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Meltdown of the Week


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

Saintly Pros: Nate Chura

Nate Chura, radiating goodness at the Brooklyn Heights Casino.Saintly Pro Nate Chura is my Tennis Yoda.  

He's got such a healthy, wise perspective on the game, I suspect he spent several years living under the root system of a tree on some boggy planet in deepest space, communing with the Force.

Actually, Nate's deep respect and love of tennis comes from years of playing and teaching it.  He started playing when he was 11. At 15, he knew he wanted to teach tennis.

"I knew it almost right away," he told me.  "I could just sense I had it in me."

He's an excellent, patient teacher.  I know, I took lessons from him for about a year.

Nate's also a great writer.  He blogged tirelessly for WNYC during the 2011 and 2010 US Opens.

He sympathisizes mightily with my "hurry up and get there" demands for my skills on the court....and laughs.

"Everyone wants to improve and everyone is in a hurry to improve," he said, especially New York City Type A women like me.

"My experience with women who have come to the sport late, or don't have that experience [in sports], they're used to being successful, and they take that same energy to the tennis court.  They must excel, they must be perfect, and they tend to get more emotionally upset when they don't achieve their objective."

The guys he teaches aren't like this.  They aren't burning with a tennis love/hate.  "In general, men have experience with sports at a very young age, with winning and losing, and are generally far more relaxed with it," he said.  "They might get frustrated, they might not be completely happy with their performance, but they shrug it off."

I think you have to care less about winning. You're winning by playing.  I think that you need to just go out there and hit the ball."

My dear husband tried to warn me years ago, when I was just starting out, not to get too emotionally wrapped up in winning and losing or in achieving skills that are out of my reach.  He told me to accept my limitations, and learn to work with them, rather than try to bend them to my will.  He says he learned this playing basketball.  At 5'8", he was too short to be the go-to shot guy, so Mark directed his energy toward making great passes.  He found joy in excelling at assists.

Haters, I HATE this!  It feels like failure.  It feels un American!  What about all the blah blah blah we hear in our culture about re-making ourselves, working hard, overcoming obstacles?!  Mitt and Barack are crafting campaign messages from it, for cry yi.  

Here's Mitt Romney at the GOP National Convention:

Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, "I'm an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!" [Editor: My game deserves better!]

And here's President Obama, at the Dems' convention:

Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met.  The path we offer may be harder, [Editor: I was with you, Prez, until you said THAT] but it leads to a better place, and I'm asking you to choose that future.

Haters of the tennis world, unite!  Big, heavy forehand drives are in our future, if we just work hard enough at them! No more wobbly service tosses! Si, se puede!

 Nate Chura, Jedi Master, just smiles and twirls his racquet.

 A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has she looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never her mind on where she was. Hmm? Whats he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless. 

No, wait,  that's Yoda.  But Chura's observation is right in line with the little green guy's.

"I think you have to care less about winning. You're winning by playing.  I think that you need to just go out there and hit the ball."

Nate Chura currently teaches at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn Heights, but has also taught at the Prospect Park Tennis Center, and Total Tennis.  He's been teaching for 13 years and is USPTA certified, with a P-1 rating, the highest tested rating.  Believe what he says.  The Force is with him.

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