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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 June 1, 2014 - June 30, 2014


Gone Fishin'

Well, no, not really.  I don't know how to fish.  But I Hate Tennis is taking an injury time-out to put some Ben Gay on my temples and re-string my thoughts.  

Look for I Hate Tennis Even More, coming as the tour wraps up this fall.  Or maybe when it starts at the Australian Open in 2015.  Depends on how quickly the Ben-Gay works its magic.

I leave you with this bit of Tennis Hate: a tennis ball, found stuffed in the grate in SoHo, corner of Prince and Thompson.



Meltdown of the Moment: Vintage Andy Roddick

One year after winning the US Open as a junior, Andy Roddick has his first major US Open meltdown as a pro during his thisclose 2001 US Open quarterfinal against Lleyton Hewitt.  Roddick was serving to stay in it, at 4-5 in the fifth set. Momentum was on his side.  He'd won the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6, lost the second and third and then regrouped to snatch the fourth set from Hewie at 6-3.   

That look. I know it well. Andy Roddick tries to control his Tennis Hate after a bad overrule from the US Open chair ump in his 2001 quarterfinal against Lleyton Hewitt.I appreciate the look on Roddick's face as he tries to corral all the Tennis Hate he sent galloping around Arthur Ashe stadium.  He takes a big breath and tries to settle himself.  It reminds me of Coach Al, saying to me, "don't get excited.  Get composed before you serve."  

Hewitt, meanwhile, is fiddling with his strings while his squeeze at the time, one of my favorite players, Kim Cjisters, keeps her game face on.  Roddick makes several unforced errors to give Hewitt the break, the set and the match.  The 20-year-old from Australia went on to win the US Open, his first of two Grand Slam titles (He won Wimby the next year).

Roddick got his turn to hoist the trophy at Arthur Ashe Stadium two years later, in 2003.  It would be his only Grand Slam title.  

I can't embed the video.  Click on the link.  It's worth a watch, just to see how the two young guns handled the pressure.  And to see how young they were.  I forget that these tennis pros, especially the ones we're talking about now -- Sloane Stephens, Milos Raonic, Francis Tiafoe -- are barely at legal drinking age.  



Second Set Walkabout

I've heard commentators -- I think it's ESPN's Patrick McEnroe -- talk about players going on "walkabout" for a game or a set.  Often the comment is directed at Andy Murray, who, pre-Ivan Lendl, used to become curiously passive in the middle of a set.  I don't know how his new coach, Amelie Maursemo, is going to help there, as she was known to lose her nerve aplenty during her time on the tour.

Still able to smile after getting bageled in the second set by Worthy Opponent Ting. Must've been the thought of bagels.... But why focus on the pros when I've got my own experience vanishing during a match? The most recent was Friday's USTA league match against Worthy Opponent Ting at the National Tennis Center in Queens.

I did my pre-match mental warmup, reminding myself that I get excited -- not nervous! -- when I play matches and that I love to compete more than I love to win.  I also reminded myself that I get to every ball, but in Tennis Story 2.0, I added, "and I make the appropriate shot when I get to it."  

Too many times in my last match I got to the ball, all right, only to sky it or slap it into the net.  

My story started to waver when I saw Ting hit.  She hit with pace.  She could pull off shots in either corner at the last minute, leaving me stranded in mid split-step in the middle of the baseline.  She scurried up to the ball, racquet back, and smacked it.  Note to self: She gets to every ball and hits the appropriate shot, too. 

Hmmm.  What to do?

I noticed her serve was her weakest shot, and I worked  to make the most of my returns.  I focused on hitting down the line, to take away her ability to just sit there and wait for my slow ball to roll into her strike zone.  And I put some spin on my serve, to make it a little less predictable.

 I stood there and watched to see if it was going in.  I should have been watching Ting.

Ack, mein serve.  I pushed a lot of first serves into the net.  I could not find the height I needed on my toss without sending it way over my head.  I double faulted, and handed Ting the first set, 6-4.

And then I forked over the second set, too, gift-wrapped at 6-0.  

Haters, what happened to me?  And how can I save you from the same fate?

Well, my serve didn't just head blew past Coney Island and went all the way to Australia.  I could not control my toss and felt like a white dude at a wedding reception, unable to find a rhythm.  I was no longer seeing the hit.  Worse, I became a spectator of my own serve.  I stood there and watched to see if it was going in.  I should have been watching Ting.  She was setting up and hammering return winners that caught me flat-footed.  

Call it a walkabout, a letdown, a lapse.  It happens a lot in sport.  You stop competing, stop trying to solve the puzzle that is your opponent, and start THINKING.  

Golfer and Caroline Wozniacki dumper Rory McIlroy apparently goes on walkabout a lot in the golf course of his mind.  McIlroy, a favorite to win ths week's US Open, mentally checked out of the Masters, shooting 71 in his first round, then 77 in the second.  Last week, during the Jack Nicklaus Memorial, he opened with 63, then drooped in the second round, finishing with a 78.

"I think I'm first in scoring average on the PGA Tour on day one.  And I'm like 181st on the second day," he said in a Daily News article.   "I don't know if it's because I've got off to such good starts in tournaments where I may be thinking too much about my score, and I'm up early the leaderboard and I might be trying to push too much and keep it going."

Thinking too much, Haters, about the wrong things.  That's walkabout.  My feet are blistered.