Author: Tom Tao

Lost in 3 set from my First UTR Match – start my 2024 season

UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) is a globally recognized rating system for tennis players.  After being an outsider looking for a few years, I finally played my first UTR tournament (Flex League) in Toronto.  Overall the experience was positive, despite losing a close match in 3 sets.  In this post, I’d like to share my overall experience and my match breakdown.

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My Apple watch ultra 2 for tracking tennis, swim and ski

I bought the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

To be exact, I have decided to keep the ultra 2 after 14 days of the “free trial” period is over.

It was almost a slam dunk or no-brainer. There were primarily two hurdles I was concerned about. The weight(size), and the price.

Weight concerns on Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 weighs 2x (108%) as heavy as my previous watch (SE, Series 4).  Considering that I wear my watch almost everywhere (ski, swim, tennis, bike, everyday life, and sleep), weight is critical to my comfort.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option and there was no Apple Watch Ultra Lite coming out this year.   I was debating between getting the Ultra 2 or Series 9 (41mm version) mainly due to concerns on weight.  After seeing them in person, I believe spending the extra money on an LTE version of Series 9 isn’t a big of an upgrade. It looks very similar and still has a tiny screen, and the battery wasn’t improved either.

After using it heavily for ~4 weeks on various use cases, I have concluded I have definitely underestimated my body’s adaptability.  I have gotten used to the weight within a week.  This reminded me of the smartphone screen size upgrade over the past 15 years.  My first full touch screen cellphone was a Nokia X6 (3.5 inch, weight 122g) , and now a 6.1 inch iPhone weighing over 200g) doesn’t look too heavy on my hand.

So – if you are worrying about the weight and size like I did a month ago, it is unlikely to be a concern for you as well.   Christopher Lawley also agrees with me in this video.

Expensive Price Tag for Ultra

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is expensive. The price tag of $799 USD and $1099 CAD is the same as the iPhone 15.   To be honest, I was thinking about getting two Series 9 Wi-Fi so my wife and I can both use the newest technology.   That was just a thought – I know it is not going to work.  I tried that 6 years ago, but I have come to the conclusion that not everyone (or the vast majority of the people in the world) is as enthusiastic as me to track things like I do.

I have budgeted for it (not this much)at the beginning of the year, so I don’t feel too guilty about spending it for myself. Also, I am planning to use it for 3-5 years (mark my words – my previous SE lasted 3 years ).

Money can’t really buy happiness.  However, in this case, this new watch does bring a tiny bit of happiness to me.


So – what is the positive impact it has brought to my life with this new Apple Watch Ultra 2?

Ultra’s Battery life doubled and charging time was cut in half

It is now lasting two full days for my usage, usually with a 10% – 90% charge.   There are a handful of moments for me in the past when I forgot to charge my watch so I can’t record my tennis or ski trip or swim laps.   I don’t think it will happen to me in the future.

The fast charging capabilities weren’t really as advertised.  I was expecting 30m of fast charging to 80%. In my test, 20 minutes of “urgent” charging in the car gave me about 20% additional juice (from 30% SoC to 50%).

However, I do notice Apple changed their spec as of Nov 2023.   Based on the new spec – it will charge from 0-80% in 1 hour for Ultra 2.    That is decent and definitely an upgrade from my SE.

As a result, I would say the “range anxiety” for my watch has significantly decreased.  Usually, I just need to put the watch on the charger when I am taking a shower.

Apple Watch Ultra’s bigger screen makes everything more relaxing for my eyes

Apple Watch Ultra (2) ‘s 49mm screen size, coupled with its 2-inch screen is the biggest upgrade in user experience for me.  Now I am much more likely to reply the instant messages on my watch, especially at home when I don’t want to carry my phone with me all the time.  Tracking different sports activities on this watch was also more enjoyable.

Use the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to track Tennis

The improvement is more noticeable outdoors when tracking my tennis using SwingVision for score-tracking.  Even though the UI is exactly the same (compared to SE), the increased font made my eyes a lot more relaxed.  Most notably, the “hawk eye” challenge feature (shown in the below video)

became a lot more powerful with smoother replay (likely due to the new S9 processor). A bigger and brighter screen makes it showing it to my opponent a lot easier.

I wear it on my dominant hand (right) because that was what I got used to when I started 5 years ago. The added 30 grams was noticeable. Think about the impact of adding 30g on the racquet, which is almost 10% of the normal tennis racquet.  Personally, I got used to it about 2-3 times and haven’t noticed it impact my tennis performance negatively.

Lastly, I noticed surprisingly that it no longer breaks the video recording when I pick up a call in the match.  I wasn’t sure if it was caused by a software feature upgrade on SwingVision’s end, or a hardware upgrade on the Ultra (the S9 chip can handle a call & recording the video).

Use the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to track Swim

I didn’t swim as much as I’d hoped to over the last 30 days since I got the watch.  During the limited sample size,I find the always-on display, and the bigger screen are both making a difference in checking my real-time stats under the water.

I didn’t choose the “Ocean” band (the one on the right in the following photo), which was designed for underwater usage.  I chose “Trail loop” instead due to its everyday comfort, after trying all three on in the retail store. (Also lesson learned here, you can only try them on in Apple retail stores, not Bestbuy/Costco those channel partners) .  It is still “okay” wearing the trail loop band underwater, but it does take additional time (about 30-60 minutes)to dry up after the workout is over.

Apple watch's different band

Use the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to track Ski

I am excited to post an update in 3 months here.

Right now what is written on the manual, is expected to perform better in cold conditions (up to -20 degrees Celsius).

I didn’t find my previous SE had many issues last year, even when I was wearing in -20 degree outdoor skiing.  I guess it was covered in the cloth and my body warmed it up so it wasn’t really that cold for the watch.

Apple's official manual on apple watch's recommended condition

Offline Siri and improved dictation

Typing on a watch is awkward, even with a bigger screen Ultra 2.  I am glad that Apple seems to make the dictation and Siri a lot better on this new watch.  Not sure if they match the capabilities on Amazon Alexa/Google Home yet. I found the responses on my commands like ” setup a reminder”, or reply to a message using dictation are significantly faster.  Based on this article , Apple is indeed processing these commands without an internet connection.

The yet-to-be-explored features – action button, gesture, elevation, and 3000 nits brightness

The first month with the new Apple watch was overwhelmingly positive.  It does everything my previous SE was able to do better, and the incremental cost of weight & size wasn’t much of a concern.   I am curious to try out the following advertising features and would love to update this post when I get the chance.

  • Action button:   The added orange button was a big innovation last year from the Ultra 1, and it has made it to this year’s iPhone 15 pro lineup this year.   I am still yet to explore the benefits of it.
  • Gesture:   This is also new, and likely the primary differentiation between the Ultra 1 and Ultra 2 (because only the new chip with S9 has it).   It would be so cool to open a truck using gestures like this video
  • Elevation & 3000nits brightness – We are not in the ski snow season yet.  Really looking forward to it in the winter.

The surprise – Celluar Network

Moving the cellular network from my old SE to this new watch was a big surprise to me, in a negative way. I ended up canceling my plan and opting NOT to use a cellular network for now.

Why?  I would say my mobile carrier laid an egg on this.  Maybe there are not many users like me who are upgrading watches.  The user experience was horrible. I ended up having to make two customer service calls, and neither of them was helpful in resolving my issue.

First, it didn’t even allow me to move my plan from the old device to the new one.  I have to “cancel” my previous plan, and then “activate” the new plan and pay an extra $45 activation fee.  (WTF???).   It is not I don’t want to pay for it, it just doesn’t make any sense.  They will never charge a fee if I am using a new phone, and there is no service being rendered for this “activation”.

Secondly, I was told to pay $5 extra every month because I lost my original plan.  That also doesn’t sit with me since I don’t feel I get any additional service in return.

The last straw was learning that the family setup isn’t actually available on my current carrier.   It was something I was planning to do for my family member who won’t have a phone. It will enable the watch to be “independent” from the phone so it will have a completely different phone number.   In Canada, only 2 mobile carriers (Telus, and Bell) can support this.

After having it without a network (so my watch piggybacks my phone’s network + wifi), I realized I don’t really need it.   It was a mental soothing for me over the past three years when I had it with my previous SE. I still remember those two or three times, usually in quite embarrassing situations where I couldn’t use my phone to take calls. But it does not justify the cost.  Maybe I will switch a carrier in the future, because of the watch.

Winning men’s singles champion in 2023 Chinese University Alumni of Canada Tennis Tournament

Winning men’s singles champion in 2023 Chinese University Alumni of Canada Tennis Tournament


the highlight of my life over the past few years

I am hoping to write two long-form blog posts.  This one will focus on technical analysis of the final game I played in this tournament.  The final score is 8:3.    The next one will cover my overall experience, the stress and expectation, the takeaways, and the broader term implications to my tennis life.


Heading into the final I felt relaxed and recharged, after winning the previous two elimination games with the expectation to win.

The schedule for day 2 (Sunday) was quarter-final at 9:45 am, semi-final at 12:45 pm – both played at 6 game regular set. The final was at 2:45 pm – 8 game pro-set.

My goal was to do better than last year, in which I lost in the quarter-final. Therefore my 1st game in day two was the most important one. I played a bit tight but did make it by 6:3. Next in the semi I needed to play against Shawn, whom I played a practice match against a week prior and I won 6:3. This time I played slightly better and won by 6:2.

Now I am in the final – already surpassed my pre-tournament expectations. My opponent is Ken – the #1 seed.

Before the tournament started, I knew I was ranked #2 seed and wouldn’t play against Ken – the 1st seed who was a runner-up last year and only lost a close match in the final.


Strength & Weakness

Without watching much of Ken’s prior games, I needed to figure out his style during our game.  He had better movement (He saved this match point by running back from net position to baseline twice), and net touch and athleticism ( It is eye-opening to see him perform a jumping overhead smash as Monfils did 

At the same time, there are two areas that I played conclusively better than Ken in the game.

  • Serve – similar speed, but I had 90% first serve in versus Ken’s 61%)
  • Backhand ( 5 winners w/4 unforced errors(UE) versus his 3 winners v/ 8 UE).

Tactics and in-game adjustment


To my( and my spectators’) surprise, I captured an early lead 4:0 after the first 20 minutes without facing a breakpoint.

Usually I like to use the first 4 games as a tune-up period.  I was totally prepared for a back-and-forth dog fight-style final.  In retrospect, this one-sided result could be attributed to two reasons – on one side, I was playing the best tennis during the whole tournament was I was playing “free” of expectation to win.  On the other side, Ken wasn’t used to my heavy topspin style and made many unforced mistakes.


After a quick 4-0 lead, my level dropped a bit and Ken held his serve and made it to 1:4.  He was actually already playing a lot better from the previous game on my serve (when I was leading 3:0) .   He seemed to be increasing his net-aggressiveness – hoping to neutralize my baseline advantage.

During the changeover, I told myself I needed to make the adjustment to my game plan. The best way to take away his success of going to the net (and take the momentum back ) is to go to the net more often myself.

Battle on the net

Starting my first point on a 4:1 service game with an opportunity to go the the net, I took advantage of it and executed pretty well with a backhand down the line and a forehand volley winner to finish the point

This point really boosted my confidence.  I took every chance in this game to go to the net, and Ken doesn’t seem to be used to my change of tactics – made a few errors with his passing shot.  I held serve and the score was 5-1.

In the next two games, I rode the momentum with the same approach and took the lead to 7-1.  The last point was the best point I played, summarizing the battle on the net


“It is not going to be this easy” – I was telling myself during the changeover.  And it was true.   Ken raised his level when his back was against the wall by producing a few breath-taking overheads. At the same time, my level dropped a bit, making a few unforced errors that I wouldn’t make before.  He took the next two games in an easy fashion and took the score to 7:3.   By this time I knew I needed to refocus and raise my level again.  I kept reminding myself that I only needed to win 4 more points.  With a bit of luck, I won the first three points in game 11, holding three match points.

Ken played the best point (in my opinion) on the 1st match point – showcasing his athleticism by running back and forth TWICE

Gladly he can’t repeat this performance over and over – I won my 2nd match point with his overhead error



2023’s ladder season starts with a L

SwingVision post game stats

It is a bit tough pill to swallow with a lob sided L for the 1st ladder game this season. At the same time it wasn’t a surprise either.

On my own side – I wasn’t in my good form with 5kg overweight. Today also marked my 1st time playing at the Milton club.

My opponent is today is a solid 5.0 player with an aggressive attacking style. He doesn’t seem to have weakness on forehand, backhand or serve.

It is a discouraging but hopefully it is providing extra motivation to get back to my peak form. I don’t have many years left to improve my skills. Losing games like this against players significant older than me was not what I wanted to play.

Playing Witcher 3 in Chinese on PlayStation 5 from a non Chinese speaking country

I was super pumped to hear the Witcher 3 next gen update annouced a few weeks ago, particularly the Chinese voice-over.  From what I read it means 

  • The game has been fully translated to Chinese, including all the conversation and content. This mean the context is much more easy to read for native Chinese speaking population
  • The character of the game is speaking Chinese.  This would bring the experience of the game to a whole new level.

Unfortuntatley, due to Sony’s decision of seperating users by geogrpahic region, Chinese language isn’t made available in counties do not using it as a official language.  This is such a shameless policy which I am not going to spend words to complained about.  After spending hours research online with no luck, I’d like to take it to my own hand, and write this short blog to share with you how I made it work. 

The total cost of this solution is HK$233.4 (40% off of regular price)- which is about ~$50 CAD in my local currency.  You might also need an Alipay account to process the payment.

Step by step guide

  • Sign up a new PlayStation Network account in PSN Hongkong: 
  • Purchase the game in PSN Hong Kong.  
  • Payment:
    • if you have an existing Alipay account, choose Alipay method.
    • If not – you can try Paypal (didn’t work for me unfortunatley),  or purchase PSN gift card from a third party site like play-asia
    • The credit card method is unlikely to work because it will verify the address in Hong Kong.
  • Login to playstaion console using the new PSN Hong Kong ID
    • Download the newly purchased game (it should be downloading automatically) 
    • Verify the game version by choose “manage game content” – it should have Chinese listed there
    • Fortunately, you can using the cross-save feature to sync your save from other regions. You can simply just click “manage reward” feature on the main menu
Losing a semi-final at milton year end tournament 2022

Losing a semi-final at milton year end tournament 2022


It is a mixed feeling for me right now.

Losing a close match brought disappointment, particularly for a game I feel I was actually the better player.  But I failed to convert on those points that really matter to the match’s outcome.

At the same time, I am also satisfied and relieved that I don’t need to play the final tomorrow against the same player I lost in the final last year.  After a marathon match(2 hr full), I would appreciate taking tomorrow off and focusing on my family to prepare for Monday’s work.  It would NOT be good if I win today and then retire for tomorrow’s final at 8pm.

Dave did an outstanding job again organizing the whole thing I enjoy the whole tournament at Milton tennis club, and hopefully have another chance later this year.

Let me breakdown today’s game this way

No SwingVision consent today

Definitely a surprise.  I have played against this opponent in a ladder match and he has no issue with it. But today he refused, claiming last time was enough.  I respected his preference, but find it a bit weird because of the inconsistency.  It is 2nd time received a refusal for setting up the equipment.

Line call argument

The first game starts with two controversial calls. At one point I believe he waited until the balls bounced twice, and 2nd point he hit it long so I called out.  He immediately raised his voice and complained.  I ended up giving him the benefit of the doubt on both times.   One of the goals I came in today is to enjoy the game and not get into arguments on line calls.

After that, I gave him all the points on my side and didn’t argue a bit on any points he called out on his side. What upset me is there is one point initially I thought was out so I raised my hand.  However the balls actually bounced in with topspin, so I changed my call and call it in.  He started to taunt me, saying words like “you are going to call it out right?”.  I told him that it was very disrespectful and I choose not to argue with him only because of his age.

Struggle to get back to the game

Maybe because of the incident, I wasn’t playing my best game and quickly I was behind 2:4 and later 3:5. In game 7, I faced multiple game points but ended up breaking him after a 13 min dogfight.  The same goes for game 9, in which I clawed it back and broke him again to make it 4:5

There are still questionable calls during these games, but I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The outcome of these games is barely impacted by these calls.  I also felt relieved about not falling behind by 3 game score.

My main tactics were NOT working at all – his backhand was very solid today, very different from the last time we played in the ladder match.

Took the lead

After failing behind 3:5,  I took the next three games and got my first lead at 6:5.  That is the point I starts to feel I am the better player today :  I am almost 20 years younger, in good physical condition, and we are in the 2nd hour.  On game points, I noticed his main weapon (forehand cross-court attacks) has more and more errors.

We exchanged a few breaks and then I had a critical hold to break the game open at 8:6.  If we are playing an 8 game set, it would be over. Sadly the format of the semi-final is first to 10.

He got frustrated and served two double faults at 6-8.  Now it is 0:30 , 6:8.  I went to court 3 to get those balls, feeling that if I broke him again to make it 6:9, the game would be over.   And I was telling myself – he isn’t quitting – I need to take the game. Sadly – I didn’t execute this plan well.  He ended up using his main weapon again and got two consecutive points to even it to 30:30.   I wish I could go to the net and show my balls !  I didn’t, and the tide turned again.

Losing 4 games in a row and letting the opponent closing out

Even though I was fully prepared for a dogfight with a marathon match, my opponent’s competitiveness and the ability to raise his level & focus impressed me.  My legs are starting to cramp a bit.  How can he sustain this physical challenge?

My mentality wasn’t right, and I ended up paying for it.

We went back and forth on this critical game, but then there is a questionable line call again.  I am 90% sure my forehand lob was in, but he called it out when we are at the 3rd deuce 6:8.   I was a little upset and then quickly made an easy error on his next serve.  In hindsight, I lose this game because of the easy error on the serve, not on the questionable calls. Now it became 7:8.

To this point, I have switched my tactics to start to feed the balls into his forehand, because his backhand was rock solid. I had some success by leading 40:15 again on 7:8.  Again I was playing conservative by generating short balls, and he took advantage of that with another consecutive forehand winner cross court. He ended up even the score at 8-8 after saving 5 game points.

At this point, he has switched tactics by using his forehand to get the angle, then approaching the nets to finish the points. To his credit, he was flawless during those overheads which I found not easy for a relatively short opponent.  He closed the game out over the next two games, in which I didn’t play well at all against his new tactics.  This is the same one Matthew was using against me.

In closing

Losing is a bit painful, but it can motivate me to get better.   I didn’t go to the net at all – after concluding it not effective by watching our last game highlight.  That was definitely a miss.  I had the physical height advantage.

It is still a hell of an experience. I still enjoy it and this is really the beauty of tennis games.


The first real ladder game against a 5.0 player

What happens today (fact)

  • This is my third ladder match at Milton tennis club.  My opponent is Andrew.  He ranked two spot(#2) above me(#4). 
  • The weather wasn’t great.  We almost cancelled the match due to the rain earlier. Realizing our upcoming schedule might not fit for another match, both of us made effort to get to the court and finish the ladder match. 
  • The result is one-sided.  I lost by 1:6.   We chose to use the 6-game instead of the 8-game pro set due to the weather delay.  The game only lasted 25 minutes.
  • Total points played: 45.  I won 38% of them (17 of 45).
  • I served quite well today (88% first serve in) and had 5 service winners.  

My hot takes 

  • I lost today because I feel my opponent is the better player
  • I wasn’t able to match my opponent’s intensity & shot speed.  When feel pressured and rushed, my rallies were often short. This gave my opponents too many chances to move forward and attack inside out.  This momentum keeps going and I was in a hole 0-4 very quickly.
  • My word playing at Milton’s Court 1 (showroom court) is 0 for 3 so far.  (lost to Henry, Suriyan, and now Andrew)I should avoid playing at this court for important matches in the future 🙁
  • When holding break points twice, I chose to play defence and let my opponent dictate the points. This works with ppl with/below my level, not today. When losing those two precious games, I lost my momentum and  my confidence

My post-game analysis after watching the video from SwingVision- 

  • I lost today because I chose the wrong tactics – I played too safe and bet my opponents would beat himself with unforced errors.  In my experience, It never worked when playing against opponents with both skills & experience.
  • My defense wasn’t up to my standard.  There are a few times when Andrew started to attack inside-out, and my returning shots were immediately falling short.  That makes me an easy target to get “finished” , and this led to the quick drop of my confidence. 
  • Even though my service was solid, I wasn’t hitting enough on his backhand, particularly for my 2nd serve.  As a result, he can attack my 2nd serve with ease, and got 2 winners out of my first two service games.  That also led to me having doubt of my abilities in the match.

Next steps

  • In order to work on my aggressiveness, the slinger bag I bought a few months ago is suitable to work on “techniques”.  
  • Mental part would be more difficult – essentially how can I feel more “confident” to generate my own pace ?  I guess the only thing I can do is to play against players slightly above my skill level this summer. 




First outdoor game in 2022 season – my tennis journal #1

Finally, I am able to play my first outdoor game, recorded using my newest equipment fence cap (bought on Black Friday 2021). It is a pro-set game with Kevin – my doubles partner from Credit Valley Club Inter-county “B” team. We didn’t play very often recently, as he spent more time on doubles and I focused on singles match plays.

The game was played at Glen Abby community part upon my request. The weather is cloudy with mild wind conditions, 8 degrees celsius in early after. I believe this to be an ideal weather condition for tennis, but Kevin feels it is a bit too cold. He said the balls feel too hard with the cold temperate. My topspin heavy style neutralized the bad weather condition, as I usually don’t need to hit the ball perfectly to generate points.

For the actual scores, I won the 1st set 8:3 by winning the last 4 games straight. The 2nd set was much closer and ended with 1-1 when the times ran out (the total score for the 2nd set was 15-15).

My conditioning is still nowhere close to my peak level. If we have enough time to finish, the 2nd set would be a lot closer. Fatigue seems to impact me much more than Kevin.

What I like about my game today is I was able to hit 2 winners on the forehand cross-court, each with over 85km/h on the line. I don’t usually attack that angle on my previous matches

What is interesting is my backhand slice shots type % – only 28% slices. I used to only use slices on my backhand so this is definitely encouraging to see. It could also indicate Kevin didn’t attack my backhand with deep balls much.

2021 Tennis Journey Recap

2021 is a challenging year for me.  I am quite satisfied with the progress I have made with my tennis journey.  I believe I became a better tennis player overall with the technology I have been using.

If you have arrived here, I hope you are a tennis fan (not just a speculator) like me, who is curious to learn to adopt modern technology to improve and enjoy the game. Here are the three things I am aiming to help you achieve :

  • Get a better understanding of how to get the most value out of SwingVision
  • Learn some new tricks and avoid the pitfall I experienced
  • Be inspired to improve your own tennis

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Analyze my tennis post-game videos from a Mac

This holiday I got another tech toy – an M1 powered MacBook Pro 13”.   One of the reasons to justify my buying decision is I will be able to “produce” more tennis tracking videos using the Mac version of the SwingVision. In this post, I’d like to share my initial review of it, after using it for a couple of sessions.

In a normal situation, I would wait for a few more weeks to get a bit more hands-on experience. Unfortunately, the city I live in imposed a new lock-down measure, essentially blocking any indoor tennis over the winter. The plan is to keep updating this with more information available.

Key takeaways & recommendations

  • SwingVision on Mac is a working version that can analyze video captured from any recording device with a minimum of 720p and 30fps.
  • The convenience of viewing and editing the video on a bigger screen with a Mac provides a better user experience.
  • The post-game editing feature is still limited since SwingVision doesn’t allow for exporting video in the Mac for now. However, it doesn’t limit any video edit by tools like iMovie to pre-process the imported video
  • If you are an apple watch user to tag the game with real-time scoring, I don’t suggest you wait a bit. The current combination will result in losing the real-time scoring capabilities since the video and the watch stats isn’t talking to each other.

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