A rundown tennis club (and that’s putting it politely) in a freezing climate which, with one indoor court, has in recent years produced more top-20 women players than the entire United States. (Yes, you read that correctly.)  My 2006 visit to Spartak—the original article is here—helped inspire the book.

Inside the Hothouse: Audio Slideshow

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Spartak can be summed up in one word: tekhnika (technique). Every moment, every resource is devoted to helping players with the most essential task: hitting the ball correctly. Or, to put it a different way, to building a reliable, fast skill circuit. To do this, they

  • Slow it down. Just like the violinists at Meadowmount, the Spartak players do their swings in slow-motion. All players also follow the same warmup routine—which starts with simple eye-hand drills where they bounce the ball and catch it—whether they are five years old or, as I saw, a world top-ten player.
  • Imitate. They swing without the ball quite a lot, a drill called imitatsiya. The ball, in their view, is a distraction. The point is to make the swing—to fire the circuit properly.
  • Games can wait. The rule at Spartak is that players can only compete after three years of practice – a rule that would never fly in the states, but which, if you think of it in terms of skill circuits, makes perfect sense. Competition introduces a gigantic new variable, where skill circuits matter less than the score. As a Spartak coach told me, “Technique is everything. If you begin playing without technique, it is big mistake. Big, big mistake!”

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9 Responses to “Spartak Tennis Club, Moscow, Russia”

  1. […] and it works brilliantly. UPS is doing exactly what the coaches at Meadowmount, The Shyness Clinic, Spartak or any of the other talent hotbeds are doing: using deep practice to build fast, fluent […]

  2. […] our lucky day: here is Dinara Safina, current world number one player, taking her first swings at Spartak. We all know how great she became. The question is, did she have some special gift that separated […]

  3. I love seeing the Spartak Academy. This has changed the way we teach at the Edge Tennis Academy. I thought the kids would really resist at first but they really loved the “imitatsiya”. We spent the whole practice hour shadowing forehands on the first day and 50 minutes on the second day. The last ten minutes the “beginners” I was working with were crushing the ball in over and over. I am sold.

  4. Hamza Blue says:

    i am hamza blue from pakistan i am playing tennis here in pakistan but i want to play higher in russia i want to come there plz anybody help me there….

  5. ada tufan says:

    i m playing tennis 13 yeares old .and i want to take course can you send abouht tennis summer camp .
    best regards
    mustafa tufan

  6. Pankaj Kummar says:

    I want to join Tennis Umpiring School Can you guide (advice) me for good Academy of umpiring training in Russia.

  7. ada tufan says:

    i want to add your summer camp .can you send information abouth camp detail and price.

    please reply to us
    Beat regards

  8. Tom Lawrence says:

    Does anyone recall the basketball shooting coach referred to in The Talent Code or The Little Red Book of Talent. Does anyone remember the name?

  9. djcoyle says:

    Are you thinking of Chip Engelland, maybe?

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