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Fact: photoshoots are not glamorous


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:29

You have no idea just what goes into the production of high quality online coaching features. Traffic jams, hospital visits, split toenails, jacket potatoes…

The location is the City of Nottingham Tennis Centre. In the city of Nottingham. And running the coaching photoshoot show is Leeds-based legend Big Dave Sammel, a hulk of a man and coach to a long list of world class players. He’s the sort of bloke you wouldn’t want to argue with. Particularly if he was brandishing an aerodynamic, oversized tennis racket in his shovel-like mitts. Oh no.

Dave is a former pro and coach to seven Great Britain Davis Cup players and was Senior Academy Coach at the LTA’s Leeds Academy. He is currently the Director of Coaching at the Monte Carlo Tennis Academy, which has 2007 Junior Wimbledon semi-finalist and Tennishead blogger Anna ‘Big Nuts’ Fitzpatrick on its books.

Big Dave is a bit worse for wear, having just come off second best in an argument with his shower. He ripped off his big toenail and walloped his head and shoulders (and, no, we don’t mean his bottle of shampoo) on his way to hitting the deck. Hard. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Big Dave is big. The West Yorkshire meteorological office confirmed a Richter scale reading of 6.4.

Dave’s not one to let a mere hospital visit stop him producing world class tennis players, though. With us looking on, a couple of hours later he’s hobbling around the court with British star-in-the-making and Tennishead coaching model Yasmin Clarke.

Appropriately, they’re given the fabulous facility’s Centre Court to strut their stuff on and the duo rattle through the basics of the game: forehands, backhands, one-handed slice, volleys, the smash, returns and serves – all of which we’ll be sharing with you lucky punters in the coming weeks.

And then we get a front seat for a half-hour masterclass of how to rip open-stance forehands like Rafa Nadal. Dave tells us that Andy Murray rates Rafa’s forehand as the trickiest to deal with in the business. Not because of pace, but because of the topspin the Spaniard puts on the ball – the ‘work’ he gets on every forehand. We’ll be sharing exactly how to rip it like Rafa in the near future too.

Worth noting was how much time good players like these guys spend breaking down the technique of specific shots and then building the strokes back up using simple hand feeds, and feeding balls from a basket.

Seventeen-year-old Yas’ is already in the British women’s top 20 and has a WTA ranking, but it’s still important for her to spend time tweaking her technique by hitting balls from a drop feed. Something probably a lot of club players would think is far too basic for a tour pro.

Moments before I start considering life without my fingertips, we’re done, everyone’s in the car and we’re motoring back down the M1. Next time, I’ll be lobbying for Monte Carlo.

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.