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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

Entries from February 1, 2014 - February 28, 2014


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.


Lion-Hearted Tennis: How To Play Without Fear

There was a woman who did readings using both the Western Zodiac and the Chinese Zodiac.  She told me my Western Zodiac sign, Leo, guided the public me, the persona I show to the world, while my Chinese sign was my inner self.  The saying goes in Chinese astrology that your animal "hides in your heart."

 Run, Rabbit, run....right off the court and into the locker room, to cower under a towel.

Well, that explains a lot.  Especially in tennis.  I so want to be aggressive on the court, forcing the action, making deep approach shots and coming to net.  But my Rabbit wants to stay back on the baseline.  Bunny's content just to get the ball back over the net and watch, wide-eyed, to see what my Worthy Opponent will do next.

In this match, I could only wish that Rabbit would remain hidden in my heart, because Bunny was leaving droppings all over the damned court. 

How to win in tennis: bite your Worthy Opponent's head.

I used everything I could think of to keep my focus on the ball, and not on my fear.  I wiggled my toes in my shoes.  Yep, I'm here.  I took slow, deep breaths.  Yep, I'm alive.  I tried to see the seams of the ball.  Yep, I'm playing tennis.  

Oh, good God, I'm playing tennis.

My Worthy Opponent had clean service games, winning them with nary a point gained on my side.  I could barely return her serve.  They had a lot of top spin, and were on top of me in a blink.  It took me several games, Haters -- games, not points -- to consider standing back a bit to give myself more time.  That's what fear does to me.  It takes away my ability to think on the court.

Performance coach Jeff Greenwald, in his book, The Best Tennis of Your Life, says fear comes from wanting to avoid the bad feelings that come with trying and failing.  "It's the avoidance of fear that is in your way," he writes.  "And the only effective way to deal with this pattern is to begin facing your fears head on."

Make the call to someone you want to play with, hit out on your shots, play the tournament, don't give up in matches, stand tall when things aren't going your way, practice hard, tell your partner what you need. The more you face your fear, the easier it gets, and the better you will play.

Okay, that's one way of going from bunny to lion.  But just wanting it doesn't make it so.  I like the idea of facing the fact that I'm scared. Just acknowledging its presence gives it less power.  I'm scared. AND I'm going to get to every ball.  I'm scared.  AND I'm going to see the hit.  I'm scared.  AND I'm going to turn, and extend the butt of my racquet all the way through the shot.  

In In Pursuit of Excellence, sports shrink Terry Orlick advises turning fear into focus.  "An absolute connection or full engagement with the step in front of you clears your mind of all other thoughts and relaxes your body enough to have a great performance.  Pure focused connection works wonders here."

This is the conundrum of Tennis Hate.  How do I get pure focused connection when I'm filled with fear?  How do I get out of my own way?  How do I shift gears?  Sometimes, it feels like I can't will myself into a better mindset.  It's my sick mind trying to heal itself.  Where will I get that power?

The power, Greenwald and Orlick are suggesting, is in bringing myself back to the present moment, to the ball. Just the ball.  Just the job ahead.  See the ball, hit the ball.  Repeat.

An I Hate Tennis face from the King of the Beasts.

"During the event, focus on the doing," says Orlick.  "A cat pursuing a mouse [or a lion chasing a rabbit] is not thinking about what she should be thinking about.  She is focused on the doing."  He suggests developing refocusing strategies to use during moments of fear.  We've all seen the greats doing this between points.  Kim Clijsters, rearranging her strings.  Maria Sharapova walking to the back of the court, taking a few breaths and bouncing on her toes.  Rafael Nadal cleaning the red clay off the baseline and stubbing the toes of his shoes against the ground, one foot at a time.  

The thing is, we Haters have to practice these actions, too, not just our volleys and groundstrokes and serves. That means embracing these pressure situations.  They're our sandbox.  We get to practice our re-centering techniques there.  

We get to shape our destiny, overriding the alignment of the stars.





Sharapova is Russian, and Proves It With Olympic Torch Honor

Wait, Maria Sharapova is really Russian?  All this time, I thought she was just kidding.  Gal's been living and training in Florida since she was 7.  Her English is spotless.  With all her endorsements, she's practically her own brand.  

My Little SharaPony: Flowing locks, flowing flame, at Sochi. Photo courtesy of Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty.

Doesn't that make her an American?

But there she was, proving me wrong, running into Fisht Stadium with the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia.  The Black Sea resort city is her hometown.  Sharapova, a silver medalist for Russia two years ago in London, joined five other Russian Olympic medalists in the torch-lighting ceremony that capped a really trippy Opening Ceremony spectacle.

Russian history: What a long, strange trip it's been. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty.

To understand the great sweep of Russian history, from Peter the Great to Joseph Stalin, you need to take some psilocybins.

Sharapova also had a chance to enhance her Russian street cred by taking NBC Sports' Mary Carillo out to eat some Sochi delicacies.  Guess Carillo needed to carbo-load before NBC's two-week broadcast schedule got underway.  Together, they were filmed making a "cheese boat," which appears to be nothing but a slab of dough piled with cheese and pinched at both ends, to keep the melting cheese from dribbling out.

Sharapova's Tweeted proof that she and Mary Carillo actually ate some of this spread. Not a vegetable in sight.

Sharapova later Tweeted out a photo of her actually taking a bite of her cheese boat.  Carillo's just pushing her plate of dough around.  No wonder Maria moved to Florida.  Otherwise, she'd never know what fresh fruit looked like.