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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 in I hate tennis (18)


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.




I'm Going Pro

Haters, it's New Year's Eve.  The first Slam of the 2014 is just two weeks away.  Tennis is coming out of its six week dormancy, and I must come with it.  

Kicking and screaming, I might add, because I've liked the break. More honestly, my fear of tennis and writing has just dived into the holiday season excuses like a sugar-addled tot into the Christmas cookies.  I have so many other tasks to do, I need down time because of all my tasks, I'm away from home, I'm at home, it's cold, it's not cold enough.  

If Robert Duvall were crouched at the edge of the foxhole of my apartment, he'd take a deep breath and say, "Smell that?  Do you smell that?  Reisistance, son.  Nothing else in the world smells like that." 

Resistance is the topic of the aptly-named The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.  it will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.  Resistance is protean.  It will assume any form, if that's what it takes to deceive you.  it will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face ike a stickup man.  Resistance has no conscience.  It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned.  If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.  Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

I've been full of shit, Haters.  My New Year's resolution: a new story, about tennis and about writing.  In my story, I'm going Pro.  And I don't mean I'm joining the Tour.  I'm going Pro as in, laying down Napalm along the treeline of my Resistance.

Or, as Pressfield explains, to apply the same principles to what we love and desire to create as we do the jobs that provide our paychecks.  Those qualities include showing up every day, showing up no matter what, we don't go home until the whistle blows and we commit over the long haul. 

"Resistance hates it when we go pro," Pressfield said.

I look forward to finding this out.  



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.


Miracle of Easter: We Beat Singh/Thompson!

My husband and I thought we were offering ourselves up like lambs to the slaughter for the Easter feast when we agreed to square off against Worthy Opponents Surinder Singh and Tam Thompson at the Prospect Park Tennis Center.  Singh is undefeated for the indoor season, and Thompson is a tough customer on the doubles court. She's got the game and the guts to serve and volley, Haters.

It may look like a tennis ball, but it's really a hand grenade when Tam Thompson volleys it at you."You can thank us later," we were thinking to ourselves as we made our intention to play together known to Tam and Surinder.

But here's an Easter miracle: We beat them in a tiebreak.

Click to read more ...


Worthy Opponent: Francesca Marguerite Maxime

Only two and a half hours into my Lenten disciplines this Ash Wednesday, and already, I owe $6 to the swear jar.  

I blame my Worthy Opponent, Francesca Marguerite Maxime. 


And she thinks she's making an ugly Tennis Hate face: Francesca Maxime holds my notebook, filled with useless tips on how to beat her.Maxime, a news anchor with the wholesome cable TV network, Ebru TV, brought out the not-so-family-friendly language from me with her signature inside-out forehand deep to my ad corner.  She also changes direction on a dime, drilling her heavy topspin shot past me into the deuce corner.  Corner to corner she had me, running, as Andre Agassi used to say, from Bradenton to Las Vegas.

"I started playing in high school, and didn't really pick up a racquet again until I moved to Florida in 2006," she said.  "I played there for three years until I came to New York."  

She, too, is a Tennis Hater.  "I'm addicted to it. It's like a bad relationship you just can't leave."

She writes about it in her new book, Rooted: A Verse Memoir:

He asked me if I had a vice, and what was it, and I told him

I like to eat, and he said That's it?

And I said That's it (although I like sex as much too)

unless you want to call playing lots of tennis a vice.

No, tennis is definitely not immoral.  But it is a bit naughty in the way it gets into your head and your dreams, the way you obsess over recreating the feeling, once you've had it, of connecting perfectly with the ball, your mind as still as a winter lake.  Call it passion.

Francesca Maxime plays a lot of tennis.  "I take clinics, play in ladies groups, and am on several USTA Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Mixed Doubles teams."  Like me, she burns with a desire to get better.  Like a Type-A New York journalist, she's ambitious.

"I need more wins than losses this year," she said.  I like how she puts that -- need.  Her results last season were marred by a bad back.

When she's not smiling with Tennis Hate, Maxime just...smiles."Did I mention I hate injuries?" Maxime seeks relief from this kind of Tennis Hate by watching the Tennis Channel and considering the plight of the injured pro.  "Because when I see people like Rafa Nadal out for seven months with bad knees, I feel a little less bad about my human plight, and hate tennis a little less."

In our match today, I got back some good, defensive backhand slices.  Where has that been? Ah, my Worthy Opponent's pace forced me to keep my wrist firm and to hit through the shot, rather than get all wristy and slice down on the ball.  Instead of floating into outer space, or the net, my slice backhand zoomed low across the net and deep into Francesca's court.  It drew an error a few times.  More often, it at least gave me time to recover and position myself in Chicago, before Francesca pulled me east toward Bradenton again.

Maxime concedes her serve is her weakest stroke, but I could not take advantage of it.  I kept hitting the ball long.  In between my own expletives, I heard the voice of Saintly Pro Al Johnson asking me, in his dry, sharp way, "What ball were you looking at?" The one sailing over the baseline, Coach.   

Christians worldwide are abstaining from meat today; I abstained from double faults, double clutch tosses and second serves.  It's a miracle, one brought on by several weeks now of good, solid coaching.  Coach Al and I are reconstructing my service motion, getting rid of, as he calls it, "hysteria." For weeks, I've been starting with the racquet head pointing skyward, no take back.  During last Sunday's lesson, I started working on a take back, pointing my racquet back behind me before swinging it up into that skyward-pointing position.  I tried this motion today, and liked how it felt to release the momentum of the swing into the ball.  I served well.  

By that I mean I got it into the box, made few errors and put some body weight into the shot.  I wish I could say that "serving well" means that I actually held serve.  Nope.  Maxime broke me early and often, beating me solidly, 6-2.  

I've got more work to do to adjust to her pace, to turn quickly and get my racquet back.  And to keep my focus on the damn DARN ball.  

Make that $7 in the Lenten Swear Jar.




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