I got kicked out of the suicide pool and Richard Gasquet gave up.
After spending my entire vacation figuring out how to display tennis draws in blog posts and learning enough XML and XSL to download tennis statistics from various websites so I could pick winners for the ATP fantasy game, I returned home only to find out that our blogging software no longer allows me to use formatting commands and, alas, there is no ATP fantasy game this year. The ATP really dropped ball on that one, by the way. Last year 14,000 tennis fans from all over the world played fantasy tennis.
To satisfy my nerdy, statistical side, I resorted to playing the Roland Garros suicide pool at Talk About Tennis. Each day of the French Open, I’ve picked one player in the men’s and/or women’s draw to win a match. The catch is that I could only use each player once. I would have been silly to pick Rafael Nadal to win his first round match because then I couldn’t pick him to win the final.
I picked Simone Bolelli in the first round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second and squeaked through after Kohlschreiber won 17-15 in the third set. No third set tiebreakers in Paris! Then I picked Nicolas Almagro and that was my downfall, I was out of the pool.
Almagro lost his second round match to Michael Llodra who is 2-2 on clay this year and sometimes drops down to the challengers. Richard Gasquet also lost in the second round and Tomas Berdych was worst of all, he lost in the first round.
What’s wrong with the youngsters, can’t they take the heat?
Gasquet’s performance was the most disappointing because he gave up. In the first set tiebreaker against Kristof Vliegen, he hit two approach shots right at Vliegen. Was he being cocky or suicidal – no pun intended. After he got down two sets to none, his coach Eric Deblicker telegraphed instructions from the stands to start slicing the ball instead of using so much topspin, but Gasquet wouldn’t even do that. Gasquet kept doing the same thing even though it wasn’t working then he refused his coach’s illegal instructions to do something different. That is the ultimate in not trying.
After the match Gasquet was as disappointed in himself as we were:
I’m in a state of shock. I melted down little by little. When I lost the first set, it completely threw me off. I wanted to play well at all costs to make everyone happy, and I couldn’t even make myself happy. I’ve never felt as alone on the court as I did today. It was horrible.
If Gasquet was smashing rackets and dropping f-bombs here and there, I’d say it was just a matter of time before he learned to channel his emotions into his play. I’ve seen early footage of Roger Federer throwing his racket across the court in disgust. Andy Murray rained f-bombs onto the court when he injured his wrist earlier this month. We know those two guys care. Do we know if Gasquet cares? Is tanking a different response to the same overwhelming desire to win?
Players like Gasquet and James Blake lapse into self abuse when they’re disappointed. Instead of assaulting the racket or their coach, they assault themselves by giving up. It shows a lack of self-esteem and building self-worth in a player is a much harder job than teaching an out of control player how to channel their emotions. Add to that the need to please that is part of low self-esteem – read Gasquet’s comments above one more time – and you have a vicious circle.
Blake deals with this by having the same coach he’s had since he started playing tennis. Brian Barker is an eternally positive guy who Blake trusts so much that he stood by Barker when others suggested that he needed a coach with more professional experience.
Blake also suffered through the double crisis of losing his father to cancer and breaking his neck, literally. He came out of both crises with a stronger sense of himself. I hate to think that Gasquet has to suffer through such difficulties just to change his tennis game, but since he’s unlikely to join the Marines any time soon and get his personality torn down and rebuilt, maybe a crisis or two could help.
What would you do if you were managing Gasquet?