Monthly Archives: October 15, 2021

This DVR thing is just about working correctly. I wanted to cover Andre Agassi v. Gaston Gaudio but the match between Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne went longer than expected. Andre and Gaston were cut off before the end of the match.

So let’s check in with the other Belgian who is returning from a long injury layoff and see how she’s doing. The last tournament Henin-Hardenne played in was the U.S. Open

It did not start out well for Henin-Hardenne. Sharapova was hitting everything as hard as she could and that’s pretty hard. Five games into the match, Henin-Hardenne had won exactly two points on her serve. She was not getting a lot of depth on her ground strokes and she was getting killed on second serves. She would end up winning just 14% of her second serve points in the first set.

Last week we saw Kim Clijsters climb out of a big hole at 0-4, 0-40 and come back to beat Lindsay Davenport by attacking on the return of serve. What will Henin-Hardenne do in a similar situation? Serving at 1-4, she realizes that she has to take some chances on her serve to keep Sharapova from crushing it and she has to extend the rallies so that she can find an opportunity to attack. Henin-Hardenne has two service winners and an ace in the game and three rallies go for at least ten strokes. She loses the game but she’s making progress.

Sharapova serves out for the set and breaks Henin-Hardenne in the first game of the second set. The length of the rallies is creeping up continuously and Henin-Hardenne has two break points in the second game though she cannot convert. Sharapova’s error total is increasing with each game.

Henin-Hardenne has two break points again on Sharapova’s next service game but Sharapova holds on to go up 3-1 despite two double faults. She can see that Sharapova is starting to falter so she keeps attacking.

Henin-Hardenne is known as the toughest competitor on the women’s tour. Sometimes it seems like she wills herself to championships. She’s taking pace off the ball to give Sharapova less to work with and extend the rallies, she’s hitting harder serves and she’s going for more winners. When you hit harder, you make more errors. Not only that, but she’s still losing games despite playing Sharapova much tighter. Most players would get discouraged and start to get frustrated but Henin-Hardenne just keeps slamming away and pushing at Sharapova knowing that it should eventually pay off.

Henin-Hardenne breaks to get to 2-4 as Sharapova sends three backhands into the net then wins the next game at love. They each hold serve and Sharapova has three match points at 5-4. She hits three straight errors and sends a backhand wide giving Henin-Hardenne break point. Then she double faults to even the set at 5-5. She has to be thinking about the three match points she had against Serena Williams in the Australian Open, a match she lost.

If Sharapova wants to win more majors, she needs more game.

Sharapova has two ways of playing: full out and slightly less than full out. She’s working on a slice but she doesn’t yet have a lot of variety in her game. If she’s not playing well and she meets up with someone like Davenport at the Pacific Open and loses 6-0, 6-0, she doesn’t have a lot of options to fight back into the match. When you run out of options in a tennis match, you put pressure on yourself to execute better and pressure brings on nerves, which brings on double faults at set point. Still, she’s only seventeen and she’s won a major and a tour championship. But both Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne were missing for much of last year and Serena Williams was also injured. If Sharapova wants to win more majors, she needs more game.

Henin-Hardenne wins a very close tiebreaker 8-6 to even the match at one set each. Sharapova then takes an injury time out to receive treatment for lower back pain. It’s a smart idea to take a break when your opponent has grabbed the momentum. An injury timeout is as good as a bathroom break and much better than throwing a fit as McEnroe was known to do.

At this point in the match, I went to bed. During the night I had a dream about a big hole. The hole was in an oval racing track and at first it was like a large pothole you might find in New York City. As the dream went on the hole grew larger. There was a man at the bottom of the hole who was trying to get out. He and his car had fallen in. At one point he took a heroic run and got three quarters up the side of what was now a gargantuan hole with a lot of loose dirt. Then he slipped back down to the bottom and the crowd groaned. Next he was joined in the hole by another man who, evidently, was responsible for making the hole in the first place. The trapped man started beating on the new man in the hole. Strangely enough, the dream had two endings (I think I’ve been living in Hollywood for too long). The first version faded out with the two men fighting. In the second version, the hole shrunk back to a more manageable size as the men were fighting and the original trapped man was finally able to crawl out. We all cheered.

Clearly I wanted Henin-Hardenne to escape from the match with a win. At the very least I wanted a fight. It didn’t happen. The injury time out seems to revitalize Sharapova. The third set looks remarkably like the first. The third set has 42 points, the first had 44. Henin-Hardenne has a –5 differential between winners and errors in the third set and –4 in the first, Sharapova’s differentials were 0 and +1. Sharapova has only five unforced errors in the last set and wins 85% of her first serve points to win the match 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-2.

I don’t think Henin-Hardenne gave up, I don’t think she ever gives up. She got back into the match by attacking when Sharapova started to falter. After Sharapova righted herself, clearly her back was bothering her, she had too much power on her serve and ground strokes. Today she had enough game.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 298 user reviews.

I wanted to do a comparison of two Roger Federer matches at the Pacific Life Open: Federer versus Mardy Fish, an opponent who probably thinks he can’t beat Federer, and Federer versus Ivan Ljubicic, an opponent who thinks he has the best chance out there to beat Federer. They’ve already met in two finals this year and Federer struggled in both before winning.

After seeing Andre Agassi unsuccessfully try to beat Federer by attacking and ending points sooner in the Australian Open, I wanted to see what tactics a much lower seeded player would try. Unfortunately, the Federer-Ljubicic match was not televised here and my second choice, Agassi versus Lleyton Hewitt, another battle of interesting tactics, didn’t happen because Agassi had a sore toe. Too bad really because he had his best match in a long time against Guillermo Canas.

Next I wanted to cover Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. I’m struggling with my own game at the moment. I’m still making the transition from constantly attacking to consistently getting the ball over the net and sometimes I can’t do either. It doesn’t help that my last league match was canceled due to rain and two of the remaining matches that weren’t rained out are against the top ranked guy in my tier. I think I know what players mean when they talk about a lost season.

So I thought it would be a good idea to see if Roddick has made progress with his mental game. Hewitt outplays him mentally. Even Roddick’s extended bathroom/clothing break in his match with Hewitt at the Australian Open didn’t make any difference. Everyone gets upset when Hewitt celebrates their errors and does the lawn mower but Roddick also got upset because someone in the crowd was yelling during his service.

However, my VCR sat silent in the middle of the night because I mistransformed eastern standard time to pacific coast time. No Roddick-Hewitt.

Instead, we are going to see how Kim Clijsters managed to come back from 0-4, 0-40 to beat Lindsay Davenport in the final. How do you turn a match around when your opponent is pounding you?

Let’s join the match with Davenport up 3-0 in the first set (that’s when my VCR kicked in, don’t worry, now I have a DVR). Even though this is Clijsters first final in a year – she injured her wrist in this tournament in 2004 then came back and injured a tendon in the same wrist – she is not panicking. Davenport beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-0 in her previous match as shocking as that sounds. But Sharapova doesn’t yet have the tactical intelligence or weapons to turn around a match that Clijsters has.

Davenport has been on a tear; her match record this year is 19-3. She’s in such a zone that she can attack early in the point and keep the ball in the court or just scrape the lines.

One way to disarm an attacker is to attack first and since Davenport is going for winners early in the point, Clijsters goes for a winner off return of serve and gets a break point at deuce. This is not so easy because Davenport has three service winners and an ace in the game. Davenport keeps attacking off ground strokes and comes to the net four times before finally winning the game after four deuces and five ad points. She’s won twenty-four straight games in this tournament but Clijsters is slowly climbing back into the match.

Clijsters is down 0-40 in the next game but pulls it out by getting 85% of her first serves in. Davenport’s unforced error total is creeping up. Clijsters beat Davenport the last five times they played and she might be thinking about that as Clijsters wins her first game. Clijsters then breaks to get to 2-4 as she hits one return winner and forces errors off two other returns. Her strategy of attacking first is working; Davenport doesn’t get to the net once in the game and she’s starting to talk to herself.

Clijsters wins the next game at love after retrieving ball after hard hit ball and making Davenport hit one more shot. It must be discouraging for Davenport to pound the ball repeatedly and see it float back over the net just as often. After two good serves by Davenport, Clijsters steps up her attack and breaks Davenport to even the match at 4-4.

Clijsters wins the next two games to win the set. Davenport’s is getting less than 50% of her first serves in and though she’s still coming to the net, she’s hitting a lot of ground strokes down the middle instead of going for the lines. She’s lost six straight games after winning the first four.

Both players get a high percentage of their first serves in to begin the second set but Clijsters plays a bit too aggressively. Davenport breaks her in the third game and hits four winners in the next game to go up 3-1. Clijsters saves a break point to get to 2-3. Both are playing good tennis. Five out of six points end with winners as Clijsters pulls to 3-4. The next game is critical for Davenport; she can serve for the set on her next service game if she wins it. She survives two double faults and fights off three break points by getting 12 of 16 first serves in to go up 5-3. Both players hold serve and the match is even at one set each.

Each player holds serve for the first four games of the third set. There are fewer points in the games but the points are longer. At one point, Clijsters retrieves three very tough balls and floats a high floater back to Davenport who dumps it into the net.

Maybe Davenport is tired or maybe her attention is partially on the tour and partially in retirement. That might be just enough split attention to account for breakdowns and fadeouts at the end of matches.

Davenport contemplated retiring last year but she’s been playing exceptionally well. She lost the Australian open final to Serena Williams, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 and said that she may have been tired. She may be getting tired here. In the critical sixth game, Clijsters breaks Davenport to go up 4-2 as Davenport hits four unforced errors. If she doesn’t break Clijsters in the next game, Clijsters can then serve for the match.

Clijsters throws in a dropshot and wins the next game. Things then go from bad to worse for Davenport. She double faults at deuce to give up a break point that is also match point. Clijsters wins the point and the match.

Clijsters won the match for a number of reasons. She attacked Davenport’s serve and got six winners or forced errors from return of serve. Her first serve percentage was over 70%. She had 10 fewer unforced errors than Davenport and she played the critical points well. You would think that Clijsters might be the one getting tired and misplaying critical points, she’s only played nine matches since she returned to the tour and she had to run around and do a lot of her patented sliding splits to retrieve Davenport’s canon shots. But Davenport’s been having problems at the end of matches. She lost the last set 6-1 to Serena Williams at last year’s WTA Tour finals then lost the last set 6-0 against Williams at this year’s Australian Open final.

The Pacific Open is a big tournament. It’s a two-week event and both the men and women play. It takes tremendous dedication and tunnel vision to win big tournaments. Maybe Davenport is tired or maybe her attention is partially on the tour and partially in retirement. That might be just enough split attention to account for breakdowns and fadeouts at the end of matches.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 295 user reviews.

Our government works with a system of checks and balances. Congress may pass a law but the Supreme Court can declare the law unconstitutional. The president is not allowed to go to war without congressiOur government works with a system of checks and balances. Congress may pass a law but the Supreme Court can declare the law unconstitutional. The president is not allowed to go to war without congressional approval and he is not allowed to lie in order to get that approval. O.k., so that part isn’t working too well at the moment.

We like to think that the rest of society works in the same way and that does seem to be working a little better. We hope that a second part of the system steps in to take over if a first part fails. After police officers in the Rodney King beating were found not guilty in a Simi Valley courtroom, two of the officers were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal court.

Even corporate chieftains are finding their way to jail. I once sat next to a retired working class woman on a subway who lost $100, 000 in a 401K plan she had while working for WorldCom. She might take some comfort in the conviction of Bernard Ebbers on all nine counts related to accounting fraud that led to WorldCom’s bankruptcy.

I know that I take some comfort in the congressional hearings on steroids. Baseball almost got away with it. Mark McGwire almost got away with it. If Lil’ Kim and Martha Stewart can go to jail for lying to authorities, you know McGwire is feeling the heat. Sammy Sosa is just not very creative. No tears or qualifications, just a categorical denial. In a survey on sports radio, Sosa came in with the lowest vote of confidence, lower than McGwire, only 4% of listeners believed him.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham is probably the quintessential coming of age novel. The main character, Philip, is a lonely orphan with a clubfoot, a physical deformity that causes him great embarrassment. Philip is desperate to find freedom from his suffering and longs to find his place in the world. He’s given up on Christianity. There is no good and evil, he reasons, there are only those acts that benefit society and those that don’t. Furthermore, “Society has three arms in its contest with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin consisted of being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the gate…”

Laws failed in the case of steroids in baseball. There was no rule against using steroids even though it was illegal. Before Balco, there was no hard evidence that ballplayers were using steroids. The excitement of breaking Roger Maris’s record and the likelihood of breaking Hank Aaron’s record far outweighed the suspicion. Public opinion didn’t have a chance. Conscience is the voice from within. Who knew that it would be the voice of the class clown, Jose Canseco.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules. This is not always a good thing. Watch Ken Burns latest documentary about Jack Johnson the boxer. Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion. He lived the high life – he rode fast cars and stayed in fancy hotels. He beat every great white hope thrown at him and he had sex with white women. He even married them. The government finally got him by sending him to jail for violating the Mann Act, a law designed to prevent prostitutes from being transported across state lines, because he gave his white girlfriend a train ticket to travel from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Still, I think they got it right this time. They were making baseball pay for its arrogance. Baseball thought it could get away with lying about their complicity in steroid use and ride Boston’s improbable championship run into the next season and away from steroids. How much will baseball have to pay? They probably won’t lose their antitrust exemption. Mark McGwire won’t have an asterisk next to his record because the urine tests are long gone. But at least someone stepped in and caught baseball in its lie.onal approval and he is not allowed to lie in order to get that approval. O.k., so that part isn’t working too well at the moment.

We like to think that the rest of society works in the same way and that does seems to be working a little better. We hope that a second part of the system steps in to take over if a first part fails. After police officers in the Rodney King beating were found not guilty in a Simi Valley courtroom, two of the officers were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal court.

Even corporate chieftains are finding their way to jail these days. I once sat next to a retired working class woman on a subway who lost $100, 000 in a 401K plan she had while working for WorldCom. She might take some comfort in the conviction of Bernard Ebbers on all nine counts related to accounting fraud that led to WorldCom’s bankruptcy.

I know that I take some comfort in the congressional hearings on steroids. Baseball almost got away with it. Mark McGwire almost got away with it. If Lil’ Kim and Martha Stewart can go to jail for lying to authorities, you know McGwire is feeling the heat. Sammy Sosa is just not very creative. No tears or qualifications, just a categorical denial. In a survey on sports radio, Sosa came in with the lowest vote of confidence, lower than McGwire, only 4% of listeners believed him.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham is probably the quintessential coming of age novel. The main character, Philip, is a lonely orphan with a clubfoot, a physical deformity that causes him great embarrassment. Philip is desperate to find freedom from his suffering and longs to find his place in the world. He’s given up on Christianity. There is no good and evil, he reasons, there are only those acts that benefit society and those that don’t. Furthermore, “Society has three arms in its contest with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin consisted of being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the gate…”

Laws failed in the case of steroids in baseball. There was no rule against using steroids even though it was illegal. Before Balco, there was no hard evidence that ballplayers were using steroids. The excitement of breaking Roger Maris’s record and the likelihood of breaking Hank Aaron’s record far outweighed the suspicion. Public opinion didn’t have a chance. Conscience is the voice from within. Who knew that it would be the voice of the class clown, Jose Canseco.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules. This is not always a good thing. Watch Ken Burns latest documentary about Jack Johnson the boxer. Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion. He lived the high life – he rode fast cars and stayed in fancy hotels. He beat every great white hope thrown at him and he had sex with white women. He even married them. The government finally got him by sending him to jail for violating the Mann Act, a law designed to prevent prostitutes from being transported across state lines, because he gave his white girlfriend a train ticket to travel from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Still, I think they got it right this time. They were making baseball pay for its arrogance. Baseball thought it could get away with lying about their complicity in steroid use and ride Boston’s improbable championship run into the next season and away from steroids. How much will baseball have to pay? They probably won’t lose their antitrust exemption. Mark McGwire won’t have an asterisk next to his record because the urine tests are long gone. But at least someone stepped in and caught baseball in its lie.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 239 user reviews.

First of all, the Tennis Channel is not available where I live. Second of all, I have an addiction to television so I go out of my way to have very little of it in my life. However, my friends and I like to watch Monday Night Football. We auditioned every sports bar we could find, including Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood. Strangely enough, considering it’s location, it is the most conservative bar I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was at happy hour for the Young Republicans. We went to Hollywood Billiards for a few weeks but we had to wear our winter socks and even then we were cold.

There was no choice. If I wanted to watch the game, I had to get cable or satellite service and run it through my projector since I don’t own a television. Comcast would have been perfect. For $10.87 a month I could get the basic package – network television. But my area is not serviced by Comcast, it’s serviced by Adelphia. Adelphia does not have the same basic package – their cheapest offering is $28.59. Satellite costs even more so I went with Adelphia.

To avoid sitting in front of the television and turning into a statue, I downloaded all of the channels through my VCR tuner and then promptly turned off all but a few channels. I kept ESPN2 because they show a lot of tennis and this is, after all, a sports column focusing on tennis.

A few months after installation, Adelphia sent me a notice saying that they are now offering the basic service except that they are eliminating the service I had been using. If I wanted to keep ESPN2, I would have to pay over $45 a month. I’d had enough of Adelphia and I was sick of having to remember to set up the VCR every time I wanted to record a tennis match. Today, for instance, ESPN and ESPN2 are broadcasting six hours of tennis.

So, I ordered satellite television service for $31.99 with a DVR for $4.98 per month extra. However, the DVR must be plugged into a phone line and the phone line has to have caller-id. It says so on the customer agreement.

I have a funky multiplex phone system like you see at your dentist’s office. The plugs are like Ethernet plugs and each jack outputs every phone line in the house, not just one phone line, so I will have to pay $125 to have a jack put into the living room.

I first time I called SBC to have caller-id added I hung up in frustration because they wanted the three numbers after my phone number on my bill. I said I didn’t have it available and they asked for the last four digits of my social security number. I said, “You shouldn’t have it.” The operator said, “You’re right we don’t have it. But I don’t have information about you so I can’t help you unless I have those three numbers.” What is this? You ask me for my social security number even though you don’t have it and it wouldn’t have been enough anyway? That was when I hung up.

I managed to calm down and call back only to find out that caller-id costs $6.17 per month. That is more than 25% of my local phone bill! Are these people kidding? No they’re not. So satellite service really costs $31.99 +$4.98+$6.17=$43.14. And that doesn’t include $125 for a new jack.

Wait, I thought to myself, SBC has satellite service and I should get a discount because I have an SBC phone line. Nope, SBC does not service my neighborhood.

I called up Dish Network to complain and whine and see if I really, really had to get caller-id. It turns out that, no, I don’t have to. Not only that, but I don’t need a phone line for the DVR either. The next highest model needs the phone line and caller-id, not the model I’m getting.

I once spent eight months retrieving $10, 000 from a mortgage company that had incorrectly charged me for paying off my mortgage early after I sold my house. After five or six furious phone calls, reams of notes and a few phones smashed against the wall, I called up my mortgage broker who called the area representative for the mortgage company who promptly returned my money.

Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times that described various techniques people use to deal with the day-to-day frustrations in life. One man saves up all of those subscription cards that fall out of magazines and mails them back to the magazine so they will have to pay for the postage. I sense a kinship.

My life has become a smorgasbord of coping techniques and I am not coping. Before I start hoarding subscription cards and throwing fits and hanging up on operators who have no control over their company’s policies, possibly I should just make that extra phone call.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

I was watching a show about Scottie Pippen on ESPN today and it got me wondering about Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. When you talk about Pippen’s career, you always have to cover the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when Pippen refused to go back into the game with 1.8 seconds left on the clock. He was outraged that Phil Jackson had drawn up the game winning shot for Toni Kukoc instead of him.

This was a huge moment for Scottie Pippen. Michael Jordan had retired the season before and Pippen wanted to use this opportunity to come out of Jordan’s shadow and take his rightful place as one of the top NBA players in history. The Bulls had won 55 games during the regular season, Pippen was the MVP at the All-Star game and he came in third in voting for the league MVP. Everything was working out. Making the winning shot in a playoff game would be another big step. It would make him just like Mike.

Of course Phil Jackson knew all this. He had already coached Pippen and Jordan to three championships and he knew what it was like to be the teammate of someone as competitive and insufferable as Jordan. But he chose to give Kukoc the shot. He probably decided that Kukoc could create the best shot for himself. Pippen had a transcendent all round game that made everyone on his team better but he wasn’t the one-on-one player that Jordan was. Still, neither was anyone else and Kukoc was an NBA rookie so it must have hurt Pippen’s pride deeply to see the opportunity taken away. Pippen would still have an argument today. Kukoc has had a solid career but he’s never even been an All-Star.

Things are tough here in Lakerland. The team doesn’t play defense and the longest winning streak of the year is three games. One coach has left already and an interim coach is trying to teach them the triangle offense on the run. There are not a lot of NBA coaches out there that don’t seem like retreads. There is really only one available coaching star: Phil Jackson.

At the moment, Los Angeles is like a person who is in a bad relationship. You know it’s never going to work but you keep trying to find ways to convince yourself that it could work. We are all desperate for Phil to come back and coach the Lakers and we’re trying to convince ourselves that Phil would do it. That’s the first sign of desperation. Then we are trying to convince ourselves that Kobe Bryant would welcome Phil back. That’s the second sign.

Phil made it abundantly clear that the offense goes through Shaquille O’Neal during his tenure in Los Angeles. True, Kobe was given a lot of opportunities to make the last second shot but he knew he would never be able to reach his potential, or get the credit he was due, as long as he was Shaq’s teammate.

We are all desperate for Phil to come back and coach the Lakers and we’re trying to convince ourselves that Phil would do it. That’s the first sign of desperation.

I know Kobe watches ESPN. If he saw the show about Pippen today, he would have felt a kinship with him. He may agree with Jackson’s decision to give the shot to Kukoc, he may not. But he certainly doesn’t want to give Phil Jackson another opportunity to make a decision that might have such a huge effect on a player’s career. Especially his.

Don’t get me wrong here, basketball is a team game and the idea is to win. But the NBA brand depends on superstars and a superstar psyche depends on a big ego. That’s just the way it is.

Meanwhile, back here in Lakerland it’s time to move beyond our relationship with Phil. It’s over.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 233 user reviews.