The Four Horsemen (Part III)

An Interview with Mark Parsons

Q: How is the game different today than it was when you first started playing!? Is it different!? How do you see the game changing in the next decade or so!?

MP: I feel the game is quite different now than when I started. The paddles have changed but mostly the players have changed. Tennis players that now play the game have turned the game into a much more skillful game. Today, you not only have to think on the court but have to have strokes to back it up.

Q: What is your favorite team to watch and why!? Do you have a favorite player (other than everyone’s favorite player – Mike Cochrane!?).

MP: I really enjoy watching Caldwell-Cordish play. A very exciting team that usually has great points. I’m not sure I have a favorite player per se. I think that’s like asking Roddick if he has a current favorite tennis player. I’m sure he does but it’s probably not something he wants to reveal.

Q: What’s your composite of the perfect player!? Specifically, the perfect player has:

MP: Whose serve – I’m not sure there is a server that has figured this shot out yet.
Whose forehand – Dan Rothschild
Whose volleys – Mike Stulac
Whose overheads – Brian Uihlein
Whose hands/touch – Mike Stulac
Whose speed – Johan duRandt (the guy can be on the service line in .2 seconds)
Whose overall athleticism – David Caldwell
Whose competitiveness – Steve Baird (easiest answer by far)
Whose patience and shot selection – Drew Broderick
Whose mental toughness – Mike Marino

Q: Why is the lob such an important shot!?

MP: I think the lob is the most important shot in paddle because it is the reason a player ends up hitting a good drive. I remember playing early on with Steve Baird and everyone was always commenting on my drives and how good they were. The one thing I would always say to them is that the only reason I was able to hit good drives was because Steve was hitting awesome lobs that were my drives up. I think one of the most important shots/spots in the game is the deuce court player having the ability to lob well. That can be the difference between a good team and a great team.

Q: Who are the best lobbers out there!?

MP: I would have to start out saying Steve Baird. His lobs are amazing. I think Nathan LeFevre has really improved his lobs. In my opinion, the best lobber right now is probably Drew Broderick. His ability to slow down a match or speed it up with his lobs is the reason he is one of the most dominant players out there.

Q: Who is your dream partner, past or present, excluding your current or former (steady) partners!?

MP: I would like to play with a lefty at some point. Alex Bancila, Lennart Jonason, Drew Broderick. I think there is a huge advantage to play with a lefty if you know what you are doing.

Q: What team or player you wish you could have played against!?

MP: I have never played against Brian Uihlein ever, in anything. I would love to see his spins one day but preferably not at the Nationals for the first time.

Q: Of all players whom you have seen play live, in their prime, who has impressed you the most and why!?

MP: Steve Baird, hands down. He introduced me to the game and made me feel silly when I was learning the game and still makes me feel silly during some matches. His competitiveness on the court is unparalleled.

Q: Margins in matches are very small, win or lose, especially in the latter stages of tournaments. What do you think is the difference maker!? Playing ability, team history and communication, confidence, attitude, luck, or a combination of all these elements!?

MP: Confidence, confidence, confidence. Edges in this game are so small. Guys who shine in big points and live for the pressure thrive in this game.

Q: What do you enjoy most about platform tennis, other than winning!? What do you like least about it, other than losing!?

MP: The camaraderie amongst the players is probably the best part. The worst part is thinking about why you lost.

Q: What is your favorite tournament and why!?

MP: The Nationals because it’s the Nationals. There is no better feeling then being there.

Q: What has been your most rewarding PT win to date and why!? It could be an individual match or a tournament victory.

MP: Winning Nationals last year. A good friend of mine was the last person I spoke to before I went on court for the finals. He told me to go after it because you will never know if you will be back there. It’s the match you play the entire year for.

Q: What up and coming team or player you think will be the next big thing!?

MP: I really like Sebastian Bredberg and George Wilkinson’s game. They are a team I like to see on the opposite side of the draw as me.

Q: How much of an advantage does having a solid to great tennis background give you in platform tennis!?

MP: I think it goes both ways: it helps big time in the initial stages of learning the game. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that you might rely too much on your tennis skills instead of learning the game of platform tennis.

Q: Would you change the game in any way, rules, rules, equipment, etc.!? How so!?

MP: I wouldn’t change anything but I would add something, a summer ball. More and more of us are playing during the summer and I would like to see a different ball for summer play.

Q: How do you deal with a blatant bad call, other than of course trying to FYM the culprit as many times as possible for the rest of the match!?

MP: Bad calls happen, some guys make more than others and they know who they are. I try and use a bad call to motivate me and whenever that happens I want to beat them even more.

Q: You are married to Dane. Without throwing her under the bus, how do you negotiate your tournament traveling schedule!?

MP: I get five weekends a season so I pick them wisely. Me telling Dana it is work doesn’t work anymore. Hoping she picks up the game and can travel with me, maybe then I will get six weekends.

Q: If you could give club/league players one tip to improve their game, what would that be!?

MP: Backhand volley, positioning, backhand volley, positioning, backhand volley, positioning, should I keep going!?

Q: What advice would you give to a competitive tennis player who just started playing PT!?

MP: Please see my last answer above.

Q: Name one thing that you admire about your partner, both on and off the court.

MP: Mike is a fighter on the court and I love that. Off the court he’s probably the nicest guy in the world which makes me wonder why he’s playing with me.

Q: In your opinion, what is more important: to be a great ad court player, a great deuce court player, or be very good on both sides!?

MP: I think it’s important to be good on the side you play. I’m not sure it’s important to be able to play both sides. Then again if you have ever seen me play on the deuce side I may be slightly biased with my opinion.

Q: Do you have a set strategy against all teams, certain teams, or do you just try to impose your game on your opponents no matter what!?

MP: We try to come up with a strategy that fits into us using our strengths. We pick out spots where we know we can it to and not get hurt and use those spots throughout the match.

Q: Do you believe that one single point (a let cord, a bad call, etc.) can change the outcome of a match or do you think that the better team should win no matter what!?

MP: I’m not sure one point can ever be a game changer. If you let a match come down to one point, it means you haven’t done enough up to that point.

Q: How has your game change/evolve over the years!?

MP: I think I have become much smarter on the court and much more patient. Teaching with other tops players has also allowed me to learn the game at a fast pace.

Q: Mark, how long do you think it will take a world class tennis player to become a top platform tennis player!?

MP: Two and a half seasons if you are truly dedicated. If you are not dedicated you may never become a top player as you will become too frustrated and most likely give up.

Q: Mark, what made you stick with platform tennis when you started!? I remember that you and Brian (O’Connor) were pretty brutal for your first couple of years playing together. Talented but clueless, it was pretty much the blind leading the blind. Most players who have a great tennis background cannot deal with platform tennis losses initially and run for the hills. How did you overcome that!?

MP: Funny story actually. My first ever nationals I was fortunate enough to see the inductions into the Hall of fame for Fritz Odenbach, David Kjeldsen, Flip Goodspeed, and Scott Mansager. The atmosphere was amazing in the room with everyone listening to the speeches. Flip and Scott couldn’t even attend their own Hall of Fame induction because they were playing their quarters (against Jerry Albrikes and Lennart Jonason) – the match took forever. I remember thinking how cool the whole scene was. I knew right there that this sport was for me.

Mark Parsons is ranked #1 on the Men’s APTA Open Ranking (with Mike Stulac) and is the defending Men’s National Champion.

Interview by Alex Bancila. All rights to this article belong to Alex Bancila and