Hello, my name is P.J. Simmons, and I’m a Tennisaholic. By day I work on environmental issues (I chair the Corporate Eco Forum), but by night — and weekend and every spare moment possible– I play tennis. I’m also the founder of the The Tennis Congress, which I launched in 2013 as a means to give amateur tennis addicts like me access to pro-quality training with the world’s best teaching talent.

I love everything about tennis. Passionately. And my addiction only grows the better I become as a player. Because I started tennis relatively late in life, I’m on a mission to make up for lost time. So I’ve been investing a huge amount of time and money in my tennis education (clinics, privates, teams, online tools). So much so, in fact, that tennis is currently my sole “retirement fund”: I’m betting that my investments in training today will generate priceless dividends in the form of happiness and health down the road. Given the incredible amount I’m learning from amazing coaches and trainers, it occurred to me in summer 2012 that I might be able to help others with a similar drive to improve if I started documenting lessons learned (and frustrations) on my own journey. There’s no question I’ll learn a ton from the process of putting stuff down on paper (and video)– but it’s my sincere hope that sharing some of my own epiphanies and experiences will help others wanting to fast-track their own improvement. I also hope my posts help coaches on the lookout for new ways to explain things to students and help them break through to the next level. This blog is primarily geared towards players who share some (or all) of the following qualities:

  • You’re a tennis addict
  • You started playing (or returned to playing) as an adult
  • You want to push yourself to the highest level possible – as fast as possible
  • You want to train as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible

Full disclaimer: I am a student of the game, not a teaching pro— so fellow students are strongly advised to dive into many of the professional sites I’ll recommend on this blog for a far more comprehensive set of time-tested tools and strategies. My goal here is to add insights from a student’s perspective in ways that complement to all the great professional sites already out there. Some of my favorites include Jeff Salzenstein’s Total Tennis TrainingJohn Yandell’s TennisPlayer.netWill Hamilton’s Fuzzy Yellow Balls, Ian Westermann’s Essential Tennis, Craig O’Shannessy’s Brain Game Tennis, Jeff Greenwald’s Fearless TennisFlorian Meier’s OnlineTennisInstruction, Clay Ballard’s TopSpeed Tennis, Bill and Matt Previdi’s The Previdi System, and TennisResources.com,

From a tennis fitness perspective, however, I have worked hard to become an expert on the kind of fitness training tennis players need– especially competitive adult recreational players– to enhance performance on court and ward off injuries well into our “golden years.” In my 20s I was a certified fitness instructor and have since achieved Personal Trainer certifications from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and American Council on Exercise (ACE), as well becoming an ISSA-certified “Specialist in Fitness Nutrition.” I’m also an iTPA Certified Tennis Performance Specialist — the gold standard certification for fitness training in the tennis industry. I pursued these certifications both to be more empowered to create sound training regimens for myself and to stay at the cutting edge in helping design the curriculum for The Tennis Congress. 

MY BACKSTORY

As a kid I was an avid spectator of tennis, but I never learned to play. None of my family or friends were into tennis. And my high school and early college years were totally focused on training for what I thought would be a career as a professional musician (I began as a trumpet performance major at the New England Conservatory). After college, I didn’t think I had the time or money to pursue tennis as a hobby, given my all-consuming, low-paying first jobs in Washington DC. The years passed and I was always “too busy” doing other stuff…

Everything changed in 2008 when I moved to New York City to a building literally across the street from the Manhattan Plaza Racquet Club.  I signed up for an advanced beginner’s clinic and I was hooked. Thanks to the encouragement of a great pro named Bruce Barney, I kept coming back about once a week. Within a year it was twice a week. By 2011, I was playing 3-4 times a week and going upstate for a weekend once a month to train at what became my “home away from home”: Total Tennis. In spring 2012, I captained my first USTA Men’s team.

Today I’m closing in on 4.0 level, but my real sights are set on getting to 4.5 within a few years. When I launched this blog one of my first coaches, Tumeka Harris, yelled at me for not naming this blog the “Road to 5.0 Tennis” because that’s what she thinks I’m capable of achieving in the next 5 years. I hope she’s right, and I’ll certainly work towards that. But for now, I’m keeping my eye on the 4.5 ball, which is no doubt several years of hard work away. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing everything I learn in the process of getting there.

ADVERTISING AND AFFILIATE POLICY

I do not accept any paid advertising or direct payment to promote anything on this site. Any recommendations for products or websites are based entirely on genuine enthusiasm based on my own personal experience. However, at the strong urging of one of my online-savvy tennis friends (who knows how much money I spend on tennis), I recently added “affiliate links” for certain things I was already recommending (e.g. books I love, tools I’ve used to help avoid tennis injuries, or ticket sites I used for tennis events). If you buy something through one of these links you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission from Amazon.com or other affiliate websites– which, in turn, helps support my tennis training and the Tennis Congress, a passion project I do on the side of my regular job. I appreciate the support!

Feel free to reach out to me directly at: roadto45 [at] gmail.com
Twitter@tenniscongress
Facebook: Facebook/Roadto45 and Facebook/tenniscongress

Leave a Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

76 Comments

  1. Glenn
    Aug 03, 2018 @ 08:20:42

    Hello Fellow Tennis want-toBe-pro

    I played college tennis at Hawaii Pacific now. D II 2 School

    I have four kids all playing in top accadamies

    I’m back to 4.5 level and really enjoying it let’s trade war stories and what helps and makes it fun!!!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Aug 03, 2018 @ 08:54:29

      Hey Glenn! Awesome to hear from you and your great story. If you ever feel like sharing any details from your journey, my Tennis Congress recently started a blog site called “United in Tennis” designed for just that… Here’s detail on how to submit. Would be very cool to hear about how you maintained your passion after playing seriously in college, how your kids got involved (did they all love it immediately?) and you you’ve bonded over tennis, how you got back into playing at a high level… No pressure of course, but I’m sure may others would find your story relatable, interesting, and inspiring! P.J.

      Reply

  2. Vladimir
    Jul 22, 2018 @ 15:36:24

    Hi P.J.,
    my journey began perhaps 5 years ago, today (at age of 50) I would like to think that I’m starting to hover around the 4.0 level (not paying too much attention to “official” USTA ranking which, sometimes, can be very skewed – as pointed out by others).
    I never had a tennis lesson or a coach so as you can imagine my road can sometimes be very “bumpy”. But I found a great joy in the challenge of trying to figure the things out on my own, as well as finding determination to make a progress. I’m also finding it to be rewarding that I feel that I can now better relate what I learned to my tennis friends and hopefully inspire them to improve their game.
    Great to see you back on the Road, your journey gives me an inspiration to continue with my own, especially in the moments when I don’t feel so great about my tennis. :)))

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 22, 2018 @ 16:04:42

      Hi Vladimir! Thanks very much for writing and sharing that. I totally relate to the tremendous feeling of being able to troubleshoot on my own, and to the rewards of improving so that I can relate to other serious players. Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing. And in those moments you’re feeling down about your tennis, never forget that is totally normal and completely the case for ALL OF US!!! 🙂 P.J.

      Reply

      • Vladimir
        Jul 22, 2018 @ 19:37:40

        Thank you P.J.! Look forward to your future posts. BTW I also wanted to thank you for your fantastic US Open guide. I am lucky to live in NJ and can’t wait to for another quallies week to begin! Vlad

        Reply

        • P.J.
          Jul 22, 2018 @ 22:47:29

          Thank you so much, Vladimir! And really appreciate the kind words about the US Open post. P.J.

          Reply

  3. Acdx
    Jul 04, 2018 @ 23:14:44

    Hey,
    Just chiming in.
    I’ve gone three times to Nationals with a 4.5 team and once with a 5.0 team.
    The one thing I can tell you is that at the 4.5 level you see people with all kinds of skills, mechanics, court ethics, ages, etc
    I’ve seen guys that play D2 college at 2 singles (teammates) but were out shaped, out sync or that had lost the winning edge. Had to play 25-26-year-old young men when I was in my early 40’s. I once saw a guy in nationals that sliced everything as a semi-lob and people were having all kinds of difficulty to beat him because he was superfast and didn’t miss much. In short. it’s a jungle out there and it’s probably achievable.
    5.0, on the other hand, gave me a completely different impression at the national level. ALL the players are SOLID. At the local level you might get weak 5.0 players but at nationals, it’s just not true. There was a team that was insanely good (not 5.0 by any stretch of the imagination) but your average player was sound all around. Good mechanics, good to great footwork, good serve (speed and placement) not many unforced errors and maybe a good weapon. To be honest, I didn’t see anybody with killer stroke but just solid players.
    I played doubles, we ended up winning 2 out of 4 matches and played competitively in the other two. So, that was a good experience.
    We had many great matches at the 4.5 level (local, state and nationals), where we were really tested physically, mentally and emotionally and although we came close to winning nationals once.
    I rather play up than down even if I lose, but to me, the most important thing is to have a good match and enjoy the competition. The rating is just not that important.
    My two cents. Good luck on your quest

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 05, 2018 @ 00:31:46

      Hey there, thanks so much for the very thoughtful note! This is all so consistent with what I’ve seen and heard as well. P.J.

      Reply

  4. loredana
    Jul 04, 2018 @ 18:06:50

    Hi P.J.

    My name is Loredana, and I am writing from Italy. I am planning to come to US open with my family . It is our first time and according to what you wrote we think to buy a ground ticket + Ashe day session.
    What do you think about it? Are there kids tickets ( our kids are 13 and 10 y.o) Do you have any further suggestions considering we are going to be there on 30th and 31st August?
    Is it possible to buy such tickets in advance or directly entering Flashing Meadows?

    We would appreciate your useful advice. thanks

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 05, 2018 @ 00:42:41

      Hi Loredana, I spent a year in Bologna in grad school and heading back with family this summer, can’t wait 🙂 I actually do not recommend purchasing grounds admissions tickets in general– especially for anyone traveling a long distance when rain might be a factor. For both those days, there are Ashe Day session tickets available for about the same or less than you would pay for Grounds Admission and they give you all the same benefits as Grounds plus offering the opportunity to go into Ashe to see some of the world’s most famous players and to have “rain insurance” because the stadium has a roof. I also recommend you purchase tickets in advance. Don’t feel rushed to purchase – take your time to evaluate the options on multiple sites. But I wouldn’t recommend waiting until you arrive. P.J.

      Reply

  5. Chris Newbound
    Jul 01, 2018 @ 17:01:56

    Wow is this ever up my alley. Are you still blogging away? How’s your tennis? I recently pitched a story idea that went like this: If Roger Federer can still improve at his age, why shouldn’t I be able to. There’s a fairly large tennis instruction world out there that says we can improve as recreational players. Is it true. Not can you learn how to play and get better from say novice to intermediate. But let’s say you’ve playing for years, reached a certain decent level, in my case 4.0. Now I’m almost 60 and I had the same question you sort of had. Could I still improve? Could I ever reach 4.5? And what would it take. I’ve been told that a 4.5 player dominates a 4.0 player, might even often double bagel him. So would my 4.5 self, in a year or so, dominate my current self. Or is it like diet books? Are we selling a false set of goods. Now you don’t seem as if you’ve reached your ceiling yet, but let’s say someone like me has. But can still work on movement and fitness. This is purely a skills question. Can I attain 4.5 skills. FYI, I am a better doubles player because I have a strong serve and volley and overhead game. My weaknesses are my groundstrokes. Thoughts? Others you can point me in their direction. Thanks for your time. And I’m really interested to read and hear more how your tennis journey is going. Best, CN

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 01, 2018 @ 19:51:59

      Chris, great to hear from you and I relate totally to every question you’re asking! To do them justice, I’d need to write a long response… Let me start simply by saying an emphatic “yes” to the question about whether it’s possible to ramp up technical and physical skills even when we are older.

      To my mind, the key variables that determine “how far/how much” are: (1) will and grit; (2) willingness to put in the time; (3) willingness to take some steps backward in order to in-learn any “blocking” habits and train to learn new ones; (4) willingness to train in all dimensions that affect player development: physical (including off-court tennis-specific fitness conditioning; technical; tactical; and mental.

      I know several players in their 60s who are solid 4.5s who can beat much younger players. At 51, I am objectively a much, much stronger, more athletic, more technically competent player than I was 5 years ago. I didn’t start training until I was 41. I work really hard in the gym and do two 90-minute practices on court with my coach each week. I am absolutely certain I’ll reach 4.5. My groundstrokes are in that realm now, as is my movement; my serve is the big current project.

      You will no doubt encounter folks who are dismissive. I have had the great fortune of meeting many, many amazing coaches and trainers who believe in me and many adults like us who are seriously motivated. And for those of us in that category, the rewards of serious improvement are really sweet. And coaches get just as excited about them as they do progress with their high-performance juniors.

      Check out the book by my dear friend Gerald Marzorati, “Late to the Ball.” It will resonate. Other advice: seek out a good physical trainer who can demonstrate knowledge of tennis-specific needs (preferably who has been certified by iTPA). Find a coach who believes in your potential, takes your goals seriously, and — most importantly— shows they can create a developmental PLAN for you (not the “what do you want to work on today?” kind of coach). And invest in some good online education from the likes of Jeff Salzenstein, Ian Westermann (Essential Tennis), Fuzzy Yellow Balls, and Florian Meier to complement your work with your coach. Ultimately, you will need to be self-directed and enhance your own capacity to recognize what’s going right/wrong and adjust.

      Look forward to staying in touch and hearing how you’re doing! P.J.

      Reply

  6. Jessica Arnold
    Jun 15, 2018 @ 22:40:56

    Hi P.J., thank you for doing this blog. I refer to it every year that I get to go to the US Open, so I can get the best shaded tickets. I do have a question for you… I am an AMEX CC holder, how do I get a hold of the promo code? would it be better than any regular ticket out there? Thanks!
    Jessica

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 01:05:42

      Hi Jessica, you’re most welcome! The code is just the phone number on the back of your card. The Amex pre-sale is over (inventory was very limited – I didn’t purchase anything myself). It’s confusing because some sessions on Ticketmaster still show a handful of those preferred seating dots with Amex preferred seating – but if you enter the code it says “unlocked” but still doesn’t show price or availability for purchase. I’ve been meaning to call TM to find out whether this is a programming glitch or if we’re missing something but haven’t had time yet. Will let you know if I find anything out, please do likewise. However, based on all past experience, even if the remaining handful do end up being available, I suspect they will be premium priced and you could do just as well or better with resale tickets. P.J.

      Reply

  7. Candace
    Jun 15, 2018 @ 15:32:54

    Hi P.J.

    My name is Candace, and I too, am a HUGE “tennisaholic.” With that said, one thing on my bucket list is to see Serena Williams play live. I live in Minnesota and am planning a trip to the US open this year. What are your thoughts and suggestions on the best way to see her? I don’t care if I see her in the first round or even a practice round, I just want to see her pay live once. I know the schedules isn’t out yet and am unsure the best way to go about it with seeing her at the beginning. Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jun 16, 2018 @ 01:14:30

      Hi Candace! Great to be in touch with another tennis fanatic 🙂 Most of my advice on that is in FAQ #1 above. I also think checking the practice schedule on the app during the few days during qualifiers (ie. starting around August 23) the day before or morning of would be smart – she may well be practicing those few days before the tourney opens (there are many big names practicing Sunday Aug 26) and admission to the grounds is free then. P.J.

      Reply

  8. Sammy
    Jun 14, 2018 @ 18:58:17

    Hi PJ,

    Curious to know if you ever got to the 4,.5 level? I just recently got back into tennis after a five year layoff. It took me a year but I’m back to my 3.5 level I used to be at. I am looking to take some lessons to develop one strong shot to get to the 4 level. I think the biggest difference between a 4 and a 4.5 is the kick serve and stronger ground strokes with heavier pace. Did it take a long time for you to learn how to hit a kicker?

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jun 15, 2018 @ 01:00:06

      Hey Sammy, thanks for asking! I’m playing at a solid 4.0 level now, but it will still be a while before I can be a legit 4.5. But feeling like it’s well within reach. My groundstrokes are getting solid and I can vary pace, spin, and trajectory with consistency. My movement is getting better and better, so getting to shots sooner and able to load and unload well. Serve is, for me, the biggest barrier. But it’s coming along. For me, getting a “live arm” and eliminating arm and shoulder tension has been the most important factor to enabling me to add way more power and find more control. My kicker is still a work in progress, but it is coming along with the general evolution in “feel” that’s been happening across the board. I’m back to training hard and loving every minute of it! Don’t know if you saw my “Back on the Road” post, but I was also off for a while (2 years) and just eels so good to be back. Keep me posted on how you’re doing! P.J.

      Reply

  9. Jeffrey
    May 06, 2018 @ 15:29:30

    Hey PJ,

    Jeff here visiting again and ready to share most recent training experience while sitting in Ft. Lauderdale airport.

    Passed my 3 yr anniversary in early March, still hitting and training 4-5×/wk, played mixed doubles 6.0 and 7.0 all winter and spring, and continuing to play solid 3.0 tennis.

    My number 1 frustration with improving this winter and spring has continued to be my forehand. I’ve grooved a good ability to keep the ball in play and continue rallies. That won’t cut it to get to the next playing level for me. I need to be able to put opponents on defense when the opportunity presents itself, which is often at my level. The instructor I’ve worked with this winter and spring wants me to hit forehands with more topspin and the more I try to generate spin the more glancing my ground strokes have become. It literally feels like I’m grating cheese when I try hitting more topspin. Literally no pace!

    Ok, finally had enough of my forehand on my 3 yr anniversary. With some internet research I decided to book Rick Macci in Boca Raton for 4 one hour forehand sessions. It was expensive but omg, I have a new, simple forehand and I’m crushing shots. LOL. I’ve never hit the ball so solidly while keeping it in the court. With spin. Yes I hit some out and still occassionally crowd the ball but a whole new forehand world has been opened up to me. I’m ready to take home what I have, practice it more, and use it in matches.

    Some final thoughts on mechanics:

    “The flip”: it took me one session to get this figured out and that’s because I (and everyone I think) don’t do it consciously, it just happens when you drop your hand into position after the shoulder turn, keep your wrist cocked, and pull the racquet forward. It literally just happens on it’s own. All it requires is total relaxation in your hand and arm.

    Relaxation and light grip: The key that unlocked so much for me. The lighter my grip, the more relaxed my body is when I swing, the better and better shots I produced. Amazing! Key swing thought for this: “Try not to try!” I grip the racquet so lightly now that at times on forehands it felt like my racquet was going to go sailing across the court which of course never happens.

    Final thoughts: Bringing home a new and monumentally improved forehand, ready to practice a lot, and bring it to matches. Not sure where it will bring me but I’m convinced it will be very far.

    Cheers!

    Jeff

    Reply

    • P.J.
      May 06, 2018 @ 15:36:52

      Jeff, thank you so much for sharing a glimpse of your journey. I can totally relate to the frustrations you experienced trying to find the magical combination of elements that lead to a powerful AND heavy topspin FH. It took me a lot of lessons with a lot of different pros to find the answers I needed, and I can also relate to your excitement for finding yours! Macci is renowned for having a great eye and technical savvy – so smart to invest in those sessions with him. Keep up the great work, and if you ever find yourself in NY let me know! P.J.

      Reply

    • Becky
      May 06, 2018 @ 20:19:14

      Jeff – that sounds great! I love those “ahah moments”.

      One of the ways I keep my hand from getting too tight is to spin my racquet. I probably do it too much. 😉

      Becky

      Reply

      • Jeffrey
        May 06, 2018 @ 23:11:47

        Haha. Thanks Becky and PJ.

        Post Script: Thoughts after the plane flight home. Now that I have a foundation for a real technically/mechanically sound modern forehand I know I have upcoming hurdles. Using it with a ball machine, using it hitting around with friends, using it in a clinic, and finally using it in match play. It’s kind of easy to learn new mechanics on a sterile court with an instructor. I’m sure the months ahead will be challenging. That’s the journey and as long as I’m having fun and healthy I’ll keep grinding!

        Cheers,

        Jeff

        Reply

        • P.J.
          May 06, 2018 @ 23:25:43

          It is indeed the journey! And we all go through it. You think you figure something all out, you’re hitting out of your mind… then a couple practices later everything seems off. You think it’s gone… Then inevitably, “it” comes back sometime soon – and you keep progressing, despite more inevitable setbacks and confusions. For me, the key has been just getting clearer on what I should be doing and why, and developing more self-awareness and body awareness to be able to observe and patiently self-correct. And, of course, to remember that it takes hitting an incredible number of balls for things to become automatic and to stay patient with yourself! P.J.

          Reply

  10. Becky
    May 02, 2018 @ 22:14:17

    Hey there! Great reading your post. I’m still getting better at 61 after picking it back up after 44 years of the horses at 55. I’ve also been incapacitated with back issues and various other injuries.

    I still play about 5 days a week between lessons, drills, practice and matches. I even still play singles. I’m a 3.5. (Not sure how I hung onto that rating the last couple years. Lol)

    At my age, you need a lot of tools in the old toolbox since I definitely can’t keep up with those girls multiple decades younger.

    Anyway – welcome to the incomparable land of the inspiring P.J.

    Becky

    Reply

    • P.J.
      May 02, 2018 @ 23:12:26

      Becky you are amazing. Love you! PJ

      Reply

    • Alvaro
      May 03, 2018 @ 09:18:17

      Thanks Becky!

      Getting back to tennis after having back issues is difficult but totally worth it! Physical therapy and regular yoga exercises have kept me on the court.

      I had gotten to 5-6 x week and it’s awesome! It feels great to be on the court often. Keeping up that pace is very hard though.

      It is very nice to meet you !

      Alvaro

      Reply

  11. Alvaro
    May 02, 2018 @ 21:04:10

    Hi PJ

    I stumbled on your blog looking for ways to find out what USTA rating I am in. I am from central america and our classification categories are very different. I always wanted to find out more about how my skill level measures up outside of my country.

    I´m 36 years old. I started playing around 9 years old but stopped at 19 because of back injuries and later on because of college. I started again around 5 years ago and regret every once in a while to have left it for so long. There is always this “what if” sensation on how I would be playing if i had never quit.

    I was quite the tennis fan. Trained around 10 hours a week and aditionally tennis camps once a month. I lost a lot of that skill level because of the amount of time I quit playing and my physical condition. Im trying to gain it back.

    When I started playing again I re found that unique feeling only tennis can bring of hitting the ball and playing games and tournaments, improving and achieving personal goals.

    I have sent a video to a coach in the US who says im a solid 4.0 player. Right now my main drive is to improve as much as possible. Finding your blog was amazing. I identify on a lot of levels. The articles are great. Building a tennis community in my city is hard so these tools area great!

    Greetings from Guatemala,
    Alvaro

    Reply

    • P.J.
      May 02, 2018 @ 21:33:10

      Hola Alvaro, muchísimas gracias por escribir. Your note totally made my day – I can relate on so many levels. Here’s the good news: at age 50, I’m still unlocking totally new physical capacities. My strokes are getting more effortlessly powerful. My movement faster and more fluid. I’m working out in the gym at our club just as hard as a lot of the juniors and my body is still responding. Yes, I too wish I had started earlier. But at 36, trust me your body still has many more good years ahead of it if you keep training hard and smart. Look forward to continuing to hear about how you’re doing and staying in touch! Also, FYI, the organization I started (The Tennis Congress) just launched a new blog called “United in Tennis” meant to be kind of like my Road to 4.5 for everyone to contribute to. Would be fantastic if you considered writing for it. Check it out here and the guidelines here and please consider contributing to it!! Muchos saludos, P.J.

      Reply

      • Alvaro
        May 02, 2018 @ 22:58:14

        Hi PJ.

        I will definitely try(English is my second language so I hope I can write a decent article). Sharing and reading from other tennis fans is always interesting. Thanks for the opportunity.

        Greetings,
        Alvaro

        Reply

        • P.J.
          May 02, 2018 @ 23:11:06

          Sería estupendo – y tenemos editores talentosos qui pueden ayudar! PJ

          Reply

  12. Tony
    Nov 09, 2017 @ 06:48:29

    Hey PJ
    Thanks for the 2 tickets at the open for the men’s Qtr finals match . We were standing line when you simply offered my daughter and me 2 extras you had. We had a blast . Thx!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Nov 09, 2017 @ 13:59:09

      Hey Tony, my pleasure! So glad you had a good time. Thanks for letting me know! P.J.

      Reply

  13. Jeffrey
    Oct 25, 2017 @ 16:43:46

    Hey PJ

    Just stumbled onto your blog surfing for ideas to improve my forehand stroke. I started playing tennis in early 2015 at age 54 and am totally addicted. Haha. I play 5x week, have cycled through 2 good injuries, and now know to closely listen to my body. Currently play as a 3.0 and totally desperate to improve. Most times I leave the court after a match (singles & doubles) totally exasperated at how hard it is to develop a consistent forehand and forehand weapon. Backhand has come quite naturally. Anyway, traveling the same journey with you and look forward to your blog entries.

    Cheers

    Jeff

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Oct 25, 2017 @ 18:34:33

      Hey Jeff, great to meet you! I can totally relate on all fronts. The good news is that everyone goes through those ups and downs in the journey… then one day, BOOM, epiphany! Huge leaps forward. Inevitably more confusion and challenges as you work to that next level, but also inevitably comes another epiphany when you least expect it. And another leap forward. I still struggle with impatience at times, but have grown much more zen about trusting that with continued work those leaps forward will continue to come. And I find the more I relax about it, the more quickly they seem to come :). Just back training hard past 6 weeks for the first time in 2 years, wrist seemingly healing, and I’m ecstatic. Looking forward to writing a bit more regularly again soon… Keep me posted on how you’re doing! P.J.

      Reply

  14. Andrew Diaz
    Sep 01, 2017 @ 00:47:55

    Hello;

    I am a teachin pro in the northeast. It is admirable that you want to become a usta certified 4.5 player.

    IT HAS BEEN MY EXPERIENCE IN 25 years of teaching that 98% of serious male club players OVERRATE THEMSELVES. 90 percent of the tennis players in the United States are 3.5

    To clarify, 4.5 Is very difficult to reach if people are going to be really honest about it.

    You are going to have to work and suffer. In my experience it takes 10 yrs, to achieve and another 3 years to do it under nerve pressure. (WHERE YOUR PRACTICE STROKES ARE THE SAME AS YOUR MATCH STROKES) That’s 13 yrs buddy. You will injure and strain almost every part of your body along the way. But there is great honor and nobility in that suffering.

    I feel you are a 4.5 player you should beat the pusher 99 percent of he time, 6-2, 6-2 or with the pusher getting less games.

    A 4.5 player is a solid club teaching pro.

    – No double faults; max 5 per match with avg speed of 110 first, 90 second. Not safely spinning in 70 mph serves

    -No weak second serve

    -No weak backhand, and it can’t be a slice only, and it can’t be purely defensive. At 4.5 the backhand should be a finishing weapon on opportunity balls, and a creative weapon as well, and a hit REGULAR passing shots, (not resort to a lob because you’re scared to go for the pass) An opponent should not be able to use the hit to the backhand strategy and have success doing it against a legit 4.5 BH.

    -People should watch you and comment on the fluidity of form and stroke production. There should be no weaknesses visible to the amateur eye.

    -A true 4.5 player has a real kick serve. One that bounces min 6 feet high and breaks 6 inches to 1 foot forward or to the left. NOT A SECOND SERVE THAT IS JUST A TOPSPIN SLICE, that breaks right

    -When playing a lefty, breaking the ball the opposite way to get to his BH is automatic and not a struggle.

    – A true 4.5 player is dangerous at the net and volleys with authority. Any shot that is floated is finished 85% of the time. A 4.5 player has a real overhead that is properly finished 80 % of the time.

    -Footwork is solid; THIS IS A HUGE STATEMENT. Only 1 percent of male club tennis players have fully proper footwork. I say again, 1 percent.

    7.0; 1-100, atp tour

    6.5 Minor league tour; futures and challengers

    6.0; Full scholarship to a div 1 top 75 tennis college

    5.5; First singles at a non top 75 div 1 tennis college, partial scholarship

    5.0; First singles at a div 2 College. (I have never seen in 25 years a male club player who would come anywhere near this level). Not even close

    4.5; First singles at a div 3 college

    4.0; First singles high school tennis

    3.5; First singles Junior varsity, junior high school.

    3.0; jr high bench warmer

    2.5; cut from tryouts

    2.0; beat up in the locker room! (Just kidding) lol

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Sep 01, 2017 @ 01:05:20

      Hey Andrew, great assessment! Yup, that’s all the stuff I’m aiming for. Not for the sake of winning, but because the process of trying to get there – and the feeling of hitting those kinds of accomplishments – is so incredibly rewarding. And fun. I may never hit true 4.5, but I sure will enjoy the journey 🙂 P.J.

      Reply

    • Christopher Dealy
      Sep 06, 2017 @ 20:12:12

      Andrew,
      Take it down a notch. We all know climbing the 4.5 mountain is akin to Everest. We get it. PJ’s blog speaks to me and a lot of other guys wanting to get better, wanting to train, and knowing its the want and the effort that is just as sweet as actually being a 4.5.

      Reply

      • Andrew Diaz
        Sep 07, 2017 @ 18:16:40

        Christopher Dealy;

        I will not; “Take it down a notch” This is sports not knitting class. If you take it to heart and don’t be so defensive, I am actually helping guys get there faster.
        The tennis pros you pay to teach you will continually stroke your ego and butter you up. I have bottom lined it, to shock you guys into greatness and also reality.
        You don’t pay me so I don’t have to be careful in what I say.

        The price that has to be paid to 4.5 is severe, and my guys who have achieved it through blood sweat tears and suffering DESERVE it properly described.

        Regards.

        Reply

    • Catherine Pfarrer
      Apr 04, 2018 @ 17:42:15

      Andrew Diaz, I love your assessment! I am a teaching pro living in Las Vegas. I have played my whole life and my biggest frustration is that people overrate themselves! I am a 5.0 on the computer … on the court a 4.5. I played college, stopped for years to raise children, got back on the court after exiting a 5.0 and was quickly humbled down to a 4.0. I moved to Las Vegas where it was sunny and warm and I could play 365 days a year outside! Heaven on earth. I quickly moved back up … but found myself a solid 4.5 annihilating women who were HARDLY 4.0’s but at the 4.5 level. So now my rating is so skewed that I am a 5.0 with no place to play because there are no leagues, so I can’t get moved back to where I belong. Frustrating … and by now, I am probably back to 4.0:) So YES … everyone overrates themselves, and to be a solid 4.5 I do believe that you have to pay the price. I love what you had to say!! AND … yes, footwork is EVERYTHING!
      P.J. … I love this blog for tennis lovers!!

      Reply

      • P.J.
        Apr 04, 2018 @ 17:57:26

        Thanks Catherine!

        Reply

  15. PAUL BIRNBERG
    Aug 22, 2017 @ 20:10:41

    On your blog you wrote, “Also, if you fly into Laguardia (LGA) there’s a special bus that will take you directly to the US Open.” From where and when does this bus leave Laguardia? At what price? Does the company running the service have a website describing it?

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Aug 22, 2017 @ 22:39:27

      Hi Paul, it’s the NYC MTA Q48 bus and it goes directly to CitiField/Mets-Willets –only about 5 min from Laguardia Airport. The stop on the MTA website is listed as ROOSEVELT AV/WILLETS PT BL STATIO. P.J.

      Reply

  16. MJ Sloan.
    Feb 20, 2017 @ 21:47:08

    What are you favorite places to train. Have you enjoyed any group trips.
    I am a 4.0 but would love to get to 4.5. I need work on my backhand and serve and strategy.

    I have been to Hyatt in Amelia Island , sea colony in Bethany beach De, wintergreen in VA, palmetto dune and sea pines on HHI. I have used these as vacations w a ton of tennis

    I have found the clinics at these resorts as valuable but they lack the individual focus on my weaknesses.

    I take weekly lessons w a club pro but find I am driving the boat and they can only get me so far.

    I have looked at the IMG Academy in FLA.

    Your blogs on Total Tennis in NY have intrigued me.

    Reply

  17. Kimbomama
    Dec 01, 2016 @ 15:16:51

    Hi, PJ:
    I agree with your coach wholeheartedly. Aim for 5.0. I started playing tennis at 30, had three kids, and have an active law practice. Years ago, I was an endurance athlete. Not anymore, to be clear. Two years ago, I was bumped up to 5.0. I cannot tell you the absolute level of humility I feel playing kids just out of DI tennis colleges in singles matches. But sometimes I get traction, and I’ve had to work a lot on fitness, some nutrition, certainly mental toughness (no one respects my skills, honestly, because everyone else at 5.0 is a former college player), and basic stroke production (esp with serve and volley). I love your website and will look to it. I’d add that rolling and MFR is a big part of my warm up regimen as I age. The aches and pains just keep coming!
    Good on ‘ya with the website!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Dec 02, 2016 @ 17:32:15

      Hey there, thanks so much for writing! What a tremendous accomplishment reaching 5.0 after starting as an adult – congratulations. One of the many things I love about tennis is that we all bring something unique and special to it; rating levels and the ability to win is a function of so many interrelated skills — mental, physical, technical, tactical — and it sounds like you continue to make progress on all those fronts. Hopefully above all you are enjoying the journey! Thanks again for reaching out, and please keep me posted on how you’re doing. P.J.

      Reply

  18. Brian OConnor
    Nov 26, 2016 @ 22:37:15

    Hi PJ,
    Brian here a new alumni of Tennis Congress:) Being a teacher, I have two weeks off for the holidays. Have you come across any tennis clinics in December for players around 4.5? I love out in San Francisco. I would be open to traveling.
    Thank you,
    Brian

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Nov 28, 2016 @ 12:18:14

      Hey Brian! Haven’t heard of any high-level specialized clinics being planned but will keep ear to the ground… I’m sure you know about Tennis Resorts Online, but just in case — they have tons of great info and reviews. Wishing you very happy holidays!! P.J.

      Reply

  19. Denise
    Aug 23, 2016 @ 12:16:10

    Came across your site when my friend and I were trying to figure out which sections of the Grandstand/Louie Armstrong stadiums (stadia?) were NOT in the sun. Great article — I am referring to the one containing tips for a good experience at the U.S. Open.
    Like you, I love the game and like you, I hit at MP fairly often. Bruce is a great guy!
    Thanks for doing this blog, this is really cool. And thanks for the tips! They came in handy. We took your advice and bought seats in the soon-to-be-history Armstrong.
    Enjoy the Open!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Aug 23, 2016 @ 12:23:27

      Hey Denise, thanks so much for the kind words – and how cool about the MP and Bruce connection! Enjoy Armstrong – you will love it. I’m so sad to see it go… Hope to see you on a court one of these days! P.J.

      Reply

  20. Kevin
    Jun 27, 2016 @ 19:30:07

    Cool! I’m similar to you. Sorry if you answered this already but did you make 4.5?

    I played high school and community college level (lower seeds). Got back into tennis again about three years ago and now almost 4.5.

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jun 27, 2016 @ 20:16:30

      Hey there, great to hear from you. I’m almost done a new blog post that answers your question… the short answer is no, the long answer has to do with why I’m feeling good about that. Will definitely post it over the upcoming holiday weekend when I have some time to finish it! P.J.

      Reply

      • Kevin
        Jun 27, 2016 @ 20:40:26

        Thanks! Inspired that you love tennis like I do and that you made the tennis congress. I learned about you listening to Late to the Ball audiobook.

        I feel good where I’m at that I’m a 4.0 with some sparks of 4.5 play that happen from time to time. I organize a Wednesday doubles group that has been a joy.

        Tennis is a journey. Good luck and excited to hear about your path more.

        Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 11, 2016 @ 00:02:09

      Hey Kevin, thanks again for writing and for asking! Great to hear about your progress. I finally was able to finish a post last week explaining where I am on my “Road”: http://www.roadto45tennis.com/detours-roadblocks-and-discoveries-on-the-road-to-4-5/ P.J.

      Reply

  21. Sally
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 22:43:42

    PJ, I just stumbled on your site — it’s an amazing tennis resource! Thank you for your tennis obsession and generosity in sharing the knowledge.

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 09:47:35

      Sally, thanks so much! I deeply appreciate the kind words!! P.J.

      Reply

  22. ShannonD
    Oct 08, 2015 @ 01:49:33

    I just found your site and I am so excited to read through past posts! After a college tennis career I hung up my rackets for almost 10 years. I recently picked them back up again and I’m re-addicted to my love for the game. But after 10 yrs off and three kids and an 80 lb weight gain I am working REALLY hard to get back into a fitness and rating level in happy with. My dream is to go to Nationals as a 4.5 competitive player. Right now I’m losing most my 4.0 matches because I get in my head and psych myself out but you’re inspiring me to keep working and not give up on my “grown up” tennis goals. Thanks for sharing your story!!!!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Oct 08, 2015 @ 03:01:38

      Shannon, wonderful to hear from you and about your journey to dive back into your own Road to 4.5! Look forward to hearing more along the way… Thanks so much for writing and the very kind words! P.J.

      Reply

  23. Gary Barawidan
    Sep 07, 2015 @ 17:35:09

    Awesome. I’m interested in finding itpa pro to start training. Please email me I have questions.

    Reply

  24. Urmez V. Davar
    Sep 04, 2015 @ 00:23:22

    PJ,

    My family and I are coming to the evening session this Saturday. The tickets say entry around 5:00 p.m. Is it possible to enter the facility before 5:00 p.m.?

    In addition, do you know who might be playing in the evening sessions this Saturday?

    Thanks

    Urmez

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Sep 04, 2015 @ 06:34:58

      Hi Urmez, unfortunately not – 5pm is earliest they’ll let you in for an evening session ticket. You can look at schedule from yesterday to figure out who’s playing on Saturday, but you never know who they will actually put on Ashe for evening until they announce. PJ

      Reply

  25. Becky
    May 01, 2014 @ 11:51:42

    P.J. – you’ve been an inspiration to both myself and my sister!

    I met P.J. at his first U.S. Tennis Congress – what an AMAZING event! (We just signed up for 2014!!)

    My local pros are fabulous and are so supportive as well. I played until I was 11 in CT. Then, horseback riding took over my life for the next 44 years until I retired my last heart horse. I picked up a racquet in October 2011 when a Match.com date suggested it for a first date. (Unfortunately, romance did not follow, except for my passion for TENNIS! LOL) I discovered we had a pro at our subdivision and it all began.

    When I was considering moving from the Richmond, VA area to Austin, TX (where my sister lived), I told her I would only consider moving if she found us a nice place to play tennis. She did – and only minutes from our home. 🙂

    Anyway, I play a ladies doubles club league, USTA 3.0 league and Ultimate Tennis League (believe it or nor, USTA Flex is not offered in Austin – thus playing Ultimate – same idea). I also take a couple private lessons a week as well as drills and just hitting with the ladies.

    While my play has improved over this 2.5 year period, it’s my mental game that I believe has made most of the difference in my results as well as being ok with not so good “score results”. US Tennis Congress played a HUGE part in this. It gave me the tools, along with local pro support, to stay positive, confident and happy, not matter how the match is going.

    I’ve had an incredible win streak this season, which ended last night in my Ultimate Playoff Finals. I had lost my one match (the first one of the season) to this really good playing lady (about 6′ and 20 years younger than me LOL) 4&2. I was looking forward to a re-match as no one had gotten more than 5 games off her all season. I’d played a Long three set doubles league match in the morning, suffered through a migraine at lunch, then sitting at the computer working for a couple hours before driving to her club to play our match. I’m happy to say, that while I lost (4-6,6-4,4-6), I battled every shot and point, mind over body at times. 😉 I felt blessed to be out there and doing what I love. (And I look forward to playing her again in the 3.5 Ultimate this summer. We both got bumped up.)

    I have a tough USTA singles match coming up tomorrow. Our team is in first place and there’s a lot of pressure to stay there. The best thing is that while I know I’ll feel the pressure and nerves, I also feel confident that my mind will not get in the way of my play. (At least that’s the plan. 😉 )

    THANK YOU, P.J!!!

    Reply

  26. A reader
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 13:54:54

    Hi, I started reading your blog last year and I can identify with you. I am female, started playing at 32 (2007), and I got bumped to a 4.5 last November. I don’t have much time to practice, due to family, work, having baby, etc, but I sneak in some tennis in between whenever I can. I play mostly singles, and I hit against the wall a lot, it’s cheap and time effective. Of course the women’s game is a lot less competitive then man’s, you could become a 4.5 easily if you were an athletic inclined woman =). On to 5.0 now! Best Wishes.

    Reply

  27. Steve
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 13:25:25

    Similar story here. Musician who started playing tennis late in life. (At 35. I’m 38 now.) I’m happy with my progress and am also closing in on 4.0. I need a second serve that does more than surprise my opponents with its sheer lameness. (It’s so slow sometimes that people net the ball or hit long) I also need to improve my footspeed and timing on the backhand wing so I’m not always forced to hit the slice. I have been told by 4.0 and 4.5 players I’ve played against that my consistency is really good and that upping the pace of my rally balls will go a long way to bringing my level up another notch. So I’ll be working on that in the coming year. I am glad to have found your site as your experience seems to mirror my own in many ways. I will follow with interest.

    Reply

  28. John
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 17:51:14

    P.J.:

    I loved your article :10 Tips for Better Doubles Strategy.” Great work–keep it up.

    Reply

  29. JB
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 11:39:55

    This blog is primarily for young folks. Obsessive tennis is extremely damaging to the joints, especially at a high level like 4.5, requiring ultra quick poaching, pivoting and hard serves. The knee joint and serving shoulder capsule will be damaged, not if, but when….it has been established through clinical indications, across many studies.
    Social tennis on clay where points are longer is noted more healthy. As with most addictions, the downside can be negative.
    Enjoy the game. “Tennis, the greatest game”~Arthur Ashe

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 12:02:44

      Thanks for your comments – we clearly agree that Tennis is the “greatest game”! But I have a different viewpoint regarding age and level of play. Being a 4.5 player surely may look different at different ages – but from what I’ve seen, getting older doesn’t preclude maintaining a high level of play. For instance, older players may not have 100+ mph serves, but they often have fluid service motions with effective spin and smart placement that enables them to compete at a 4.5+ level (while keeping their shoulders healthy). Similarly, older players that can no longer do “ultra-quick” movements safely can still retain a high level of play by playing smarter and more strategically. I personally know many terrific 4.5+ players in their 40s, 50s, 60s and above who are healthy and injury-free because they have trained smart both on court and off. At 46 I’m in the best shape of my life and injury free because I’m doing tennis-specific off-court training exercises and playing with better and better technique and court movement skills.

      That said, for sure the vast majority of recreational players don’t do enough (or any) off-court conditioning to enable their bodies to withstand the demands of high-level tennis. So they do get injured and their level drops.

      Perhaps most important, every individual is different with a unique fitness background and physical profile. So the wisest course is to consult with their physician, physical therapists and trained professionals (and listen to our own bodies) to determine the specific training regimen and goals appropriate for our own unique circumstances.

      I wish us both many more years of healthy fulfillment from our great sport!

      Reply

      • Brian OConnor
        Nov 26, 2016 @ 22:55:29

        I love this response PJ. I would love to raise my level to 5.0, and it’s inspiring to read this specific response. I’ve heard a lot of naysayers talk about injuries that would result from being 44. I now know I need to start doing some cross training like you have.
        Thanks,
        Brian

        Reply

  30. Wilie
    May 27, 2013 @ 20:46:58

    Born and raised in NYC. Moved to Florida in 1988 at the age of 25. Met a girl in 1995 who introduced me to tennis. Ended up befriending her ex-fiancé/my future tennis coach and ended up Florida #1 in 4.5 in 1999. Stopped playing for ten years due to injury. (Second neck surgery). Picked up the game again two years ago and now I am back on the wagon. I’m 48 and playing hard, shooting to be better than I previously, in my mind, was. Great blog!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      May 28, 2013 @ 09:17:11

      Willie, Thanks and great to hear from you! So good to hear you’ve recovered from the surgery and are “back on the wagon.” Keep up the great work and please keep me posted on your progress. If you ever feel like writing a guest blog on any big things you’re learning on your road to improve, would be awesome. P.J.

      Reply

  31. Rich
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 14:21:24

    Hi P J

    I was a. 4.5 player. For 20. Years

    Now. I. Play. 4.0. Senior. Tennis

    I think the real difference between the two levels of competition

    Net Play

    Second serves

    Confidence

    Movement. at a quicker pace

    Focus on those areas.

    Play,against. 4.5 players. You can tell real quick. What’s missing

    Than find one of these guys to play. Doubles your level goes up real quick

    Good luck

    Rich

    Reply

  32. Tomaz Mencinger
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:41:03

    Hey P.J.,

    Found your site through Youtube video of Federer. You’re sharing some great ideas on your site which are interesting and useful even for a veteran tennis coach. Keep ’em coming!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:45:29

      Tomaz, I’m deeply honored and thrilled that some of what I’m sharing might be helpful. Thanks so much for the encouraging words! P.J.

      Reply

  33. Nadine
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 10:58:15

    Great idea. Fabulous blog. Thanks PJ for sharing and hope see you on the courts soon!!

    Reply

  34. Bob Brusa
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 16:28:46

    Great I agree with the 5.0 statement. Go get them PJ. I have no doubts about you.

    Reply

  35. Rob MacMillan
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 12:59:59

    Hey, PJ – Great idea, and way cool blog. Inspiring an old guy who is always too busy to go out and play.

    Reply

  36. Dawn Georgoulis
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 10:24:38

    Love your blog. Looking forward to reading all of it.
    And having seen you play I have no doubt that you will reach your goal!
    Go PJ

    Reply