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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 July 1, 2013 - July 31, 2013


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.


USTA League Playoffs: A Good Loss

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I had a good loss this weekend.

Marcia won, I lost...why isn't she smiling? Tennis Hate must be infectious.Yes, Haters, I lost my singles match in the USTA 3.0 Women's League playoffs at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and I'm okay!

Stop calling the local emergency rooms.  I'm fine.  My racquets are still in playing condition. The USTA can confirm no balls were abused during my match.

I wanted to make the world fit into the circle of my racquet.  There was nothing else requiring my attention.

I played the second singles spot against Worthy Opponent Marcia.  She was the steadier player in our deciding 10-point tie-break and won the day, 6-2, 1-6, 10-7.  But there was that second set!  And I stayed even with her through the first 12 points of the tie-break, even trading a mini-break with her.

I was defeated by my serve (I frequently missed first serves and had at least two double faults), by pushy short balls that Marcia was able to pounce upon, and by her pace.  She can really clobber the ball.  She made money off a cross-court forehand wide to my forehand that I either hit long or pushed back to where she had quickly positioned herself, licking her lips, at the middle of the net.  Ka-ching!  Put-away volley.

She also rarely missed her first serve.  How'd she do that?

Okay, I'm smiling through the agony of defeat....but Marcia, where's the thrill of victory?Okay, so that was how I was beaten.  How I won was in keeping my wits and hope about me after that numbing first set.  And as much as I pushed, Haters, I also slugged.  I hit many strong drives.  I felt, for once, like I was actually playing tennis, not patty-cake.  And that is what keeps me heading back into the crucible of the tennis court.  Someday, I'm going to play tennis, not a close approximation.  

I reminded myself to stay focused and positive, and I told myself that those qualities simply required that I watch the ball, and see the hit.  I chanted Coach Al's mantra as I waited at the baseline for Marcia to serve.  "Your eyes make the shot."  I didn't have to be someone I wasn't or conjure up some feeling that wasn't there.  All I had to do was stay focused on that little fuzzy yellow orb speeding my way, and watch it all the way onto my strings.  

I wanted to make the world fit into the circle of my racquet.  There was nothing else requiring my attention.

What happened, as a result, was that I was waiting and ready for that ball, body coiled, racquet back.  All the movements Coach barks at me to make before the ball bounces, so that I'm not hitting the ball late and pushing it back.  What happend was that I hit the damn ball. Finally.  I was also, because of my focus, able to pull off some heart-stopping drop shot winners that would've made my husband proud.

That was what helped me during the match.  Invaluable, too, was time in the morning with my husband, playing at the totally empty asphalt courts at Jackie Robinson Park, about 6 easy blocks away from our new digs in Bedford-Stuyvesant.  I got a little Tennis Hate when he broke me to go up 4-3.

"You look like a watch on a branch in a Salvador Dali painting," he scolded me during a water break.  "It's not over!  Don't quit!"  

He shook his head and gave me one of his signature, incredulous, Don't Be An Idiot scowls.  "You can't be acting this way when you play this afternoon.  Make her beat you.  Don't beat yourself."

I rallied to bring the set to 6-6.  I looked at my watch.  I had an hour and a half to shower and eat before heading to the NTC.  Our match, and our marriage, saved by lunchtime.

Also keeping my Tennis Hate and pre-match panic at bay was additional warm-up time with my teammates an hour and a half before the match.  Coach Winston helped lightened the mood by bringing animal crackers, pretzels and beer.  This was, indeed, a time to celebrate, win or lose.  The Ball Busters made the playoffs! 

And I conquered Tennis Hate by warming up with friends and family, focusing on the ball during the match and learning more about how I perform best in big events.  




USTA Gets Expansion Plan Approval, Must Give Back to Community

Game, set, match, for the US Tennis Association's plans to super-size the home of the US Open. New York's City Council approved the plans for the Billie Jean King Tennis Center after a year of negotiations between the USTA, the local councilmember, Julissa Ferreras and community groups that were peeved at the USTA's desire to poach another .68 acres of land from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The USTA's strategic vision for a bigger, better US Open: Artist's rendering shows light bouncing off millions of Rolex watches. Courtesy USTA.

It's been a game of Whack-A-Mole for protectors of the sprawling, weedy, unsung park. Developers are scurrying all over the 1,255 acre site, seeing it not as the green lungs of a community hemmed in by several highways and an airport, but as undeveloped real e$tate.  

Major League Soccer wants -- wanted -- to seize more than 13 acres so they could plunk down, on the Fountain of the Planets, a 25,000 seat stadium and parking lot.  In exchange, the newly-formed New York City Football Club would pay for the creation of a park at the site of a blighted old air strip several miles, and demographic light years away from, the Latino/South Asian/Chinese neighborhoods nearest Flushing Meadows.  The negative (surprise!) headlines about this eyebrow-raising "deal" caused the NYC FC to reconsider, mumbling that it was "reviewing other sites" around the city.

One councilman, Leroy Comrie, cheekily suggested the Club -- co-owned by the New York Yankees -- look to property around the new-ish Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Whack!

Name me another business in New York that makes that kind of money and doesn't have to pay taxes or real rent." -- Will Sweeney, Fairness Coalition of Queens

Weasel = Developer.But wait, here's another mole (or weasel; think of the Weasel who was always salivating over Foghorn Leghorn's beefy drumstick).  The city's Economic Development Corporation wants to give parkland -- now mostly PARKING land near Citifield, the ball park of the Mets -- to two developers for "Willets West," a 1.4 million square foot mall.

Yes, Haters.  The city's largest a park.  That's why I head to the Great Outdoors. For end-of-summer sales and the smell of food court deep fat fryers.

And then, popping up across the Long Island Railroad tracks from Willets West, was the USTA, and its proposed land grab.  

Here's how the group Fairness Coalition of Queens described it:

The United States Tennis Association seeks to construct two new tennis stadiums, the alienation of additional parkland, and building two parking garages while drastically hampering access to the park by moving a road. The USTA does not intend to pay for the land nor would it replace the parkland.

Well, that's changed.  Under the deal green-lighted by the Council Wednesday, the USTA will get that parkland.  But it will commit $10 million toward maintenance of the much-used park, help it establish a nonprofit group, like the ones that, through private fundraising, keep Central Park and the High Line lush and pretty, create an annual jobs fair for Queens residents and reach out to local businesses to help them benefit from the US Open.

Locals complain tennis center turns its back on community during 50 weeks of year when US Open not in session.Crains New York Business had reported that local residents and businesses have felt that the tennis center "turns its back" on Flushing Meadow - Corona Park, until its lawns are overrun by tennis fans and used for parking.  That includes members of the Fourth Estate, like me, who park among the trees just beyond the practice courts to the west of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"They make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, they don't pay any property taxes, they pay a miniscule rent of $400,000 a year and they're based in Westchester," Fairness Coalition's Will Sweeney told Crains.  "Name me another business in New York that makes that kind of money and doesn't have to pay taxes or real rent."

How about Goldman Sachs?  But I digress.

The Times Ledger of Queens reports the annual payout to the city is more like $2.5 million. It detailed the hard bargaining done by Councilwoman Ferreras to pull concessions out of the USTA.

The approval of the expansion was seen by some as a foregone conclusion, but Ferreras had one major bargaining chip to play: Wednesday was the last day the Council could consider the measure. If lawmakers voted against the plan, the USTA would have had to start the months-long application process over again.

Another concession wrung out of the USTA: it will free up courts on its eastern edge for the public.  I hope what they mean by this is the New York City parks-supporting, tennis-permit holding public, and not the public that can currently use its outer grounds courts for $46 an hour and up.  

"We're not under any illussion that we've won and it's over," Joseph McKellar, of the faith-based group, Faith in New York, told the Times.  "It sends them a message.  If you're going to build in our community, you have to engage in our community."


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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