Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Attitudimeter: Yes, Roger is on this List

Lot of big news in the pro tennis world in the last week or so. Time to crank up the 'meter!

Who's Got Attitude

Roger Federer

He's not so much "up" as he is No. 1 in the world again. I, personally, was pretty happy with the previous No. 1, but whatever. This is fine, too. If you want to talk about longevity, let's talk about something I wrote about Fed some 11 years ago this month:

Some things never change. He's still the best and he still talks as if he could actually lose to people. So adorable.

Petra Kvitova

You might say there's no kvit in her. You might if you liked cheesy wordplay. If you like a player returning from a long and scary layoff only to come back and win two fairly big tournaments back-to-back, you'd probably like Kvitova's recent history. She's looking dominant against most players and grinding out tough wins against the better players. It can't be easy to return from a lot of time off, and not everyone has rebounded as well as she has (we'll talk more about that in a second), but she is looking like an early Wimbledon contender. Again.

Simona Halep

I'm not sure how you're a top five player and can't get a clothing deal, but that problem is finally solved for Halep. She's a Nike girl now, but wondering if she's going to be one of those Nike girls wearing the same set as the other Nike girls during tournaments. Bad news is that she's now sidelined with injury after playing well post-Australian Open, but I have a question. Why are major finalists and winners not taking time off after a Slam anymore? Caroline Wozniacki was playing the very next tournament after Australia. But why?

Who Needs an Attitude Adjustment

Maria Sharapova

You're probably thinking: "So, who now? Where has she been?" She has been in tournaments. She was in Qatar. She lost in the first round to Monica Niculescu. Sharapova has not had a great go of it since she's been back. Sure, she beat Halep at the Open last fall, but she's not even advancing far enough in tournaments to get a sniff at the top players right now. And I wonder if this would be happening if she hadn't been banned. She's been back on the tour about the same time as Kvitova, but they are obviously on different tracks right now. It's not just that she's not winning. She hasn't beaten a top-10 player since Halep, who has since returned the favor in dominant form. She's getting destroyed by top players. Angelique Kerber beat the crap out of Sharapova in the third round in Australia. She made the final of the Australian before her suspension. I just wonder what's going on in the alternate universe, where she didn't feel the need to hide from most of her team that she was taking a medication that would later be banned.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

LEAGUE WATCH: It's All in Your Head (OK, My Head)

It's that time again -- USTA league play is finally underway here in Florida. And for me, that means ... uh-oh. It means I hadn't played any tennis in at least three weeks, but yet I'm mad I'm not in the week one lineup.
And see, this isn't all my fault. What had happened was that my home courts -- located a comfortable seven minutes from my house -- is now under construction. In the meantime, the best place to pick up matches is a half-hour away. So it's been either drive across the county after work or try to coax others to come find a court closer to me. Naturally, neither has happened. Thus the spider webs on my racquets.
But this time, I had a plan to brush up on my game, despite not having played in three weeks and just one day before my first league match. I would play for hours with a fun group the day before. I'd work out all the kinks with my serve and backhand. The muscle memory would kick in, and I would be all set for the following day. Brilliant!
I didn't play well on Saturday. I couldn't get my toss in the right place and if the ball wasn't hit to my forehand, it was not likely to go over the net. But, I thought, now I know what I need to work on!
But a very surprising development unfolded on Sunday during my match. I continued my poor play from the day before and actually played worse than ever at times. The first league of the year out here is the 7.0 mixed, so I was playing with a 3.0. That means that, as the higher-rated player, it doesn't mean necessarily that you need to take over a match, but you do need to be the steadier player, the one making things happen. That would have been really helpful, especially considering what we had across the net -- a very experienced and physically strong 4.0 guy. That's the time when you need to really target the opposition's weakness while shoring up your own issues.
Unfortunately, however, that isn't what happened. Sure, I had a plan. I've played this 4.0 guy before. He was good, but I had beaten him in doubles before. I knew hitting to his partner was the best thing we could do. But here's the problem: It is very difficult to focus on how to pick apart the opposition when you are busy trying to remember how you hit a tennis ball in the first place.

Like, I had no rhythm, was rendered completely unable to move my feet. I re-tossed the ball for my serve about four times, per serve, on average. Not kidding. Even still, I double-faulted at least once per game. I'm one of those nervous laughers you've met and are annoyed by, so I'd miss badly and turn to my partner and laugh out an apology. He smiled, but I bet inside he was screaming for mercy. I know I was. It's really hard to focus on strategy when you are a bit distracted by your own game.
They say that behind every cloud is a silver lining and I believe ours that day was that we managed to win that one game in the first set.
So this was bad. Immediately after the match, I endeavored to play again as soon as possible and get to the bottom of this terrible play. On Tuesday, I was back at the courts and I didn't have to wait long to get into a foursome to play a set. My serve was still a hot mess, but strangely, I felt free to move and swing however I wanted. I was thinking strategically, seeing the gaps I had in the court, even hitting drop shots and volleys. I felt great.
"What's different about today and two days ago?" I asked myself about a half-hour into the set.
Forgive me -- I'm a little slow. The answer is obvious. One is a practice situation and the other is a match situation. It's pressure. You get used to dealing with it when you play regularly. That's why the practice is important, too. If you don't have to worry about yourself, you have time to focus on the mental part of tennis -- strategy and picking apart the opposition. Otherwise, you're just out there like

Friday, February 09, 2018

There's Bad Timing and Then There's Davis and Fed Cups

Bad timing is when you meet the perfect guy, but he just got married. It's someone bringing you a free meal, but you just ate. It's when you accept a job offer -- they day before you get an offer from the job you really wanted. Bad timing is when you miss a phone call from someone you really wanted to touch base with before they left for Japan for a month. That's bad timing.
I don't know what to call it when you schedule the first round of Davis Cup on Super Bowl weekend. Like, what do you call it? Nick Kyrgios has another breakdown and Australia is upset in the first round. If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone watch it on TV during the Super Bowl?!? U.S. team is back, winning the first round. Sure would be nice to have some good publicity after that Tennys S -- so wait, this Eagles quarterback,  he was a backup?!
I don't know what you call it when you schedule the first round of Fed Cup on opening weekend of THE WINTER OLYMPICS. What is that exactly? Oh, nothing. It's Serena Williams in all likelihood returning to the court for the first time in more than a ... huh? Curling? *#*(@* yeah, I'm watching some curling! Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir doing commentary on figure skating? Oh, yeah, son! Because this is only on ONCE EVERY FOUR YEARS. And Fed Cup is ... like, whenever during the year. Many times in the year. Yeah. The Czech Republic team is looking deep as ever, with Petra Kvitova and Karolina Plisk-- ... ohmygosh Lindsay Vonn. What a story. Wait, there's another Jamaican bobsled team. I am all in for that!
What was I saying? I can't remember. Yoooooooo, that Tongan guy is back and There's. More. Oil.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

AO 2018 Attitudimeter: No One's Playing Down Unduh Anymoor!

There were a lot of questions going into the Australian Open. What will the women do without Serena? Will someone finally challenge Roger and Rafa? How much sleep do I really need to function daily?
It turns out that, as with every other Australian Open, you are left with even more questions: Kyle Edmund? We're still insisting on playing this tournament in conditions that eggs cannot survive? Why does it seem as though all the majority of young white American tennis players seem to like a little MAGA in their coffee?
Welp, it's time to ramp up the ol' Attitudimeter! First reading of 2018!

Who's Up

Simona Halep: Now, I never thought there would come a day when I would be sitting up in my bed at 4 a.m. (maybe it was 5?) staring wide-eyed at my laptop screen watching a women's final between Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep and kinda be sorta wouldn't-mind-too-bad-if-she-won rooting for ... Halep? Any regular readers know that I beat on Halep regularly over the on-court coaching crutch. I thought it might make her unable to stand on her own when she needed to. And look, I will build, maintain regularly and die on the hill that this policy is sexist AF and a mental crutch for a game that is 99.8794532 percent mental. But Halep showed in this tournament that she can figure it out and even produce great tennis under pressure -- because she had to do it many times against many comers. And even though she lost in the end, it wasn't like she gave it away, or choked. She played her best down to the last ball, and it's hard to believe she's going to make it out of 2018 without a Slam. She ready, yall:

Literally just wiped the smile off her own face.
Caroline Wozniacki: Well, we saw this coming, didn't we? Wozniacki has been threatening to come get her Slam for a solid year at this point, and between the stronger serve and transitioning out of a purely defensive game to become one of the better ball strikers the tour has right now -- well, it's a lot.

Roger Federer: Or, as he's known on the tour, Gramps. Federer, you'll recall, said at the beginning of the tournament that he's 36, and therefore too old to be a Slam favorite. Right. It was hard to catch a Fed match this tournament because he was always playing in the middle of the night (East Coast time) and was also done with his matches as though his daily calendar was packed. He didn't lose any sets until the final. (Which, OK. It's suspect that they closed the roof for the men's match while the women's final was played in sweltering heat. Like all of a sudden it just got hot out there. What?!?)

Angelique Kerber: It looks like the WTA Tour in 2018 is about to be lit is all I have to say about that.

Marin Cilic: Listen, it was a big deal to pick up two sets off of Federer in his current state.

Who's Down:

Venus Williams: This 2017 finalist lost in the first round this year, meaning she's now down in the rankings by about 75 million points. (Fact check: She only dropped from fifth to eighth because no one else above did anything at the Australian in 2017. )

Venus = still OG

Rafael Nadal: The Aussie Open draw gods gave Rafa some extra love this tournament, with scarcely a real challenge until Marin Cilic, and it was a combo of his opponent and an injury that kept him from finishing. The good news is that the injury is short term, which means the next question is: Will Fed sit for the French or challenge Nadal for No. once?

The USTA: I got some problems with the way it handled this Tennys Sandren situation, but we gonna need a whole new post for that one.