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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

Entries in Tennis Hate Proof (16)


US Open: Errani Lives Up to Her Lowered Expectations

Sara Errani all but admitted she could see her loss coming, as if those 0's in her first round 6-0, 6-0 victory against a 152nd-ranked lucky loser were eyeglasses that could see into the future.

Sara Errani cracks under the pressure of being seeded 4th. Courtesy

The number 4 seed crashed and burned in a half-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, losing to her friend and Italian Fed Cup teammate, 83rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta, 6-3, 6-1.

Tennis Hate, and tears, bubbled up while she explained herself to the Fourth Estate.

"I think the worst thing was the fight.  Normally is my best thing that I do on the court, and today was not good," said Errani.  "I'm not that kind of player that can go there and make ace and winner, and if the ball is going in I'm doing good.  For me is to go there and fight."

I don't want to go to play.  I don't want to play.  I don't want to stay there on the court.  I feel very bad." - Sara Errani

Today, there was no scrap in the scrappy 26-year-old, who was the runner up this year at the French Open and a semifinalist last year here, on the very same blue court where she had so much trouble keeping the bad thoughts and self-doubt at bay.

While she got 93% of her first serves in -- and who wouldn't on the tour, hitting at an average speed of 78 miles per hour? -- Errani only won 38% of those points.  Yikes.  Pennetta blasted through her Worthy Opponent, hitting 33 winners to Errani's 12.

Pennetta: "I was perfect today." She broke Errani in the first game and rolled from there. Courtesy Getty."I tried to play aggressive from the very beginning and I was perfect today," said Pennetta.  

Sounds like she's been hanging out with Roger Federer in the Player's Lounge.

Errani said the pressure of being in the Top Five has been weighing on her.  She doesn't think she belongs here, just a few clicks down the rankings from Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who have 17 Grand Slam titles between them.  

Errani has none.  

"My problem isn't that I lost. I've lost a million times in my life," she said.  "My problem is trying to find the desire to fight and be on the court ready to fight.  For a few weeks, I haven't felt like I wanted to be on the court.  I don't want to go to play.  I don't want to play.  I don't want to stay there on the court.  I feel very bad."

O, anch'io, Sara, anch'io.  When the Tennis Hate is thick and gooey, it's all I can do to walk onto the court.  It feels like the soles of my shoes are melting into the asphalt. (Remember where I'm playing, Haters.  Jackie Robinson Park in Bed-Stuy has no DecoTurf.)  Just the other day, playing with my husband, I was broken, 4-5, a critical point in the set, and I was ready to walk off the court in disgust.

My Worthy Opponent and Husband had to remind me he still had to win in order to win.  I was handing him the set, with my bad attitude, without putting up a fight.  

I know all the players expecting from me, and I would like to know how to do.  But you have to pass it on yourself." - Sara Errani

Not wanting to hand my husband anything, I mentally pulled up a chair and settled in.  Let's make this a long conversation.  I broke him back, and we went on to play a tie-break, one that I lost by only two points.  

Sara Errani realizes, too, that it's an inside job.  She may never have the fire power to get past Vika and Serena, but her game, her fight, has pushed her past Li Na and former number 1 Caroline Wozniacki and former Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova.  To stay there, and stay for a while, she needs to stare down her own doubt that she really belongs.  She needs to respect her own talent.

"I know all the players expecting from me, and I would like to know how to do," she said.  "But you have to pass it on yourself, and it's not never the same that somebody is telling you and not that you are passing on that moment.  So I hope this can make me stronger, make me to improve."





Proof of Tennis Hate #9: Distracted Fans

Haters, distracted driving driving is a scourge.  Recently, while in Chicago visiting the in-laws, I had to tell a cabbie to STOP PLAYING A VIDEO GAME ON HIS SMART PHONE while doing 65 down Interstate 294.

Now, the USTA is promoting Distracted Fanning.  I got an e-mail today urging me to "reserve now" a device called Fanvision, which will allow me to watch up to 6 different courts from anywhere on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the US Open begins on Monday.  Live video!  Instant replay! Match stats and analysis!  All in a little device about the size of one of those lobster rolls that you can get at the food court for $18.

This thing will cost about $25 a day to rent. The price goes up during the later rounds.

Perhaps this is a subtle hint to Rafael Nadal to speed up his pre-serve hair tucking and jockstrap pinching ritual. We'll use those precious 30 seconds watching David Ferrer wipe his forearms with a towel over at Armstrong Stadium instead, Rafa.

I don't like the trend. I already get pissed off when I spot, on televised matches, fans along the baseline who are staring into their cellphones rather than watching the drama RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.

I have more sympathy for the fans in the nosebleed cheap seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Those folks had better reserve their Fanvision if they even want to see the match 10,000 feet below them.

But really, Haters, we can't make it through a changeover without tuning in to another match on little mini TVs?. Now THAT'S Tennis Hate.


Proof of Tennis Hate #8: Tennis Net Nest

At Jackie Robinson Park's tennis courts, at Malcolm X Blvd between Chauncy St and Marion St.

This net, used to divide the first court where lessons are held at Jackie Robinson Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brookln, is better suited for squirrels.  At least there are tennis courts in my new neighborhood.  Just six blocks away!!  Nobody on them in the morning!  All mine, mine, mine.  Don't tell anyone or I'll be really mad.


Proof of Tennis Hate #7: Del Potro's Burka

Some players try to stifle Tennis Hate by sitting underneath their towels during changeovers.  Juan Martin del Potro couldn't wait that long.  


As he walked to his seat after losing a third set tiebreaker to Novak Djokovic in their memorable Wimbledon semi-final, he pulled his shirt over his head, creating a Tennis Hate burka.

Del Po also tried to dispel the noise in his head by talking.  He chatted up spectators.  He scolded the ball, and showed it how it should have rolled over to Djokovic's side after hitting the net cord.  He even talked to Nole, after a sprint toward the ball sent him to his opponent's half of the court.

The crowd loved it, and reporters pointed that out to a dejected del Po after the grueling, 4-hour, 43 minute match.

Q: What do you think they liked in you that gave them so much joy, they wanted to support you so much?

DEL POTRO: Yeah, I think they saw my effort, my big effort.  [...] Of course, I would like to say thank you to the crowd.  They help me a lot to survive in the fourth set and keep trying.  I think I will be happy in a few days.

Q: Do you realize that you won the hearts of many people because you, yourself, play with an open heart on the court?

DEL POTRO: Yeah, but first i would like to win.


Proof of Tennis Hate #6: Panic on Wimbledon's Centre Court

No need to look at her stats: the 52% of the first serve points she won, her conversion of just 2 of 8 opportunities to break Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, the way she rolled in second serves at a snail's speed of 82 miles per hour.  No, just look at Sabine Lisicki's face.  That's when you'll understand what caused her 6-1, 6-4 defeat on Centre Court in the women's singles final last Saturday.  

This dazed, deer-in-the-headlights look happened as Bartoli served for the first set.  Lisicki had broken her right out of the gate, but then lost the next six games.

Reporters seized upon her Tennis Hate.

Q: You were quite emotional in the second set.

LISICKI: I wonder why.

Q: In the 5th game of the second set, you seemed to put your racquet to your face.  There was a lot of pressure on you.  You got very emotional.  Can you tell us what was running through your mind at that point?

LISICKI: Not pressure.  For me, there was no pressure.  it was just, I was a bit sad that I couldn't perform the way I can.

That's the essence of Tennis Hate.  You take out the champion -- the indomitable Serena Williams -- and the runner-up, Aggie Radwanska, from last year.  Then, when it counts, you leave your forehand in your hotel room before your final against 15th seed Marion Bartoli.  

Don't get sad, Sabine.  Get mad, and get even.

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