Blog Index
Follow Me
Hate Tennis, Like My Blog!

I'm Following
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

Entries in Meltdowns (11)


Butthead: Bernard Tomic's Dad Suspended After Alleged Head-Butt of Partner

Haters, there's plenty of tennis action going on in Madrid -- Federer returns after 8 weeks off, Djokovic is upset in Madrid by #28 Grigor Dmitrov, newly-minted Guiness World Record-holder Anabel Medina Garrigues halts Madison Keys' run  -- but it's the tennis hate off court that has drawn me to the keyboard.

Crying over unspilt milk: Thomas Drouet says John Tomic head-butted him. Courtesy AFP/Getty Images.

John Tomic, father and coach of Aussie up-and-comer Bernard Tomic, has been barred from future ATP tournaments pending the outcome of an inquiry into whether he assaulted the 20-year-old's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, last Saturday outside a Madrid hotel.

Drouet says Tomic head-butted him in the nose, breaking it, in an argument that began when Drouet refused to buy milk for the Tomics prior to their flight to Spain for the Mutua Madrid Open.

Tomic, the Herald Sun's "Poster Boy of the Mad Tennis Parents Club,"is claiming it was in self-defense.

It seems the head is a favored target of Coach Tomic.  According to the New York Times, Drouet told the French sports paper, L'Equipe, that Tomic punched his son in the head during a training session, hard enough that Bernie's mouth was bleeding.  

“All that because Bernard had told him that he had had enough of hearing his criticism. I didn’t intervene as I have read I did other places. Afterward, John took Bernard’s three rackets and destroyed them. Bam. Bam. Bam. A half hour later, he was joking with Bernard."

Ha, ha, my boy, better the Yonex than you.  

Sadly, the apple hasn't fallen very far from the tree.  Bernie has had his own I Hate Tennis moments, most notably when he was accused of tanking in a lackluster US Open loss last year to Andy Roddick.  He got surly with a reporter from Reuters and said, darkly, "I'll remember you." 

Maybe this is why I haven't seen any quotations yet from Bernie.  Reporters are too busy ordering face masks first.

Tomic needs a new coach.  Currently 53rd in the world, he was as high as 27th last June.  His 2013 season has been spotty.  He won his first ATP Tour title in Sydney last January, but has played little, and done little, since then, except rack up a notably I Hate Tennis moment: Tomic failed to convert 5 match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Marseille.  



Hitting the Wall

When long-distance runners talk about hitting the wall, they mean the dead legs and overwhelming exhaustion that comes from gobbling up all their bodies' stored-up glycogen. When tennis players talk about hitting the wall, they're usually more literal.  

My Worthy Opponent, ready and waiting at the corner of Greene and Waverly Avenues.

They're talking about a form of practice that doesn't need a court or another tennis player.

When I Hate Tennis talks about hitting the wall, it's about both.  Because when I've tried to hit against a wall, I've developed such a mental weariness that it's made me want to chuck the racquet and eat a box of donuts.

My Worthy Opponent, Marcy Rosewater, was singing the praises of wall-hitting.  "It really helps me focus on my strokes.  I can feel what I'm doing wrong and correct it."

"Not me," I moaned.  "I hit the ball, it hits the wall and then dies in front of me, or sails above my head."  Oh, yeah, I failed to mention that often, I hit the ball over the wall itself. This is quite a feat, Haters.  Take a look at that handball wall above.  It's, like, 20 feet high.  

I sighed.  "The only thing I seem to get to work on is being a better ball retriever."

"You just have to keep at it.  You get into a rhythm," said Marcy.  

Well, YOU do, I said to myself.  I could feel Tennis Hate blooming like a black rose in my chest. Where were those donuts??  

Now, I'm a True Grit kind of athlete.  I've taken 2-hour spin classes. I've been on century bicycle rides.  I've been to Saddlebrook's grueling, 5-hour tennis clinics in Florida, and have relished them.  Eventually, after rolling my eyes and whining, I suit up and show up.  I'll take Marcy's suggestion and try once again to put some time in front of the wall.  But I'm stunned by the knowledge that my default setting is, I can't do this!  It's not fair!

I'm inclined to think something is wrong with me.  I need to change my mindset, reduce my frustration, BE POSITIVE, visualize happy hitting.  Sports psychologists encourage this.  

But I'm intrigued by Oliver Burkeman's book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, who surveyed psychologists and philosophers working in the field of happiness and found this:

The startling conclusion at which they had all arrived, in different ways, was this: that the effort to try to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable.  And that it is our constant efforts to eliminate the negative -- insecurity, uncertainty, failure, or sadness -- that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain, or unhappy.

The solution, what Burkeman calls the "negative path" to peace of mind, involves "learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stopping trying to think positively, becoming familiar with failure, even learning to value death."

I got familiarity with failure down, no problem.  Value death?  Got to work on that one.

I've been in a funk about my game.  In the middle of a lesson or a game, I can feel myself pushing the ball, swinging from my wrist, not my shoulder, leaning toward the ball from my waist rather than bending my knees, all the bad habits I've been told not to do.  I've taken thousands of dollars' worth of lessons, have spent 10 years on the court trying to develop a forehand drive and a finishing volley. Why do I keep reverting to my old, tentative, pushy ways?  I can't do this!  It's not fair!

I have toyed with the idea that tennis isn't for me, and I should take up something more immediately gratifying and endorphin-producing.  Like baking donuts.

I've been asking myself: If this is the best that I'll ever be, is that okay?

But I don't really want to give up.  That's not the True Grit creedo.  I really love tennis.  I enjoy the camaraderie, the warm-up rituals, the courtesy and sportsmanship embedded in its rules.  I love how physical it is, and mental, too, how it requires total and absolute focus from moment to moment, much like meditation. When I achive those precious seconds of concentration, everything dissolves -- the court, my opponent, Tennis Hate and the infernal chatter of what W. Timothy Gallwey calls Self 1.  I feel free and powerful and alive, even if I lose the point.  

So, I've been playing with my Tennis Hate rather than against it.  It's okay that it's there.  I'm not, as Burkeman describes in his book, "trying to drown negativity out with relentless good cheer."  I'm trying to seek "the happiness that arises through negativity."  

I've been asking myself: If this is the best that I'll ever be, is that okay?  What does it mean to have limits? What happens when I reach mine?  Will anybody kick me off the court?  Will no one want to play with me ever again if they don't see continued improvement toward a kick serve like Samantha Stosur's?  No, really: Will others love me less?  Will I have less value if I don't get a good, strong forehand approach shot?

That's the mental part.  Technically, I've been following what my Saintly Pros, Anne Hobbs and Al Johnson, have been telling me, and that is to simplify what I do, narrow my focus.  I think of two things while I hit a groundstroke: turn sideways to the approaching ball and extend through the shot, "swing to catch."  At the net, I think of getting my racquet out in front of me for my volley.  That's it.  I practice leaving all the running commentary on the sidelines, in a messy pile with my warmup pants and coat.

When I expose the lies my Tennis Hate tells me, I start to find some peace -- even joy -- on the court.  When I put my focus on simple tasks, like turning my body sideways to the ball, I experience the sweetness that comes with executing something you intended to do.  It's easier to just turn sideways and swing through the ball than it is to follow a ten-point checklist: "Racquet back? Check! Body sideways? Check! Left hand extended out to the point of contact? Check! Butt of the racquet toward the ball? Check!" Ad nauseum.

Forget those donuts.  Where's my racquet?


Meltdown Down Under: Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens

Serena Williams is the best server of the women's game, even when she's taking aim at Plexicushion instead of the ball.  Watch as she rotates her body weight into this racquet smash. There's no evidence of her second set back spasm in her Australian Open quarterfinal loss yesterday to rising queen-ager Sloane Stephens.  

The number 3 seed said she had a "wry smile" on her lips afterwards.  "It made me happy, unfortunately."  Thatta girl, Serena!  The Beatles had it all wrong.  Happiness isn't a warm gun.  It's a busted racquet.   




Australian Open: Williams Ousted by Her Mini-Me

Sloane slides into Australian Open semis, ousting Serena Williams in 3 sets. Courtesy: API had to wipe the drool coming off of my flat screen TV like dew during the all-American quarterfinal at the Australian Open between number 3 seed Serena Williams, and the 19-year-old everyone sees as her heir apparent, the 29th seed Sloane Stephens.  

"The future is here," announced ESPN's Mary Jo Fernandez, following Stephens' upset of the 15-time Grand Slam winner, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Serena gets medical treatment for back spasms. "It's no excuse," she told reporters after her loss. Courtesy: AP It helped Sloane's cause that Serena suffered back spasms in the second set after moving forward for a short ball. It hampered her ability to rotate into her serve and her shots. 

Another ESPN commentator, Chris Evert, kept talking about Serena "mentoring" Sloane. It made for a good story line: the mentor versus the mentee.  But Williams has denied playing any role in Stephens' recent rise, from 198th in the world at the end of 2010 to 25th today. 

"I would need a better definition of the word mentor," she said. "I just feel like the older one and maybe some of the younger players look up to me.

"It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition.

"I don't feel any responsibility (towards her). I doubt she has any expectations of me to be responsible for anything. Maybe she does. I don't know."

The two have several qualities in common, besides their nationality, their race and their chosen profession.  Deadspin did a hilarious summary of the media's breathless iterations of all their similarities.  I'll keep the hyperventilating going by saying both are baseline sluggers and both have big serves.  Stephens is good enough to have given Williams a scare when they met in the quarterfinals in Brisbane earlier this month.

Watch the video at around 4:18.  Serena gets to break point for the first set against Sloane and belts out the first of several "C'mon's!" complete with flexed bicep and fist pump.  

This starts getting on Sloane's nerves.  

Which brings up a big distinction between Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams.  Here's one way the teen is NOT like the 31-year-old veteran and all-time great.  She's a fierce competitor without being fierce.

Stephens is unguarded, the very opposite of Williams.  She's not snarky, the way Williams can be, the way Williams was in 2009 when the well-endowed champ sported a T-shirt with the slogan, "Are You Looking At My Titles?" as a subtle protest against her number 2 ranking behind Slam-less Dinara Safina.   

Much has been made of Stephens' perky personality and her poise.  She Tweeted a picture of a hot dog stand at the tournament grounds in Melbourne and offered two tickets to her players' box for the first fan to order a "Sloane Sandwich."

Her reaction to her victory was subdued, just a big smile and a few claps of her hand against her racquet.  No, she did not pull apart her shirt and scream like Novak Djokovic.  She was considerate of her opponent.

"I'm sure she doesn't feel good," Stephens said to ESPN's Pam Shriver after her victory over her idol.  She went on to describe her win as "nice."  

It's more than that.  It's a big deal.  She's the first American teen in a Grand Slam semi-final since a 19-year-old Serena reached the semis at Wimbledon in 2000.  




Meltdown Down Under: Jerzy Janowicz Doesn't Like Line Calls

Up 9-8 in a tense first-set tiebreak against Somdev Devvarman in their second round match at the Australian Open, number 24 seed Jerzy Janowicz explodes when the chair umpire does not call Devvarman's deep baseline ball out.  

They were playing on Court 8, an outer court without Shot Spot or Hawk-Eye or Mac Cam or whatever you call it.  Janowicz does his best impression of a zoom lens, putting his face thisclose to the white line and the place he thought the ball landed.  He also gets philosophical, asking the chair how many times she was going to make bad calls.  

The Pole asks her this seven times.  He also tells her it's "not fun" playing like this, when calls go against him.  You don't say.

Janowicz was derided for his behavior by Tennis Channel commentator Justin Gimelstob, who said that if Jerzy wants to become a top player, he has to quit behaving so badly.  I say he gets himself a banya hat, to keep the Tennis Hate at bay.

Devvarman goes on to win the tiebreak, 12-10.  He takes his momentum into the second set, winning it easily.  Then Devvarman goes on walkabout, winning just one game out of the next 13.  

Janowicz gets to bellow again, this time, in triumph, when he wins the final set and the match, 7-5.  He was ousted in straight sets in the next round by Number 10 seed Nicholas Almagro, but took the Spaniard to tiebreaks in the first two sets before lying down, 1-6, in the third.

Page 1 2 3 Next 5 Entries »