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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 Amy Eddings (10)


Blowout Loss for Nelson/Eddings, Even With Top Seed Singh Out

"We lived up to the blog," said Worthy Comrade Nelson Simon of our Tennis Hate-fueling 6-0, 6-1 loss to Worthy Opponents Tam Thompsen and my beloved, Mark Hilan.  

To the victors go the smiles: Tam, Mark, me and Nelson. Photos: EddingsTam and Mark won by smart, consistent play.  Power player and top seed Surinder Singh was not a factor, out for a meet n' greet with corporate sponsors.  Is he taking JuggleBox to a new level -- eco-friendly tennis racquets, perhaps?   

It was a shaky outing for Nelson, his first return to the Brooklyn recreational tennis tour since an injury in December. Nelson's normally rock-solid at net.  But he consistently missed volley winners, even when Mark and Tam hung balls above him like mistletoe.  He was kissing the net, not the trophy.  He also shoud have asked Santa Claus for a first serve.

We lived up to the blog."

Haters, I wasn't any better.  Though my serves were consistent, our Worthy Opponents' strategy of hitting down the line past or over Nelson or short to me foiled us, again and again.  And again.

"We'll figure it out," Nelson said to me during a changeover, "next week."

I was getting close to losing my cool.  I was swearing under my breath and over it.  I felt like crying.  I felt like dying.  I felt like quitting.  I hated all these feelings.

Okay, I thought, this is where you have to practice all that shit you talk about in your blog, like mental toughness, staying in the moment, eyes on the ball, blah, blah blah.

I wiggled my toes and took a deep breath into my belly and scanned my body for tension, like Jeff Greenwald taught me.  I thought about my intensity level (number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, with a bullet!) as Anne Smith taught me.  I even took a moment during a break to re-read my tennis story, a la Bob Litwin.

"I love to compete as much as I love to win.  I LOVE to compete as much as I love to WIN," I whispered over and over, looking like a crazy street person on the subway, arguing with herself.

"And how did that work for you?" Litwin asked me later.  I had called him, dejected.   

Oh, for about two points.  Two miserable losing points.

"They kept getting us with the same patterns, over and over again.," I whined.  "They kept lobbing high over Nelson at net to my backhand.  I couldn't do anything with this.

And they knew this, and kept doing this to me!"

Yes, to me, Haters.  It's all about me.  

Bob wisely suggested I de-personalize this.  "Write a different story," he said.  "'When my opponent hits a deep ball to my backhand, I respond with the appropriate shot.'  

But they're attacking me, Bob!  It's called an attacking shot.

Litwin suggested I avoid that word.  It makes me feel a certain way, like attacking back, and not in a sportsmanlike kinda way.  He also suggested that I practice with my coach the shots that Tam and Mark were using to attack me.  Okay, wait, let me rephrase.  That they were using to try to win the point.  

Bob, who helps hedge fund guys stay calm and focused, said he tells them to practice patience while waiting for the elevator, not while they're watching the market collapse.

"Most of our good practice happens in the lesser world, at the elevator," he said.  "When you're tense, you won't remember to take a deep breath unless you do it when you're not tense."

Another tip: love the process of not doing well.  "Everything is always in a state of change.  Suffering comes when we don't accept that."

That's it!  New story: Losses help me get better.  Losses are....enjoyable.  

I'm Tinkerbell and I can fly!

No, I' ve got this.  I love Tennis Hate.  I do.  I really, really REALLY do.  Really.  Do.




Going Public With My "Tennis Beast"

Haters, as faithful I Hate Tennis followers, you already know the map of my tennis psyche (convoluted, twisted, winding and full of pedestrian zones, one ways and detours, like the tiny little streets of Florence).  Now, with the help of good, old-fashioned radio, thousands of others know it, too.

My Tennis Beast, growling. Photo: Stephen Nessen

My Tennis Hate was featured in my colleague Richard Hake's "Weekend Staff Picks" and broadcast over WNYC's 50,000 watt airwaves to all within its radius.

Hake himself has played tennis.  "When i was in high school, I took lessons," he told me.  "I never played regularly, but I like it."

Haters, therein lies the key to curing Tennis Hate: play sporadically.  


 Follow the bus route in Florence to understand my mental game.


Do the Loco [service] Motion

Strike a trophy pose: Marion Bartoli at the 2012 New Haven Open.The serve is the only shot in tennis in which you have complete control, but I'm still waiting to experience this truth.  I feel I'm being toyed with by some mischiveous force inside me that, at whim, flips the ball over my head on the toss or jerks it too far to my right, or pulls my head down as I bring my racquet through the ball. Into the net it goes!

I've tried various methods to cure this defect.  I've practiced just tossing the ball, focusing on releasing it at the just-so point, using only my shoulder, keeping my wrist and elbow still.

To work on ball placement and consistency, I've resorted to basketball for help. More precisely, I use a steel bracket that anchors a backboard onto a chain link fence at a schoolyard one block from my apartment building. The height of the lower bracket is about where I would contact the ball for my serve, so I figure it's a good gauge for how high I need to place the ball. It's all about the visuals on the Internet, so here are photos, showing you what I mean. 

Nope, not a good toss.Ah, just right.The second photo looks like I was actually going for the higher bracket, but that's the fault of my upward angle.  Haters, I have a hard enough time tossing a ball and swinging a racquet.  You should have seen me tossing a ball and taking a picture with my iPhone. The guy waking up that morning on a nearby park bench did, and immediately vowed never to drink Mad Dog 20/20 again.

All this tossing practice works until I try to incorporate my other arm; you know, the one holding and swinging the racquet. I struggle all over again to find my rhythm and balance.

Ian Westerman of Essential Tennis recently posted this instructional video about gaining accuracy and consistency with the service toss.  He, too, advocates practicing an isolated, step-by-step method. But watch, Haters.  This trips him up.  Ian can't for the life of him get a tossed tennis ball into the wire basket he's placed at the service line until he brings his racquet arm into play.  

I don't know a thing about teaching tennis, but I wonder if this progression method on the serve is useful. There are so many elements operating at the same time that I think it's folly to isolate them and build upon them.  And yet, this progression technique is what every teaching pro uses.

Jim McLennan of Essential Tennis Instruction take a different approach. [Editor's note: fellow tennis bloggers, can we start using a thesaurus? How about Indispensible Tennis? or Crucial Tennis? or Can't Do Without This Tip Tennis?] He also recommends standing at the baseline and practicing the toss, but he suggests placing your focus on your balance, rather than the ball's height or its position upon release.  

"Far too many players shift their weight forward during the toss, rather than during the hit," he said in an e-mail promoting his web instruction.  "Shifting forward too early...robs the swing of power and rhythm."

He recommends practicing tossing the ball while keeping your weight evenly distributed through both legs.  "Monitor your balance as the ball peaks," McLennan suggests.  And "if you're off balance, make corrections."

Oh, were that it were that easy, Jimbo!  Make corrections.  [Sigh.]

Again, at some point, you've got to hit that damn ball with your racquet.  This, McLennan said, is where rhythm comes in.  Here's a video he offers on that:

Oh, yeah, the "frying pan" pushy serve.  Been there, done that.  No, wait, do that.  [Sigh.]  McLennan's suggestion about pulling the racquet through the shot is baffling to me.  It feels so awkward and contorted.  I keep thinking to myself, what do I do with my elbow? Best not to think about my elbow, and just "see the hit," as Saintly Pro Al Johnson tells me.

To see the hit, I've got to hit the courts.  My indoor season begins Monday!  In the meantime, Haters, tell me about your loco service motions, and tell me what tips you've heard that have helped you improve.   


Record Attendance for Award Ceremony for I Hate Tennis' US Open Cake Winner

Beth Allen does a Rafa and bites her trophy. I get out of the way. Photo: Mark HilanWorthy Opponent Beth Allen collected her historic double-cake winnings in the 2012 I Hate Tennis US Open Cake Contest last night in Brooklyn, before a record crowd of 14 avid tennis fans and I Hate Tennis readers. The official presentation, conducted in the Sunset Park home of USTA League Women's 3.0 co-captain Deb Fantera, benefitted from its pairing with Fantera's party celebrating the beginning of the Ballbuster's indoor season later this month.

The attendance record edged out the previous one set at the ceremony for Caitlin Thompson, the winner last May of the 2012 French Open I Hate Tennis Cake Contest Women's Bracket.  The presentation for Allen also was noteworthy for the high number of tennis lovers in the room who appreciated her winning predictions of a Victoria Azarenka/Serena Williams final and an Andy Murray/Novak Djokovic championship match.

Thompson's audience, meanwhile, at the WNYC Newsroom, consisted of people who appreciated free food.

It was chilly last night, but our band of merry tennis Haters were transported back to the sunny and hot days of late August with fond memories of the US Open.  Or was that flush on everyone's cheeks due to the blood sugar spike from the cakes?  Partying Haters had their choice of apple spice cake or devil's food cake.

The spectators gasped in anticipation as I pulled out two big, square brown boxes from an extra-large white plastic bag.

"Have you gone big time and created your own logo and brand?" Allen asked as she saw the logo stamped on the sturdy boxes.  Haters, you may recall that I baked the cakes for Thompson and French Open I Hate Tennis Cake Contest men's bracket winner Surinder Singh.  

That's Devil's food on the left, apple spice on the right. The sentiment: Beth Allen, you're a winner....two times over!

Once I cracked open the boxes, it became obvious I did not bake these cakes.  Just look at them.  No cracks or slouching frosting.  I subbed Ivy Bakery in Greenwich Village for the task.

Where's this frosting slouching off to? Not to French Open victory.Now THIS is an I Hate Tennis Contest Cake! Chocolate truffle eyeballs save this cake from decorating disaster.Haters, before you start complaining to the chair ump, let me remind you substitutions are completely legal under World Team Tennis rules. 

Congratulations again to Beth Allen, and thanks to all who participated in the contest.  You make blogging fun.  And tennis, too.  The Ballbusters' indoor season starts October 27th.  


Worthy Opponent: Jackie Ruvolo

Worthy Opponent Jackie (ruvo)L'O: That's French for great service return

Mellow, not melodramatic -- that's my Worthy Opponent Jackie Ruvolo.  We've been playing together for so long now, it seems I've always had her name and number in my list of tennis contacts.  We met during USTA League matches, so I guess the image the USTA uses of smiling, happy people hugging each other is true: you CAN make good friends playing competitive tennis.

Jackie's got a great righty forehand.  I admire her topspin. She uses it to great effect in her return game, with short cross-court returns against my attempts to serve her out wide. In doubles, I don't want to put anything near her at net; she knows to put volleys deep and down the T. In singles, she prefers duking it out from the baseline, so I try to bring her to net to pass her or lob her.  Try is the operative word here, Haters.

Jackie got good in a hurry.  She says she started playing when she was 32.  You're 33 now, right J?

"I think it was a summer [when] I was new to living in Manhattan, so I wasn't mountain biking religiously anymore," she told me in an e-mail. This begs a follow-up question: where was she living in NYC that she mountain biked religiously?  Riverdale??

She lived on the Lower East Side, near the East River courts.  "I was freelancing and thought, since I had some time and needed the exercise, why not take some tennis lessons? And then of course I became obsessed!"

Ah, right.  The obsession. Haters, we know all the symptoms.  First, the love.....

"Right now what I love most is that it's taking me out of stressing over work and the worrying going on in my life in general for a few can't think about anything else! [Editor's note: Oh, but somehow I seem to find a way.....] And of course I love that I feel great afterwards (slightly less great when I've played badly, but still)." 

But still.  Perfect segue, Jackie, to the Dark Side of tennis obsession.  The hate....

"I'm not a terribly competitive person so I'm usually pretty mellow," Ruvolo told me, and it's true.  She's calm, friendly and contained on the court.  "It's just all those unforced errors can really get me!

Interesting.  DO go on....

"I hate to admit that I've come close to smashing a few racquets out of complete and total rage or frustration during league matches. There's lots of cursing myself out there which is horribly unhealthy."

You're among friends, J-Volo.  And that's very healthy!  

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