I don’t mean murder. I mean someone who is beating you badly – at tennis. I lost all three sets to T today: 2-6, 3-6, 6-7(1-7). It’s worse than it looks because he gives me a handicap of two games each set. He was getting all his groundstrokes in and his high topspin forehand was bouncing over my backhand and into the back fence.

Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do. The other person is playing very well on a particular day and you are doing your best but it’s woefully insufficient. Try complimenting your opponent each time they make a good shot. The alternative is to get mad or, if not mad, then dejected, maybe a bit depressed. You’ve all done this exercise. Put a smile on your face. How does that feel? Put a scowl on your face or an angry look or a dejected look. How does that feel? Get angry at something, anything. How does that feel?

O.k., sometimes I feel very refreshed after getting angry. I’ve gotten it out and over with. But if I stay angry, it’s like wearing twenty-pound armor. On the court it means I’m half a step, at least, late and totally distracted and I don’t have the presence of mind to consider that it might be time to stay behind the baseline and track down those high looping topspin balls or maybe come in and take them on the fly or hit them early.

The point is that you’re not complimenting your opponent to help them. You’re doing it to help yourself. Turn to someone and give them a compliment. Don’t fake it now. Really mean it. How does that feel? If you feel that way while you’re playing you will be in a positive, happy mood. You’ll be able to play your best tennis. It still might not be enough. Notice that even though I did get to the tiebreaker in the third set, getting only one point in the tiebreaker is not enough. But at least I got there.

When Phil Jackson was still coaching the Lakers last year he’d take time outs in the last few minutes of games that the Lakers had absolutely no chance of winning. He’d diagram plays and give players instructions. He was telling the opponent and his team that they’d never give up. He was also using the situation as a teaching tool. They weren’t going to win the game but they could use it to work on certain defensive or offensive situations because they were likely to play the same team again.

Unlike basketball, we don’t have to worry about the clock in tennis. The last person who gets the ball across the net wins. Even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to be your day, act as if it is because it could be and there’s still the possibility that you could be the last one to get the ball over the net.

Try complimenting your opponent each time they make a good shot. The alternative is to get mad or, if not mad, then dejected, maybe a bit depressed.

I videotaped my serve from the front, back and both sides today. When I looked at it later I was amused and a little puzzled to discover that I twist my front foot back and forth as though I was putting out a cigarette butt at the start of each service motion.

A very good way to study your serve is to import the videotape into iMovie, or whatever is the equivalent on a PC, then compress it into a Quicktime format. Open the compressed file with the Quicktime Player then go through the video frame by frame by clicking on the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard. If you want to try this out, go to the webTennis.net site, scroll down and click on the Quicktime video clip. After you click on it, go through it frame by frame using the arrow keys. It allows you to step through the video at 30 frames per second and break down the action in great detail.

I must warn you, though, I was so freaked out by seeing myself serve that it affected my serve during the match. In my mind, my serve looks like Roger Fererer’s serve. On video, it’s looks like a recreational player’s serve. It’s a bit daunting to see how pedestrian it really is. After I got over the shock I was able to appreciate it. Besides the cigarette butt move, the bent tossing arm and a toss that’s not far enough in front of my body, the serve looks somewhat acceptable.

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