Archive for category tennis

Humiliated, Devastated And Embarrassed

In Newport last month, I entered a “batting cage” for tennis players and learned that my serve almost never exceeded 65 mph. One out of maybe 10 was over 70. Whoopie Doo! Two videos made with an iPad and emailed to me revealed that my form was nothing–and I mean NOTHING–like the pros on TV. But to be perfectly honest, it looked so bad that I was devastated, dismayed and heartbroken.

Finally I understood why I have no power. So I watched how-to-serve videos, received advice from friends who play and practiced some serves. Of course Practice Makes Perfect ONLY if you practice perfectly. I felt like was bending my legs, dropping my racket toward my back, rather than leaving it above my shoulders, and accelerating the racket head. I could visualize my improvement.

Two weeks later my daughter filmed me and lo and behold…it was still awful. At this point I am practically suicidal from failure. (I know, I know…it’s only a game) In spite of how improved I FELT, the video didn’t lie. I was taking an unnecessary and power-robbing step backwards, I was still pushing the ball from above my shoulder, and worst of all, I looked like an old man farting around on a tennis court. Using this newer half-assed, still-weak serve in games, I no longer had my respected consistency and placement skills that gave my net man easy putaways to the opponent’s return.

Forget about the difference between a competitive game with others and relaxed, no-pressure, non-choking practice. I still couldn’t do it even on the practice court. And now I was double faulting a lot in games, along with sending my first serve too long too often.

Then a couple of days ago I faced two players who are both better than I am. Beautiful ground strokes and powerful serves, one a lefty. On my team however was a teenager, I think, who was better than both opponents. When I expressed envy for his serve, he said I had to drop my right shoulder. Aha! That is how you get your knees to bend naturally, I realized. The light bulb went on with the brilliance of our sun. I tried it immediately the second time I served, and I had a glimmer of improvement. Not easy. But I held my serve to win the set 6-1. My net game had been better than usual, and it resulted in a number of needed points.

The next day after work, I hit 250 serves until it was so dark that I couldn’t see the balls land on the court. The sky behind the tossed ball was almost totally black as well. And guess what? I still can’t get it. Somehow I can return net volleys like I am playing ping pong, but am unable to make my body contort itself anywhere near the desired form and coordination a good serve requires. Frustrating!

Well I am determined to “get it.” I have trouble watching the ball in the air, bending, bringing the racket near my back, dropping the right shoulder, pronating my right wrist, landing on my left foot with my right foot up in the air. And tossing high enough, which is the most important part of a serve I keep hearing.

It’s a real challenge that I will tackle like all other things in my life. The good news is that it’s not life and death, either physically or economically. The bad news is that millions of 13-year-olds can do it, so why can’t I also come close to mastering some approximation of a decent serve?

But when I do achieve this difficult goal, the victory will be all the sweeter. I never give up, I keep trying, and some day I will DO it, not just TRY to do it. Until then I am obsessed with practicing serves. The challenge is invigorating. My body and legs are sore. And I am amused by how we see ourselves one way, but the videos and pictures and outside world see a different version that we might never suspect. Painful. Embarrassing. But forever true…

And it lease it’s only tennis, not politics or a corporate ladder.

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Lunch With Laver And Conversation With Collins

Bud tells tales at a luncheon. Pam Shriver watches and Bud's wife Anita (seated) listens

Bud tells tales at a luncheon. Pam Shriver watches and Bud’s wife Anita (seated) listens

Rod also listens to Bud after telling his own stories

Rod also listens to Bud after telling his own stories

The day after the latest tennis greats including Martina Hingus had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was able to attend a luncheon at which Pam Shriver was the mistress of ceremonies. I was directed to an almost empty table and settled down to my lobster roll and potato chips. Within minutes Rod Laver was directed two seats to my right and Bud Collins and his wife were placed directly across. Our conversation was limited of course, and neither had any idea who I was or why I was at their table. But it sure gave me a kick to be breaking “bread” with these stars. Too funny. I love coincidences and random events like these. Keep ’em coming, Lord…

By the way, Bud was one of the first journalists who moved successfully to TV coverage in 1963 and specialized in tennis commentary, wrote books about tennis and wears astonishingly colorful clothes. Check his fashion style out here .

Another acclaimed tennis personality who spoke at the luncheon and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame the day before was TV sportscaster Cliff Drysdale, who co-founded the men’s pro tennis “league” and was the first president of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). In his speech at the ceremony to hundreds–maybe 2000—people, he made fun of one colleague when he said that although he (Cliff) was given five minutes to speak, this named buddy would probably not be able to focus on it after 30 seconds, because he had the “brain and attention span of a mosquito!” When I asked Cliff later about that dig, he said his buddy could handle it. Wow. That’s show biz I guess.

At the luncheon he made fun of another person’s shirt color, and for the rest of the day I heard people mentioning the guy’s shirt and color (it was chartreuse-y). I actually have a shirt almost that exact color, so I was personally offended by Cliff’s ridiculing it (just kidding). But it amazes me that he would be so critical, undiplomatic and insensitive and think it was funny. But then I am not a famous sportscaster and famous tennis executive.

snappy dresser Bud Collins (in orange pants) leaves the ceremony

snappy dresser Bud Collins (in orange pants) leaves the ceremony

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Rod Laver Comes To Newport Tennis Tournament

ira and Rod Laver

ira and Rod Laver

Just spent four days at the annual ATP tennis Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. Been going for over five years and love the grass matches, hitting on a court myself, seeing the tennis greats. Always check out the history documented in the Hall of Fame, of which I am a member. Who could believe I became such an enthusiast for a sport.

There are many tennis celebrities there each year whom I have come to recognize, hear their stories at some luncheons, talk to occasionally–it’s usually just chit chat…but I like it for sure. This year I heard or saw Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Martina Hingus, Owen Davidson, Todd Martin, Pam Shriver, Bud Collins, Vic Seixas, Rosie Casals.

I always see fans asking the greats to pose with them, while a friend takes a picture. Not me. I even laugh at the superficiality of it all. But this year it was different. I was in my seat watching a match, when I realized that Rod Laver was three feet away. After hesitating a few minutes, I asked a friend to photograph us and bothered this titan of tennis to pose with me. He graciously rose slowly from his seat with some apparent effort and smiled for the camera. I am proud to document my closeness to his history.

Rod may be the greatest tennis player in the game. He is an Australian who holds the record for most singles titles won in the history of tennis, with 200 career titles. He was ranked World No. 1 for seven consecutive years. He is the only tennis player, male or female, to have twice won the Grand Slam (all four major singles titles in the same year), winning in 1962 and 1969. He is the only male player to have won “The Grand Slam” during the open era. He also won the Pro Grand Slam in 1967. He is the only player in tennis history (man or woman) to have won 3 combined calendar year Grand Slams (won all available majors). Laver won a total of 19 Major singles titles, including 11 Grand Slams and 8 Pro Slams. He also won a total of 9 Major doubles titles including 6 Grand Slam men’s doubles and 3 Grand Slam mixed doubles. He holds the all-time male records of 22 singles titles in a season (1962) and 7 consecutive years (1964-70) winning at least 10 singles titles per season. In addition to this he won 9 Championship Series titles (1970–75).

In terms of yearly prize money won, Laver was the leader from 1964 until 1971. Wikipedia shows that he won a total of $1,565,413. Today’s tennis leaders enjoy the benefits of TV money, increased popularity and higher tournament ticket prices. The five top male players these days have earned between $20 and 78 MILLION dollars, and they are still competing. A few times this weekend, one of the old timers mentioned how he received a handshake as his prize, or $100 for winning a tournament or even $10,000 for a Grand Slam win…these days the top prize for a Grand Slam like Wimbledon is $2,400,000! How the times have changed.

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On Fire At Last

There are those few times, when one knows he/she is making progress in a pursuit. I had that last night at tennis, while subbing in a higher quality game than usual. Last summer in this group, my team (partner chosen randomly) often lost. But the guys do know that in spite of my weak strokes and modest serve, I have those ping-pong reflexes at the net. “Good hands” is a comment I hear often after my unexpected volleys and net points.

Last night we lost the first match 1-6. After a partner change, my new team won the second match 6-1. Going to the winner court, I was actually desired, rather than avoided, by two of the guys—the third couldn’t bid for me, because he and I had teamed up before. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED. Down 2-4, we came back to win 7-5 with the guys from the other court watching. Twice the other team thought they had put away the point, but I somehow, miraculously, unbelievably retrieved their “winner” with a startling volley and put it where they couldn’t return it or did so softly, allowing my team to put it away. They had actually turned away from the point and were walking back to the baseline, so sure they were that the point was over.

After the victory, I was told how I was “on fire” and that “other guys would have headed for the hills, but you stood there facing the net and returned the ball with an unexpected volley.” All quite thrilling. It hasn’t happened before with this group. Very satisfying. Even my serve had improved over the last year, so that the receiver’s return often went into the net.

I love this game…especially when I keep improving.

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Upper Arm Plastic Surgery??? Who Knew???

tough first lady

tough first lady

Here is an article by Erin Cunningham that startles me: more women want upper arm plastic surgery. (I didn’t even know there was such a procedure.) And Michelle Obama is the reason. Of course there are contrarians who say she is not the cause. You can decide after looking at some photos of our First Lady. I also included pictures of tennis star Samantha Stosur. How do you like her arms?

Michelle's elegant arms

Michelle’s elegant arms

On Monday, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported a 4,473 percent increase in brachioplasties, or upper-arm lifts, since 2000. And as a result of its recent online poll, the ASPS also reported that the most desired upper arms by women belong to Michelle Obama.

biceps to rave about?

biceps to rave about?

Sam Stosur really has arms

Sam Stosur really has arms


The report made it sound as if the first lady’s chiseled biceps had inspired people to get upper-arm surgery. “Women Opting for Surgery to Get Michelle Obama’s Arms,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Vanity Fair put it: “Michelle Obama’s Arms Are More Coveted Than Jennifer Aniston.” And Glamour asked its readers: “Would You Have Plastic Surgery to Get Arms Like Michelle Obama’s?”

But while the ASPS reported that upper-arm lifts jumped more than 4,000 percent between 2000 and 2006 among women, Business Insider points out that, according to previous ASPS yearly reports, since 2007, “there have been only single-digit increases or decreases year-to-year for the cosmetic procedure.” Since the Obamas didn’t take Washington by storm until 2008, it’s unlikely that Michelle Obama can be thanked (or blamed) for the upper-arm sensation.

does she lift weights daily?

does she lift weights daily?

“The rise of brachioplasty has actually occurred over the past decade. It’s a procedure that has been fairly popular all along,” says Dr. Matthew Schulman, who practices plastic surgery in New York City. He adds that the procedure hasn’t just gotten more popular since the Obamas have been in the White House. Still, “she has a very visible role, she’s out there on more mainstream television, and constantly wears sleeveless dresses,” Schulman says.

Perhaps because of the rise social media, the immediate awareness of one’s body type has created a more self-conscious audience, says Dr. Darrick E. Antell, assistant clinical professor of surgery at Columbia University. “People take pictures, view them right away, and see those arms they want to hide,” he says. “Michelle is sort of an icon, she’s stylish, and she’s typically photographed from the waist up.” Since mobile devices now have video and camera capabilities, the readiness with which images can be uploaded and viewed leaves one little time to prepare to confront one’s flaws.

Doctors point to widespread weight loss across the nation and advanced surgical technologies as the dominant factors that have contributed to the rise of brachioplasties—not Michelle Obama. As Antell explains, “People today are losing much more weight than in the past, which leads to an excess of loose skin.” The development of microliposuction, too, has made the upper-arm procedure less severe, the scar management less difficult, and the recovery time much faster. (Patients can be back to work as quickly as the span of a long weekend.)

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Don’t Turn Your Other Cheek. Get Pissed Instead!

My problem in tennis has been that I am not a killer. Too nice a guy, my friends say. Not aggressive enough. I do try to be tough, but it’s artificial, not my basic personality.

Two days ago I was playing poorly and became pissed. After losing two sets by huge margins—2-6 and 0-6—with two different partners, I was furious in the next set with my third partner. I played angrily. We were ahead 5-3. Unfortunately we lost 5-7. It was a tough match to lose. I was really frustrated…near to smashing my racket. Rage. I never have those emotions.

Today I was very insecure about my game before we started. Had minimal confidence. My team lost 4-6, after a very long set. But I was playing hard and pretty well. With the same partner (for all three sets), we crushed the other guys in the next set 6-0. I really wanted that bagel. It felt good. Now the other team was ticked and stayed on serve, so it was 2-1 in their favor, and it was my turn to serve. At this point one of the opponents used a mental trick on me—he admitted later that he had used it in high school. He pointed out before I started that I had not been broken once in two sets. The only player who could claim that distinction. Then joked that he “didn’t want to put any pressure on me by pointing out this fact. Heh heh heh.”

Of course it certainly DID increase the pressure, and I lost the game. I was so annoyed/angry/upset that there was no Mr. Nice Guy left in me. I told him loudly enough for everyone to hear that what he did “was fucking shitty.” And when he smiled, I repeated it. I was ready to explode.

In retrospect, this was a welcome and unfamiliar feeling. I wanted to take him apart. Now my team was behind 1-3, and I had no intention of putting up with this stunt. We won the next five games, and my aggression, serving and net play helped make it happen. I had zero sympathy for the other team. I wanted to defeat them. It wasn’t just a game. It had become a blood sport. No feeling sorry for their frustration. No worrying if my speaking up would alienate them. And none of that turning the other cheek crap.

Still feels pretty good six hours later. Have to save some of that juice for next time.

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Keeping Sports In Perspective And Dealing With Envy

I write this after a week of sadness from the Boston bombings. Right now the manhunt is on for the second suspect.

I have been playing a lot of tennis: tomorrow will be 12 out of 18 days. When I missed shots yesterday, I couldn’t get upset—I was alive and safe. I was healthy enough to be active, while others my age are dead, too sick to run around, or not fit enough to play. Yesterday I hit the best lobs of my life. My ground strokes are improving after I learned a new technique. My serve is a bit harder.

I also had a physical and received the blood work: my cholesterol is still below 200 (197) and my PSA is healthy. Avoiding all those delicious cream sauces and desserts and buttery breads has some benefit. I do miss them though.

I am certainly proud that all the hard work and discipline is paying off. Some boys in their 20’s tell me that I still inspire them with my healthy living. Unfortunately, there are people who are older who find my good health and physical activity “irritating.” They seem to be envious and don’t want to hear about it. They resent my good genetic inheritance. They are jealous that I am able to make myself avoid certain foods, minimize alcohol and fat intake. It is frustrating for me that I have to hide this physical success. Yet here I am the second time in 10 days dealing with other people’s annoyance at my achievements. But it is how humans are. Some things don’t change…you can see infants fighting over who is better and who should keep the toys. Adults are often just infants in grown up bodies…

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Leaving Your Comfort Zone In Sports And Life

A friend of mine is having surgery today, and others who are ill will need surgery as well. So I feel hesitant to talk about simple challenges involving tennis grips and how to hit the ball. But I had a life lesson yesterday that is applicable beyond tennis, which I have always said is—along with other sports—a metaphor for life.

There’s a really nice guy I play tennis with who offered me some advice. I welcomed his suggestions. He was a 5.0 player decades ago, and even now sees the minutest details I may never perceive. He knows what grips the other players use, their hitting patterns, weak strokes, and what kind of ball they will serve from the angle of their racket face. He has shown me how to notice whether he is hitting a flat, side spin or top spin serve—although I can’t see it at all in a game. He knows his stuff and wanted to share it with me.

Over the last few weeks, he said my grip at the net was incorrect. I learned from videos that he was absolutely right. So to improve my game, I changed my grip. He said my stance when serving was limiting. I tried his recommendation, and it seems my serve has more power. All good…so far.

The problem is, I now have to think much more about what I am doing. It’s not automatic, instinctive reflex. And these changes are messing up my whole game. I have plummeted in a very short time from playing my best tennis to much poorer performance. My teams generally lose our sets. I am incredibly frustrated.

Now I know what I am doing is good for me…in the long run. And I would much rather just keep doing what I was doing. So easy. Most people do what they are comfortable with, don’t want to change their behavior, because it is too difficult at first. Or they might fail. They might be ridiculed for their mistakes. They might feel shame and embarrassment.

But I am willing to take chances, make change, go beyond my comfort zone, risk failure.

Another very experienced tennis-player told me about an unusual way to grip the racket, when I make a spin serve. I asked the coach who had given me serving lessons. He said I should try it, but it would take “some time,” before I could do it consistently. Change is hard. Success and improvement don’t happen right away.

Yesterday I was a mess. I can’t believe how befuddled I was. All my strokes were off. So many capable people have said not to think, just relax and let your game flow. Well it’s been impossible recently. I was lucky to get the ball over many times yesterday, much less in the court. And playing felt really crappy.

I was reduced to a deer in headlights. Frozen, unable to move in time, letting balls whiz by that previously would have been do-able net volleys. It was awful. And my vastly improved ground strokes disappeared too. Worst of all, I was horribly upset with the situation. I was not the cool Roger Federer guy, but one of those hot heads who almost smashed a racket.

I don’t like that. It’s not the usual me. Athletics at the amateur level are supposed to be fun. There’s no big dollar prize at the end. Just the satisfaction of a job well done. But now I have to insulate myself from being frustrated and ticked. Maybe that is a good challenge. Sort of Buddhistic: seeing hurdles as golden opportunities that will be overcome with practice and effort.

Most of all, I remember that these are high class problems. Nothing at all to fret about in the scheme of the world’s turmoil. But I was affected. Do you ever get upset, when you can’t perform well at recreational sports?

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Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

So my friend’s 15-year-old, deaf, blind yap dog won’t eat out of his usual bowl. Who knows why? Eventually we threw some pellets on the floor to get him to eat, and he did. Now we put his food on a plate…and he eats it…sometimes. And he still avoids his bowl.

I remember hearing that it’s almost impossible to break old habits, especially in sports. You have to develop new habits that accomplish your ever-distant, unattainable goal. Make new circuits in your brain and muscle memory, rather than rewiring the old, entrenched pathways.

On the tennis court, I am the old dog trying to learn a new trick. And about a month ago, I finally learned how to hit a good forehand. It’s so good that I am staying in cross court, base line rallies with some of the best guys in my doubles games. In the past I would have no hope of not making the unforced error within a swing or two, so I would charge the net right away and attempt to make a winning volley. But two strong partners started complaining that I should stay back in the base line rally for 3-5 strokes, that I WAS holding my own and should keep doing it, until they could intercept the opponent’s shot with a winning net volley. Were they actually talking about ME? I hadn’t even realized I was doing so well.

I still have trouble watching the ball, but I finally started doing it better and turning to the right AND KEEPING MY LEFT HAND ON THE THROAT OF THE RACKET. In the many many former days, I would stay facing the net and just bring my right arm out to my side without turning. WRONG! The ball went into the net or too far and out. One day it just clicked. I actually realized what I was doing wrong and began noticing that my left hand MUST hold the racket until I was turned. It’s unimaginably easy now to turn.

Now I think this same scenario plays out in life off the court all the time. We keep doing the same thing over and over that causes mistakes (unforced errors) and failure. Of course there is no one standing at our shoulder correcting us…or telling us that we are being insensitive to others…or informing us how to earn money or get the girl…etc etc. But even if we were aware, we have to change the old way with a new approach. Damn hard. Almost impossible…without a trauma, like a serious accident, illness (heart attack) or near-death experience. Jeez! I just read a sad story about a girl who almost died in a car crash and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. You think next car ride she will do that again? Probably not. But she has known about wearing seat belts for years. Maybe decades. Why didn’t she do it? Hard to change old habits.

I laugh out loud, when I am told to watch the toss and where the server’s racket hits the ball, so I will know what to expect. Or to hit down the middle, if both opponents are back. I have to remind my well-meaning partners that I am simply trying to get the ball back and over the net most of the time, and that I am not at their level. But they keep advising anyway…as if just telling me will lead to their desired result. Not quite hopeless. Better than nothing. Executing good advice is just a whole other challenge.

But maybe someday I will be at that level. Today one of those better players showed me that I have to change my grip for a spin serve. Three earlier coaches never suggested that new trick. Maybe now I will have a real spin serve…once I can remember to do it. Why not? I figured out a new way to turn my body for a forehand…

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Two-Year-Old Basketball Whiz Inspires Me To Practice

This video looks like it’s for real. Quite amazing to see a two-year-old on his way to becoming a basketball star. A feel-good video that reminds me how one can improve with hours/years of practice. Especially if your technique is good.

Tomorrow I am going to play in two doubles matches: my usual Wednesday morning game and filling in as a needed fourth in the afternoon. I can’t wait to try out my new serve. I saw a pro squash match at NYC’s Harvard Club in which the player changed his grip for forehand and backhand…you are supposed to keep the same grip in squash. What he did on the back hand is move closer to the racket head (away from the butt of the handle). I tried it, and it gave me more control and power and hits in the sweet spot. At a squash clinic, I learned that most pros do NOT change, but most DO choke up more on the handle. So I am doing that in tennis.

Still frustrated that my serve lacks power, I practiced after yesterday’s match to fall on the ball more and into the court…even though my current coach said I should jump UP, rather than forward. Just as if I was shooting a basketball. Well choking and falling forward made an enormous difference. I practiced for an hour and can’t wait to see tomorrow if I can duplicate those serves under the pressure of a game. Very exciting.

Now if I’d just started all of this when I was two or three, I might be a champion…

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Suicide In Sport And In Life

 Nicolas Almagro succeeded again in losing to David Ferrer

Nicolas Almagro succeeded again in losing to David Ferrer

While watching Nicolas Almagro dominate his Davis Cup buddy David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarter-final, I was thinking what a mental game tennis is. Two sets up and serving for the match in the third set, Almagro couldn’t put it away. Ferrer won the set. Almagro had lost all 12 of his previous Ferrer matches. The announcers were saying tennis is all about what’s “between their ears.” In the fourth set, Almagro broke Ferrer FOUR times and was broken back each time! At that point I was sure Almagro either couldn’t handle success or had a death wish. Of course he lost the match, the fifth set 2-6, after having five or six match points in the contest.

After this harmless metaphor for suicide, I remembered an heiress I knew who continually sabotaged herself, so that after respected career progress, she would talk back or be arrogant to her bosses—she didn’t need the money to survive—and then be fired. I saw this a few times over the years, before she became depressed and killed herself with pills. Her sister had jumped off the Golden Gate bridge. Maybe it was merely genetic. But clearly she did not want to win or succeed. Maybe it frightened her. Maybe she was uncomfortable with success and enjoyed the familiarity and self-inflicted victimization of failure. I’m no shrink, but I did hear from a more psychologically knowledgeable person this weekend that humans stick with familiarity and situations in which they feel comfortable.

Did Almagro really WANT to lose? Is he scared of beating his good friend? He clearly has the physical ability…but he just had to step easily over the finish line…and didn’t. Or wouldn’t. He did everything he could to fail.

The day after that defeat, I met a friend who told me her high-school classmate who was always the life of the party had killed himself with a shotgun at age 50. Then I heard about an ex-husband who broke down his wife’s new apartment door and shot her… and then himself. And then another suicide story was thrust on me this weekend.

Whew! I was just watching tennis games, Lord. Your message is coming in loud and clear. I am sure that I want to win my games. But if I have the ability, and I know I can make my shots, why do I miss them so often? I can see that I lose confidence at times. It’s clear I play more cautiously or hit more gently to keep the ball in the court against a professional-power stroke or serve. I often believe I SHOULD win more points. What is going on in my head that prevents me from finishing the rally?

I played in a game recently in which one man hates to miss any shot. He became so upset with himself that I was afraid to win points against him. We were using the very court in which an elderly man had had a heart attack, fallen and died some years ago. I was actually scared that my upset opponent might do the same. So I eased off. Very deliberate, intentional and conscious soft play. Ratcheted my game way down. Not a lot of fun to fear you might kill a man playing tennis. Being hit in the head or body by a partner this month was nothing compared to the guilt I’d feel if I caused a death on the court. Clearly some people take this tennis “game” much more seriously than I do.

For the moment, I’m pretty sure I want to win. I used to mutter to myself to “kill” my tennis enemy. I just didn’t want to do it, when the game grew as big as life.

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Ivan And Jann Give Me Some Chuckles

I was watching a video on Fuzzy Yellow Balls by Jann Auzoux, a recognized tennis coach in the DC area who played on the Davis Cup team for Cameroon—though he lost all nine matches. Jann was saying that lots of rec(reational) players started tennis late, and that delay handicaps them from learning the game properly. My head was nodding as I related to his wise words immediately. After all, I played for two years, when I was 12-13, and then stopped for over 50 years! I really began playing regularly, when I was 66.

Then Jann admitted that he would have been a better player if HE hadn’t started so late. He was already 11, when he first began playing the game. Eleven??? Eleven??? What the hell was he talking about? All the top players, he explained, began learning tennis when they were five! Five?…Yes five. I had to laugh out loud at how off base I was in understanding his original statement. But it’s all relative…

This reminded me of another anecdote about my lengthiest conversation with Ivan Lendl, who lives nearby. His girls went to the same school as my daughter, and they were friends and had sleepovers. Well I almost never saw Ivan at school, but I was familiar with his wife, Samantha. So when I bought a new house, and it had a tennis court in disrepair, I called up his wife to ask her a question or two. Here is how it went:

Ivan: Hello

Ira: Hi, is Sam there?

Ivan: Why do you want to talk to her?

Ira: I have a question about tennis.

Ivan: I know tennis.

Ira: OK. I just bought a house with a Har-Tru tennis court, and I was wondering if that is a good kind of court?

Ivan: No. Definitely replace it. Hard court is much better.

Ira: Why is that?

Ivan: Because the tapes on a Har-Tru can stretch or expand in warm weather, and that can alter the length of the court by half an inch.

Ira: OK. Thanks for your advice.

You see how relative it all is? Aside from the $50,000 cost of a new hard court, which I wasn’t ever thinking of spending, the half inch that meant so much to Ivan—as it should—meant nothing to me. The court could have been a foot longer or shorter than regulation, and it wouldn’t have affected my game. I was just a beginner, happy to just hit a ball over the net. But a tiny deviation in length would have been terrible for a pro…especially one of the greatest in tennis history.

So pros see the tennis world quite differently than amateurs. And sometimes I think it’s pretty funny. don’t you?

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Joe Marshall Reports From New Home

My tennis mentor, Joe Marshall (who has written over 15 articles on this site about tennis strategy), emailed that he was having trouble finding a regular tennis game after he relocated to New York from his home in Connecticut. I missed his advice and unconventional game right away. Joe is a very strong ping pong player and brings that talent into tennis, with many slices and lobs. Here is his latest report.

We moved. I didn’t want to at first, but my wife insisted that life would be better if we were closer to the kids and the grand-daughter.

“But what about my tennis friends?” I wailed.

“They’ll be plenty of tennis up there,” she insisted. “And you can always come back to visit.”
Oh well……

I’ve played a few times, beating the opponents easily with my whacky game. But today I made a classic mistake. I played a guy I had beaten easily in the wind on clay. And today I took the first set on a hard court 6-1. Then I started taking it easy a little bit…..Not too different, just being a little less aggressive, and not moving in between shots……In no time he was up 2-0.

I said to myself “Better buckle down”…Close game….I lost it….3-0….I got to 3-1, but he won the next two game, and he EARNED them…..tremendous play….AND movement….he was figuring me out! Down 5-1, I took the next three games. But he hit the line on every serve in the next game and had me set point……he hit me a jamming serve, which I mishit….It bounced twice on the net and dropped over…..From there I won in a tiebreak…..playing one key point where I brought him in and lobbed him FOUR times, and he STILL won the point….but I think I got to his legs on that one, and it cost him the next couple of points…..I’m glad it didn’t get to go to a third set….he seemed a lot fitter than me.

Playing a lot less tennis, I have been surviving on ping pong. What a great game….The local University has a tremendous ping pong club that is open to the public…..ON a Thursday night at ten PM, it was forty college kids and 57-year-old yours truly hacking it out……I could beat most of the hackers, but some of the kids from the team are superb, playing in a style like the Olympic champs….a couple of young ladies from China were better than all but 2 or 3 of the boys.

Ping Pong is a lot better for my back and legs…..Singles tennis, especially, can really do a number on your body….stretching is essential.

My tennis friend said he would recommend me to a group of guys who play more at my level….But he warned me….”They are an insular group, and if you don’t do well the first time you play them, they won’t invite you back.”

Talk about pressure! Now I know how Andy Murray felt!

If I play poorly, I’m in tennis limbo at least until next spring when the local tournament roles around…….Wish me luck!

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Success In Tennis And Life

Once again I am amazed—even giddy— at how powerful a few techniques can be…in tennis. A slightly changed grip, move an inch closer to the base line for my serve, rotate the stance a few degrees, and PRESTO: I am hitting the best serves of my life…with pop and power. All following the advice of a really great coach, Rob Ober, who used to play with Agassi 20+ years ago.

Same improved results from two little changes to my back hand. One was “Just turn your body and relax as if you were talking to someone at a cocktail party,” Rob told me. And without tensing up or muscling the shot, I hit it right in the sweet spot more powerfully and accurately than ever. Can’t wait to compete now.

But I always have to extrapolate to non-tennis life. Could success in romance, business, career and any other arenas also be dependent on just a few adjustments, what ever they are? I wish that could be so. I know it is a slower process to achieve results in life, and certainly it’s harder to implement the theories.

But maybe it’s much simpler than we imagine.

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I Am Still Alive After Wine And Tennis

This has been a really long break in posting, but the evening/writing time has been spent watching the US Open…and the two political conventions, and visiting friends in hospitals. Also some business and social meetings. Of course there is the call of the wild tennis ball.

Eight days ago I played singles for almost two hours and then after a two-hour break, enjoyed 2+ hours of doubles. It was, I hate to admit, a tad tiring. My legs were weak, my right arm was sore. Passionate is fine. This was a bit much. So I will never do it again…uhhhh, at least not until two days from now, when I am scheduled for two singles sessions in the same day. But one is with a coach to show me how to hit a better serve. What I do for love…..

On Labor Day I lost in the finals of a club doubles tennis tournament, B Division. But at least we won two matches to get there. The trophy was a beautiful glass and chrome wine bottle stopper. I had watched numerous videos that gave me minute and subtle modifications of my ground strokes, and was then told by a coach to ignore what the videos taught me. My motor system is totally confused with all the new neural circuits that aren’t fully formed. In other words, I screw up a lot and miss easy shots.

One night I had dinner with a friend who loves wine and always brings his own special, expensive, tasty wine to the restaurant. I drank two glasses delightfully. That is a lot for me, and I rarely drink at all these years. I remember my capoeira master proclaiming that alcohol is poison for any athlete, and he never touches a drop, not even beer.

The next day after that delicious pinot noir, I felt zonked in practice and completely worn out in the doubles match. My partner, who is much better than I am, kept attempting to coax me into some semblance of awakeness. After our victory, he commented that I seemed to have no energy at all and the worst cut of all, said I was standing ready to receive “with my belly out and hunched over like an old man.” Oh the agony, the mortification. Nothing is worse than to act like my age. Finally I connected the wine to my sluggishness, and recalled my mestre’s warning about the woes of the grape. I must remember this warning forever, especially if I ever enter a bull ring again and want my legs to work…

By the way, I did face a 300-pound calf in a small Spanish bull ring once. A tienta (test of the bull’s spirit) and tourist attraction, where they give you the cape and let you handle a few passes. I don’t know who was more afraid, me or the calf. But it did step on my foot and scuff my leather shoe. I wore it to work back home in the office, remembering for months at my desk the thrill of a Hemingway-type moment.

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Unexpected Chit Chat With Champion John Isner

Chris (holding Champion's trophy), Ira and John chit chat at Newport—7/15/12

I’m texting in my seat near the end of the singles finals being televised live at Newport, RI last Sunday, when a distinguished man in a blue blazer taps me on the shoulder and asks me if I’d like to go on the center court with him as soon as the match is over and meet the players, John Isner and Leighton Hewitt. John is ranked number 11 in the world and defeated Djokovic and Federer this year. He only turned pro in 2007, has one of the fastest consistent serves in the game (130-140 mph) and is 6’9″ tall. Leighton is a former number one making a comeback after major toe surgery just two months ago. Puzzled and surprised, I say “Sure.”

Five minutes later, I am “plucked from anonymity,” (as a friend said), and walking behind shoulder-tapper Chris Clouser, Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with a couple of others right onto the grass court in front of 3700 people to watch the awarding of the trophies and super-sized (3 X 5 feet?) prize checks. The view from right next to the umpire’s high chair is definitely more intimate. And I am definitely a bit self-conscious. But however this is happening, I am enjoying it.

Skylar (glasses on head) collects John Isner's autograph—7/15/12

Leighton leaves quickly, but my daughter, Skylar, obtains his signature on a tennis ball, as well as Champion John’s ten minutes later. Chris brings John over to me. As we shake hands, I tell him that at Skylar’s 21st birthday last year at a hotel in New York, she recognized him in the bar. Also that she’d almost caught one of his kick serves that flew over his opponent’s racket, when he won the same tournament in 2011. Small world.

Life is full of surprises, and this was really a good one. Totally upbeat, memorable and captured for posterity.

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Randy Snow And Wheelchair Tennis

I included the videos above to give you an idea of what wheelchair tennis looks like. One big difference is that two bounces are allowed, and the second one does NOT have to be within the lines. The video of Shingo Kunieda (winner of 13 Grand Slams) demonstrates at 1:08 how dexterous and fast a wheelchair tennis champion has to be.

There was a very moving, teary speech at the Hall of Fame 2012 Induction Ceremony by Randy Snow’s father. He described a son who loved athletics, was a state-ranked tennis player, but was paralyzed at 16, when a 1000-pound bale of hay fell on his back and paralyzed Randy from the waist down. At college he formed a wheelchair basketball team, did wheelchair racing, and then became the best wheelchair tennis player in the United States.

Randy won the US Open Men’s Singles wheelchair tennis championships 10 years, he won six US doubles championships, he won gold medals in tennis wheelchair singles and doubles paralympic games in 1992. And he also won basketball and racing awards, all of which you can see here .

In 1980 he connected with Marilyn Hamilton, who was disabled from a hang-gliding crash, and had developed the aluminum frame, modular Quickie wheel chair that Randy adopted for all his sports. After Randy died in 2010, Marilyn wrote, “He was the right man at the right time for wheelchair sports—a tenacious pioneer who opened doors, pushed limits, inspired some of the world’s greatest athletes, and created awareness that positively changed the attitudes of many in the able-bodied world.”

Wheelchair tennis founder Brad Parks, who is also in the Newport Hall of Fame and was at the ceremony last week, said this about Randy in 2010: “Randy was like a sponge—he just wanted to get better at everything he did…He was one of the most influential wheelchair athletes of all time.” Brad is in the video below.

By the 1990s, Randy had firmly established himself as a living legend. At the 1996 Paralympic Games, he took the Paralympic torch from President Clinton at the White House. Later, he took a torch from President George W. Bush to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He won accolades from four presidents—Ford, Reagan, Bush (Sr.) and Clinton—and earned a master’s degree in psychology.

Randy started his own motivational company in 1999. He called it NOXQS, “no excuses.” He became a Fortune 500 speaker, wrote several books, aspired to be a college professor and challenged listeners with such statements as “Change is inevitable; direction is choice,” and “Life takes a 100-percent, able-bodied mind to succeed.”

You can learn more here about Randy’s Push Forward Foundation and also his motivational videos, one of which is below, so you can enjoy his energy and some ideas for success. I think I saw a quote by him in the Hall of Fame that said, “I did not have a disability, but an opportunity.” or “My disability turned into a great opportunity. Either way, this remarkable man became a great athlete, leader and influence.

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Inductee Stories To Applaud And Cry About At Hall Of Fame Ceremony

Capriati (left) and Seles on the podium

Last year’s group included Andre Agassi. This year (7/14) I’d heard only of Jennifer Capriati. She was introduced by earlier inductee, Monica Seles. Both women were crying like babies…so overcome with emotion and pride and thrilled to be acknowledged by their peers. Two others in the class are Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten and Randy Snow.

Other Hall of Famers on the podium included Vic Seixas (14 Grand Slams), Owen Davidson (12 GS), Rosie Casals (9GS), Stan Smith (7 GS), Gigi Fernandez (17 GS), Butch Buchholz, and Brad Parks who created wheelchair tennis competitions. Many of these wins were in doubles and mixed doubles.

The stories and histories described are powerful and overwhelming.

Monica Seles: In 1990, at the age of 16, Seles became the youngest-ever French Open champion. She went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday and was the year-end world no. 1 in 1991 and 1992. However, in April 1993 she was the victim of an on-court attack, when a man stabbed her in the back with a 9-inch-long knife. Though she enjoyed some success after rejoining the tour in 1995, including a fourth Australian Open success in 1996, she was unable to consistently reproduce her best form.

Guga walking around the court with his certificate of induction

Jennifer Capriati: A former number one, and the winner of three women’s singles Grand Slams. She was the youngest ever player to crack the top 10 at age 14 and reached the semifinals at her first Grand Slam event—the 1990 French Open. She won a Gold Medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, defeating Steffi Graf in the final. Then she burned out in 1993, took a 14-month break from competitive pro tennis and had personal struggles that included arrests for shoplifting and possession of marijuana. She also spent time in drug rehabilitation in 1994. She then made an admirable 6-year comeback, winning her first title in 1999, then two Grand Slams in 2001, and finally becoming world number one…until injuries derailed her career in 2004.

Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten: Another former number one, he won the French Open three times (the first time when he was ranked 66 in the world). He was introduced at the ceremony Saturday by his mother, who was crying with pride, and then Guga gave a 10-minute speech without reading any notes, speaking off the cuff, and crying himself throughout. He said he can barely speak English, so how could he possibly write a speech in English. His mother told how his tennis player/coach father died when Guga was 8 in a country that adored soccer and had minimal interest in tennis. Once his talent became apparent, the family sold their car, their house, and used their savings to promote Guga’s career. It was stopped by injuries and many hip surgeries.

His youngest brother had oxygen deprivation during birth, and as a result suffered from mental retardation and severe physical disability until his death in 2007. Kuerten was deeply affected by his brother’s daily struggles, later donating the entire prize money from one tournament he won every year to a hometown NGO that provides assistance for people with similar disabilities. He gave every trophy he won to his younger brother as a souvenir, including the three miniature replicas of the French Open men’s singles trophy.

I am going to devote a separate post to Randy Snow, who was so amazing and inspirational.

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Newport’s Colors, Contrasts and Confounding Surprises

Newport Casino has the world's oldest competition grass courts since 1880

Just spent four days in Newport, RI watching an ATP tennis tournament and the people there. You are greeted as you cross the bridge to town by the bay’s deep blue waters supporting hundreds of slim white sails. At the Newport Casino, one enjoys the green of grass courts played on generally by fit athletes in thin tennis whites.

But the fans and tourists are more diverse. The affluents who live in the costly houses and condos for a month or two each summer are there for the social scene and to be seen. They are also thin as a species and wear intense, solid colors from the animal kingdom: flamingo pinks, hot canary yellows, and startling-salmon-flavored rusty-oranges.

There are other visitors who prowl the T-shirt shops and other touristy stores on Thames Street in paler, less eye-attracting costumes that drape enormous bodies enlarged by years of over eating. We watched a huge woman down a large apple crisp with two scoops of vanilla BEFORE starting to eat her dinner! Breathtaking.

My visit there stimulates numerous stories that I will recount over the next few days. Just let me tease you with wondering how I ended up unexpectedly on center court at the conclusion of the sold-out final in front of 3700 fans shaking the hand of the winner, John Isner, whom I have written about earlier.

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Tennis Fanatic

Fanatical…that’s what I have become. Playing tennis 25 days in the last 31 (or 16 out of 17 or 20 out of 24), reading tennis strategy books at night, watching tennis videos, practicing new serves (spin and kick), new ground strokes, new placements. I can’t get enough. Sometimes my game improves. Other times I can’t execute the new shots. But overall I am becoming better…just frustrated that there is still no consistency. At least when I play in the tougher competitions, my team no longer loses consistently. And my net game remains strong.

Of course I was glued to the TV during Wimbledon. And off today to Newport to watch the Campbell’s Cup ATP matches there, with Isner, Nishikori, Raonic and the Bryan Brothers playing.

In addition to all this, I have been working on new projects and handling my usual business and personal responsibilities. So no wonder I haven’t written much for this site. I miss those quiet moments of reflection and sharing.

My friend Joe is passionate about theater (he runs one), and no matter how tired he is, he always says that he is grateful to have such zest and zeal for the stage. Having a major interest that drives you incessantly isn’t something you can tack on to your life. It often takes over your life. It is a gift of sorts. There is no boredom, no wondering what you are going to do today, no feeling of “been there, done that.” There are many activities that no longer interest me, whether it is jumping out of planes, eating often in fine restaurants, shopping for wines and cheeses, attending black tie parties (those never did). But I am out of control, when it comes to hitting tennis balls. I love the challenge, the sweating, the cardio, the feel of a well-placed shot, or just hitting dozens of overheads—or mis-hitting them—launched by a ball machine. I love the tiredness, when the day’s playing is over.

I am very lucky to have found this sport, to be so passionate about it, however late in life. While I am so out of control, I will play as long as I can. And should my enthusiasm burn out, or I feel too many aches, or I am no longer able to play, well then it’s been a helluva ride.

At a business lunch this week, I heard two stories about two unrelated women who suddenly had headaches, went to the emergency room, and immediately needed surgery for inexplicable brain infections. Bacteria that are normal in the intestines had migrated to their brains and created life-threatening pain and injury. Both survived, although one took three years to recover her motor skills. Both had been healthy. This is the reality of being a human. Sure there are bombs and car accidents and burglars and hurricanes that can all damage or extinguish our existence. But there are also tiny organisms inside of us that can paralyze us and take away our good health without any warning or explanation. So if good health is this fragile, if life can be this fleeting, how can we not savor it, enjoy it, live it to the fullest when we are able? Have a great day!

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Peacocks For Spiritual Tennis And Silly Walks

When describing my spiritual life to two church-going friends, I included the sounds of tennis balls I hit often from sunset to darkness at a clay court overlooking a small pond dotted with Canadian Geese honking and snuggling down with their lifetime partners. We are always joined by the cooing of mourning doves in the trees settling for their evening’s rest and the high-pitched cries of two peacocks—one a widower— calling for sorely-missed mates. How many people play tennis to the pleas of peacocks?

So imagine how startled I was to see within a week a newspaper article titled Peacocks at Sunset. It describes the “world’s most spectacular border ceremony,” between India and Pakistan at dusk each day as goose-stepping soldiers from each side lower their nation’s flags in an hour-long ballet of choreographed contempt, for there is enormous hostility between the two sides of what is viewed by the hundreds of cheering spectators as a sports contest that is some kind of venting of undisguised rage and resentment.

I have been to Kashmir and passed the truckloads of soldiers. I have seen the remnants of gardens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled there in glory and excess. I have read about the tourists beheaded there after I departed. But I am moved more profoundly by the athletic exertions of these border guards bedecked like peacocks and displaying nightly like magnificent birds. I am awed that these tall, bewhiskered soldiers who oversee a road that services only a few dozen people each day can contort themselves with pride as they carry out their roles in a dance that substitutes for battle. I am saddened that decisions by stupid diplomats (who in 1947 divided Pakistan from India) and the leaders of these warring nations resulted in the deaths of one million people and the relocation of 12 million refugees in both directions, so they could be with citizens of their own religion.

What hope is there for humanity, when you witness this ongoing distrust and understandable allegiance to religious and tribal culture? But at least the ceremony substitutes for continued conflict and killing and is enjoyable as spectacle and even sport. Here also is a humorous video by John Cleese that unintentionally ridicules the soldiers’ serious drama.

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Achievements Large And Small

Five years ago I started taking tennis lessons, and a year later I began playing with men in their 70’s, 80’s and one in his 90’s. Now I am playing with much stronger players in their late 20’s, early 40’s,50’s, and 60’s . My game play has improved greatly. I have played 10 times in the last 14 days, and yet only in the last four days have I discovered that I hit better with a different grip, hit a superior forehand with a changed motion, and that there is a special swing for returning a serve. I was also given a book for Father’s Day, The Art of Doubles by Pat Blaskower, that guides me to new strategies I’d never heard of.

This major hitting transition started six days ago, when I played with Joe Marshall and two other very strong players. Joe noticed that I had improved (since we last played and I had been playing with the younger, stronger guys), but my serve was still the weakest part of my game. He gave me some tips, and then I went to a web site, fuzzyyellowballs.com that has lots of terrific instructional videos with stop action photos and slow motion videos of pros swinging that really break down each swing and grip. Fantastic. I am so giddy with my new ability that I can’t believe it has taken so long to learn some of these suggestions. I am even using a kick serve now.

I am amused that I can be playing so long (for me…I know it’s not 20 or 40 years), but only now learn such major ways to improve my game. I wonder if all of life is like this: we plod along, have some successes and more failures, and then late in the adventure bump into techniques or methods that allow us to make huge leaps toward our lifetime goals. It’s sort of a shame that we can’t uncover the secret paths sooner in the process. I have had quite a few tennis lessons that still didn’t reach me as forcefully as those videos. I don’t know where I could have taken life-solving lessons.

Over the last three weeks, I was also involved as an intermediary working to resolve differences between two parties with clashing opinions. Lots of frustration. Much emotion. Certainly aggravating at times as the lawyers muddied things up during the process. But in the end, after it looked like the deal had fallen apart, there was complete resolution and a compromise both sides could live with. I went from feeling all my efforts had proven fruitless and a waste to seeing that I had made a significant contribution toward the final outcome.

Life’s challenges aren’t always that clearly defined. Years can pass without significant improvement or weighty results. It’s how our lives evolve. We can’t often achieve success quickly, in spite of the super stars in entertainment and sports who are famous in their teens or shortly after their efforts begin. So whenever we make a tiny step toward a better relationship, job, promotion, or other goal, we have to be grateful and proud and humbled. It’s all part of the process.

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Determined Underdog Virginie Razzano Defeats Champ Serena

Virginie Razzano defeats Serena at the French Open—5/29/2012

Here is a great underdog story that inspired me at the French Open this year. Virginie Razzano faces Serena Williams who was a likely winner of the tournament. In over 10 years, Serena has never lost a first round match…she is 46-0. Razzano is ranked 111 on the women’s pro circuit, yet she defeats Serena in an incredible comeback. How do some people stay so strong and determined? I want some of that will and fortitude.

Serena wins the first set and faces a tiebreak in the second set. She is ahead 5-1, so she only needs two more points. Razzano wins the next six in a row to even the match. In the third set, Williams was so deflated, she lost five games in a row, then won three, which took us to the historic, ninth 23-minute game. Some games take 3-5 minutes. Nine or 10 minutes is a long one. Here there were 12 deuces, and it took Razzano eight match points, before she could put it away.

Maybe it’s on youtube, if you want to watch all that determination.

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Will I Ever Be A Killer?

I’m still having trouble killing people on the tennis court. Why is it so hard for me to be tough, show no mercy and clobber my opponents? It’s definitely not my temperament.

I subbed the other day in a doubles game in which I was the third strongest player. Numbers 1 and 4 were across the net, and my side took an early 5-0 lead. Number 4 was telling himself to do better after each missed point, and #1 seemed to be frustrated with his partner’s frequent hits into the net. So I felt sorry for both of them. When the score grew to 5-4, and I had caused many of the errors, I knew that on a subconscious level, I was easing up and making my opponents feel better. Except now my partner was annoyed with ME and had started missing his own shots and making more errors than earlier.

We won the set 6-4, but I noticed how my energy level had gone down, when I saw how upset #1 and #4 were to be losing. Later on I told #1 how much I empathized with his exasperation. I told him it’s only a game, and that I know people who are dying—that’s something to take seriously. But #1 reminded me that when you play a sport, you should play to win. I reassured him that I want nothing more than to win against the stronger players I am now competing against.

The next day I read about Connor Fields, a 19-year-old BMX bike champion, and how in one race, “…He led that, too, at the beginning, but he continued to push harder, harder, harder, because he wanted to obtain the fastest lap time of the weekend. His mentality: “kill everybody” and “destroy the competition.” ” Now that’s what it takes to be a champion. Pushing, pushing pushing and taking no prisoners.

Tonight I played doubles opposite a friend who plays only to win, must win, is much better than I am and easily beat me last week in singles, 6-2, 6-2. I played as hard as I could, and my side took a 4-1 lead that slowly melted away to a tiebreaker. However I remembered the Connor Fields mentality, and this time I played as hard as I could and served for the match that my team won 7-5. I was pretty thrilled to have helped break my friend’s serve. I think he was surprised that I did well at that net, and in the rematch, my team won again, this time by a wide margin of 6-1.

I loved our victory. I felt very satisfied with this achievement. But unfortunately, knowing how important it is for my friend to win, I feel sorry for him now, as I write these words of success. I don’t feel sad that I won. I don’t have regrets that I won. I do feel badly for the guys I defeated, particularly when it seems so much more important to them than it is to me…Dumb!

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Record-Breaking Day

I broke three achievement records today. So I am certainly proud of myself.

I did 58 continuous push ups. My record was 57, done in Moscow in 1984 or 1987. So all this recent effort is showing some results. Just took me 25 or so years to do it…

I beat Joe Marshall at tennis 6-4, and then lost the next set in a close tie breaker, 5-7. But the joke is that he is a right-handed player who used his left hand in our contest. So it’s a small satisfaction.

I have now done SOME exercise every day for 187 straight days. A huge achievement for me, but a friend who used to be a dancer was totally unimpressed: “Only 5-10 minutes a day? That’s not very much exercise.” The fact is that sometimes I do it after 1:00 AM. Other times after 3-5 hours of tennis and/or squash. It actually takes all my effort to keep the record going, to remain disciplined (by doing ANYTHING AT ANY TIME) in spite of travel, business, family activities. I am still proud of my staying with it. But it’s all relative. I once knew a retired prima ballerina, and she still fit in a “mere” 1 1/2 hours of ballet exercise every day.

Yesterday after 90 minutes of singles and doubles tennis, I drove an hour to a prep school and took a 90-minute, non-stop squash lesson. I was exhausted. I asked my 17-year-old instructor how much he practiced during the squash season, and he said at least three hours every day, and he rose at 5 AM (as did other students) to do some of his workout before class!

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