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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
Friday
Jan102014

Blowout Loss for Nelson/Eddings, Even With Top Seed Singh Out

"We lived up to the blog," said Worthy Comrade Nelson Simon of our Tennis Hate-fueling 6-0, 6-1 loss to Worthy Opponents Tam Thompsen and my beloved, Mark Hilan.  

To the victors go the smiles: Tam, Mark, me and Nelson. Photos: EddingsTam and Mark won by smart, consistent play.  Power player and top seed Surinder Singh was not a factor, out for a meet n' greet with corporate sponsors.  Is he taking JuggleBox to a new level -- eco-friendly tennis racquets, perhaps?   

It was a shaky outing for Nelson, his first return to the Brooklyn recreational tennis tour since an injury in December. Nelson's normally rock-solid at net.  But he consistently missed volley winners, even when Mark and Tam hung balls above him like mistletoe.  He was kissing the net, not the trophy.  He also shoud have asked Santa Claus for a first serve.

We lived up to the blog."

Haters, I wasn't any better.  Though my serves were consistent, our Worthy Opponents' strategy of hitting down the line past or over Nelson or short to me foiled us, again and again.  And again.

"We'll figure it out," Nelson said to me during a changeover, "next week."

I was getting close to losing my cool.  I was swearing under my breath and over it.  I felt like crying.  I felt like dying.  I felt like quitting.  I hated all these feelings.

Okay, I thought, this is where you have to practice all that shit you talk about in your blog, like mental toughness, staying in the moment, eyes on the ball, blah, blah blah.

I wiggled my toes and took a deep breath into my belly and scanned my body for tension, like Jeff Greenwald taught me.  I thought about my intensity level (number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, with a bullet!) as Anne Smith taught me.  I even took a moment during a break to re-read my tennis story, a la Bob Litwin.

"I love to compete as much as I love to win.  I LOVE to compete as much as I love to WIN," I whispered over and over, looking like a crazy street person on the subway, arguing with herself.

"And how did that work for you?" Litwin asked me later.  I had called him, dejected.   

Oh, for about two points.  Two miserable losing points.

"They kept getting us with the same patterns, over and over again.," I whined.  "They kept lobbing high over Nelson at net to my backhand.  I couldn't do anything with this.

And they knew this, and kept doing this to me!"

Yes, to me, Haters.  It's all about me.  

Bob wisely suggested I de-personalize this.  "Write a different story," he said.  "'When my opponent hits a deep ball to my backhand, I respond with the appropriate shot.'  

But they're attacking me, Bob!  It's called an attacking shot.

Litwin suggested I avoid that word.  It makes me feel a certain way, like attacking back, and not in a sportsmanlike kinda way.  He also suggested that I practice with my coach the shots that Tam and Mark were using to attack me.  Okay, wait, let me rephrase.  That they were using to try to win the point.  

Bob, who helps hedge fund guys stay calm and focused, said he tells them to practice patience while waiting for the elevator, not while they're watching the market collapse.

"Most of our good practice happens in the lesser world, at the elevator," he said.  "When you're tense, you won't remember to take a deep breath unless you do it when you're not tense."

Another tip: love the process of not doing well.  "Everything is always in a state of change.  Suffering comes when we don't accept that."

That's it!  New story: Losses help me get better.  Losses are....enjoyable.  

I'm Tinkerbell and I can fly!

No, I' ve got this.  I love Tennis Hate.  I do.  I really, really REALLY do.  Really.  Do.

 

 

Thursday
Jan022014

First Match of 2014, First Loss

Two days into the new year, and I've recorded my first defeat of 2014.  Typical, is what my Tennis Hate would normally growl inside my head.  

But, Haters, you should know by now I'm not normal.

Under construction: My game? No, our restaurant. Henry, Tam, me and Beth outside Krupa Grocery in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

In point of fact, it was one of those weird psychological phenomenas known in sports as a "good loss."  It was hard-fought, lost by my partner, Beth Allen, and I to Worthy Opponents Henry Strozier and Tam Thompson in a tie-break.  

Okay, so Beth and I let slip a 4-1 lead.  And, yeah, Tam and Henry's climb back started by breaking me at 0-40. Oh, and now that you mention it, we never adjusted to their deep baseline shots and their lobs.  Like Mark McGuireI'm not here to talk about the past.  

New year, new beginnings.  Let's talk about what we did well!

Oh, for cryin' out loud, grumbles my Tennis Hate.  If you must....

Beth heroically clawed her way out of a 0-40 deficit, stoically holding serve to put us up 5-3.  I worked on my new story that says I am a wall at the net and got some volley winners, even a put-away backhand overhead. And I only audibly swore once -- just once! -- saying something untoward about Henry's wicked slice backhand return of my serve during that 0-40 sadness.

Yes, my new tennis story is still under construction.  It needs some tweaking and some turbo-charging to really make it send me into a new way of being on the court, and, yeah, in my life.  We all know tennis is life and life is tennis.  

"Show me how you are in tennis and I'll show you how you are in the rest of your life," I can hear my dear pal, Betsy Rapoport, say.  

Funny she should say that.  One part of the rest of my life that is, literally, under construction, is the restaurant Mark and I have a little piece of.  

Under construction, just like my tennis story: the bar at Krupa Grocery.

It's called Krupa Grocery.  It's up the hill from the Prospect Park Tennis Center, so Worthy Opponents and I piled into our car, Mark at the wheel, and checked out its progress.

One look at the huge walk-in refrigerator had Tam convinced we meant business.  "This is a major operation!" she said.  

I told her I hope the food lives up to the walk-in.

 

The space is still raw in parts, the long wall to the left still chipped concrete and bits of exposed brick.  The kitchen was filled with boxes, tools and sheet rock.  No oven yet or fryer or stove.  Four contractors milled about.  One guy was crouched behind the bar, wrestling with some plastic tubing.  Mark indicated where the banquette along the wall would go, and where the tables would go.  

Towards the back of the space, in one of the two bathrooms, someone had indicated with marker and masking tape where various bodily functions go.

Construction workers need blueprints for everything, apparently.

We're just bit players in this restaurant drama.  The vision and oversight is our partners'.  But it still feels thrilling to be a part of something real and tangible, a place, a hangout.  It will feel good to see people in it, eating and drinking and joshing with the bartender. Or with Mark, who will work there weekday mornings, serving coffee and breakfast eggs and pastries.  

I admire him for taking such a leap of faith in his professional life, ending a 35-year career in broadcasting last October to prepare for this restaurant gig.  I think about who I'd be without being on the air.  I'd be...what? Normal.  Unremarkable.  That's my story, at least for now.  How I am in tennis is how I am in the rest of my life.  

 

Tuesday
Dec312013

I'm Going Pro

Haters, it's New Year's Eve.  The first Slam of the 2014 is just two weeks away.  Tennis is coming out of its six week dormancy, and I must come with it.  

Kicking and screaming, I might add, because I've liked the break. More honestly, my fear of tennis and writing has just dived into the holiday season excuses like a sugar-addled tot into the Christmas cookies.  I have so many other tasks to do, I need down time because of all my tasks, I'm away from home, I'm at home, it's cold, it's not cold enough.  

If Robert Duvall were crouched at the edge of the foxhole of my apartment, he'd take a deep breath and say, "Smell that?  Do you smell that?  Reisistance, son.  Nothing else in the world smells like that." 

Resistance is the topic of the aptly-named The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.  it will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.  Resistance is protean.  It will assume any form, if that's what it takes to deceive you.  it will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face ike a stickup man.  Resistance has no conscience.  It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned.  If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.  Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

I've been full of shit, Haters.  My New Year's resolution: a new story, about tennis and about writing.  In my story, I'm going Pro.  And I don't mean I'm joining the Tour.  I'm going Pro as in, laying down Napalm along the treeline of my Resistance.

Or, as Pressfield explains, to apply the same principles to what we love and desire to create as we do the jobs that provide our paychecks.  Those qualities include showing up every day, showing up no matter what, we don't go home until the whistle blows and we commit over the long haul. 

"Resistance hates it when we go pro," Pressfield said.

I look forward to finding this out.  

 

Friday
Dec132013

Proof of Tennis Hate #11

My usual enthusiasm for the morning drop-in sessions at the Darling Tennis Center in Summerlin, Nevada sagged like the skin under my 50-year-old eyes upon seeing this banner for joint replacements.  It gives my Tennis Hate just another reason to hit the couch, not the court.

Really, Darling Tennis Center? This is how you make your money? Photo by Yours Truly.The ad put me in mind of other messages, reminding me of the future that awaits: 

 

That's right, Haters.  Prepare to follow.  Follow me right off the court and into an armchair.

Saturday
Nov302013

Available Courts Spotted in Brooklyn

There wasn't one, but eleven -- ELEVEN, Haters! -- open courts at Lincoln Terrace Park in East New York!

 Okay, so it was 35 degrees and breezy outside. Whatever. OPEN COURTS, Haters! in BROOKLYN! Celebrate! Photo: AE

Not only was no one there, the park's gates were wiiiiiide open.  This is a big deal, Haters.  I have courts just a 10-minute walk away from my apartment at the Jackie Robinson Park, but the tennis pro there thinks he owns them.  He locks them up when he leaves, which, if he doesn't have a lesson, can be 5:00PM.

But wait, there's more!  The  Lincoln Terrace courts were renovated this summer by the Parks Department  They're in excellent condition, save for the nets.  Someone needs to teach Parks how to hang tennis nets properly.  There's no sag in the middle.  

And if you're setting up a net for a singles-only court, with no doubles alley, get the right net for it.  I spotted this work-around for a net that was too long for the court.

 Net Origami: Someone got creative with an extra length of net. Photo: AEI'm going to get my ski suit on and go out there and hit.  November, be damned! The Australian Open is in 7 weeks!

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