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Featured Meltdowns


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

US Open: Ask A Great About Tennis Hate

When I met the 1977 US Open champ and British tennis great Virginia Wade, I didn't ask her about her box at Wimbledon that was being auctioned tonight to raise money for CityParks Foundation.  I asked her about Tennis Hate.

Does she have any tips to keep it from creeping all over my psyche like English ivy at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club?

Being human with Virginia Wade."One word?" she asked.

"Sure, if that's all it takes," I said.

"Why are you supposed to be perfect?" she said.  

"Okay, that's seven, but I'll write it like this to make you consistent, Miss Wade: Whyareyousupposedtobeperfect?

"You're only human, you're allowed to make mistakes," she said, and then quickly moved on to other guests at the event.  Maybe it was my quizzical look when she told me I was human.

John McConnell, the former senior programming exective at ABC Radio Networks, hung in there with me a bit longer.  McConnell loves the game, went to Pepperdine on a tennis scholarship.  I asked him about his most memorable meltdown.

Cool in the newsroom, but don't throw your script into his studio: former ABC Radio broadcasting veteran and tennis player John McConnell and me, at the CityParks Foundation fundraiser."I remember when the No. 1 junior in the world threw his racquet over the fence and into my court, just missing me, at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.  I picked up his racquet and tossed it into the swimming pool," McConnell said.  

Okay, Mr. McConnell, that was someone else's Tennis Hate meltdown that you just described. However, it did include two -- two! -- instances of racquet abuse, so I'll take it.  

He probably wouldn't call it Tennis Hate, but McConnell suffered from something approximating it in his years playing college tennis.    "I once was up in a match, 6-1, 5-0, and I lost it," he said.  "I will never forget how bad I felt." 


US Open: Petkovic Wins Ugly, But Fans Don't Mind

If Tennis Hate almost defeated Andrea Petkovic, it was tennis love that pulled her through.  Petko, seeded 18th, defeated qualifier Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, as she should have, 7-6 (7), 1-6, 6-3.  But, Haters, it shouldn't have been so ugly.  Both struggled getting first serves in.  Both hit a lot of unforced errors.  Both made some poor shot choices.

Andrea's army: from left, Tina Schulte, Aga Boska, Mariola Joschko and Sabina Redzimska, on Court 5.But the German had something Jabeur didn't, and that was a cheering section.  Four women sat along the sideline, about two rows up, wearing matching T-shirts that spelled out ANDY PET KO VIC.  They chanted, "Let's go, Pet-ko!" and cheered every winner and break point saved.

"We know her personally," said Mariola Joschko.  "We met her in 2009."

"Her dad, Zohan, is here!  He invited us for a beer!  Want to come?"

Haters, I demurred.  I must remain objective, you know.  This is serious stuff, this blogging.

Did I mention that I said, more than a few times, "C'mon, Petko!" during the match?

So did the T-shirt team.  They also cheered loudly when she hit winners (which didn't come often enough, 21 winners to 41 unforced errors) and when she fended off break points (six out of eleven, while Jabeur saved just one out of five).  

Mariola Joschko, a Petkovic fan from front to back.Andrea was able to stare down those break points by some clutch serving.  Overall, she got 65 percent of her first serves in, compared to a miserable 49 percent for Ons.  But that was the big difference between them. Otherwise, they were sisters in sloppiness.  Both had 41 unforced errors for the match.  Andrea double faulted four times, Ons, five.  Their serves averaged around 96 miles per hour, so cautious they were being in getting the darn thing in the service box.

Jabeur slumped around court looking gloomy.  Petko took her Tennis Hate out on her racquet, bouncing it sky-high after she let slip an early break of Jabeur in the third set to go down, 1-2.  

Her fans understood.  Asked if she ever experienced Tennis Hate on the court, Tina Schulte answered, "Doesn't everybody?"  Thank you, Tina.  I don't feel so alone!

What these tennis fans hate the most, though? The French Open.  "They allow too many people onto the courts," said Joschko.  "It's crowded.  It's expensive.  And the people there don't treat you very nice."




Cincy Open: Who Suffered More from Tennis Hate, Ivanovic or Sharapova?

There was no finer display of Tennis Hate than the semi-final match between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. It messed with their heads, their serves, their strokes and, in Ivanovic's case, her tummy. 

Ivanovic, seeded 9th, eked out the victory, but just barely, toppling fifth-seed Maria Sharapova in a nearly three-hour-long see-saw battle, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.  

Here comes lunch: Ana Ivanovic's loss of a 4-0 second set lead makes her sick to her stomach during her Western & Southern Open against Maria Sharapova.What was worse?  Ana letting slip a 4-0 lead in the second set, losing five games in a row to Maria?  Or Sharapova double faulting, twice, while serving for the third set and the match to allow Ivanovic to pull even with her, 4-4?

I really got a little tight," said Ivanovic.  No kidding.

Ivanovic said that, in the second set, she had stopped moving her feet.  "I really got a little tight," Ivanovic said later. "I wasn't moving my feet forward enough and played a little passive."

Any movement seemed to be coming from Ivanovic's gut.  In the third game of the third set, between points, Ivanovic bent over, her hands and racquet between her knees.  She walked over to her chair and called for a doctor, who ended up instructing her to lie down on the court to have her blood pressure taken.

Maria Sharapova winces after blowing another shot in her match against Ivanovic. A blood pressure check for Ivanovic made Sharapova's blood boil.Nerves, or food poisoning?  Ivanovic said she thought she ate something funny.  In her on court interview after the match, she said she started feeling poorly in the second set.

Interesting, how that sick feeling coincided with her plummeting forehand accuracy and her waning focus. 

“I think I ate something bad today,” she told reporters later. “When my coach was coming out, I kept telling him I don’t feel good, like my stomach is really upset. Then it really built up in the third set, and I was not feeling fine. They gave me some pills, and after some games it was better.”

Check her blood pressure!" sniped Sharapova.

The pills, she said, were for nausea.  Sharapova, meanwhile, could have used a chill pill.  She was seething at what she thought was Ivanovic's gamesmanship. Broken back serving at 4-3 in the third set, Sharapova looked at the chair umpire and tapped her upper left arm with her racquet, indicating a sphygmomanometer cuff.

"Check her blood pressure!" she sniped.  

Hell, check mine.  It just went up, typing sphygmomanometer.

Not quite the ground stroke technique Maria was looking for. A rare moment of on court self-criticism for Sharapova.According to The New York Times, Sharapova blamed her Tennis Hate on court officials not telling her what was going on down there, on the side of the court, with Ivanovic being attended to like some 1920s noblewoman at Downton Abbey who just spotted a water bottle on her marble mantle.

“All of a sudden, there is an interruption. You don’t know what’s going on. Is it an injury? And then you don’t get an answer. I don’t think they even know. That’s the tricky part, I guess.”

Sharapova broke right back to make it 5-4.  ESPN coverage showed her shaking her head ever so slightly, and oh so disapprovingly, as she passed Ivanovic near the umpire's chair. She remained so rattled by Ivanovic's courtside doctor's visit that she committed two consecutive double faults while serving for the match, giving Ana a 6-5 lead.

That is so unlike Maria Sharapova.  She has that oft-mimicked pre-service routine for a reason.  She does it to hit the reset button and wipe away whatever happened in the previous point. To see her all unSugarpova-like on the court, frowning, sighing and making snide remarks, was surprising.  To answer my own question, Sharapova suffered the most from Tennis Hate and was unable or unwilling to use her mental tools to fix what ailed her on Saturday night.

This says it all: Elation for Ivanovic, disgust for Sharapova. Who's feeling queasy now?Ivanovic did not buckle this time.  She even hit a vicious cross court winner for match point.  Guess she wasn't feeling tight anymore.  And any throwing up on the court came when Sharapova tried to stretch her 6'2" frame to get that drive.  Her stab backhand framed the ball and sent it sky-high.

Too bad she couldn't take it to Serena Williams in the final.  Williams beat Ivanovic handily, 6-4, 6-1, to win her first title at the Western & Southern Open.



Cincy Open: Errani Takes Meltdown to Operatic Level

Italians do high emotion better than anyone.  So, leave it to Sara Errani, the little bull dog from Bologna, to show us all how Tennis Hate should be done: with hand gestures. 

She gets credit, in arguing chair umpire Richard Haigh's terrible overrule, for refraining from using a middle finger salute.  It was a poor call by the ump at a critical time in the 16th seed's first round match against qualifier Yanina Wickmayer.

Thank goodness to SportsMagicianJJ on YouTube for capturing this.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have understood what happened.  My husband and I were watching this on a big video screen, sans audio, on the grounds of the Lindner Family Tennis Center.  We had no idea what Sara's beef was, but we knew it was meaty.  

It's 3-3 in the third, and Errani hits a second serve wide to Wickmayer's forehand.  Yanina hits the return long, but the umpire rules Errani's serve out. Errani's challenge shows the ump got it wrong, way wrong, but he won't give the point to Errani, saying he has to give Yanina the benefit of the doubt, that she'd have gotten it in play had he not made the call.  He tells her to replay the point.

What ensues is body language opera.  The hunched shoulders.  The little prayer hands in front of her nose.  The delicate little circles she makes with her index finger and thumb.  The flat hands -- "You agree with me?" -- as if shielding herself from his noxious reasoning.

"You're making not one mistake, you're making two mistakes, that's unbelievable!" she cries.

No, Sara.  That's tennis.


Cincy Open, Where Hot Streaks Get Extinguished

People ask me, what do you hate about tennis?  I offer them today's first round ousters of Venus Williams and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who just last week were kicking ass and slaying giants.

That Tennis Hate look: Lucie Safarova, on learning that her match point winner against Venus Williams was actually a fault that puts her in jeopardy of a break.There they were, Venus at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Jo-Willy at the men's tour equivalent in Toronto, burning through the draw.  Venus, unseeded, was a surprise finalist, losing to Aggie Radwanska but beating her sis, world No. 1 Serena, in the semis.   Tsonga dismantled four Top Ten players -- Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dmitrov and Roger Federer -- on his way to becoming the first Frenchman to win the tournament since 1881.  Seriously.

I know Quebec wants to secede, but shouldn't Canada be nicer to the French than that? 

Williams' and Tsonga's success was so 72 hours ago.  As on Wall Street, past performance in tennis is no predictor of future winnings.  I ask you....what's NOT to hate about that?

Here in Cincinnati, Williams lost to the 16th seed Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 4-6. It's Safarova's first victory ever over the seven-time Grand Slam winner. Safarova not only handled Venus' big serves, breaking her four times in the last two sets, she kept Tennis Hate at bay when, serving 5-2 for the match, the umpire overruled a line call to give Venus the break, and some hope.  Williams held, but Safarova clinched the set and the match it in her next service game.  

Venus was gracious in defeat, offering no other excuse than that her opponent was better.  "I think she just played really well," she said.  "No matter what shot I hit, she hit a winner, or if I hit it really deep she somehow managed to control it down the line."

At least that one went the distance -- three sets, in nearly two and a half hours of play.  Tsonga's loss to journeyman and Tennis Hate icon Mikhail Youzhny (you'll understand why here) was a wipe out at 6-1, 6-4. This was not the Tsonga who beat four Top Ten players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, to claim the title in Canada last week.   He looked pooped. 

Also going down, but off court: defending champ Victoria Azarenka, who finally succumbed to the knee injury she suffered in Montreal.  

"I'm going to get more treatment and get more work done and should be good for the US Open," she said, her lips to God's ears. "But I had to make this decision.  I feel strongly that it's the best for me at this moment."