Posts Tagged Nadal

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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I’m Back After 40 Days and 40 Nights

That is how long since I went to the gym. What an intermission. Lots of excuses, soreness, travel, family responsibilities, and my own ordinary human nature. As I confessed in the posts about my background (see “my background” posts on April 4th), I have a history of not being disciplined about exercise, never went to a gym before two years ago and rarely played sports regularly.

I did injure myself (I think it happened when I was setting personal best records doing pull ups), went to a nurse, took anti-inflammatory pills, met with an orthopedist, and now a physical therapist. I’m told it could be a lot worse than it is, and I am almost sure to heal with a few weeks of special exercises for my right forearm, elbow and shoulder. (I did tear my right shoulder in three places back in 2006).

There is really no physical excuse for not doing abs work like crunches. There has been nothing wrong with my abdominal area. Nevertheless, I did crunches just six times. Three of those efforts were during the first two weeks of August (max of 750), and the latest was today, when I ground out only 350, mostly the more difficult bicycle type.

During this 40-day period in the workout desert, I could have lifted weights with my left arm. But I basically stopped. It was all mental. Too pressured and too lazy. And then too guilty. Could barely even write on this site. As much as I quote that “two steps forward, one step back” mantra, it’s painful to accept it. I hate it. Thinking about the Nadals, Picabo Streets, and a thousand other top athletes who get injured and push through their setbacks to return to their game and shine should be an inspiration. Well I am trying to be inspired.

Here’s the breakdown of my limited home crunch exercising: Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Reverse a Losing Streak?

How do you go from losing to winning? I played tennis initially like an old man on Thursday after four weeks away from doubles due to my ankle sprain. Lots of long balls and double faults in spite of the good practicing the other day. Still babying the foot on the runs to get some hard shots.

Then after losing 6-3 and being down 4-1, because I lost both games I was serving, something magical happened. My partner said “Let’s make a new start and change our attitude.” Miraculously we brought the set to 6-5 our favor and won the set 8-6. How did we turn it around? Read the rest of this entry »

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When the King of Tennis (or Any Sport) Is Dethroned, How Do You Feel?

Sunday the 31st Nadal was eliminated from the French Open. Some writers said it was the biggest upset in tennis history. I watched it wondering how it happened, because I read the final result before I saw the match. I had rooted for Rafa the last two years, felt Federer had won enough, and here I was now rooting for Soderling to beat my favorite and the #1 tennis player in the world. How quickly we move on and pick another favorite.

Reminds me of a major Life Lesson I learned on a business trip decades ago in Los Angeles. I was going to be there over a week, so I took clothes to a local dry cleaner. I had a rare silk shirt I had bought on sale in New York, and its color was described as periwinkle, sort of a light purple. It was a western style. It was my only silk shirt.

When I went to pick it up, it could not be found. They looked for days, I called for days, and I always wondered if someone had stolen it. At the end of my LA visit, I whined that it was my favorite shirt. The lady gave me the $70 I had stretched to pay for this rarity, and then gave me a lifetime’s remembered advice: “Now you have to pick another favorite shirt.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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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