Monthly Archives: July 5, 2022

I’m trying to rent out two rooms in my house so I have a roommate ad on craigslist. I get phone calls from all kinds of people. Some of them can only afford one of the rooms. Some of them don’t really want a roommate but can’t afford to live alone. One couple emailed me from Berlin. I had a very long, enjoyable conversation with one man and we made an appointment for him to come to look at the house.

He didn’t show up.

I had another very long, interesting conversation with a man who had been an accomplished martial artist. This guy had so much confidence in his skills that he never thought about his upcoming opponent. He didn’t want to know about his opponent. It would only take his thoughts away from what he had to do at any given moment in the match. It would be a distraction to him. If he was prepared, it didn’t matter who he was fighting, he should win.

During preparation for a match, he sprained his ankle badly. He kept on training and his ankle healed enough to fight but it wasn’t completely healed. He knew that his opponent had heard about his injury and would attack him low to go for his bad ankle.

Just before the match, he taped up the ankle that was not injured and left his bad ankle untaped. His ankle held up through the fight and he won pretty handily because he already knew his opponent’s strategy. An excellent example of turning a competitive liability into a strength.

He didn’t show up either.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 246 user reviews.

When I joined a women’s USTA this summer, I was horrified to learn that the USTA fall league in this area is doubles only, no singles matches. I love singles. But I’m in the minority. Two thirds of USTA members play doubles only.

So why aren’t professional doubles more popular?

The ATP has made wholesale changes to the doubles’ draw to rectify this situation. I think the changes are good but for the wrong reason.

The matches will be shorter. The first team to win five games wins the set. A tiebreaker will be played at 4-4. There will be no ad games. At deuce, the receiving team decides whether to receive on the ad or deuce side and the winner of the point wins the game. The matches will be featured on more high profile courts.

I like this. I also like the World Team Tennis format. Sudden death points are exciting.

The ATP interviewed players, fans, the media and tournaments to develop these changes. When was the last time a professional sports league officially asked the media to help them change their format? The media often dictates game schedules. Games are played to fit into broadcast schedules and they have television time outs. But I can’t imagine the American league asking the New York Post if they should abolish the designated hitter.

Way down at the bottom of the ATP’s announcement, you see the reason for these changes: “… beginning in 2008, only players in the main draw singles will be allowed to enter doubles—with two exceptions.” The exception are wild cards and players with the best combined singles and doubles ranking who are not playing in the singles draw.

This assumes that doubles players cannot become marketable draws on the tour. Okay, they’re having a little trouble in grand slam finals this year, they just lost the Wimbledon finals to qualifiers, but I don’t see why Bob and Mike Bryan couldn’t be the focus of an ATP marketing push. They are good looking, they are excellent players and they are twins playing doubles. Seems like an obvious marketing hook.

I can’t imagine the American league asking the New York Post if they should abolish the designated hitter.

Yes, put doubles on the main courts. Then show entire doubles matches during broadcasts. Then show up close and personal features on doubles players.

The ATP made the changes so that the doubles will be filled with singles players. The better reason is to make the game more exciting. The better approach is to market the doubles players.

Why would you increase your focus on doubles then throw the doubles players away?

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 268 user reviews.

I injured my right wrist by being dumb but it’s my left wrist that hurts. Nine months ago I saw a man practicing his serve on the public courts where I play and I asked if I could return his serve. He was practicing his second serve trying to kick it as high as possible. Pretty quickly I realized that I was out of my league but I stayed out there still trying to get the ball back over the net. One of his serves kicked up and bent my right thumb backwards. Turns out he was a semipro player. Way, way out of my league.

It took about three months and many different treatments before my thumb healed. One of the treatments was acupuncture. The acupuncturist put needles in both wrists for symmetry but the needle in my left wrist accidentally hit a nerve. That is why my left wrist still hurts even though my right wrist is fine.

Last week I found myself in a similar position. This time the server was hitting the ball so hard I knew that my back would hurt if I continued to return his serves. Yet, I could not pull myself off the court? What is the problem here?

I have been taking Alexander Technique lessons since 1990. F.M. Alexander was an actor who lived in Australia at the turn of the 20th century. He liked to give solo shows of readings in Shakespeare but each time he started to perform, he would lose his voice. No one could tell him why this was happening so he embarked on a long study of observation and experimentation to find the cause of the problem.

It turns out that just as he was about to open his mouth and speak on stage, he would pull his head back, depress his larynx and suck in breath. These movement were present whenever he spoke but they were magnified when he performed. Sitting in front of a mirror, he worked to change his movement habits until this was no longer a problem. Alexander eventually moved to England and began training others with the technique he developed.

After fifteen years of Alexander lessons, I still get injured. And it doesn’t help me figure out why I can’t leave the court when I know that I am likely to get hurt. I recently came across the work of David Gorman. He is a certified Alexander Technique teacher but he has taken it one step further with work that he calls Learning Methods. He wondered what would have happened if Alexander had asked himself what he was thinking when he performed publicly instead of changing his movement habits. What if Alexander thought that he had to speak much louder and try much harder in performance than he did during rehearsal?

The key here is not to change the movement that is causing the injury but to work with the thought that leads to the movement.

David lives in the south of France and there are no instructors in California so I made an appointment to speak to him by phone. He asked me what I was thinking when I couldn’t pull myself off the tennis court even though I knew my back would hurt. I said that I didn’t want to leave the court because I wanted the server to think that I was a good tennis player and I certainly wasn’t a good tennis player if I couldn’t even stay on the court.

The server might think I’m a good tennis player no matter what I did or he might think I’m a bad tennis player no matter what I did, David pointed out. And what is the criteria for a good tennis player? A more useful question would be, “Is this thought helping me?” Clearly it’s not if the result is injury.

David asked me what I was thinking when I played well. I told him that I use a technique I learned from Lanny Bassham’s work. When I play a match, in between points I occupy my mind so that there is no room for negative thoughts. Before I play a point, I think about where I want the ball to go on the next shot and I mentally rehearse the shot. After the point ends, if I won the point I say to myself, “That’s like me.” If I lost the point, I repeat the preparation for the next point. These thoughts are helpful, they prepare me for the next point and they keep me from getting distracted by discouraging thoughts.

Because I want to perform well in front of others, I do things that are beyond my capabilities and I get injured. What if Alexander had taken the stage and used exactly the same voice he used in rehearsal, doing nothing extra? Maybe he wouldn’t have lost his voice.

The key here is not to change the movement that is causing the injury but to work with the thought that leads to the movement.

How will I use this information? Tomorrow I am meeting members of my new USTA team. If I’m playing with someone new, I like to get to the courts an hour and a half early, use the hitting machine and practice my serve so that I am completely warmed up when I meet them. All the better to impress them. Tomorrow, it turns out, there are no courts available so I will just have to warm up with everyone else.

Trying too hard in a performance situation is a common way to interfere with yourself and end up underperforming or, possibly, getting injured. David told the following story as an example. Someone asked Anne-Sophie Mutter, a well-know concert violinist, what she does about stage fright. She said she never gets stage fright. For her it’s just like practice and if something goes wrong, well, then that’s just something to learn from.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 182 user reviews.

LaverRosewall, BorgMcEnroe, EvertNavratilova, even Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Just give me some kind of rivalry. Anything. Or even a story. Venus and Serena were not a rivalry, they never played well against each other, but they were always a story.

If there is to be a rivalry, one of the rivals has to win now and then. Andy Roddick lost the Wimbledon title to Roger Federer again on Sunday and it was worse than the 2004 final. At least last year Andy was up 4-2 and taking it to Federer when the long rain delay came. They were even in sets at the time. Federer used the delay to change his strategy and switch to a serve and volley, he had no coach at the time mind you, then came out and beat Roddick, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4.

When the rains come this year, Roddick has just lost the second set tiebreaker to go down two sets to none. Could he turn the tables on Roger and use the delay to turn the match around?

There are problems long before the second set tiebreaker. Roddick’s strategy is to serve big, attack Federer’s backhand and come to the net as much as possible. Roddick is serving at 2-3 in the first set when he hits a good inside out forehand approach. Federer barely gets to the ball and puts up a defensive lob. Roddick smashes a deep overhead but Federer tracks it down and turns it into a crosscourt passing shot for a winner. He hit a winner off an overhead smash! It’s exactly the same thing he did to Hewitt in the semifinals and it’s just as discouraging. He wins the first set 6-2.

By the end of the set, Federer has one, yes, that is correct, one unforced error, fifteen winners and two points lost on his serve. Oh, by the way, he has won thirty-five straight matches on grass and twenty straight tournament finals.

It’s not the best of conditions for Roddick. His semifinal with Thomas Johansson was stopped by rain after the first set Friday night and was played out before the womens’ final yesterday. Roddick had to play three sets and two tiebreakers before finally finishing off match. You can see that it has affected Roddick. His serve is not hitting 140 mph and he’s not moving well.

It would be hard to overestimate the mental strength needed to win twenty straight tournament finals. This is a profoundly confident human being.

Roddick gets back in the match with an early break in the second set when Federer makes a rare mental error. On break point, Federer runs Roddick wide and has the open court to hit an inside out forehand. Instead, he chooses to hit the ball at Roddick. It’s curious because Roddick is still moving poorly. Federer gets the break back in the sixth game with the help of another thoroughly discouraging play. Roddick has been serving effectively into his body all day. This time Federer just barely blocks the return deep into the corner. As he sees Roddick run off to get the ball, he sneaks into the net and picks Roddick’s shot up off the grass to hit a crosscourt volley for a winner. Federer misses nothing. Later in the match, Roddick came in to hit a short shot and backpedals instead of continuing forward. Federer sees this and immediately comes to the net with a drop shot approach that wins the point.

Still, Roddick gets a set point at 5-4 in the second set but he lets a Federer passing shot go and it lands just inside the baseline. Not a good idea on set point and probably not a mental error Federer would make.

The tiebreaker is a disaster for Roddick. He fails to win a point on his serve and he’s now down two sets. Luckily the rain has come. That’s my homeland for you. There was so much rain when I was growing up in England that even the bedclothes were damp.

The rain clears after only eleven minutes but things don’t get much better for Roddick and it doesn’t look all that good for those hoping for a rivalry. It’s not coming any time soon. Both Roddick and Hewitt are better players than when they were ranked number one. Hewitt’s serve has improved dramatically and he attacks the net often and effectively. Roddick is in better shape and he’s mentally stronger. But Roddick has now lost nine of the last ten matches with Federer and Hewitt has lost eight straight including the 2004 U.S. Open final when he lost two sets at love.

Federer wins his third straight Wimbledon title, 6-2, 7-6(2), 6-4, and we are left to celebrate the career of the transcendent tennis player of our era. It would be hard to overestimate the mental strength needed to win twenty straight tournament finals. This is a profoundly confident human being. He steps onto the court knowing exactly what he needs to do and knowing what changes to make should he need them. As fast as other plays improve their game, he improves faster.

Roger is starting to seep into my consciousness. I was practicing my ground strokes yesterday when I spontaneously broke out with a graceful, balanced one-handed topspin backhand. I am a two hander. I once had a one-handed backhand that was as awkward as a Monica Seles volley. It caused me a lot of pain and, finally, a severe case of tennis elbow. But this one-hander was a thing of beauty.

I can only imagine that hours of watching Roger glide across the court and hit those gorgeous shots has somehow seeped deep into my tennis memory muscle cells. Tennis may be suffering but my tennis game is happy.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 182 user reviews.

I injured my back dancing in 1986. The injury was so severe that it took three years and many visits to chiropractors, Rolfers, Feldenkrais practitioners, and Alexander Technique teachers before I could sit longer than half an hour without severe pain. I also went to a movement class so that I could learn to dance without further injury. The teacher told me to watch other people move if I wanted to learn about movement. “Watch people walking, watch people running, watch people playing, ” she said.

When I was walking, I’d watch people in front of me. Some of them locked their knee when they put their front foot down. Or their upper body moved and their lower body didn’t. Runners were always entertaining. Some moved their right arm but their left arm stayed in one place. They landed flatfooted or on the balls of their feet. Their arms moved and their trunk didn’t.

Now and then I’d see a graceful athlete go by with every part of their body moving as one piece. Head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs. Everything moved as one long chain of easeful movement.

During ESPN’s broadcast of the the semifinal match between Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, there is a 15 second super slo mo clip of Federer leaping into the air to hit a high backhand volley.

He jumps into the air moving his right arm to hit a high backhand as his legs splay and his left arm flies out to balance the movement. His body twists away from the net to move his racket to the ball. He slices sharply down at the ball then turns his head to follow its movement twisting his body back towards the net while leaving his trailing arm and leg curled behind him. His foot lightly touches down on the grass and the ball lands out of the reach of Hewitt.

A ballet dancer caught in midair. A beautiful expression of Federer’s unsurpassed artistry.

Federer is back on grass where he has won 34 straight matches and he’s playing an opponent he’s beaten eight straight times, including this year’s Australian Open Final. What can Hewitt do, he is the best player in the world except for someone named Federer.

Hewitt wants to play long points, attack Federer’s backhand and hope that Federer hits some errors. Hewitt serves well and gets everything back but he doesn’t have a killer offensive shot. If he can consistently hold serve and Federer has a less than average day, he has a chance.

A ballet dancer caught in midair. A beautiful expression of Federer’s unsurpassed artistry.

His plan doesn’t work so well in the first set, he only gets 45% of his first serves in and loses serve twice to lose the set 6-3. Federer does even worse getting only 37% of his first serves in but he has other weapons.

In the second set, another part of Hewitt’s game plan falls apart. He loses his serve in the third game with five unforced backhand errors. Not a good idea if you want to get into a backhand battle with your opponent. In the middle of this game, Hewitt unleashes one of his primal “come awns” after a winning passing shot. On the next point, Federer comes out with a much softer “come on” after a winning forehand. A more subtle and possibly more effective strategy for dealing with Hewitt’s histrionics than spitting at him or serving at his body on the fly as some other players have done.

Hewitt holds serve well in the third set and stays even. Still, it’s not easy. In the best point of the match, Federer blocks a very good serve to his body deep into Hewitt’s court. Hewitt slams it down the line but Federer gets to it and runs Hewitt off the court with a cross court shot. Later in the point, Hewitt takes a floater out of the air and approaches the net. Federer puts up a defensive lob, Hewitt hits an overhead, then Federer tracks it down to hit a crosscourt passing shot for a winner. He hit a winner off an overhead smash. I don’t care how much heart you have, that is hard to recover from.

On the very next point, Federer uses a backhand slice return followed by two relatively shallow backhand slices then unleashes a rocket forehand down the line for a winner. His next opponent, Andy Roddick, hits backhand slices too but he’s not necessarily crafting a point, he’s changing the pace because you should now and then. Crafting a point means using change of pace to set up your best shot. I don’t give Roddick much of a chance.

In the third set tiebreaker, Federer drops his first and only dropshot for a winner. He wins the tiebreaker and the match, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4).

As Xtra Sports Radio co-host Mychal Thompson said Friday on the Loose Cannons show, “Who are the only two men better than Federer on grass?”

“Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.”

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