Monthly Archives: July 26, 2021

The message boards at are the liveliest place for tennis on the web. During an important match, a thread in the General Pro Player forum spins out an ongoing commentary while the match unravels in real time. The heading will have the word “spoiler” in the thread title so you don’t see the outcome of a match before you get around to watching it on your DVR. The match between Roger Federer and Nicolas Kiefer at the US Open today generated six pages of user posts. A lot of the users were at work when they posted their comments. One of them even complained that his company’s computer system would not allow him access to the live scoreboard popup window.

How were these fans tuning in? They were using the IBM Point Tracker. Go to the US Open website and click on Live Scores. Click on Point Tracker in the lower right hand side of the IBM On Demand Scoreboard window and we’re off. If you’re wearing earphones behind that cubicle you’re hiding in, click on the Radio button to get the complete multimedia experience.

If you click on Automatic in the Point Tracker window, the match will automatically play out in real time using an animation that draws the path of each shot and a list that describes how each point is won or lost. You can choose any one of five points of view of the court, a seat in the middle or one of the four corners. If you want to go back and see a particular point, click on Manual in the Point Tracker window, choose the set, then click on the description of the point. The animation of the point then plays out.

When Andy Roddick hits a 150 mph serve, it’s not traveling at 150 mph by the time it reaches his opponent. Small consolation, no doubt.

For each point, the scoreboard window displays the serve speed and return speed – you can choose mph or km/h. It’s interesting to see that a 95 mph serve might result in a 58 mph return. That tells you how much speed is lost by the time the ball bounces and gets to the other baseline. When Andy Roddick hits a 150 mph serve, it’s not traveling at 150 mph by the time it reaches his opponent. Small consolation, no doubt.

When you click on Radio, up comes the voice of a commentator describing the action on the court. There must be a delay on the radio transmission because you see the animation of the strokes before you hear the description of the point. Are they afraid that an announcer at the US Open is gonna blow up like Howard Stern and say some of those words that can get you a two hundred thousand dollar fine from the FCC? Tennis should be so happy to have that much controversy.

This is what tennis sounds like on the radio:

Petrova at the far baseline, has yet to hold serve
first serve here to Sharapova backhand, 97mph
inside out going to the Petrova forehand
flicked crosscourt by Sharapova
down the line goes Petrova’s forehand
backhand exchange
Petrova tried the deuce court sideline, Sharapova there
Petrova forehand, thought about coming in
answered by Sharapova and that’s well-wide
Petrova was able to stay in that point until Sharapova made a mistake
thirty all

That’s almost as much work as announcing the undercard at Madison Square Garden.

So there you have it, a circus of information, more than you could ever possibly need. You can hear what’s going on at the same time that you can read what’s going on and simultaneously see an animation of the point along with serve and return speed.

You can click on a button for up-to-date match statistics. Click on an individual statistic to get a pie chart for percentages and a bar chart for numbers. Click on an individual player to get a mini-bio and a link to a full bio. There’s even a button for reporting feedback.

What more could an action-craved, information-soaked video game generation ask for? We can hardly stand in line at the grocery story without a video game in our hands or eat at a restaurant without a TV screen to watch.

Pay our bills or write that report our boss asked for while also tracking the Blake-Agassi match at the US Open? No problem.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 215 user reviews.

Here at the US Open we’ve had overbearing heat, blustery winds and even some rain. Players have dropped like flies in the humidity and suffered breathing problems.

Gael Monfils had to wait through five time-outs taken by Novak Djokovich while he weathered cramps and hyperventilating and just plain tiredness. Monfils complained but Djokovich was given more than enough time to recover and win the match in five sets. The ATP changed it’s policy to allow time-outs for cramps after a player laid writhing on the court in severe pain due to cramps for more than five minutes unattended. Asking a trainer for help meant defaulting the match under the previous rules. Now that Djokovich has abused the rules by taking timeouts because he was not in good enough shape, “He was physically better prepared than me, ” he said, referring to Monfils, it’s time to make another adjustment. You don’t get cramps if you are hydrated and well-conditioned. Allow a maximum of one time out for each ailment, cramps for instance, and a maximum of three time-outs per match. After that, declare a default.

US players Robbie Ginepri, Taylor Dent and James Blake are through to the third round without their leader, Andy Roddick, who messed up a few ad campaigns by losing in the first round. Nineteen-year-old Richard Gasquet is still here. It’s fun watching him because he’s another one of those players who is spectacular on any given day. His backhand is fabulous and he’s a shot maker from anywhere on the court. He took out Roger Federer in Monte Carlo this spring with a backhanded passing shot launched from a position barely in front of the ball boy.

Gasquet is one of those players who doesn’t deal well with expectations. The French expect a lot from him and he would rather they didn’t. After a loss to Rafael Nadal, another nineteen-year-old, earlier this year, Gasquet said that he felt like a junior player next to Nadal. Here in the Tennis Diary, we enjoy picking apart the psyches of players like Gasquet and another put-upon French player, Amelie Mauresmo. Picking apart a psyche can be much more interesting than dissecting a player’s topspin forehand. This is not an anti-French thing, by the way. At the moment, Roddick’s state of mind might be the most interesting specimen around.

Rafael Nadal doesn’t seem to have any trouble with pressure. He’s won nine tournaments this year, came within two points of beating Roger Federer in Miami and beat Andre Agassi to win the hard court title in Montreal two weeks ago.

Nadal is like a two-way football player – someone who plays on both offense and defense. He not only gets to tough balls, he turns them into offensive shots. Of course, he’s also built like a football player. Speaking of which, players are getting bigger and taller. Andre Agassi just managed to get past six foot ten inch Ivo Karlovic in the second round by winning three straight tiebreakers. Will tennis go the way of basketball with six foot ten players who, unlike Karlovic, can actually move? Agassi already looks like a shrimp out there.

Blake is very happy to be back on the tour after a tough year in which he suffered through a broken neck and the death of his father from cancer. Getting a third round match at the US Open probably looks like a bonus to him rather than pressure even though he has to play Nadal today.

How do you beat Nadal? Play him on a grass court if possible and, by all means, avoid playing him on clay where the slower game and high bouncing balls give him time to get to everything. Attack his backhand. Serve wide to his backhand in the deuce court because he receives serve so far behind the baseline. Hit some drop shots because he also plays so far behind the baseline. Hit the ball hard and flat to give him less time to get to the ball and make it harder for him to get under the ball and hit those confounding, twisting, high-bouncing topspinners. Come to the net and cut off the ball as much as possible to avoid the long rallies that play to Nadal’s strength.

How do you beat Nadal? Play him on a grass court if possible…

Blake has an additional tool that will be helpful in this match: he has one of the best inside out forehands in the game. He combines this shot with the tactics above to repeatedly break down Nadal’s game in the first set. He serves wide to Nadal’s backhand to pull him out of the court then hits a hard flat forehand approach to the other side of the court. Or he serves wide to Nadal’s backhand then hits an approach shot behind Nadal as Nadal scampers back into the court.

On Nadal’s serve, Blake repeatedly hits the ball as hard as he can to Nadal’s backhand side and comes to the net at the first opportunity. By the end of the set, which he wins 6-4, he has come to the net 14 times and won 9 of those points. Nadal has come in only 4 times.

There is another important part of the plan. If you want to beat Nadal, you have get a lot of first serves in. He eats up second serves. This is exactly what Blake does not do in the second set. He gets a woeful 43% of first serves in and doesn’t attack the corners. For his part, Nadal starts putting more topspin on the ball and playing better defense. In the first game in the second set, Blake gets a break point on Nadal who saves it with a gorgeous one-handed backhand stab of a sharply hit cross court shot.

After exchanging breaks early in the set, Nadal breaks Blake again in the last game to win the second set 6-4.

In the third set, Blake improves his first serve percentage and returns to attacking the corners. In the fifth game, Blake hits a beautiful topspin lob to break Nadal. Nadal gets a double fault and hits two groundstroke errors in the game. And that’s the last part of the plan. Play Nadal when he’s not at his best. The young American player Scoville Jenkins gave Nadal a tough match in the second round, a good indication that Nadal is not playing well as Jenkins has yet to scare anyone else.

Nadal completely breaks down in the fourth set and manages to win only one game as Blake runs him side to side and keeps him on the defensive. Nadal loses his serve six times in the match and doesn’t get his second ace until the fourth set. Blake wins it 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Blake has gone from asking for wild cards earlier in the year to the fourth round of the US Open and beaten the second ranked player in the world to get there. He has his own rooting section full of friends he grew up with in nearby Connecticut and his mother, girlfriend and brother are in the players’ box.

You never really forget the tough times, still, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 151 user reviews.

Amelie Mauresmo probably doesn’t appreciate being analyzed to death. She is no doubt sick of people trying to figure out why she can’t win the big one. But it’s hard to resist poking and probing her psyche because she’s so talented and yet so mentally fragile.

Pat Davis, the co-writer of this column, captured this conundrum exceptionally well in her column, Analyzing Amelie. Unfortunately for Amelie, I have even more to say about it.

Pat thinks that the only reason a player is out on the court is to win a championship. In her view: “That’s the problem with her game. Amelie can’t really go in for the kill. She can’t even say she’d kick a little butt or two. Well, then why are you here? What are you doing on the tennis court?”

I disagree. Not everyone is on the tour to be the top player. Brad Gilbert tells the story of an agent who asked Gilbert to call his client, an ATP tour player, about the possibility of Gilbert coaching him. During the phone conversation the player told Gilbert that he didn’t want to be number one, he was comfortable where he was. Gilbert decided not to coach him.

Most every other player would tell you that they’re out there to get the number one ranking. They don’t say to themselves, “I’m comfortable being the forty-third ranked player, ” because that kind of thinking wouldn’t be enough to push you through endless practices and traveling and the likelihood that most tournaments will end with a loss. But underlying that goal is a battle with the many parts of your personality tearing you this way and that and generally distracting you from a one-pointed focus on winning. A bad temper, deep insecurity, an overbearing parent. The distractions can take many forms.

Not everyone is on the tour to be the top player.

Look at Marat Safin. His biggest battle is finding a calm enough place within himself to get through a tennis match without a major temper tantrum. His backhand doesn’t need any help, his state of mind does.

Amelie Mauresmo’s biggest battle is finding that part of herself that wants to smash her opponent to bits when the championship is on the line. It may not exist and she may end her career never having won a slam. But she has battled her demons and overcome her insecurities so successfully that only one or two women on the planet can play tennis at a higher level.

The stated goal may be the number one ranking but the result is often the state of mind you reach from working towards that goal.

In the golden age of Australian tennis, players like Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and Lew Hoad (the list goes on and on) prized fraternalism and good manners. Tennis was a way to build character. In his book, Jimmy Connors Save My Life, Joel Drucker tells a story about Australian player John Newcombe. After losing a grand slam final to Jimmy Connors, Newcombe was partying in his hotel suite with his Australian buddies when they decided that Newcombe should go to Jimmy Connors room and congratulate him on his victory. Connors was alone in his room with his mother. Newcombe thought that was rather sad.

Would you be happier losing a slam title yet still be able celebrate getting to the final and have friends to celebrate with, or win the title but do so by isolating yourself so much that you’re left with only your mother, who loves you no matter what, to toast your victory.

Winning a grand slam doesn’t necessarily make you a happy, well-adjusted person. That comes from being comfortable with yourself, choosing goals that are close to your heart and doing everything possible to reach them. Maybe this is the better measure of a successful career.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 152 user reviews.

It’s hot and the humidity is oppressive in New York in August. Serena Williams’ dog, Jackie, a star in the Venus and Serena reality show, is in the audience. It’s Jackie and Serena’s sixth anniversary. Maybe the $40, 000 chandelier earrings Serena wears during her first round match are an anniversary gift. They go well with the maroon and white tennis outfit which has a lot of straps and a stripe below the bra that I thought was a cutout – an excellent idea by the way, an air vent for sports bras. Serena breezed past Yung-Jan Chan from Taiwan in one hour and eighteen minutes, 6-1, 6-3, but she’s still getting into shape because you can see her huffing and puffing.

Speaking of couture, Rafael Nadal sprinted to the baseline in a tight fitting, fire engine red body shirt – he now looks like an NFL linebacker – and black capri pants. Are short tight pants coming back next? He beat American Bobby Reynolds easily. Nadal, ever the kid, already had a hole in his shirt by the end of the match. Maybe he is like the Hulk, growing so fast that he tears through a shirt in an afternoon before our very eyes.

This is all great style and clothing but not much drama so it seemed like a good idea to see how Richard Gasquet turned an easy win into a difficult five set match. Before I got around to watching that on tape, though, I watched Andy Roddick’s first round match against Gilles Muller.

Why do announcers have to forecast the US’s abominable language skills by mispronouncing Muller’s first name? It’s French o.k. You pronounce it zheel not zheels. And then there is the last name of Gael Monfils. It’s pronounced “monfeese” no “monfeel”.

This is New York, it’s the American grand slam and Andy Roddick is playing under the lights in front of his home crowd. Muller doesn’t have a home crowd. There is no ATP tournament this year in his tiny country of Luxembourg.

Muller lost to Andre Agassi in the Mercedes Benz Cup final this July in Los Angeles. A few different plays by Muller on critical points and the outcome could have been different. Agassi is a smarter player than Roddick. He makes adjustments during a match when required. Roddick, instead, forces his game on his opponent with his serve and power and if that isn’t successful, he’s slow to adjust. If his first serve isn’t working, he doesn’t switch to a slower, better placed serve. If he’s not able to handle the serve wide, he doesn’t move in to cut off the angle.

Muller might be ranked 68th and he did lose in the first round of the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven last week, but he’s a tough first round opponent. He has beaten Agassi in the past and he beat Nadal at Wimbledon.

Roddick gets an early break in the first set to go up 5-2. He serves for the set at 5-3 but plays a sloppy game and Muller is able hold his serve and force a tiebreaker. By this time, Roddick has put up a 146 mph serve and Muller has hit 126 mph. But Muller has more aces because he places the ball better. Muller has been to the net 11 times and Roddick 2. You can see the pattern here. Roddick is serving as hard as he can and Muller is moving the serve around and attacking the net.

In the tiebreaker, Muller comes to the net 6 times and takes the tiebreaker to win the first set.

Why hasn’t Roddick learned to play more aggressive tennis by now? He beat Lleyton Hewitt, who’d beaten him six out of seven times, in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Masters event by coming to the net every time he served in the second set tiebreaker. Yet here he is again, down a set and playing timidly. He has three unforced errors at the end of the first set. That means he’s not taking chances.

He also seems subdued. Early in his career he would pump his fist and play to the crowd. He has yet to raise his voice. At one point he runs all the way back to the baseline to track down a lob then spins and hits a gorgeous shot down the line to force an error. He doesn’t even smile. He just gets ready to receive the next serve. Today is his 23rd birthday. Is he already beaten down by expectations and disappointment?

Andy’s mojo, his happy go lucky, partying, carefree inner self who stirs up the town in those American Express commercials, is sitting in the stands in his cowboy hat next to Mardy Fish, not inside Andy where he should be. If the emotional arc of the remaining commercials has Andy’s mojo reuniting with Andy’s psyche, American Express might want to rewrite them very quickly. It’s not as bad as the Reebok Dan and Dave commercial fiasco for the 1992 Olympics that featured the competition between decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson. It never materialized because O’Brien missed all of his pole vaults jumps in the Olympic trials and failed to make the team. Still, Roddick is likely to hear about it for some time.

Muller gathers momentum after his first set win. He serves a ton of aces and lot of his balls land on the lines. He’s playing the game of his life and that’s bad luck for Roddick but he’s also out-thinking Roddick. He repeatedly serves wide to Roddick’s backhand for aces and service winners and uses surprise drop shots. In the second set tiebreaker he runs Roddick wide and hits a winner to the open court.

Roddick does end up coming to the net 27 times but wins only half of those points. He loses two more tiebreakers and goes out in the first round at the US Open, 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 7-6(1).

I am one of those people who wonder why he fired Brad Gilbert as his coach. I understand that Gilbert and Roddick’s father disagreed about Roddick’s schedule and Gilbert’s personality might have been too big for Andy’s state of mind, but he was clearly doing well under Gilbert’s tutelage.

A good coach should bring about a constant improvement in their player’s game. Roddick should be regularly approaching the net and winning more than half of those points when he does. He should be making adjustments on his return of serve game if his opponent is repeatedly hitting wide shots by him. These things should be automatic by now.

I went to a Los Angeles Dodgers home game last week. After Dodger pitcher Brad Penny had just walked a batter, a young kid sitting a few rows behind me stood up and yelled at the Dodgers manager, “Tracy, yer a bum!” I thought I was back in Brooklyn watching the Brooklyn Dodgers for a minute there.

Some things never change in sports. If the team isn’t playing well, you fire the coach. If Andy Roddick is the only player you have, then the coach has to go.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 282 user reviews.