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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 Prospect Park Tennis Center (11)


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.




First Match of 2014, First Loss

Two days into the new year, and I've recorded my first defeat of 2014.  Typical, is what my Tennis Hate would normally growl inside my head.  

But, Haters, you should know by now I'm not normal.

Under construction: My game? No, our restaurant. Henry, Tam, me and Beth outside Krupa Grocery in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

In point of fact, it was one of those weird psychological phenomenas known in sports as a "good loss."  It was hard-fought, lost by my partner, Beth Allen, and I to Worthy Opponents Henry Strozier and Tam Thompson in a tie-break.  

Okay, so Beth and I let slip a 4-1 lead.  And, yeah, Tam and Henry's climb back started by breaking me at 0-40. Oh, and now that you mention it, we never adjusted to their deep baseline shots and their lobs.  Like Mark McGuire, I'm not here to talk about the past.  

New year, new beginnings.  Let's talk about what we did well!

Oh, for cryin' out loud, grumbles my Tennis Hate.  If you must....

Beth heroically clawed her way out of a 0-40 deficit, stoically holding serve to put us up 5-3.  I worked on my new story that says I am a wall at the net and got some volley winners, even a put-away backhand overhead. And I only audibly swore once -- just once! -- saying something untoward about Henry's wicked slice backhand return of my serve during that 0-40 sadness.

Yes, my new tennis story is still under construction.  It needs some tweaking and some turbo-charging to really make it send me into a new way of being on the court, and, yeah, in my life.  We all know tennis is life and life is tennis.  

"Show me how you are in tennis and I'll show you how you are in the rest of your life," I can hear my dear pal, Betsy Rapoport, say.  

Funny she should say that.  One part of the rest of my life that is, literally, under construction, is the restaurant Mark and I have a little piece of.  

Under construction, just like my tennis story: the bar at Krupa Grocery.

It's called Krupa Grocery.  It's up the hill from the Prospect Park Tennis Center, so Worthy Opponents and I piled into our car, Mark at the wheel, and checked out its progress.

One look at the huge walk-in refrigerator had Tam convinced we meant business.  "This is a major operation!" she said.  

I told her I hope the food lives up to the walk-in.


The space is still raw in parts, the long wall to the left still chipped concrete and bits of exposed brick.  The kitchen was filled with boxes, tools and sheet rock.  No oven yet or fryer or stove.  Four contractors milled about.  One guy was crouched behind the bar, wrestling with some plastic tubing.  Mark indicated where the banquette along the wall would go, and where the tables would go.  

Towards the back of the space, in one of the two bathrooms, someone had indicated with marker and masking tape where various bodily functions go.

Construction workers need blueprints for everything, apparently.

We're just bit players in this restaurant drama.  The vision and oversight is our partners'.  But it still feels thrilling to be a part of something real and tangible, a place, a hangout.  It will feel good to see people in it, eating and drinking and joshing with the bartender. Or with Mark, who will work there weekday mornings, serving coffee and breakfast eggs and pastries.  

I admire him for taking such a leap of faith in his professional life, ending a 35-year career in broadcasting last October to prepare for this restaurant gig.  I think about who I'd be without being on the air.  I'd be...what? Normal.  Unremarkable.  That's my story, at least for now.  How I am in tennis is how I am in the rest of my life.  



New Indoor Season, New Inner Tools

There was a smell of dry leaves in the air outside, and new plastic inside the freshly-bubbled courts of the Prospect Park Tennis Center.  The green grit of Har-Tru crunched under my sneakers as I spun out of the revolving door and onto resurfaced courts now free of divets.  I walked out to Court 3, my Thursday morning destiny for the next 28 weeks.

So much for working on my service toss. Drawing, courtesy of Richard Codor.

The 2013-2014 Indoor Tennis Season is underway.  Haters, I'm dedicating it to vanquishing not just my Worthy Opponents Tam Thompson, Surinder Singh, Henry Strozier and Nelson Simon, but my Tennis Hate.  

I'm going to be stronger!  Fitter!  More composed! Hit more powerful forehands with a single wave of my arm! I will say only nice, sweet things on the court like "gosh" and "good shot!" and "gee whiz, that's a great drop shot."  I will not swear, damn it, I will not swear.  I swear!

Well, sh*t, I fell short.  

My beloved Mark and I, playing together for the first time in months, lost to Surinder and Tam, 6-1, 0-6, 7-4 (tiebreak). 

We had plenty of opportunities to take the tiebreak. During one point, with Tam and Surinder at net, Mark hit an excellent defensive lob, high enough to get over Skyscraper Singh and near the deuce court baseline.  I was expecting the point to be over right then and there.

Ah, but that's future tripping, as performance coach Bob Litwin likes to say.  I was already thinking about the next point, and not the one I was still playing.  Surinder, his back to the net, hit behind and up on the ball, putting it back in play.  It soared toward me in the ad court at net.  An easy put-away.  I was thinking cross-court angle, at Tam's feet.

That's what I thought.  What I did was send the ball in the exact opposite direction, back at Surinder....and wide.  I had taken my eye off the ball to see if Tam and Surinder and the court were still there.  For some reason, I thought I might have accidentally teleported myself into some other time-space continuum.

After shanking that ball, I wished that were true.

Here's what I loved about our first match this winter season.  We had a strong second set.  We were close in the tie-break.  We know what we have to do next time, and that is cut down on our own errors.  We had 'em in the crosshairs several times, but let them get away because of simple things like not staying with the ball and taking mental bathroom breaks.  In the middle of a point.  

What are your tennis goals for the next 28 weeks?

I also held my serve.  Yes, Haters, you read that right.  I practiced scanning my body for tension before starting my service motion.  It helped me relax and get physically present on the court, not in my head.  I focused on hitting the slice serve that I learned during the US Tennis Congress, zeroing in on that 2:00 spot on the ball and swring the racquet through to 7:00. It didn't always have the Mariano Rivera cutter curving action I long for, but at least I tried it, and in the heat of a match, no less.

So, a noble start.  How about you?  What was your first indoor season match like?  What are your goals for the next 28 weeks?  Let's work on this together.






Outdoor Season Over. Inside Job Just Beginning.

It was carved into the Har-Tru by one of the little girls who were taking a lesson with Saintly Pro Al Johnson ahead of mine, an "I was here" statement on the last day of the 2013 outdoor season at Prospect Park Tennis Center. Grace.


It was the little girl's name, but it's a good description of what I'm feeling as the summer comes to a close and tennis season pauses to move indoors.  Grace, as in, the free and unmerited favor of God, the Big Kahuna, the Force, the Unseen Hand that supports my meager efforts at proficiency in anything, let alone tennis.

Lessons learned this summer?  Eye on the ball, eye on the ball, eye on the ball.  Really.  It's the first thing you hear from a coach and it never grows old.  Eye on the ball.

"Your eyes make the shot," Coach Al tells me.  I've resisted this wisdom.

No, no, no, no, it's my swing that makes the shot.  It's the kinetic chain, that rotation of the hips and torso into the swing of the arm into the path of the ball that I can't seem to get.  It's my racquet head speed (sluggish) and my footwork (clumsy).  Once I get these elements down, in the proper order, then I'll have a forehand and a backhand to be reckoned with!

Your eyes make the shot.  How can it be that simple?

Coach Al is relentless.  He repeats again, "Your eyes make the shot."  It has taken me months to let go of the aforementioned skills checklist and to believe that Coach Al just may be right.  If I don't see the shot, I can't make the shot.  All those other skills follow from first watching the ball all the way to the point where my racquet meets it and spanks the living hell out of it.

How can it be that simple?  

I have spent countless hours on the court in frustration during a match, wondering why I'm still pushing with my forehand or shanking the ball into the sky off my frame on my backhand, perplexed at the volleys that sail long and the groundstrokes that land short.  Can all these problems be greatly diminished, even vanquished, by just focusing more fully, quietly, completely, on seeing the hit?  

This summer, I've learned the answer.  Yup.  Making the ball my only focus keeps a lot of other gunk from sloshing around in my head, the black, corrosive thoughts that wear away at my confidence and Tennis Love like rust on the underside of a 1981 Ford Pinto.  It's almost comical, how simple this prescription is.   Eye on the ball.

Simple, but not easy.  I am constantly looking up, watching where the ball is going, looking to see if it is going in.

"If you see the ball into your strings, you don't have to look up, because you'll know it's going in," says Coach Al.  That's how much of a difference he thinks seeing the shot can make for a 3.0 player like me.  

Really?  Really.  And I thought I needed a windshield wiper finish and a Western grip.

Alright, this is what I'm going to focus on.  This is all I'm going to do.  My matches, my lessons, my clinics, will be training sessions for my eyes. Just seeing the hit and developing this focus is all I want to work on right now. I'll leave for another day the kick serve and the buggywhip forehand finish and all the other shiny skills that I think will catapault me into the ranks of the Marginally Good.

Grace is the unexpected gift that always comes with letting go, the quiet at the end of the crying jag, the color that comes back to the fingertips when your fist unclenches.  






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.

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