Monthly Archives: March 23, 2023

Starting this week, writer Pat Davis is joining Tennis Diary to cover the grand slams and weigh in as only she can on everything from technique to high style in the tennis world:

I was going to write about the oddity of both #1 and #2 male players being without coaches, when lo and behold, Roger and Andy both went out and got hitched, so to speak.

This happens over the holidays, the normal time when tennis players get married, get hitched, have babies, fire their coaches, replace their boyfriends/girlfriends. Hopefully, they also rest their overworked bods, in the only time of the year when they get what is called, a “rest.”

Andy gets Dean Goldfine. Hhmmm. I have to think about that. What made Andy reach his end, rather suddenly it seemed, with Brad Gilbert? Maybe the lad is restless, I thought. Andy believed he should have performed better at the close of last year; he didn’t, so he took it out on his coach. Andy wants to do better, but doing better means he has to climb over Roger Federer, and that he did not manage to do by year’s end.

Roger makes out perhaps better, with the laconic sardonic Tony the Roche. If nothing else, Roger will learn a few more cuss words, the Aussies are good at that. But only part-time. Tony is an old curmudgeon, and realizes he Does Not Travel Well.

Brad Gilbert, on the other hand, is Pupil-Less. He may enjoy it, given his quip about being “the Fired Coach, moving into the ESPN commentator’s booth.” He actually said the F word, “fired.” I went back and replayed my tape.

Not one to feel seduced and abandoned for long, Lleyton Hewitt came out of his breakup with Kim Clijsters looking pumped up in his new muscle tees and firing big-ass service winners. Rumor has it she gave him the bad news over the phone, in which case she doesn’t appear to have the class I thought was part and parcel of her Repertoire of Shots. But Lleyton went out and rebuilt his body to win his own home Slam. The guy is fired up!

In a moment of churlish display, he reputedly chastised his own federation for not making the court more adaptable to the Aussie favorite, i.e. a faster court. Instead, it’s somewhere in between. Patrick McEnroe picked up on this in the booth, remarking how he felt Patrick Rafter suffered from the same problem during his run. He could never win the Aussie Open because the court was TOO slow, and ill-suited to his game. Hewitt has begun to suspect the same. He is one guy who takes Federer seriously, and having been hammered good by Federer last year he appears determined to get himself up to the challenge.

And now for the fashion statements….you didn’t think you’d escape without commentary on the fashion, now did you?

One of the best things about seeing tennis players up close in person is they have such bloody gorgeous legs, the men and the women.

So, why then cover up the fine legs of a really fine looking young player, Rafael Nadal? He’s wearing white cotton knickers this week, but the little tweak of ankle that we see is lovely to look at. He’s already, at 18 years old, please, got a really nice Lou Diamond Phillips look. He reached somewhere into those knickers and found the wherewith all to upset Mikhail Youzhny the other day, in a great five set display.

Knickers rule, I guess.

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My friend Lindsey and I are members of the early Alzheimer’s group. Today I went to the tennis courts to practice and I left my tennis racket at home. I drove home to get my tennis racket then left the garage door open exposing two very nice unlocked bicycles.

When I finally did get on the courts, I noticed that I had trouble hitting my backhand deep. This happens a lot in matches. When people are under pressure, they tend to hit short or into the net. Zen Golf has a very good exercise for this problem that I will transpose to the tennis court. Stand at one baseline and look at the opposite baseline. Now close your eyes and walk to the opposite baseline. It’s probably a good idea walk off to the side of the court to avoid walking into the net and you might want to position someone to prevent you from walking into the fence. You might not need it, though, because most people stop short of the baseline let alone the fence. Now go back to your baseline but this time look at the opposite baseline, beyond the baseline and the fence behind it. Try again, walk to the opposite baseline with your eyes closed. This time you should get closer. If you extend your vision of the court, you will extend the range of your shots. If you just look at the opposite baseline, you get shortsighted.

Here is another way to extend your vision and lengthen your shot. Hit ground balls with a hitting partner and hit every ball beyond the baseline. It’s not so easy. I felt like I was hitting the ball as hard as I could and it was still landing in the court. Once you get the hang of it, you might hit more balls out long but it’s better to hit a few balls long than consistently hit the ball short.

I was watching the 1996 ATP Finals match between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker on my laptop last night. I bought a DVD of the match on eBay. This was an incredibly tense five set match and Sampras was playing Becker in Hanover in front of Becker’s fellow Germans. A few points here and there and either player could have broken the other’s serve and served out the match. Nonetheless, they both hit out and went for serves till the very end. Can you imagine playing in front of 15, 000 people in the final match of the final tournament of the year in the fifth set knowing that your opponent is still hitting the corners on serves down the middle and wide? Can you imagine what would have happened if either of these players had started to play tentatively? Any short shot and Becker or Sampras would be have been all over the net in a nanosecond leaving the other player with a much smaller court to aim for and far fewer options.

You probably don’t have a Sampras or Becker in your tennis league but a league playoff match can get very tense. If you start to play tentatively, the ball is going to start landing short or even in the net. If you’re gonna go down, go down in blazes. Hit out. Play as aggressively as you always play. Sooner or later, you’ll start hitting deep and serving into corners when the game is on the line.

By the way, notice what Becker says about the match in this article, “At the end, I didn’t really care who won.” I would bet my right big toe that you’d never year Pete Sampras say something like that. There’s a reason he won so many Grand Slams. He peaked for them and he knew how much desire it takes to get to a final and, once you are there, to win it.

Practice and Competition Report: I hit against the backboard today A group behind me was shooting a basketball commercial and a group beside me was playing a very competitive basketball game. Suddenly, a man walked up to me and said, “Would you take a suggestion?”

“What?” I thought to myself, “Is my hair out of place, is my shirt tag sticking out, are my shoes untied? What?”

“You are stopping your swing before following through.”

“Oh … really?” He then demonstrated what I was doing wrong. He was right. I swung at the ball then I remembered that I’m supposed to follow through instead of letting the swing carry the racket through and over my shoulder. Just as soon as he appeared, he disappeared. Inexpensive tennis lesson, that was, but a very good one.

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I injured my thumb in September and kept playing with the injury until the end of league play in October. Dumb, I know. I stopped playing tennis as soon as league finished. I visited my physical therapist weekly. I started taking a glucosamine supplement and using arnica cream to keep the swelling down. My thumb improved slowly but surely. Too slowly. So I put it in a splint for five weeks. After five weeks it was better but I still couldn’t play tennis and now my thumb clicked terribly whenever I tried to bend it.

Finally I remembered to go and see my trainer, Lenny Parracino. He’s certified in Active Release Technique. If you have a joint injury, you have injury to the connective tissue around the joint. If you’re lucky and the joint is not injured, then only the connective tissue is injured. Either way, it’s important to get work done directly to the connective tissue if you want your digit to heal any time soon. I’m not going to lie to you, it does hurt. But it’s worth it. After two visits my thumb felt much better. After three weeks I am on the tennis courts again. Every day I stretch my thumb, squeeze Theraputty in my hand and strengthen my fingers with a Power Web. I’ll keep doing this until the pain completely disappears.

By the way, nobody is paying me to publish these links though I wish they would. It’s very expensive to go to a physical therapist and a trainer and then buy all of these rehabilitative thingies. I have a closet full of weights, straps, calf stretchers and yoga props. If I wanted to open a dungeon, I’d be well equipped.

After talking with Lenny, I now think that it was a mistake to wear a splint. The splint reduced the pain only because I wasn’t using my thumb. My connective tissue seemed to be worse – I developed trigger finger – and I lost muscle tone and flexibility in my hand. I think it’s a better idea to use your injured part as much as possible making sure that you heed pain. If something hurts, stop doing what you’re doing.

When you get Active Release work, be sure to see someone who will spend some time working with you. Don’t settle for a ten-minute turn with a body worker who is trying to maximize profit by getting people in and out of the door as quickly as possible. It does happen, you know.

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I used to hear my mother’s voice in my head all day long. Each time I did something stupid or even barely avoided doing something stupid, I’d hear her say, “There you go again, always doing something wrong.” It’s not her fault. My mother is 92 years old. She can barely get out of her chair let alone follow me around as I get into road rage incidents and embarrassing displays of anger. Worse than that, when I finally exorcised her voice, it was only to be replaced by the voice of an in-law or my partner’s friends. I am single, I don’t have a partner. Full proof that I have sole ownership of this voice.

Lately I’ve been trying something different. Every time I do something I’d rather not have done or imagine doing something worse, my imagination is good at disaster scenarios, I replay the situation with a different outcome. If I almost run into a cyclist and I’m so upset that I angrily yell at him, “You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk anyway!”, my voices will have me in jail and out of a few million dollars before I’m halfway home. Instead, I imagine that I got out of the car, asked the cyclist if he was o.k. and then earnestly explained that I can’t see him coming if he’s on the sidewalk in front of a tall building made of cement and would he please consider that next time he rides into an intersection from the sidewalk. I then reminded myself to stop at the beginning of the crosswalk before making a right turn next time and went on my way.

Same thing on a tennis court. I just hit the ball down the line and it hit the net cord. I double faulted for the third time. I mishit an overhead or swung at it and missed completely. If I fume about those bad shots then I’m consumed with the idea of hitting bad shots and I’m likely to keep producing them. That’s why it can be hard to turn the game around once we make a few errors. If, instead, I replay the shot in my mind as a perfectly hit ball sailing over the net and landing at the baseline, then I can go onto the next shot and get my mind back into the game at hand. I’ve not only resolved the past but I’ve presented myself with an image to aim for the next time I try that shot.

I’m telling you, where else can you resolve the past and learn to live in the present without paying thousands of dollars for psychotherapy or suffering through hours of boring meditation?

Practice and Competition Report: The rain has finally stopped in Southern California! After two months of injury and too many weeks of rain, I ran out to the tennis court only to forget my sports bra. It’s been that long.

Before each serve, I mentally rehearse my service stroke and I see the ball land exactly where I want it to land. As my toss kept sailing over my head and behind me, I realized that I have been leaving the service toss placement out of my mental rehearsal. I get maximum extension if I toss the ball in line with my head so I toss it above my head and a racket length in front of the baseline. To practice my service toss, I place a ball on the court one racket length in front of the my serving position. Then I serve and let the ball drop to see if I can hit the ball lying on the court.

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Say it isn’t so. I’m not ready for this. The December 23rd New York Times reports that a woman paid $50, 000 to have her beloved cat cloned by a company called, oh my, Genetic Savings and Clone. I can only hope that The Onion has deviously planted one of its articles in the Times and a statement will appear in the corrections column on December 24th apologizing for the breach of security. Except that it’s now January 5th.

Not that I wouldn’t like clone a few people.

I live in Los Angeles. If I want to listen to sports radio in the morning, I listen to James Brown or Jim Rome. James Brown is the nicest guy in the world. He’s humble, he usually limits himself to sports related subjects and looks at them fairly when he does. It would be nice, though, if he was willing to own an inflammatory opinion now and then. Jim Rome has never found a subject he couldn’t rap about endlessly and has never expressed the slightest doubt about any of his opinions. “Don’t tell me…” is one of his favorite phrases. If we could somehow mix their cells together, we would then have a very entertaining sports rapper who is opinionated, spends more time talking about sports than he does Martha Stewart’s stretch in jail and is neither too self effacing nor too full of himself. How cool would that be? You might miss the news items about the woman who shot herself when she forgot that she’d left her gun in the oven or the latest death from belly flopping but you’d adjust and be a better person for it.

However, it’s not that simple.

Let’s say something happened to Pedro Martinez tomorrow. His bereaved mother thinks to herself, “We are devastated by the loss of Pedro. We have plenty of money. Let’s see if we can get him cloned.” If you want to clone someone and you want them to be the same person you knew and loved, in this case a quirky but nonetheless very effective baseball pitcher, you would need to duplicate his environment as closely as possible. Starting with the womb. Our genes don’t determine all our characteristics thank heavens. Many of our characteristics are determined by the womb we hang out in for nine months. Pedro’s mother is probably not a good candidate for pregnancy at this point though I did read another article I hoped wasn’t true. A 67 year old woman is seven months pregnant with twins in Romania. By the time I read this I was totally speechless, not a common occurrence.

What would it be like to give birth to the same child twice? How would inbreeding work I wonder? Usually a child has the DNA of its mother and father. A clone only has the DNA of its mother or father. Inbreeding causes problems because it minimizes the genetic diversity between the mother and father. Offspring of inbreeding are more susceptible to diseases and health problems that run in the family. What if you cloned yourself and carried yourself to term? When I meet someone who has the same annoying habits I have, I can’t stand to be in the same room with them. I would not want to give birth to and raise me.

Back to Pedro. It would be important to be raised in the Dominican Republic because everybody is crazy about baseball. It would help if you were a barefoot boy from a poor family desperate to play baseball and make it to the big leagues so you could buy big houses for your family and friends and bring great pride to your country. Except that Pedro would be the favorite son raised in the lap of luxury this time around. He’d probably sit on the couch all day eating potato chips and watching baseball on satellite television. Who wants to run around barefoot in the hot sun throwing sockballs at a cement wall when you could be playing video games on a huge flat screen TV?

Speaking of twins, identical twins are clones. That means that Jose Canseco and his brother Ozzie are clones. Maybe even more alike than clones because they were raised in the same womb at the same time. So this is what might happen if you clone someone. You might get an o.k. baseball player who barely makes it to the bigs. Or you might get a blustery bruiser who uses steroids to become a home run slugger for the Oakland A’s. Along the way he might get arrested for domestic abuse, convicted of felony aggravated battery and test positive for steroids while on probation.

Isn’t there something unique about each person in the world? Isn’t this what we mean when we talk about spirit? Isn’t that entirely beyond the realm of cloning? Even if I hadn’t spent the past thirty years going to Opening the Heart workshops and Conscious Living/Conscious Dying workshops and every other spiritual workshop every offered, this would still be a subject of deep interest to me. I was raised in an adoptive family. Every adopted person I know is obsessed with identity. We want to know how much we were formed by our adoptive family and how much we share with our birth family. As we get older, though, this becomes less important. We have to make difficult life decisions and find a peaceful way of living with our thoroughly exasperating personalities. We can’t blame our family for everything and even if we had the worst family in the world, there’s nothing we can do about it now.

Another Victor Conte will come along to develop a new steroid that can’t be detected in current drug tests. Athletes will still be under great pressure to use them. Salaries will continue to go up. Kids will leave school earlier and earlier to turn pro. Pissed off fans will still throw cups onto the court because they are tired of paying too much for tickets to see very rich basketball players complain about not being able to feed their family. Science doesn’t contribute much to a solution. Steroids just make things worse and I can’t imagine how cloning could help.

Last week in class, my yoga teacher said that people tend to dream less when their life is less stressful. If you shoot up steroids, worry about your current batting slump and think about that younger player threatening to take away your job, when you go to sleep, if you can sleep, you might dream that the bat disintegrates in your hands as you swing or you might dream that the younger player accidentally disappears into a huge pit and is devoured by hungry lions, anything to help you deal with the stress. If, however, you come to the end of the day and you’ve done your best to address all of the issues in your life and generally feel like you’ve chosen appropriate goals, you’ll go to bed knowing that you’ve done what you can and enjoy a deep satisfying sleep. Isn’t this the idea in life? The goal here is not to bring back your pet cat. The goal is to lead a productive life and learn how to manage stress.

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