Saturday, July 28, 2018

LEAGUE WATCH: To Appeal or Not to Appeal?

If you had told me that moving to Florida would hamper my league play instead of opening all kinds of doors, I would have been like


and kept packing my bags.
But it's been true, for a couple of reasons. First, my rating is a problem. I'm a 4.0 and for the first year or so of living in Florida, I definitely did not play like one. In Pittsburgh, being a 4.0 woman meant a world of league-play activity -- a 4.0 team and the ability to play 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 tennis. And I played it all! I've only lost one 9.0 mixed match. Did I ever tell you that? What? You said that's because I played with 5.0 men?
But here in central Florida, being a 4.0 woman of a certain (working) age means I can't play women's league matches at this level because they're all on weekdays at 9 a.m. And as far as mixed doubles, well, I'm not exactly an asset here. Why? Well, my results have been terrible. And now that I'm actually playing more tennis and playing better tennis, it still doesn't matter because there's no 9.0 league here. The 8.0 league had two teams this year. Two. The captain of one of the teams was like, oh yeah, I'll send you the team number and then never did. This leaves the 7.0 team, which really underscores, I think, my weaknesses. It's easy to win matches when you have a partner who can take over a match and reduce the pressure on you. It's difficult to win matches when you have to be that partner and you are nowhere near as aggressive as that requires.
I've been working on that, though. And instead of lopsided losses, my partner and I are now able to lose in a third-set tiebreaker, which is not what I want, but it's progress.
The only way to get better at league tennis is to play more league tennis. You know, get familiar with the pressure and learn to perform while the rest of your team is waiting for you to seal a group win. But if there aren't a lot of league options available to me, what am I supposed to do?
I actually know the answer. The problem is that I don't like it. I could appeal my rating. If I dropped back to 3.5, I would be able to play in a weekend or evening women's league and I'd be (maybe I think) a good pick for mixed doubles. My partners would be stronger so it wouldn't fall so much on me. There's no 9.0 teams out here, so I won't miss out on that.
But my pride.
When I started playing tennis, I was a 3.0 in North Carolina, trying to figure out how to keep the rules straight in doubles. I took my lumps as I advanced to 3.5 and my goal was 4.0. I knew I was good enough for that -- if I could get my backhand under control, could figure out how to volley, could stop getting impatient during rallies and make a high-percentage play. (Some things never change.) I had a 3.5 season where I lost one match and I was sure that was the year I'd get bumped. But I didn't. The next season, I won only half my matches, but when I checked the TennisLink site the day ratings were updated (otherwise known as the tennis player's Christmas Day), I was so proud I had gotten there.
I've never in my life worked hard for something, got it, and then tried to get rid of that thing. So this is perhaps harder than it should be. It's probably the correct and sensible thing to do if I want to play more league tennis. But I'm better than 3.5!
Am I though?
You can see I'm struggling here. My plan is to wait until the end of this current league (about two matches away) and then officially appeal my rating. This has quote been my plan unquote for about a year now. It seems like a good plan. I should do it.
I should set in motion the train that's going to take me to the land of waking up one morning and finding the number 3.5 next to my name when I check TennisLink. Do you know how long it took for me to get to 4.0?!!!???!?!!!
Do I appeal my USTA rating so I can play more tennis? Definitely ... not ...?
Someone send help.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Wimbledon for Breakfast: This One We Can't Blame on Isner

Things were going well at Wimbledon throughout the tournament. Their website was *chef's kiss* beautiful. Their app worked. The matches (especially in the women's draw) were competitive. And then came Friday.
When Kevin Anderson began his semifinal match with John Isner that day, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for work. When it ended, I was picking up a late lunch and missed it. I actually had to concede about four hours in that the only reason I was watching it was to root against Isner, whose MAGA-headedness is a non-starter in this TWA house. I legit had to ask myself: Do you actually care about this match or just the result? I had to move on with my life.
But this marathon match kept things others from continuing on with their lives, namely Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. They started their match on Centre Court after Anderson/Isner (problem No. 1) and were only able to play three sets which they split (problem No. 2) and therefore had to finish the following day (problem No. 3), the same day as the women's final, traditionally played on Centre Court as the showpiece match of the day (problem No. 4).
This led to the Nadal/Djokovic semi taking precedence over the women's final (in which Serena Williams was competing for a record-breaking Slam title, but no big). At first, this irked myself and a lot of other fans, but in the end, letting the men go first was the best thing to do in a situation that is far from optimal. One of them would still have a match the next day. But this proved to be a train wreck situation. It really could have been solved with two tweaks:

Tweak 1
Nadal/Djokovic on Centre Court while Anderson/Isner play Court 1, or Court 13 or wherever else. There's no reason not to play both of these at the same time. Wimbledon is literally full of tennis courts. If Roger Federer was a factor here, this might be a tougher call, but still the call to make. People make plans, buy their tickets (travel and match) based on the schedule. Try to stick to it.

Tweak 2
A fifth-set tiebreaker. The U.S. Open has one, and I've actually been to the U.S. Open and felt the excitement in the air over a tiebreaker. It doesn't hurt anything. It actually amps up the excitement. Watching two guys ace each other for nearly seven hours is maybe not the thrill the other three Slams think it is.
Having said all of that, I have seen some truly ridiculous takes on this. Yes, I mean Ben Rothenberg, who said

I know. I got a headache reading that again just now. All I'll say at this point is that if he really believes this, the New York Times should just run the last 3/5th of his stories. What the hell do you need the beginning for? I get that this is just another way for him to make his best-of-three case. Still dumb.
And then this 12-12 tiebreak idea? It's a five-set match, not six! That's the equivalent of a sixth set! No, a regular tiebreak is just fine here. Yeesh, guys.
Anyway. Huge damn disaster that probably led to a lackluster men's final. What will Wimbledon do? LOL the same thing they did this year!

Quick hits

Back to Serena. She came up short in the final against Angelique Kerber in a win some consider an upset. OK, it's huge that Serena was able to reach the final, and it would have been amazing if she had won. But Kerber is No. 9 in the world, and had previously won Slams! Anyway, movement was Serena's biggest hurdle this tournament and her groundstrokes and serve had been enough to bail her out, but Kerber is basically a ball machine, so yeah. I honestly would have been more surprised if Serena had won.

The hell happened to Nadal in that last game?!?? Like, what? Seriously, that was a semifinal where I didn't miss a point. He and Djokovic played some truly spectacular points, and I'm really sorry to say this, but it was the de facto Wimbledon final. I don't want to minimize Anderson's achievements here (he beat the one guy I couldn't bear to see win Wimbledon), but the quality of Nadal/Djokovic was pretty high. Heck, Nadal/delP was of better quality than the final. In the semis, though, Nadal made some uncharacteristic mistakes when he had an open chance to win the point. And those misses were really the difference. Djokovic showed some shakiness at the end, and Nadal didn't take advantage. Of course, Djokovic was also really good at opening the door, and then closing it back with a strong serve or groundies. I know a popular question now will be whether Djokovic can pass Nadal or Federer in Slam wins. He's got age on his side, but as long as Nadal has two legs, he'll secure at least one Slam a year. Fed probably, too. Also, by the way, Nadal is a great grass court player, so we can stop acting like he only excels on one surface now.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Wimbledon for Breakfast: Today Was a Day

I'm just sitting here watching the Rafa Nadal/Juan Martin del Potro replay and I'm told that apparently that isn't the end of the tournament? That there are ... more matches tomorrow?
Crazier still, I'm told that some woman had a chance to grab at least one of Rafa's butt cheeks and ... did not do that?!

None of them made a grab. That's control I know I don't have.

Yes, yes. Today was a day. Roger Federer going out to Kevin Anderson. Kevin Anderson. Here's all I had to say about that one earlier:

My boy Milos Raonic losing to definitely-not-my-boy John Isner. (Refer to my post about why I will be busting out the rosaries for Anderson on Friday.)
But first, we have some semifinals tomorrow, for the ladies. Who. Do. We. Got.

Jelena Ostapenko v. Angelique Kerber: I've been watching Kerber's matches and not been overly thrilled by her play. What she's doing is scrapping -- playing awesome defense and if you can run down shots that are supposed to be winners, that is probably going to help. I only saw Ostapenko's most recent match against Dominika Cibulkova -- an alleged slugfest, you'll recall. It was not. Ostapenko was out there hitting balls with little wisps of smoke trailing from them and Cibulkova watched them pass. I'm concerned for Kerber should she consider a net approach. Don't do it, girl. I would give Ostapenko the edge, and I would go even further and suggest that whoever wins will win the whole tournament.
What? you say? But what about the other match? You have

Serena Williams v. Julia Goerges: (Germany, holla!) There aren't a lot of players out there who propel themselves through match after match, though far from their perfect form, but Serena is doing it again. She was moving horribly in the early rounds and has only cleaned that up a bit. Her serve and her stationary groundstrokes are keeping her alive. Which has been enough. Goerges has been having quite a year and thus far had no mobility issues. Betting against Serena at Wimbledon is hard, so I won't. I don't have the money to bet. But I will say I see a three-setter and I could see it not going Serena's way. But if it did? If she ended up against Kerber or Ostapenko -- two players who are in form and less intimidated by Serena? It would take a miracle.
And we all know they don't happen at Wimbledon. Sarcastic h/t to Kevin Anderson.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Wimbledon for Breakfast: On the Menu? Nothing Involving Seeds, Apparently.

Dominika Cibulkova and Serena Williams have advanced to the second week of Wimbledon and almost none of the top 10 seeded women can say the same. This is just the top half:

It's probably redder than that -- this was just off the top of my head. It's exhausting. Having said that, what a tournament! Let's not forget the resurgence of Ernests Gulbis and the early upset of Grigor Dimitrov by Stan Wawrinka (while his girlfriend Donna Vekic beat Sloane Stephens in the first round). Kei Nishikori's takedown of Nick Kyrgios is also of note. And it would hardly be a Grand Slam tournament without Caroline Wozniacki whining about something really inconsequential. We can talk about seeds and whether they matter, and who should have been seeded and who shouldn't have. Or we can just take a look at the best moments of Wimbledon so far, according to me. We're gonna do the latter.

No. 5: 
Bad call(s)

Kyle Edmund got about three levels of lucky here. He got credit for a double bounce, hitting the net early AND for hitting an out ball. I feel as though he was aware of at least one of these factors, as he surgically removed himself from the discussion between Novak Djokovic and the line judge. Perhaps if he had owned up on that point, Edmund would have saved some luck for later in the match. 

No. 4:
"Minority Report" tennis

No. 3:
Venus v. Bertens

If you're a Venus fan, it's torturous watching her in these titanic battles. At the same time, she is still in these matches, still a factor and still able to win. After the French Open, her coach said something about Venus not really picking up on opponent weakness 

and in watching her against Bertens, I kept wondering why Venus was staying back when she had such success at net.
And another thing. Watching Venus press conferences (at the end of the ESPN clip) is now worse than having a root canal. Here's what I propose: 
1. Venus walks in.
2. Enterprising journalist says, "You got anything to say?"
3. Venus says, "Nope" in no particular type of tone.
4. She stares at room. Room stares back.
5. Venus leaves. Everyone feels less awkward now.

This isn't hard.

No. 2:
Bahmahgawd Ernests Gulbis is back

First, it seems as though ever since Alexander Zverev yelled "It's my f***ing time!" at Roland Garros for the world to hear, it has indeed been a time for him. A fifth-set-bagel-to-a-player-ranked-outside-the-top-100 kind of time.
Second, Gulbis' forehand prep now looks like a bird in flight, and I don't think it's supposed to be like that, but (shrug emoji).

No. 1:
Serena Williams

So here's the thing. Serena Williams has been saying stuff like this for years (as has her sister). And for years, everyone has thumbed their noses, wondered who exactly she thinks she is. Maybe a few years ago, I would have thought it was a bit much. 
But it appears that the sisters Williams, as always, were ahead of the curve. In the intervening years, we -- meaning women -- have come to understand that it's OK to acknowledge your talents. That's because in general, no one else will acknowledge them for you. Recently, I discovered a tic in myself at work to apologize for other people's mistakes, and to shoot down any compliments. I've done it for years. No one taught me to do it. It's society's default position for women and we tend to fall in unconsciously. But that's ridiculous, isn't it? What the hell is the point of doing anything if you don't think you do it well? Why crawl out of bed in the morning in the name of mediocrity? You don't. That thing you're good at? You know you're good at it and you acknowledge that to yourself. Acknowledge it to others, too.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Wimbledon for Breakfast: Men's Preview

Don't get me wrong. The men's draw still has its promising first-round matches (Richard Gasquet v. Gael Monfils, Taro Daniel v. Fabio Fognini and of course Stan Wawrinka against Grigor Dimitrov -- which I still say Wawrinka will win), but it just doesn't rise to the promise of the women's draw this year. Not right away, anyway.

And here, I have to make a confession. I really just had Andy Murray losing to Jeremy Chardy in the first round. I am woman enough to admit when I've made a mistake, and that was a mistake. Murray's going to lose in the second round, to Denis Shapovalov. My bad.
Despite Roger Federer's, er, collapse in the Halle final last week, and even though Borna Coric is actually in Federer's quarter, I still think he'll advance. Unless of course, Ivo Karlovic serves his way past him (which is possible and which is what sucks the most about men's tennis at Wimbledon). By far, though, the bottom half is the tougher one, and although I've picked Rafa Nadal to get to the quarters, I don't have a ton of faith in that pick. It really says a lot about Nadal that he managed to win Wimbledon, because it is not his surface. I think it's OK to say that. I think it's OK to suggest that things might not go Nadal's way this time if he ends up facing Diego Schwartzman on grass. Heck, even Mischa Zverev might give Nadal trouble. Even still, this is just the beginning for him. Juan Martin del Potro and Shapovalov are also in this quarter. So that's tough enough. But Nadal is Nadal, so it's also hard to believe he isn't up to this battle.
Then there's French Open finalist Dominic Thiem's quarter. There's Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and Kei Nishikori. Whoa. If Wimbledon didn't reward a big server so disproportionately, I'd be more excited about these matchups.
Oh, what am I saying? I'm excited. I am! Just not Vera Zvonareva excited.
Aye. The reality of this Wawrinka upset pick is really starting to sink in. I'm staying with it, though. I guess. Yeah. Hm. OK. Yeah. I'm staying with it.

Wimbledon for Breakfast: The Ladies Preview

Listen, this women's draw is full of intrigue and great matchups right out of the chute, and I'm not even going to pretend that I feel as strongly about the men's draw.
Here's what I'm talking about:

Apologies for the crooked and cutoff draw at the edges. I think it might be time to do an "Office Space" on my printer.
Now, let's talk about some of these first-round matchups. Danielle Collins v. Elise Mertens. Heather Watson and Kirsten Flipkens. Naomi Osaka and Monica Niculescu. Belinda Bencic v. Caroline Garcia. Barbora Strycova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. But I really can't wait to see this Vera Zvonareva/Angelique Kerber match. I can't even cope with how excited I am to see Zvonareva again at a major. She was one of my favorite players to watch, because she struck a clean ball and her meltdowns were *chef's kiss* epic. I mean

It's always the racquet's fault.
Seriously, it's great to see older players coming back and redefining what a career looks like, especially after having a child. I wouldn't miss this one for anything. What time do they play now? Oh, 6:30 tomorrow morning? OK. Cool. Always fun when a Slam comes around and ruins your whole life for two weeks.
Anyway, on to the rest of the draw. For all the talk about whether Serena Williams should be seeded, it turns out that in the end, you still have to beat your opponent. For her 25th seeding, she gets a probable second-round match with Magdalena Rybarikova, who I believe just made the finals of a grass-court warm-up. And then fifth-seed Elina Svitolina. Let's say Serena advances through those matches. There's still Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, Ana Sevastova, and Caroline Wozniacki just in her quarter. (Just for grins, Dominika Cibulkova, who complained about Serena potentially pushing her out of seeding range, opens against Alize Cornet and is in Simona Halep's quarter, which is also occupied by Elise Mertens and Petra Kvitova. No one won here.)
Venus. OK, I have her advancing to the semis. Venus does tend to come to life at Wimbledon, and if she can avoid donating entire games in double faults, then I think she has a friendly-enough draw to accommodate a nice run. If there's a quarter without a clear favorite, it's this one. Karolina Pliskova has had a pretty rough grass run. Sloane Stephens has had no grass run. So there's that.
The Garbine Muguruza/Kerber/Garcia quarter will be really interesting, too. You have to think Muguruza, having won Wimbledon last year (I can't believe that crazy final against Venus was just last year!) has an edge, but man, there's also Daria Kasatkina, and Osaka and Ash Barty, and Anett Kontaveit. Also Genie Bouchard, who advanced through qualifying. Big props to Bouchard, by the way, who played qualifying to get into the main draw, unlike some people who said last year that they would qualify to fight for her place ... and then didn't. Definitely not looking at you, Maria Sharapova. This has nothing to do with you. AT ALL.