Posts Tagged Federer

Another One Bites The Dust

I won a set today 6-2. It was the first time in a year of singles contests that I have ever been victorious against Bill, a four-days-a-week tennis player. He never gives up, he never makes it easy, he is as tenacious, “as Nadal,” he says. And he is a much much stronger player than I am. Even though he hadn’t played tennis in almost six months.

This is the third time in the last month or so that I have finally beaten someone who has always defeated me. The changes in my racket, strings and grip are paying off fantastically. So is the frequent practice. There is one more man I play with a lot who has never lost a set to me. I will keep on attacking that hurdle until I surmount it.

Nadal wins first US Open—2010

When Nadal and others win, they drop to the ground, kiss the clay, hold their disbelieving, crying, amazed and incredulous heads in powerful, skilled and sensitive hands. Sometimes, like Djokovic this year at the US Open, when he defeated Federer, they remain standing with eyes glazed and stupefied.

stunned Djokovic after conquering Federer

Other times they lie on the court on their backs or stomachs or roll around and dirty their clothes. In an instant their serious, stern, killer eyes and expressions transform into tears, stunned smiles and emotional release. It often intrigues me. Is it an act that they know the audience expects? The picture of the winner lying on the ground is frequently chosen to illustrate the news story.

So what am I feeling two hours after this challenge was met…or at the moment of triumph? A bit tired, of course. But no elation. There was an inevitability about it. My coach had predicted it would happen, that I could do it. My opponent had promised that it had to happen some day, and he said how proud he was of my accomplishment.

I also felt that I had arrived at the intersection of a dream and a reality. Yesterday this man and I played as well. I was ahead at one point 5-4 and was serving. As we sat on the bench during the changeover after odd games, I was conscious of this rare opportunity. But then I choked and ended up losing 6-8. Today at 5-2, I did all I could to rouse myself to really want to win, to play my hardest, to not throw points away with poor placements and dumb shot selection.

This time I made it. The great thing about a “first” is that it is a once in a lifetime event. The sad thing is that it can never be repeated.

Nevertheless, I did raise both arms in a victory acknowledgment, when I won the set point.

Immediately we played a rematch that I lost 4-6. I had been down 2-5, but fought back as best I could.

A friend saw me play in a tournament two weeks ago. “You don’t have that killer instinct,” she told me. “You aren’t as aggressive as the other opponents. Can’t you hit the ball harder? Don’t you want to really win like they do?”

As competitive as I think I am, I can never forget it is a game. But that is a crappy attitude. It involves constant rationalizing. In practice I can hit a solid ball. But I lack the confidence to do it in a contest.

In the army during bayonet practice, I would thrust my rifle (with the knife attached) at the soldier opposite me and scream “Kill! Kill! Kill!” as I was ordered to do. I was very surprised and upset to discover how quickly I really wanted to kill the guy I was facing. It scared me to discover how little it took to change my attitude.

But I can’t yet duplicate that emotional experience from 50 years ago. I want to. I want to be tougher. What will it take for me to find that inner child that hates and lusts to destroy my “enemy?”

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Advice from a Tennis Coach As To Why The Top Pro’s Are So Much Better Than The Rest

Learning from experts is helpful obviously, and Frank Adam’s 50 years of experience coaching and knowing or playing with many of the top tennis pro’s of his lifetime gives him a broad and wise perspective. We met yesterday, so that I could take some pictures for his manuscript and also some videos demonstrating his unique swings and moves. I will post some of the videos here later.

The philosophy Frank has discovered and describes calls upon us to just use natural, familiar motions that are second nature and incorporate them into our game. We don’t think about how to use a rake or a shovel, how to grip a hammer or sweep with a broom. Those movements are basic and simple. And that is how he teaches tennis for the past 20 years. His approach has definitely worked for me and improved my game.

shovel motion

shovel motion

rake motion

rake motion

racket motion the same

racket motion the same

He discussed this on the video snippets I shot and at lunch afterwards. A delight to hear about matches and specific points he remembers involving Federer and Nadal, McEnroe and Connors, but also old-timers like Don Budge, Rod Laver, Pancho Gonzalez, Ed Moylan, etc. And Frank recalls specific kinds of backhands or turnarounds in tight games. He has unending anecdotes. A real thrill.

Knowing mostly about the contemporary pro’s, I asked him what makes the top two in the world (Nadal and Federer) so superior to the rest of the top 10? I have been to matches and seen some of the top five play. I have also seen the huge distance in talent between players two to 10 and those who are in the 20 to 50 rankings. Same thing in squash—big difference between pro’s I have seen in the top 20 to 50 rankings and those in the 70 to 120 brackets. I hear that the very highest level squash players are also way more talented than those with just slightly lower rankings.

Frank thought that the very top guys use more instinct and intuition. They can sense better where the ball will come to them, kind of an ESP (extra sensory perception). I heard that same comment from the squash coaches and top players—you just learn to anticipate where to be. Of course the very top champions can not only guess or feel that better than their lower ranked opponents, but they are also incredibly skilled at running for the ball, placing their shots and having astonishing endurance. They must also have a superior mental game.

With a few years of practice, most of us can anticipate better where the ball is likely to be hit. There must be some kind of zone one can enter to play the game sort of mystically. I don’t want to sound too ethereal or (out of) spacey, but I know there is this other way of performing. Read the rest of this entry »

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