Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Operation Doubles Connection - July 2006

Here's a link to the latest issue of the Operation Doubles Connection, the monthly newsletter of

Each issue contains:

  • What's New at Operation Doubles
  • Featured Tennis Website of the Month
  • This Month's Doubles Quiz
  • This Month's Q & A
  • This Month's Shot-Making Tip
  • Tennis News & Upcoming Tournaments
If you would like to receive this newsletter, you can sign up for it through links at the bottom. It comes with an animated tutorial on the perils of switching, a handy grip-sizer you can print to measure the racket-size grip needed for every member of your family, and a Strategy Planning Worsksheet with a blank court diagram on it that you can make as many copies of as you wish.

If you want more information, see here.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

TM: Hope – your greatest weakness and your biggest strength

By Tomaz Mencinger

Have you ever tried, or seen someone try, to throw a tennis ball into the basket from a distance? You realized (and they too) that the chances of actually making the shot are quite small and yet they try again and again.



It gives us strength to achieve something, even when things look dark. We hope, persist and try again, eventually we will even make it (or not).

And have you ever tried or seen anyone try an impossible shot on the tennis court?


Hope again.

But there is one big difference – all the time you didn't make that shot you were losing points. Eventually you may make one and that makes you happy for a moment: »YES, I MADE IT!«

But a few minutes later your opponent shakes your hand thinking: »Yes, I made it to the next round!«

Think about it…

What do you want more; and impossible point or winning the match?

Copyright 2006, Tomaz Mencinger -- all rights reserved worldwide

Tomaz Mencinger is the author of The Mental Manual for Tennis Winners and an athletic consultant who works with nationally ranked juniors at the Benc Sport tennis club in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Yan & Zheng Win the Wimbledon Women's Doubles Title

Fourth-seeded Zi Yan and Jie Zheng (of China) won the women's doubles championship, defeating Virginia Ruano Pascual (of Spain) and Paola Suarez (of Argentina) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a little over two hours.

Yes, you gotta laugh about it, but why does
stuff like this happen so often in pro doubles?

Pasqual and Suarez had won the other three major doubles titles in the past. Zheng and Yan won today because they returned serve well, pressuring the weak serves of Pasqual and Suarez.

However, there is not much else good to say about the match (which put me to sleep). Though it never makes sense to play both-back while your opponents are both-back too, both teams played much of the match from the baseline. Safer? How so? with the net as high and the court as narrow as it is from back there? (Not to mention the poor angles.) Jeez, let's squander the advantages of grass and maximize the disadvantages by letting bad bounces determine the winner.

And the proof is in the pudding: all that caution was counterproductive. In the 26 games, there were 54 unforced errors and 9 double-faults, many at crucial moments. Pasqual and Suarez actually managed to win fewer points off their first serve than their second.

Match report and stats.
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Federer Wins Fourth Men's Singles Championship at Wimbledon

Roger Federer of Switzerland won his forth consecutive mens singles title at Wimbledon today, defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain 6-0 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.

Oceans of ink will be spilled on the event, so I won't spill much except to say that that the last three sets were, as Federer himself put it, "high quality tennis."

The match was tight, but because of the way the points played out, you felt that Federer was winning and that pesky Nadal was hanging around, siezing every opportunity, always dangerous and capable of taking over the match should Federer falter.

He didn't.

So, it was in the end Federer's more versatile, more well-rounded all-court game that made the difference, because it's a significant advantage on grass.

Nonetheless, like Bjorn Borg, Nadal reminded us that the playing surface isn't everything.

Personally I prefer Federer's style of play, but Nadal is the plucky competitor par excellence, so I really didn't know whom to root for. I just thoroughly enjoyed the performance of both young men.

Match report and stats.
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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Zvonareva & Ram Win Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Title

Ninth seeds Andy Ram (of Israel) and Vera Zvonareva (of Russia) captured their first mixed doubles Grand Slam title, defeating Americans Bob Bryan and Venus Williams 6-3, 6-2, in less than an hour. The coordination and teamwork Bob had with his brother Mike earlier was gone in this match with Venus.

Get outa there, Venus!

It isn't a turf battle: it's about who has a better play on the ball.

Credit the Russian and Israeli with outstanding play, however. Ram and Zvonareva controlled the match with great shots and great shot selection so that Bryan and Williams were never really in it.

Ram plays the net brilliantly. He made himself mighty hard to hit around, by taking as much of the center as the Americans gave him. And they let him. Moreover, he is that precious commodity in doubles: a player who knows how to bring the best out of his partner. He brought smiles, fierce desire, and excellent play out of Zvonareva. At the top of her game, she is really something.

Stats. Full story.
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Mauresmo Wins the Women's Singles Championship at Wimbledon

Earlier today, Amelie Mauresmo of France captured her first Wimbledon title, defeating Justine Henen-Hardenne of Belgium 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

I really like the game Maurismo plays. Good to see it in the women's draw on Centre Court.

A key factor in this win was the old "letdown" again. Winning a set always causes the winner to let down, to take a mental breather, at the beginning of the second set. As I explained before, this is biological -- the way the nervous system reacts to the passing of a pressure-packed moment. And, for the winner of the first set, this letdown occurs at the most important part of a best-of-three set match.

Justine Henin-Hardenne didn't combat this natural letdown effectively enough, and Amelie Maurismo capitalized on it to reverse the momentum. Good for her. That's what winners do. The next thing you knew, the first set was ancient history and Maurismo was up in 2-0 in the second.

I always tell players: "If you lose the first set, remember that points are on sale at a discount in the first two games of the second set. That's the time to get ahead. Try to take advantage of that to go up 2-0. If you do, you have reversed the momentum."

You have to hand it to this 27-year-old Frenchwoman. She never got down on herself, never got superstitious. Just because you choked yesterday doesn't mean you have to choke tommorrow.

Q. When you were criticized for your nerves and everything, were there times that it hurt? How did you deal with that?

A: No, it didn't hurt because I was, I think, realistic and I could see that sometimes the nerves got involved. So that's how I am, that's how it is. That's, you know, why I've been maybe why it took me longer than others and why I've been working maybe in different areas of this aspect.

It can be done. Ask Tomaz Mencinger: You can learn to make your mind your best ally. There's no magic in it: it's just a skill like any other.

Congratulations to the first Frenchwoman to win the crown since Suzanne Lenglen did it 81 years ago.

For more details on the match, see here and here and here.
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Bob & Mike Bryan Win the Wimbledon Men's Doubles Title

Yesterday, commenting on the anti-American memes Brits are bombarded with daily by their press, Gerard Baker wrote in The London Times:

IT'S PROBABLY just as well no US tennis players made it beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this year because it's evidently going to be an uncomfortable summer for Americans in London.

Thus Baker ironically supplies another example of the inaccuracy of the British press on things American. For, Mike and Bob Bryan were alive and well.

And are now the men's doubles champions, having just defeated sixth-seeded team of Fabrice Santoro (of France) and Nenad Zimonjik (of Serbia and Montenegro) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final on Centre Court.

And though the crowd was a bit cool, it was an audience of real tennis players who know and appreciate good doubles when they see it. Presumably this was because the chattering classes left after the women's final, and real tennis players took advantage of the opportunity to purchase their seats for only 8 pounds apiece, soon filling Centre Court for the men's doubles final -- er, I mean the Gentlemen's Doubles Final.

They were quite appreciative of Americans' doubles play, which is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. For example, they loved it when Mike was so well positioned and ready for an 85-degree-angle shot that he not only easily reached it, he wisely waited on it to hit AROUND the net at about two feet off the ground for an unplayable winner.

That's a guy who knows doubles.

Speaking for myself, what a delight to see the game played the way it should be played. What a delight to watch a real team in action, not just two singles players on the same end of the court. They win, not because their strokes and shots are superior, but because their positioning, strategy, teamwork, and tactics are superior.

I suspect that their opponents don't even know how they are being beaten.

Zimonjik, for example, failed to switch when his partner crossed to poach. There's no excuse for that in professional doubles.

In contrast, both Bryans are always where they should be and are always doing what they should be doing. For example, they EARN many opportunities to poach just from wisely knowing when to front the opposing hitter's shot. Result? It looks like the ball comes right to their net player or as though he has ESP. Wrong: the Bryans just thoroughly understand this athletic game of chess and how to play it.

My only criticism would be that they occasionally overplay shots.

In the set Mike and Bob lost (the second) they had trouble getting the service return past the opposing net player. This gave the opposition a big lift, especially Zimonjik, resulting in great play from him that won the lethal service break.

Most players would attribute that break to poor serving or other poor play in that service game. But the Bryans showed that they understood it was due to excellent play by their opponents, especially Zimonjik -- excellent play THEY brought out of him by giving him chances to put away service returns in the previous game, thus putting him on a roll.

How did they show that they understood this? When the final set got tight, the Bryans made sure that didn't happen again by positioning both-back for some first-service returns. It wasn't really necessary this time, but it shows you that they are always thinking, always analyzing, and always adapting.

Moreover, at 2-all in the fourth and deciding set, they zeroed-in on the confidence of Zimonjik and actually picked on him to get in his head. It worked. How's that for targeted tactics?

Another great thing about them is their team spirit. They are team players, always working to encourage and bring the best out of each other. You never see one of them hang his head or do anything that would tend to encourage the opposition and discourage his partner.

Here are the match statistics from the Wimbledon Website:

Two statistics stand out. The Bryans won 68% of the points on which they had to take a second serve. This shows how solid their whole game is. And the real killer was that they only committed 2 unforced errors in the match.

This was their seventh straight Grand Slam Final and their first Wimbledon championship. Congratulations to the undisputed Kings of Doubles for a job well done.
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Britometer

You can find the British sense of humor on the sports page. Cruising the BBC's sports Website, who can resist a feature called . . .

Here it is . . .

Now, why can't Americans zero-in on the humor in something like that so pefectly? Huh? I wanna know.

Here's the money quote from the accompanying article:

Andy Murray's Wimbledon campaign is over after his lacklustre defeat at the hands of Cyprus' Marcos Baghdatis - and with him go any lingering hopes of British success.

After a superb run to the last 16 - including a straight sets win over two-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick - Murray seemed a far cry from his usual self as he slumped to a meek defeat.

The 19-year-old did not lack for support on a packed Centre Court, but was unable to raise his game and the Scot admitted as much himself after the match.

Murray's tame exit sees the Britometer slump from the top of the scale to rock bottom in the blink of an eye.

I think the pundits and fans are too hard on Andy. What happened to him would happen to 99/100 people. Only champions who've been there and learned ways to avoid it can avoid it.

Andy had -- uh, well, I can't say that in plain English, because the figure of speech has landed in the gutter. But what I mean is that he had spent the force of his assault on the title in the previous round, during his superb upset of Andy Roddick.

After such a moment, there's always a letdown. After any exciting or pressure-packed moment there is. It isn't a character flaw: it's biology — hard-wired into the nervous system. After an exciting or pressure-packed moment, people let down. Unfortunately, nothing but another perceived emergency can prevent that letdown. For, the nervous system's fight-or-flight wiring is organized into a subsystem that deadens with the passing of a pressure-packed and/or exciting moment. That letdown is just Nature's way of quickly restoring the nervous system to normal.

I have a lesson on letdowns and how to combat them on the main website.

And how exciting can a moment get? To be a young Brit playing out of your mind on Centre Court and defeating Andy Roddick would max-out just about anybody's system!

As we age, we lose some of this elasticity, this ability to relax again following pressure or excitement. This is why older players find it easier to combat letdowns than younger players, like Andy.

He'll learn. There's no reason to think he ain't made of the right stuff.
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