Tennis legends convene at the PTR International Racquets Conference
Feb 07, 2024
The PTR International Racquets Conference at PTR's new home, Saddelbrook Resort, kicked off the week with a trade show hosting a number of major industry players. During the conference, a series of seminars and educational sessions has proven to be well-received by attendees. Yesterday, however, some legends arrived on the scene.
It was impossible to see all of the sessions yesterday but Florida Tennis was able to attend some fascinating presentations featuring Emilio Sanchez, Johan Kriek, and Ivo Karlovic along with legendary coach Nick Saviano.
Emilio Sanchez was an ATP former world doubles No. 1 with five Grand Slam titles. In singles, he was ATP world No. 7, winning 15 titles including the coveted Italian Open. Sanchez had career wins over the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, and Mats Wilander.
Above: Emilio Sanchez. Photo: Emilio Sanchez Academy.
In his PTR presentation, Sanchez discussed how American tennis is beginning to surpass Spanish tennis. He's qualified to understand both the U.S. and Spanish systems of training as he runs his Emilio Sanchez Academy in Naples, Florida and Barcelona, Spain. And he's lived extensively in both the U.S. and Spain. His discussion was intriguing on many levels.
Sanchez feels that Spain's ability to work with clubs to supplement their national program has proven to be fruitful. After all, Spanish juniors compete for their club every weekend for about four months of the year. This builds a sense of camaraderie and competition at a young age — as he put it, "you play for the name of the club." This keeps it fun and engaging for juniors.
Above: Emilio Sanchez during his presentation. Photo: Florida Tennis.
When it comes building successful players, "club tennis" has helped Spain become a powerhouse on the world stage. On the other hand, the USTA has been investing more heavily in M15, M25, and ATP Challengers to help players move up the ranks earlier in their career (including, now, some college players). This proximity to lower level pro tournaments is a catalyst for strong performance. In turn, American tennis is seeing a resurgence.
There were a myriad of other reasons why both countries, Spain and America, have found significant success in professional tennis. Sanchez has also worked with the Italian Federation to help Italian tennis surge over the past few years as well. To learn more from Sanchez, it's worth checking out his International Coaches Institute courses.
Later, I caught a presentation from Johan Kriek who ascended to world No. 7 with 14 career titles and two grand slam wins (both at the Australian Open). Kriek is also based in Florida with two academy locations — at Seasons in Boca Raton and Jupiter Bay Tennis Club in Jupiter. He talked about building a foundation with junior tournament players.
Kriek discussed a number of different fundamentals when working with junior players. He focused on forging proper footwork and building the ability to play aggressive tennis — even with very young players. He also discussed how (and when) to have tournament players move "up" at tournaments and play in an older age bracket.
Above: Johan Kriek. Photo: Florida Tennis.
Kriek emphasized the importance patience and practice. He called tennis the "anti-cell phone" activity. Tennis requires focus and attention. Today's kids are losing these abilities, Kriek explained, with so much screen time. In an amusing segment of his presentation, Kriek said he'd like to throw these cell phones into the lake: "they'd make good skimming rocks." Most coaches in the audience agreed with this assessment.
Later in the afternoon, Ivo Karlovic was joined by coach Nick Saviano to discuss turning the serve into a weapon. And why not? Karlovic, at one point, held the world record for the fastest serve (156mph) and most career aces (13,728) which propelled him to eight ATP tour titles and a career-high ranking of No. 14. Karlovic lives in Miami.
Saviano, a former top 50 player and All-American at Stanford University, has coached Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard on tour. His Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy in Davie, Florida is legendary for aspiring junior players who go on to do big things within the junior, college, and pro tennis ranks. It's no wonder Karlovic sends his daughter to Saviano.
In their presentation together, Saviano pointed out a number of key insights from Karlovic's massive serve. He holds the ball "like a cone" when tossing which Saviano says can be effective along with a fingertip hold. That said, a "palm hold" can troublesome in his experience.
From left to right: Nick Saviano and Ivo Karlovic. Photo: Florida Tennis.
Regarding the feet, the weight should be 50-60% on the back foot and the server should "coil and load" effectively to produce power. Karlovic said he would practice about 200 serves daily and then, afterwards, he might play a set or two. He claims to have modeled his serve on a fellow Croatian, and one of his heroes growing up, Goran Ivanišević.
Saviano maintains that a good serve is all about "liquid power" emphasizing how relaxed Karlovic's arm (and gripping hand) would be when serving — tension, he explained, remains the enemy of a good serve. Saviano even said the fascial muscles should relax prior to serve.
Listening to Sanchez, Kriek, Karlovic and Saviano talk tennis was enlightening on many levels. PTR attendees were smiling after each presentation and appeared to walk away with many helpful takeaways. I was able to chat with some attendees afterwards for their impressions.
From left to right: PTR International Racquets Conference attendees Ed Krass and R.J. Tessier. Photo: Florida Tennis.
I spoke with Ed Krass, a fomer Harvard tennis coach, who now runs One-on-One Doubles and College Tennis Exposure Camp and R.J. Tessier, Director at Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management program, and both were excited to talk about the presentations. They told me they were "impressed" with what they'd learned so far at the conference.
Written by Florida Tennis' Executive Editor and Publisher Matt Pressman.