to finally be resolving itself. Throughout the course of this entire 3 set match, I was only caught once with an unchanged grip. Best of all I did not have to concentrate as much as switching is becoming more and more automatic.
I did hit more double faults than normal, but made it through the 3 – set match against very solid opponents with only experiencing a single break of serve. I attribute this success largely to my ability to follow-up with a forehand that is not always defensive in nature. I hit the forehand with confidence when using this racquet, which is a huge plus for me. Still the serve needs more work. I need to learn to hit a higher percentage of first serves and not as many double faults (I probably hit a half dozen during the match..typcially I will hit 1 or 2). I also still need to work on my ability to move the serve around the box. Directional control is not as precise on serve as it is with my single handed racquet and my reverse kick serve (pronated action) is nowhere to be found. I suspect all will come with additional practice…once the weather breaks.
Returns of serve and groundies were solid throughout the match. Best of all my forehand was much more effective and lobs were still precise and deep. Backhand was not as lethal as normal, but when coupled with a forehand that could pose a legitimate offensive threat, my overall ground game was vastly improved.
Overheads were not hit with power and confidence…mostly because I lacked any practice in hitting them and am still not sure what grip to use. One overhead sailed long, the rest were in play. Forehand volleys were solid, but I still lack confidence in backhand volleys. In the third set I did switch back to my regular racquet for two games when my partner was serving and I was at net. I felt I was not posing a threat with The Natural because I was afraid of making an error in volleying. This too should fade with time and additional experience.
I mentioned that the serve lacked variety, however, in my previous diary entry I wrote about that crazy underhanded serve with incredible spin. In a critical service game in the 3rd set after fighting off 5 break points I finally earned an ad-in chance. At this point in time I decided to use the only change of pace that I knew I could hit and layed that serve upon my opponents. It turned out to be only my second service ace of the day. Highly effective, though not appreciated by the opposition.
In my last entry I mentioned the longer versions of The Natural. I decided that for my game, the 27″ version is my preference. I may give the longer version another go in the future, but for now the 27″ version is my personal choice. It should be noted that the Battistone brothers prefer the 29″ version.
Guts and Glory Tennis now offers demos of the 27″ and 28″ versions of this racquet for our local customers who may be interested in giving it a whirl. It’s a lot of fun and so far in league play we are undefeated ( 1 – 0 ) when using it!
NOTE: This is the fourth diary entry in an ongoing series, please check our blog site for the previous entries.