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Posts Tagged Andy Roddick

Digging Deeper When You Are In A Hole

Andres Vargas (rt) and Chris Binnie (who won the 9th match in the final)

On February 25th at the college squash national quarter finals, Trinity’s #3, Andres Vargas, defeated Franklin and Marshall’s Mauricio Sedano, 12-10, 12-10, 11-8. The closeness of the final numbers doesn’t reveal a startling comeback I witnessed in what I may recall correctly was the second game. Vargas was down by a score of 3-9. It only takes 11 points to win, although you have to win by at least two points.

There were less than 10 of us watching this game on the side courts with no bleachers. The eight or so folding chairs were mostly empty of fans. But standing beside me was a Trinity team member who does not rank in the top 9, so he was not playing that day. He casually said to me—in response to my expression of concern that Vargas was in deep trouble—”Don’t worry, Vargas will win this game.”

I was shocked. What made him think that? How could he be so sure? He was absolutely certain. When the score increased to 5-10, so that F&M’s player just needed one more point, my Trinity neighbor repeated his prediction. “Vargas has heart. He is the ultimate fighter. He will win this game.”

And then something emotional and inexplicable happens…Vargas wins two more points. It’s a 7-10 game. The distance to the finish has been cut to one point for F&M, but “ONLY” five points for Vargas. Still seems impossible to me. Yet having just won four out of the last five points, the momentum has clearly shifted to Vargas’s side. Trinity fans are hopeful. Maybe it isn’t impossible. F&M needs just one little point in the next five or so efforts. But it doesn’t seem like such a sure thing any more.

Remember that the first game was very close. It had been tied at 10-10, before Vargas squeaked ahead to a victory. This was not a pushover competitor. In this game, F&M had been ahead by 6 and then 5 points…Nevertheless, Vargas claims the next five points, forcing his way to another 12-10 win.

I turned to his Trinity teammate beside me. “How come you are not surprised?” I asked. Vargas had just won 9 out of 10 points. “He just digs in and wins. He is a fighter,” was the explanation. Not very clear nor satisfying to me. But he did it. I had witnessed it.

When Andy Roddick was playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009, there was a moment when Roddick was up a set and winning in the second set tiebreak 5-2. I was sure—well 99% sure—that Roddick would win two points, before Federer would win five. But Roddick blew it…and maybe never recovered. He lost the match in the fifth set by a score of 14-16.

Federer just dug deep. And he does it over and over. In a recent interview, Roddick said that Roger plays consistently at the highest level, whereas the other top 10 pros like himself lose focus, have more off days, are unable to maintain winning game play.

I tried to dig deep at tennis today, like Vargas and Federer. We were behind 0-3, and I was serving. I tried to be a killer, instead of a gentleman who doesn’t mind losing. It is my biggest challenge. But I believe I can do it…and we came back to win that game 6-4. Who’d a thunk it?

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How John Isner Trains For Long Tennis Matches

I wrote recently about the dangers of playing sports like tennis in hot weather. Doing it is much more difficult than watching it. I remember during the 2009 Australian Open that announcers were commenting on record temperatures over 100 degrees—it reached 111 one day. I had trouble in Miami, where I grew up, when I visited last year and played in just 87 humid degrees. How do players survive it for hours?

Isner and Roddick—2007

I heard that John Isner trained for this year’s Wimbledon by practicing heavily at Saddlebrook Resort in Florida’s mid-day heat. He spent up to 3 ½ hours a day on strength training and endurance. He also drinks coconut milk. By the way, he is 6’9″ and weighs 250 pounds. You can get some sense of his size in these pictures.

John Isner

So I looked up his specially designed training program and found this story by Joey Johnston of the Tampa Tribune:

… Before Wimbledon began, Craig Boynton, Isner’s coach, told the player he was strong enough to play for 10 hours. It was meant as confidence-building inspiration. But he wasn’t far off the mark.

“We develop programs for a lot of different players – some of them follow the plan and others don’t as well as they should,” said Jason Riley, Saddlebrook’s director of sports performance, who serves as Isner’s strength and conditioning coach, along with Kyle Morgan.

“John is meticulous about it. He implements the plan. He really takes care of his body. Coming out of college, it’s just speculation, but I’m not sure if his body would’ve held up. Physically and mentally, I’m not sure if he could’ve withstood a match like that.”

The essentials:

Diet: Riley is a big proponent of coconut water, which mimics electrolytes. He stresses food that provides sustained energy, such as fish, chicken, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and “a ton of vegetables.”

“When you go 70-68 in the fifth set, there’s going to be a lot of inflammation in your body,” Riley said. “The more antioxidants and vegetables you put in there, the better off you’re going to be.”
Does Isner ever stray from his diet, perhaps getting spotted as a fast-food drive-thru?

“I’m sure he does – but not very often,” Riley said with a smile. “You’ve got to know the times you can do those things – and the times you can’t do those things. He’s in a good place with his body now and he doesn’t want to mess that up. That could mean gaining weight or losing weight.”

Strength and conditioning: Isner alternates between the weight room and exercises to aid his movement and agility. Read the rest of this entry »

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Catching Up And Choking Up

If playing and watching sports often results in our forgetting about “real life,” and the drama of sports is often regarded as a metaphor for “real life,” then how much can we adapt from sports success and failure to improving our daily lives?

A lot, I hope. When an athlete or team is way behind and comes back to win, what can we learn from that to help us also upgrade our own performance…in sport as well as possibly going from rags to riches? Or personal setback to major achievement?

And just as a player way ahead often blows his/her lead, what can we glean from that choking that will stop us from doing the same in our own athletic contests and also our personal quests? So we don’t go from castle to hovel, from happy marriage to divorce?

There is this sports announcer thing about momentum, more confidence, change in mood, reviving, rallying. What is it all about? What happens on a psychological level that obviously affects the physical level and then the score and final result?

I have seen recently a few sports situations that make me think about these changes for the better and worse (when one comes from way behind, someone else blows their big lead, right?).

So let’s explore this subject in a series of posts. First some Wikipedia definitions: A “choke” is a failure to perform in sport due to anxiety. This is a form of panic attack in which the athlete may literally experience breathing difficulty or otherwise lose physical composure. Successful champions do not choke, but are “clutch” players — rising to the occasion under pressure rather than collapsing.

In sports, clutch refers to competent and/or superior play during high pressure situations. Most often it is a successful action taken under high pressure during a game, usually at the end, that may result in a significant change on the game’s result. In the mainstream, performance in important situations is often attributed to some wealth or deficit of character that causes a particular outcome…

So I was watching a college squash match, and the Trinity player was behind one game to two. (A winner needs three games out of five.) He’d just been crushed in the third game 2-11. The score in the fourth game was 6-10, so it only takes one more point to 11 for Trinity to lose this individual match to Dartmouth. Although the odds of a Trinity comeback are incredibly remote, I have some faint intuition that this game is not yet over. But I don’t say anything, don’t want to jinx the outcome. I’m all for Trinity.

The score inches up to 7-10, 8-10. Now the fans sense defeat is not inevitable. The players must realize it a bit as well. 9-10, we are almost there. What is going on? Is the Trinity player gaining confidence? He must have more hope now than when it was 6-10. What about his opponent? From a sure or very likely win, enormous optimism, maybe even cockiness, he has to be worried, more fearful, tightening up on his shots.

Suddenly it is 10-10, the unimaginable has happened. It’s a new game. More tension, excitement, many minutes of back and forth. In fact there are six match points total, until Trinity’s Parth Sharma wins 16-14. What a turnaround! Now Trinity has the momentum, the greater enthusiasm; his opponent has to be debilitated and let down. Sharma wins the fifth game easily 11-3, and that individual match goes to Trinity.

How did that happen? How can we make that happen? In sports. Or off the court. People do rise to riches. They do get the girl. They do zoom from doom to boom?

Last year at the Wimbledon final, Andy Roddick wins the first set, goes to a tie break in the second set, and takes a huge 5-1 lead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tennis Report Since My Injury

At least I didn’t quit playing sports while I was avoiding gym workouts: I was on a tennis court 12 times and a squash court three times. The aches and discomfort were definitely bearable. However my tennis game suffered, and I became very discouraged.

Unfortunately this weakened fitness period coincided with two doubles tournaments I entered and did poorly in. In the September 4th effort, my team lost all three matches and came in 17th out of 18 teams. A slight consolation is that two of the teams we played ended up in first and second place, the tournament winning duo including a tennis coach, and the runner up had a player who’d been ranked high in New England 40 years ago. The third competitor also boasted one of the top club players in the area who competed successfully in high school and college.

The best news was being told that my serve was the weakest part of my game—a total reversal of the earlier praise by others that my serve is my best weapon. So I will put more effort into improving it—should I make Andy Roddick my serve hero?

This particular competition was very interesting. Called a Court Prive, it is played on nine different private courts. After each match, which is concluded after one team wins eight games, you drive to the next location. The organizers spend quite a bit of time arranging for the courts, the players and the teams, which were mostly mixed. But they were out of women by the time it was my turn for a partner, so I was one of the three teams comprised of two men. All great fun, and a joyful sunny party afterward. The warm weather is greatly appreciated, because this has been among the wettest summers in recorded history. One black cloud was that I heard some of the losing players were a bit gruff at times. I want to talk later about the importance of winning at amateur sports.

One of the major happy distractions recently is the hours I have spent watching the US Open. Very exciting. I am totally addicted. Read the rest of this entry »

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