Raheel Manji: “In the Big Leagues in Saskatoon”

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***Raheel Manji is a special kid. Good at school, polite, thankful he now is a National Singles Champion. He is respected by ACE coaches and players for his uncompromising approach to his development. We thought sharing his past few months’ experience, which culminated in him winning the U16 Canadian Indoor, would provide insight to parents and players of the approach that is needed to succeed***

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Raheel Manji talks about his trip to Saskatoon to play the futures, along side coach Pierre Lamarche and fellow competitor Sam Philip.

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I was extremely excited to go to the futures in Saskatoon for a couple of reasons. I was hungry to improve on my previous result in Kelowna, where I qualified for the main draw but then lost a disappointing match that I felt there were some missed opportunities. The other reason was because I would have Pierre Lamarche and my teammate Sam Philp there competing alongside. To be honest Saskatoon started off poorly. I arrived on Thursday night around 8 pm and went to the courts to get a practice session. This was prime time for the mosquitos there and throughout the whole practice I was constantly swarmed by black flies and getting bit by the mosquitos. That immediately put me in a bad mood because I did not have any bug spray on me and was scratching the whole night. I made sure to get the bug spray for the next day though. I did light fitness in the morning to prepare for a possible match the next day.

Pierre and Sam arrived midday and we settled in a bit and then headed to the courts to get a practice in and get better adjusted to the courts. The previous day I kept some notes on the characteristics of the courts. I made sure to keep an eye on some of the factors that the courts would bring out. However the main goal was just to get adjusted to the atmosphere and groove our strokes. Pierre put an emphasis on playing high percentage points and keeping the returns and first serves consistent. The courts were a lot slower than in Kelowna. Afterwards Pierre told me I received a wildcard into the main draw of singles, so I had a couple of days to prepare before I would play my first round. After Sam signed in we headed back to the hotel and then to dinner . Right away a trend between the three of us was beginning and we were all aware of it. Pierre was constantly trying to embarrass Sam and I, especially around the girls. Sam was trying to be the decision maker for the group and he kept messing up and leading us to dead ends in terms of parking, routes, restaurants, weather and ideas. It was amusing between the three of us trying to balance everything.

The next morning we went to the courts early to warm Sam up for his match. We were the only ones to practice that day before it started raining. We had to wait the whole day for the rain to stop and that didn’t settle too well with Sam. I could tell because every 5 minutes Sam would be checking the weather and it didn’t stop raining for another 8 hours. Eventually the matches got moved to the next day. What we did was do fitness to stay active and engaged for the next day. Sam played the next morning first match on and he won his first round of qualifying under control. He then had to play his 2nd round in the afternoon against a tough opponent and he lost a close match. Sam had been sitting in the front seat everyday since we arrived but without telling him he went to the back for the first time and stayed there. He was now preparing for the doubles. I was due to play Tuesday morning so Sam and I did fitness Monday and then got a practice session in on Monday to prepare me for the next day.

The draw was set and I was to play Nikita Kryvonos, the winner of the futures in Kelowna the year before. I had seen Nikita play my doubles partner for the Kelowna futures the previous week and I knew I would need to have the right game plan and execute well and I knew it was possible. Sam and Pierre were up against a challenge too, they would have to deal with my superstitions and routines that I go through before each match. I went through my routine and was ready to fight for the point. I did not capture the point last week so I was eager to get it this time. Unfortunately I got off to a shaky start and he broke me at 1-2. I had opportunities to break back to 2-3 but missed a return, which was exactly what Pierre wanted me to avoid. I got broken again and lost the set 6-2. I refocused after the set and adjusted my plan of attack. I went into the second set with a different plan but it just was not executed well. I lost the second set again 6-2. However, I learned a lot from that match and it did hurt but I realize that I will have more experiences and opportunities and each match is a stepping stone.

Sam and I were still in the doubles so the focus went to that. We got past our first round of doubles. From even before the match started it was a phsychological battle, where we came out on top. Not only that, we executed our game plan well too. We didn’t double fault once and no missed returns. Pierre was happy with that. The score of the match is not important, what’s important is we found a way to get through. We were into the second round of the doubles draw and we had a day off. The next day we played the number 3 seeds in the doubles and lost 6-2,6-1.

Although my tournament was short, I came out with a lot of good information on areas to work on. In the end it was a important trip in terms of learning and development. I also learned a lot outside of the court. I learned that Sam is not only fast on court but off court, where he completed every possible task, including eating, walking to the store or reading a book twice as fast as anyone else and I also learned that I shouldn’t argue with him when dealing with facts. I am sure he learned a lot too such as how to handle me and my superstitions and how to prepare an ice bath. Next up on our calendar is the $2000 mens open in Thornhill and I am working on my game to be ready for that!

A deeper dive into second serve statistics

The two most widely reported second serve statistics in professional tennis are the number of double faults a player hit, and their second serve winning percentage. If we’re trying to understand the effectiveness of a particular player’s second serve, relying only on those statistics has significant drawbacks. Article by Michal Kokta.

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