Thursday, January 21, 2016

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Ugh ugh ugh

So this tournament has been interesting so far, and it's only been three days. You know what this tournament makes me feel like I'm watching? The Blair Witch Project. Every time I go to sleep, I wake up and one of the top seeds has disappeared. Who's next? Only the Melbourne Devil knows.
There's still plenty of tournament left, but let's go over some of the highlights so far:

1. This match-fixing scandal: I forgot the air quotes. Listen, I'ma need some names here. Not just for the sake of salaciousness, but we've been here before, haven't we? Back when everyone made a stink about Nicolai Davydenko and his alleged part in odd betting patterns in tennis? Remember what that turned up? Nothing. I want to take this seriously, but when the Daily News can't even keep track of their Grand Slam champs, (THERE'S A MAJOR IN YOUR BACK YARD EVERY YEAR!!), you just wonder if we'll ever get to the hard facts. OR MAYBE CAROLINE WOZNIACKI IS THE GUILTY ONE!

2. I can't decide whether it's better for the person who loses a match to come sulking into a press conference and mumbling one-word answers or to be rude and skip it altogether. What's Venus hiding? MAYBE VENUS WILLIAMS IS THE GUILTY ONE!

3. With all the crazy upsets going on right now, it could be time for Gael Monfils to finally make some real noise at a Grand Slam. I watched him beat Nicolas Mahut, and he's looking pretty relaxed. But can he stay that way in later rounds?

4. OK, if you're reading this, you have some type of computer advice. So watch the doubles! Or watch Victoria Azarenka beat up on some poor soul.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Aussie preview: The women

Lots of symbols on this draw. A legend:
star: match to watch. 
?: Why does Dominika Cibulkova always knock off a couple seeds in every Slam, but is never seeded herself?
* next to Venus' name: Dude, it depends.
?: Something tells me that any match Alize Cornet is in will take roughly six hours and she'll yell at the umpire. I guess that's not a question.

Overall, Serena Williams obviously is the dominant player on the WTA Tour. Yeah, that U.S. Open thing. It was a fluke. Not to say she'll never lose another major tournament, but it sure seems to me that any real challenge to her path to another title in Australia is on the bottom half of the draw. If Serena doesn't win the title, I predict she'll lose it to either Victoria Azarenka or Garbine Muguruza. Later!

Aussie preview: The men

I gotta go watch tennis! But first, my draw, for posterity, and some thoughts:

1. Baghdatis v. Tsonga: At least it will be entertaining.
2. If -- BIG IF -- Nadal gets past Verdasco, he could play himself into form. He seems to be at the place right now where he's beating the guys he's supposed to beat, but withering at the feet of the Big Four.
3. Yes, I know that you think I spelled "Djokovic" wrong in the semi slot. I'm living on the edge!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some early thoughts on the AO draw

I will be releasing my singles draws to the public as per usual sometime this weekend. Here are some points to ponder in the meantime:

1. Hoo boy does Rafa really need some of that injury pox to hit his chunk of the draw. I mean damn: "Hot Truth" Verdasco in round one, with names such as Jeremy Chardy and Gael Monfils lurking in the nearer future and Stan Wawrinka beyond that? I believe in Nadal, but I don't know man ...
2. I did not realize Dmitry Tursunov was still playing tennis.
3. Gilles Simon v. Vasek Pospisil is going to be too good a match for round one.
4. Genie Bouchard is apparently playing really well right now, and draws Agz Radwanska in the second round if they both advance. Good luck with that.
5. Oh, lord: Alize Cornet v. Simona Halep in round two. *trying to come up with the mystery illness that will keep me home from work on this day*
6. At an early glance, it sure looks good for Victoria Azarenka to advance to the semis. Lemme check with my sources.
7. Prediction: Injury is going to be the third man for this tournament, which really sucks. Hell-like temperatures will likely be the fourth. Would it kill the powers that be to push this tournament back?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Ready for the 2016 season? No? Too bad.

Yes, of course as a tennis fan, having the new season start roughly fifteen minutes after the last season is great. Look, it's the first week of January and Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka are going to face off at the Brisbane tournament in Melbourne. Sounds good to me!
However, if I'm honest, I'd rather see that matchup at the year-end championships in November as the culmination of a competitive season. You know, when it means something.
I've never understood this insistence that the Australian Open has to start in mid-January. It's about 1,000 degrees in Australia at this time and players drop like flies. Every. Year. So combine that with about 1.5 months to recover from the previous season and you're asking for trouble.
What kind of trouble? The kind of trouble when you think you're gonna watch Serena Williams play Hopman Cup, but she's injured. The kind where you get all geeked up about watching Halep and Azarenka play and Halep gets injured. When Maria Sharapova doesn't even make it onto the court. Even if this is athletes playing lame to get more rest time, and I don't think it is (check out Pam Shriver's Twitter feed for video of Serena trying to serve today), it points to a larger issue.
This might sound like a player problem, but I'm completely selfish here. If quality suffers, fans get to become fans of cribbage.
What? It could happen.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Serena Williams: Apparently three out of four is pretty bad

This week, Serena Williams was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated like the boss that she is. Which is utter nonsense, of course.
Some horse enthusiasts are a bit perturbed about SI's announcement. Apparently, some horse named American Pharaoh won some horse races (man, I hope he doesn't blow all that money on apples), and that's more impressive than Serena winning three majors. She did this playing some of her worse tennis on her least-favorite surface while ill (French Open), against some inspired opponents (Heather Watson, Venus Williams) and against opponents who were sometimes at least a decade younger than her (Garbine Muguruza, who arguably has shown the most potential to next dominate the women's game is 22.)
So I don't know anything about what this horse has done, but I think that horses should be disqualified from winning Sportsperson for the year for a couple reasons. I'd like to outline them here:
a. A horse is an animal, not a person. And I don't think this one even talks, like Mr. Ed.
b. You know what would happen to Serena Williams if she broke her leg? Some doctor puts her leg in a cast, she doesn't play for six months, and knowing Serena Williams, she'd come back and win another Slam or four. You know what would happen to American Pharaoh if he broke his leg? Yep, you guessed it -- the shotgun.
So I'm good with the human winning the award.

Monday, December 14, 2015

LEAGUE WATCH: Serving up disappointment

Mercifully, the fall season is over for our women's team. The mission was simple if we wanted to keep it going: Beat the other team in our division more than once. We came up a bit short, and my mid-match flake-outs are a big reason why in my book. You can't just play tennis once a week, and have that match be your competitive match. Well, at least I can't do that.
In the meantime, I've had the opportunity to work on my game with a group that picks up doubles matches four days a week. For the most part, I've been able to knock off a good chunk of the rust, but there's still a part of my game that's bothering me, and that's the serve. I think -- I think -- I have all the ingredients of a good serve, but very rarely do they all come together to create the booming serve I want. I'm not a big person, but if Justine Henin showed me anything, it's that if you have a good serve technique and you're four feet tall, you can have a strong serve. That's all I want, but I can't pinpoint what the problem is. My husband thinks I'm tucking my arm in and not getting off the ground enough, but I think the bigger problem is the toss and that it might be too low.
So I had a thought. I would record my serve practice and post it so you guys could help me! I had this thought about three weeks ago, and that's about the time it took to actually find a simple way to edit this short video. This is probably because I am not as technologically advanced as I had led myself to believe. As a result, this post is the fruit of about three weeks' labor, so enjoy it and feel free to offer any tips! If you do, you get a free subscription to Tennis With Attitude!


Sunday, November 01, 2015

LEAGUE WATCH: Actually, don't watch.

It's a tennis player's dream to move to a place where the weather allows you to play as often as you can. You think: "What could be better? I can play all day!"

So one of the first things I did in Florida was to join a USTA mixed doubles team, and I was underwhelmed by the competition. The 8.0 matches felt like Allegheny 7.0-level skill, so naturally I wasn't very worried about anyone. But you know who else is underwhelming? Me.

I joined the women's 7.5 fall team and thought once again that it should be a cakewalk. These players have nothing I've never seen before, right? You should try telling that to my game, because all of a sudden, league tennis is like uncharted waters.

Take my last match. Now back in the day, I was used to playing my way into form during a match and improving as I went along. I'd shank balls all over the place in the first set and if I was playing with a new partner, I'd just tell them to give me a minute. Lately, though, I've been stuck in first gear.

Last night, while I laid awake thinking about how I should have gotten into lacrosse as a child, it occurred to me what the problem is. I've lost my swagger. See, back in the day, I had more swagger than game. I'd walk up to the service line late in a set and get real focused. The other night, I walked up to serve at 4-5 in the second set and I was so nervous that I briefly considered just throwing down the racquet and having a good Zvonareva-esque cry on the baseline. It was really that serious -- I just could not deal.

My game's not perfect, but I used to feel like I knew it and could trust it. I would get into a weird place during matches where I would rely heavily on instinct and the game just flowed for me. I never got rattled at losing the first set because I always thought I'd get stronger. Even after a loss in the old days, I always felt like I at least finished the match stronger than I had started. Now everything feels forced. I'm never fully relaxed anymore. I'm thinking about the mechanics of almost every shot I hit, especially the weaker shots in my game. I want my swagger back.

Probably the only way to get it back is to play a lot. That's much easier said than done, especially when you have to hand off 45-plus hours to the man every week. Maybe my game just needs to get adjusted to a different climate? Or my brain does? I have no idea. All I know is that I'm tired of playing poorly and I want to stop. Like I've always said, tennis is 99.4503827 percent mental, so whatever is happening concerns the hamster cage in my head. I mean, I can hit a thousand forehands in practice, but what's the point if I can't make myself hit them with authority while under pressure?

If you have any ideas about getting my head on straight again, I'm not too proud to beg. I'll take 'em. But make it quick, because I have another league match this week. #gulp