Halloween is one of the few times a year that we are encouraged to be someone, or something, different. The chance to put on a costume and momentarily disengage from our current reality. From zombie crawls to haunted houses, we like to be scared and seemingly helpless. On the tennis court, we can experience that same feeling as we face being down in a match, or that daunting moment when up at net, the opponents shot flies high and deep over our head. We race to the back court trying to gauge whether or not we will make it to the ball, and if we do, how are we going to execute a shot that has any validity. Welcome to the “tweener.”
History of the Tennis Tweener
The tweener made its tennis debut in the 1970’s. Shot makers such as Guillermo Vilas and Yannick Noah both claim to have originated this fun, but often low percentage, showy hit. In the 1980’s Boris Becker and Gabriela Sabatini continued the tradition, to the extent that Gabriela’s attempts became known as the “Sabatweenie.” Most recent newsworthy attempts at this trick shot go to French Open Frencesca Schiavone, culminating with Roger Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open against Novak Djokovic. Roger’s amazing get to the ball awarded him match point, and ultimately the match. Federer was later quoted as saying it was, “The greatest shot I ever hit in my life.”
And while the statistical probability of making the shot is incredibly low, according to former Stanford University coach John Whitlinger the odds of successfully winning a point with that shot is “…one out of 10 times.” It does not mitigate that fact that it is fascinating to watch 100% of the time. Often, the tweener is met with a standing ovation and boisterous crowd approval. But it’s the mechanics of the stroke that are really fascinating. The shot maker has to race back from the net, facing away from the net, get to the ball before it reaches its second bounce, all the while keeping it in front of themselves. Finally, as the ball is dipping towards the court, the timing must be perfect to step in front of the ball, to knee height, in order to send the ball over the net to the other side of the court. And then, as Whitlinger states, “pray.”
Who Loves the Tennis Tweener?
Right here on our home courts at Caughlin Club, we are often rewarded with a first-hand look at the tweener. Our very own Chris Ferguson-McIntyre makes the shot look incredibly fun, and seemingly effortless. Saturday morning’s, with his mighty group of 10 and Under Tennis players, Chris treats them to a tweener on the regular. It’s a special moment when the kid’s faces light up in amazement as Chris runs to the backcourt to execute the perfect between the legs shot. Both the parents and the kids are entertained and inspired by showmanship that’s more fun, than showy.
The tweener and Halloween, the perfect time to momentarily step away from the at hand reality and be something we’re not. It’s the time to take a risk, try something we don’t do in a normal match setting. Like a Halloween costume, when it works, the tweener can transform us from tennis player to super hero.
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