Brett Hansen-Dent has a little secret he’d like to let you in on about how to improve your volley: practice against a backboard.
The now 43-year-old Hansen-Dent is originally from Newport Beach but has been teaching for more than a year in a gated community at Big Bear Creek in the Murrieta Valley. The former touring pro and USC and UC-Irvine player learned the game from two top touring pros, his mother Betty Ann Grubb, and his stepfather former Australian great Phil Dent, who gave him that tip on how to improve his volley as a young teenager.
“When I was a junior I just got thrown out there,” Hansen-Dent said. “They told me low to high and that’s just not right to tell a kid the first day. I got out there with Phil Dent and he said, ‘Listen here, Mate, if you want to learn how to volley you better go up and practice against that wall.’ That was about when I was 14. And when I came back to him at 16 he said I had some of the best volleys he’d ever seen. And I told him no one taught me that. I learned that myself.”
He continued: “I’ve done a lot of research and a lot of my friends I grew up with, three including me who made it to No. 1 in SoCal in the juniors, grew up hitting against a backboard. I’ve read articles about Bill Tilden and how he wasn’t the best, but spent one summer training on a backboard, and then became the best in the world.
“All the old Aussies like Phil Dent; they all hit on the wall.”
Hansen-Dent moved to Temecula with his buddy Bill Behrens, and the two started a junior elite home school academy currently called Pro Tour Tennis Academy. Hansen-Dent also started coaching the boys’ high school team at Linfield Christian School in Temecula.
“I’m just teaching privates and putting together groups for them,” Hansen-Dent said about his Bear Creek position. “They have five clay courts which is a huge selling point. I’ve made it like a mini club and I’m the first pro that’s there on-site.”
The academy is still a work in progress, and Hansen-Dent has one full-time student Max McKennon, a top 20-ranked SoCal junior in the 14s, he works with three or four times a week. “He’s a lefty with a good volley and a nice game,” Hansen-Dent said. “He plays a tournament every weekend. He loves it.”
Hansen-Dent said he finally found a student, “that was interested in me as much as I was interested in him. He kept following me around.”
McKennon even had a stint at the Dent Academy in Irvine, which Hansen-Dent help start with his half-brother Taylor before deciding the academy wasn’t the right fit for him. “I was involved helping them start it,” Hansen-Dent said. “We had different philosophies so it was going to be tough to work together.”
Hansen-Dent started his own company Tennis Police (tennispolice.com) with its appropriate motto: “To Protect, Serve and Return.” On its Facebook page, Tennis Police is described as a site “out to protect the public from imposter tennis programs, and pros that produce no real results and charge a fortune while doing it…”
He said he missed competing, but that tennis was never about winning and losing for him. “I just like hitting now. If I try to go match speed I’ll hurt myself. I just missing running around, like a dog chasing the ball. I do miss that. I don’t miss the winning and losing. That was never really why I did it. It’s probably different than a lot of guys out there, but I never really cared that much about winning.”
Hansen-Dent said it was his mother that taught him a lot about strategy, and hitting the angles. “My mom played World TeamTennis with Rosie Casals in the ’70s and I remember watching matches when I was six years old. Remember being around all the old school players at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. A lot of people don’t realize my mom’s world ranking was higher than Taylor’s ever was.”
According to one website: “Grubb had her most significant success in doubles, including reaching the final of the 1977 US Open with Renée Richards as her partner.”
After college, Hansen-Dent played a year of World TeamTennis for Gregg Patton in Idaho and on tour for about a year and got to No. 90 in the world in doubles, but a knee injury quickly put him on the sidelines. “I tried to come back, but then I started looking around the locker room and everyone was like 6-foot-3 and ripped. So that kind of put an end to that.”