Players have to do something with the 15 minutes that they like to call the off-season. I am honored to report that Roger Federer wants to spend his with the great fan of TWA. He's agreed to pen an advice column for tennis players and fans who have questions. Kind of like a Dear Abby, except without the "go to counseling" canned answer.
"Hi, Roger. I'm a big fan. I'm pretty much the best woman player where I live. But I struggle with many injuries. I have to pull out of hella tournaments, which sucks, because I'd win all of them if it weren't for this knee/butt/arm/toenail/eyeball injury bug. But my main concern is my reputation. I don't understand why people hate on me. Is it because I'm great?
S. Williams, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
WWRD:Possibly. I understand league tennis can be very competitive, particularly among women. The important thing is to always be polite, even when players try to give you bad line calls, or when people don't acknowledge how good you are after a match. It's tough sometimes, but jealousy is something you have to deal with when you're talented. The best you can do is that even when others don't do it, you should always give your opponent credit when they hit good shots. Being a courteous player is very important.
"Roger, I am very mentally weak, I think. I have trouble with self-confidence, although technically, I'm a very good player. Maybe I'm not very good. I have won some tournaments away from home, but I was very fortunate, I think. When I play in my home court, though, I play very bad. Do you have any advice for me? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want you to waste your time on me. I know you're busy."
WWRD: Amelie, right now, you're a wreck. You have to learn to deal with pressure. I'll tell you my secret for coping with a tough match situation. Just imagine your opponent in their underwear. If they're out of shape, imagine them naked. You can fake yourself into thinking that they can't be very comfortable playing that way. And then, you can play your best. Good luck to you.
From a M. Bryan:
"Roger, I've been playing with my doubles partner for a few years. Early on, we started this running chest-bump thing. It was cool -- back then. Now, I'd like to stop doing it, but I think he really likes it. I don't know how to tell him how I feel. Any ideas?"
WWRD: You need a partner who's always on the same wavelength as you, someone who's as close to you as, say, a twin. When you have disagreements, you must deal with them right away. Plus, for all you know, your partner doesn't want to do the chest bump anymore either. Just talk to him. If it's more comfortable for you, you can use hand signals. And not those hand signals, either. Be nice.
"My coach and I just had a nasty break-up. I'm planning to travel to a tournament soon and as a young talent, I'm up to my ears in resumes. What should I look for in a coach?"
Andy M., dentist's office, London
WWRD: Coaches are overrated. Having a coach is fine -- when you have only eight majors. The answers are within yourself, Andy. You're like a Rubik's Cube, and only you can solve you. But if your parents really want to throw away some of their money, I would suggest a coach who employs a hands-off approach. I think you really want a coach who lives in another country, or even another continent. Remember, the last thing you want is a coach who tells you what to do. Good luck, man. I hope you're not getting braces.
Forging ahead ...
"I have a friend who's losing his hair. What do you think about combovers?
Niko D., nearby OTB location
WWRD: I'm a realist, Niko. If you are trying to redistribute hair on your head, tell your "friend" that he is BALD. I'm sorry for your loss, but you have to deal with it head-on, as it were. As I see it, you have two options. You can get a wig, and if you wear a headband, you can hold it in place while you play. I'd support another approach, though. Just shave your head, man. It's better than a combover, which is a look that says, "You may think I'm going bald, but look! Strands of hair!" Bald says, "You know it, and I know it. I'm bald, and I save thousands by not having to buy shampoo."
From a B. Bryan:
"Roger, I have a really great doubles partner, and we started celebrating wins with chest bumps. Lately, though, I've noticed that he doesn't seem jacked about doing them anymore. I really like the chest bump and I think it sets us apart. What do you think I should do?"
WWRD:Get a new partner.
"Dearest Roger: I have this boyfriend who I've been with for seven years. He's an amazing athlete, and he's charming, and he's got great hair. I'll call him "Dodger." I gave up my wildly unsuccessful tennis career to mold his. He actually reminds me a lot of you. The problem is that he's hasn't gone to Jared yet. That's right, no ring! I wonder if he's capable of commitment. The last time I asked him about marriage, he said he had to win the French Open first, whatever that means. So what should I do? Should I wait for him? Maybe I should propose. I don't know. I'm waiting for your question ... er, answer.
Signed, um, Kirka
WWRD: I'm going to need more time for this one. Give me until the end of June.
Roger's taking questions at TWA until the middle of January. Send him any thoughts and comments and he'll try to get back to you.