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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

Indian Wells: Halep Edges Bouchard

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard looked like she didn't want to be playing when her third round match began against Romanian Simona Halep.  She had a sour look on her face, one that her coach, Nick Saviano, sought to wipe away.

Halep wallops a fearhand. She and Bouchard are seen as up and comers on the WTA tour. Photo courtesy SteveGTennis.

"If you want to be great, you have to fight for every point," he told her after Halep did a beat down on the Australian Open semi-finalist, 6-2, in the first set.  He told her to get her head out of her ass and into the court by moving her feet, showing more intensity and exploding up to the ball in her serve.  

Well, Saviano said everything except the "head out of the ass" part.  That's what I was shouting at the TV set as I watched.

The pep talk worked.  Bouchard tightened up her game.   She made just 7 unforced errors compared to 12 for Halep, and took control of the second set, 6-1.

But all the pep talks in the world -- and Saviano gave several -- couldn't get Bouchard a round closer to claiming her first tour title.  Halep, who's collected seven in the last nine months, oozed confidence and calm. She rallied from a break down in the third to win the last three games and the match, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.

"I was a little nervous in the second set, and she's a very fast girl," she told Tennis Channel.  "I fought for every point."

Sounds like she overheard Saviano's tips for Eugenie.

"I play well now with difficult tennis," Halep said of her recent success.  She hit the top 20 last August, and the top 10 in January.

I found some Tennis Hate advice from Halep.  She told you have to "take pleasure from the game."

I’ve had those experiences when I can’t move my body or hit the ball, and that’s because I’m too stressed. Just try to enjoy it, and don’t think about the results. If you’re more relaxed on court, you can play your best tennis. So try to have fun, and just focus on playing the next point. That way, you’ll be able to take pleasure from your tennis.

I wouldn't have thought to use pleasure and tennis in the same sentence. 

Neither would Rafael Nadal, perhaps, after the world number one and defending champion fell 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) to Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine. Dolgo beat Nadal even though he had more errors (49) than winners (36) and got just 40 percent of his first serves in. Nadal's first service percentage was 63.  Go figure.

Alexandr Dolgopolov is now 1-5 against Rafael Nadal. Photo courtesy of Getty.

"Today was an accident," Nadal said.   

Earlier this year, he beat Dolgopolov in straight sets to win the title in Rio.  He picked up his 62nd ATP tour title in Doha.  This, and his loss to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final, were his only defeats this season.  

He smiled away questions about his back, which seized up in Melbourne.

“Forget about the back. I don't want to talk about the back anymore because my back is fine. The bad feelings were with my forehand and backhand," he said.

Early exit for the defending champ, who insists his back is not the issue. Photo courtesy of Getty.Dolgopolov, meanwhile, had Nadal at 5-2 in the third and was serving for the match when a 500-pound gorilla climbed onto his back.  Tennis Hate strangled his whiplike service motion.  He couldn't get a first serve in.  He lost the game at love.  Nadal stormed through three games in a row to tie it at 5-5.  Both held serve to bring it to a tiebreak.  Nadal got the early lead at 5-2, but hit balls long, including a gimme volley at net, and Dolgopolov had match point on his racquet.

He thought he won it with an ace, but an electronic review showed it a smidge wide.  I wondered about that invisible gorilla.  Was it tugging on Alex' ponytail?  Wrapping a fat old paw around his serving shoulder? Fogging up Dolgo's focus with his banana breath?

Dolgopolov elbowed the beast away and won with a flourish, snapping one of his signature flat backhands crosscourt for a winner that zoomed just out of the reach of the ever-efforting Nadal.  Dolgo shook his head in disbelief.  It was his first-ever win against Rafa.

 "I think I found some smallpoints, in the middle of the point," he told Tennis Channel.  In previous matches, he said, Nadal pushed him off the court.  "I just tried to turn off my head and go for the shots...find a good shot to risk and go for it."

He gets Italian Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.  Simona Halep faces qualifier Casey Dellaqua of Australia, who won in a walkover of Lauren Davis.  The American got food poisoning and withdrew.


Indian Hell: Tennis Hate Roils Early Rounds

Tennis Hate was rolling through Indian Hells like norovirus on a cruise ship. Many succumbed to the pressure.  Racquets -- and brackets -- were busted.

Lost in Translation: Fabio Fognini spews Tennis Hate at ump during Indian Wells second round match with rival hot head Ryan Harrison. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

First to succumb to the nausea at the BNP Paribas Open: Sam Querry. The Californian native curled up and died after blowing 2 match points against 29th-seed Andreas Seppi of Italy in the second set, losing 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3. The loss adds to the crisis of confidence Sam's been going through since elbow surgery in 2011 and an abdominal injury late last year. Once ranked as high as 17 in the world in 2011, he's now 57, and trending downwards.

Tennis Channel commentator and former number one Jim Courier, who's Querry's Davis Cup captain, said the solution to a loss of confidence is a win.  "It's pretty hard to be positive when you're where Sam's at these days," he said. Ouch.

Isn't this what I've always told you, Haters? Winning helps cure Tennis Hate.  It's just that Tennis Hate often gets in the way of winning.

Sabine Lisicki was just two points away from sailing into the third round when she mentally vomited.

Sabine Lisicki, seeded 15th, was up 4-0 in the third set but lost focus and let it get to a tiebreaker against the unseeded Aleksander Wozniak of Canada. Then, in that tiebreak, the German was just two points away from sailing into the third round, leading 5-2, when she mentally vomited. She lost to Wozniak , 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3.

Lisicki joined fellow Germans Angelique Kerber (seeded 5th) and Julia Goerges on the shuttle bus to the airport.

Over on Court Three, it was a Tennis Hate dream matchup between two hotheads, Italian Fabio Fognini and American Ryan Harrison. It was Harrison who cracked first, smashing his racquet after Fognini built up a 5-2 lead in the first set.

That got the other racquets in his bag to think twice about their poor performance.  After that brutal display of Tennis Hate, Harrison won six games in a row, snatching the first set away from Fognini,  7-5, and getting to an early break to lead Fognini 1-0 in the second.

At set point in that topsy-turvy first set, Fognini looked "over it" to The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg, who Tweeted he "smack[ed] a return to the sky."  

What's that Italian swear word that Pope Francis inadvertantly used?  Cazzo?  Yeah, I'll bet Fognini was muttering that a lot as Harrison used Tennis Hate to his advantage.

Fognini tried the tactic himself, getting into a shouting match with the chair umpire over a line call he didn't like. It worked.  Or, more likely, his return game started to work.  He started getting a feel for Harrison's booming serve, improving his return game from just 18% of return points won to 35%.  And he started feasting on Harrison's second serve.  Fognini rolled over Harrison in the second set and won the match, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.


Proof of Tennis Hate #11: Tennis Racquet, Pigeon Killer

One of the perks of my job in broadcasting is the chance to TV while I work.  And not just one television show, Haters.  I can watch three at once on the monitors mounted in the studio.

What kind of grip is he using? And is he setting up for a forehand clobbering, or a backhand? Modern Family's Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is playing with fear.

Tonight's offerings: CNN on Russia's military maneuvers in Ukraine, NY1 on Mayor Bill de Blasio's after school expansion dreams and a re-run of Modern Family's 2010 season finale, the one that had Mitchell trying to kill a pigeon with a tennis racquet.  

Really, Mitchell?  You're going to ruin your strings that way.  Think of the feathers, stuck in the mains and crosses.  And the blood.  It's sure to alter your swing speed.  

You should have grabbed a baseball bat, the preferred weapon of New York City cabbies and private livery car drivers.  Or a hockey stick.  They get blood on them all the time.


Proof of Tennis Hate #10: Not Even Worthy of Trash Pickup

This forlorn, nearly-grey tennis ball was spotted at the corner of DeKalb Avenue and South Elliott Place, not far from the tennis courts of Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park.  

Tennis Hate meets Road Rage. Photo: A. Eddings

But its matted, nearly-smooth nap tells me it spent more time in a dog's mouth than it did on the court.  That would make it a victim of gentrification, in Spike Lee's mind.  The black filmmaker, who grew up in Fort Greene,fumed last week that the park looked "like the motherfuckin' Westminster Dog Show."

The ball's companions in neglect? Leaf litter, crusty old snow and a car part.  It looks like the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, victim of a side swipe or someone who got really, really mad when they spilled blue windshield cleaning fluid all over themselves. 

Haters, you'd be forgiven for thinking this looked like a New York City street on garbage pick-up day, stuff strewn thither and yawn by New Yorkers who think putting something next to the trash receptacle is the same as putting trash inside it.  Well, street cleaning has been a little lax these last few weeks.  Street sweepers and garbage truck crews have been too busy plowing and salting roadways, due to the bazillion snow storms we've had so far this year.  Another one, with up to five inches for New York City's mean, unclean, streets, is rolling in tonight.

At least it will cover over this latest blight against the noble sport of tennis. 


Stan Smith, Fashionista

Stan Smith is trending. In fashion, not tennis. 

She doesn't know who Stan Smith is, but damn, the tennis shoes named after him are super fresh. Photo courtesy Man

Man Repeller revisits the 1970s sneakers, as well as cuffed, stiff denim jeans, in a recent post.

 I love the look, especially the floppy black bow. The little square handbag is super-cute, too, but I am of a certain age where I need too many "essentials" to warrant something that small.  

Like dental floss. I have a crown that sits so high above my gum line that a mouthful of steak can hide behind it. I feel like a chipmunk, packing her cheek bags for the lean season. Or Handiwipes. Where would I put those in that bag? Or my iPad, for that matter? How would I ever read The New York Times on the A train? I refuse to go back to the origami-folding maneuvers required by the newspaper. It's so last century. 

Man Repeller isn't the only fashionista sporting Stans. Elle wrote about the all-white, go-with-everything flat-soled shoes.

 Author Danielle Prescod went out into a snow storm to buy pairs in every color, inspired by the tennis shoe chic of designer Phoebe Philo, who was breathlessly deemed by fashion blog Into The Gloss as "the coolest woman ever."

Smith's kicks are also style-worthy enough to be mentioned by French rappers. Lunatic, in "H.L.M. 3," sings about training in his "Stan Smith blanches."  (That's "white Stan Smiths," Haters.)   The song's got a pretty catchy hook, even though I don't understand a single word.  Then again, even in English, I don't understand most rap.

 Phoebe Philo, the coolest woman ever, could up her cool quotient by actually PLAYING A SPORT.

All this cooing about Stan Smiths has Tennis Hate melting my brain like last month's heat wave at the Australian Open.  That's because these women are unabashedly unathletic.  They wear the shoes ironically. Prescod initially overlooked the sneakers because she didn't want to "revisit the ghosts of my very unathletic past," but swiftly moved from denial to acceptance in order to get that "carefree-girl-in-her-twenties" look.  

Man Repeller redeems herself somewhat by acknowledging from the get-go that "There is something distinctly phony about wearing a pair of shoes named after a man whose name you have heretofore never heard." But she declares herself exempt from such judgment because her mom did it first:

My mom spent the greater portion of the 90s not playing tennis but wearing the tennis sneakers, named after the famed tennis player, with effectively everything.

Yes, blame Mom.

I'm also pissed because, Haters, I had these shoes about six years ago.  I was cool way before Phoebe Philo.  It's just that no one knew it.  

Wait till Philo and her fashion house, Celine, get wind of my black sports socks and red Adidas pairing.  She's still got time to incorporate it into her 2015 Spring Collection.

Soon to be trending, and in a good, unhumiliating, fashion-forward way.