Saturday, July 28, 2007

The "Right" Spin for an Approach Shot

I'm a little under the weather, so that is why I am not posting as frequently as usual.

We left off last time with question: How do you get your opponent moving backwards with your approach shot?

The obvious answer is With good depth.

But there's more to depth than where the ball lands. A topspin shot has greater depth than an underspin shot landing in the same spot.

Why? Because of the difference in the way these two spins make the ball bounce.

Topspin kicks the ball upward and forward for a high, long bounce that amounts to a bound.

Underspin is backspin that kills the bounce, so that the ball loses forward momentum and bounces relatively straight upward, though underspin shots don't generally bounce as high as topspin shots do.

You set up closer to the bounce point when returning underspin than when returning topspin. In other words, you set up shallower when returning underspin than topspin.

The surface makes a big difference. On grass and other slick surfaces (which ordinarily are very fast ones, like wood), an underspin shot skids more when it bounces. When the ball skids, it doesn't bite into the court and get forward momentum converted to upward momentum. Underspin shots bounce farther and stay lower on fast, slick surfaces because of this.

Which is why underspin approach shots became the rage back when most of the Pro Tour was played on grass: with underspin you kept the ball low and got almost as much depth of bounce as with a topspin shot.

But it's long past time for the parrots to learn a new song. Very little tennis is played on grass or wood anymore.

That depth of bounce on a topspin shot looks mighty good to a tactician planning an approach shot today.

True, topspin bounces higher than underspin. But so what when your opponent is behind the baseline? How many opponents hit down at you from behind the baseline? And, though most players like high forehands, they hate high backhands.

Which happens to be the side we normally target with our approach shots anyway.

No, this doesn't mean that topspin is the "right" choice for an approach shot. It just means that, more often than not, it will be the better choice. There are still situations when underspin would be better. These situations tend to occur most often on the fastest surfaces and at the top of the game though.

More later.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Approach Shot Strategy

Back to the subject of approach shots.

We left off last time with the question "What's the most reliable way to get people to hit you floaters down the center of your court?"

Let's take the last part first, because it's absolutely simple: to draw a shot down the center of your court, center your feeder shot. It's simple geometry. Hit your approach shot down the line or down the center. Even in doubles, where you usually have to hit crosscourt, don't hit at a sharper angle than necessary to get around the opposing net player.

For, your feeder shot's Angle of Return is always greater than the feeder's angle. So don't hit angled approach shots. Don't. Don't. Don't.

Now for the floater part. How do you suck a floater out of your opponent?

Get him or her moving backward. No, I didn't say "Knock the cover off the ball." I didn't say "Hit a screamer that he or she can barely get their racket on." I said only to get him or her moving backward.

This means that if your opponent is hitting from a closed stance, you want them hitting off the back foot. If they're hitting from an open stance, you accomplish the same thing by getting them leaning backward and contacting the ball at a point farther back than usual.

"Heh-heh!" she says, rubbing her palms together in wicked glee. "At this point the battle plan starts to get interesting. Heh-heh!"

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Saturday, July 21, 2007


The major changes on the main website are finished, though I still have some checking to do. I do appreciate a heads-up via email from visitors who come across an error or a dead link or any other problem.

That's because it's a big site, so I do miss things - like last week, when I somehow got the links page from a different website stuck into the tennis site!

So, if you notice anything out of whack like that, please drop me a line to let me know.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

The Operation Doubles Connection - July Issue

The July issue of The Operation Doubles Connection, the free monthly newsletter of is online.

· What's New at Operation Doubles
· Featured Tennis Website of the Month
· This Month's Tennis Quiz
· This Month's Q & A
· This Month's Shot-Making Tip

You'll also get the scoop on where the Contents pane of the Main Website went.

And be sure to catch my article on eyework in tennis doubles in the July/August issue of TennisLife Magazine.

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More from the Amazing Robot

Here's another good one...

Google ranks that #2 out of 175,000,000 Web pages on "tennis."

What? don't you know "plenty of useful, relevant, rich content" when you see it?

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Strategic Objective of an Approach Shot

My volleys and overhead aren't all that great, but I am very successful when I come to the net, and I do so quite often.

How can that be? I am convinced that it's because I have an excellent approach shot. Because of it, at net, I seldom have to deal with difficult incoming shots.

This particular case, the case of the approach shot, is an good example of how important it is to identify and pursue THE strategic objective in a situation.

Many players can't state their objective with an approach shot, but if you get them to talk about it, this is what you'll hear. They want to hit a forcing shot that is deep and stays low to make their opponent hit up. Basically what they want is a weak return from their opponent.

That's their real objective then. And it isn't the strategic objective. You must hit a really aggressive shot to force a weak return from your opponent. Is that what you should be doing with an approach shot? No. Save the heavy-duty aggression for later, when you're on top of the net.

Your greatest risk in rushing the net is your first volley. You hit it on the way in, while you're still running through no man's land, near the service line. From there your perspectives are poor. You are too far from the net to go for a winner. Worse, back there, you can easily be forced to hit up on a low shot that lands at the service line. Not good.

During a net rush, before you hit that first volley, you have only about a 50-50 chance of winning the point. But if you get your first volley back deep (within four or five feet of the baseline) you have a 75-80% chance of winning the point.

Clearly then, the first volley is crucial.

For your first volley you don't need a weak shot that your opponent barely made. You just need a first volley that you can hit from waist height or above, ideally a floater. You also need a first volley you can reach - not one straight down the far sideline or at a wicked angle crosscourt that wrongfoots you. In other words, you need a ball coming down the center of your court.

That's it - a floater within your reach. That's all. THE strategic objective of an approach shot is to draw a floater within your reach.

It doesn't have to be a titanic shot that nearly forces an error. It's just gotta draw a high shot within your reach. In fact, the best approach shots are often SUBTLY forcing shots.

Now the question is, what's the most reliable way to get people to hit you floaters down the center of your court?

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's wrong with crosscourt approach shots?

What's wrong with a crosscourt approach shot, like a wide serve? Here's what's wrong with it...

Its horrendous Angle of Return.

That's Pete Sampras, and that was a first serve. Yet he was easily passed on his way to the net.

Pete didn't try to come to the net behind a wide serve very often, and this is why. When your serve is an approach shot, you should aim wide only as often as necessary to keep your opponent honest and guessing. And that isn't very often.

The ideal net-rushing serve is a centered serve to the "T" that minimizes the Angle of Return, the PASSING Angle of Return. But a serve at the body often works as well.

There are some players who return serve badly when stretched out. So, they may be an exception to this rule of thumb, but they're the only ones.

Pete would have had to hit a much better serve than this to get safely to the net behind it. In other words, he would have had to hit a serve so good it put the receiver in Just-Get-the-Ball-Back Mode.

Then of course, the receiver won't take advantage of his passing angle: he'll just push the ball back to keep it in play. Fine, you can handle that shot as your first volley on your way in to the net.

But consider what serving that hard does to your percentages. If you have lambaste the ball every time you wish to follow your serve, you're going to miss a lot of those net-rushing first serves.

Result? You not only often fail to reach the net, you end up playing the point from a second serve.

Not good. An approach shot doesn't have to force a WEAK return: it has to force an easy-to-volley return that is within your reach as you pass through no man's land. That's all. In other words, it has to draw a floater through the center of your forecourt.

You can accomplish that without whamming your serve. Indeed, a centered kick serve to the backhand or to the body often works very well. And that's a safe serve that you are going to make a high percentage of the time - so safe that we normally use it mainly for second serves.

So, don't take unnecessary risk with an approach shot.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Two Finishes?

Two backhand finishes?

It's two shots of the same shot, at different magnifications and a split-second apart. In the second you can see a skid mark.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

DW: Hawk-Eye Needs More Carrots!

By Dave Winship

Hawk-Eye may have been "killing" Roger Federer during the Wimbledon men's final but the All England Club has hailed the introduction of the electronic line-calling system as a resounding success. "It's been an overwhelming success and it will be here to stay," a Wimbledon spokesman announced. However, Hawk-Eye's creator, Dr Paul Hawkins, has been forced onto the defensive by Federer sympathisers and other assorted Luddites.

Already trailing by a break of serve in the fourth set of the final, Federer, serving at 30-30, declined to play a ball that appeared to have landed beyond the baseline. The line judge, the umpire and all those who saw the BBC freeze-frame replay were also persuaded that Rafael Nadal had missed the opportunity of another break point. But the Spaniard's challenge was upheld by Hawk-Eye, prompting an uncharacteristic meltdown of Federer's concentration that threatened to cost him the match.

Dr Hawkins explained: "The ball will be in contact with the ground for about 10cm. In the very first impact, it will compress so that the bottom half is flat. Then it will start to roll and skid and uncompress. The freeze frame the BBC used showed the ball about 7cm after it touched the ground." Having repeatedly insisted the technology is accurate to within 3mm, Hawkins provoked some ridicule when he was quoted as saying that the contentious ball had been "definitely in by 1 mm". When the designers say Hawk-Eye is accurate to within 3mm, one assumes that means plus/minus 1.5mm accuracy (giving a maximum deviation of 3mm), but if it means plus/minus 3mm accuracy, a Hawk-Eye replay could potentially mislead everybody by as much as 6mm!

Hawkins says the TV cameras do not work at a high enough frame rate to capture the precise initial moment of contact with the ground and he makes a valid point about balls compressing and skidding. It explains discrepancies where the naked eye and video replay show balls to be 'out' when Hawk-Eye judges them to be 'in'. Unfortunately, though, some of the disputed judgements involve balls shown as 'out' by Hawk-Eye when the naked eye, backed up by freeze-frame video, perceived them to be 'in'. There are rumours that the reason Hawk-Eye is not used at the French Open is that when they tested the system on clay, the ball marks frequently proved the technology wrong!

Some players already exploit Hawk-Eye's unreliability by making speculative challenges on big points. If you see your shot go a fraction long on a big point late in a set and you've got a couple of challenges left, why not take a "chance" card? It could get you out of jail free.

Whilst acknowledging that ball-tracking technology is better than the alternative, I believe tournament organisers should be a little more circumspect in their assessments. Gushing praise might encourage Dr Hawkins to rest a little too much on his laurels. The Grand Slams and the Tours missed an opportunity when they awarded contracts to just one supplier. If a rival system such as Auto-Ref was also allowed a slice of the action, there would be a scramble for the carrots and the technology would improve quicker.

Copyright 2007, Dave Winship -- all rights reserved worldwide
Dave Winship is an L.T.A. coach at the
Caversham Park Tennis Club in Berkshire, England, and the author of magazine at


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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tennis for Robots

Did you ever pay much attention to how your mind works while you are performing various tasks? If not, try it some time. Tune in on the mental experience of doing things like talking, reading, trying to remember something, or doing something physical.

In doing different things, the brain actually operates in different modes.

For example, when you are reading good fiction, you get lost in it. You become unaware of the words on the page. All they do is (through the power of suggestion) plant images (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) in your imagination, so that you IMAGINE the scene taking place, as if on some magical movie screen in the mind.

But if you put down that novel and pick up a math book, you are suddenly back to experiencing thought as words again.

You are using different parts of the brain for these different processes. The frontal lobe is that part of the brain most exaggerated in humans. It is so large in the human brain that it grows up and folds down over the rest of brain. Why is it so huge? Because it processes language. It thinks in words.

It thinks consciously.

Now, what happens when you do something physical, say, lean over a child gate to pick up an object off a low coffee table on the other side? That takes a careful balancing act so that you don't fall over that child gate. But you don't worry about that.

Do you analyze the motion, deciding what you're going to do with your off arm, how much you should bend your knees, deciding what angle your toes should be pointing, and so forth?

Of course not! If you did that, you'd surely fall over that child gate!

You just walk up to the child gate, form a picture of yourself doing it, and then just do it.

You don't think about it at all. You don't use the frontal lobe of the brain to control your movement. You use the further back parts of the brain, the parts that house the imagination and the unconscious coordinating centers.

They need only that brief mental picture you form of yourself doing it. It's their marching orders. So they see to the details of how to carry out this command. If you're very young, they aren't very good at it yet, because you haven't had enough practice at tricky movements. But if you're an adult, they have learned enough through experience to know just how much to bend your knees and which way to point your toes and what to do with your off arm.

In other words, they are filled with unconscious KNOWLEDGE. They gained it through natural learning, as Tim Gallwey discusses in his book The Inner Game of Tennis.

The result is spontaneous movement, intuitive movement, highly coordinated and well timed movement.

The surest way to botch up this kind of movement is to interfere with it by consciously thinking of how you should perform the details of this movement. Don't.

Why? Because then you are using your body like a robot. What is a robot? A robot is a machine. Its movement is not spontaneous. Inside its little robot head orders are buzzing, like "Move right arm this way. Move left leg that way. Now lean forward at a 45 degree angle...."

Result? Robotic motion.

This is why people find golf and tennis hard to learn. They get instructions. Verbal instructions on how to move the feet and swing. Those verbal instructions get into the head and buzz away as word commands from the frontal lobe while the player is trying to hit the ball. Result? Robotic golf and tennis swings.


We don't learn physical things that way. In a million years you won't learn a good tennis or golf swing that way. You'd still be blabbering on your hands and knees if you had tried to learn to walk and talk that way.

And the proof is in the pudding. Why is it mainly just golf and tennis that people find so hard? The answer lies in how we learn most other sports.

For example, a kid sees other kids playing basketball. He watches and watches, imagining himself doing it and then jumps at the chance to go out there and imitate them. Not once is he given, nor does he think of, a VERBAL INSTRUCTION. His brain is doing it all with pictures and feeling. He experiments to discover through results and feel the best ways of doing a thing.

In other words, he learns how to play basketball naturally, not through verbal instructions, like many tennis and golf players learn.

Now, it would be foolish to become an extremist in this regard. To break a bad habit, a tennis coach may have to have a player key on a single verbal instruction while practicing a stroke. Verbal instructions aren't evil. But they are the least effective way to learn. And, you don't want to form a habit of playing with verbal instructions buzzing around in your head.

Which means that your normal mode of play should be with your conscious mind as quiet as possible. Then, if you must key on a verbal instruction occasionally, for five or ten minutes at a time, fine. But don't make a habit of it.

The bad thing about our glorious frontal lobe is that its task is enormously complicated. All the logic involved in processing language (such as that in verbal instructions) costs vast sums of brainpower.

So, guess what the brain does to get extra brainpower for this business whenever you are thinking?

It reflects its attention inward, on your thoughts. You stop seeing the things in the room around you. You stop hearing the traffic passing outside on the street. If someone says, "Honey, would you get me a beer?" you probably won't hear them. Your brain has tuned out incoming information from your environment. Nothing that isn't alarming will get your attention.

But it isn't just your external environment that gets tuned out when you are thinking. Your internal environment gets tuned out too. You won't be aware of your posture or whether your feet are flat on the floor. Your kinesthetic perceptions will be dimmed.

Why? Because the brain is diverting its resources to the frontal lobe for this huge task of processing conscious thought in the form of language. And it doesn't want anything distracting you from it.

Indeed, no one can think (or remember anything) while being fully conscious of the sights and sounds around them. It's one function or the other: take your pick. The brain has reflected its attention inward on your thoughts, or it has turned its attention outward on the rest of your body and your external environment.

Things like - you know ... the BALL. The quieter your mind, the better you'll see and judge the ball. It's as simple as that.

So, learn as much as possible the easy way, by watching others play, by viewing videos, by looking at pictures, by imagining/visualizing yourself doing it, by taking shadow sings. Experiment. Yes, experiment, discover. You'll be surprised how much that helps you get the proper feel.

And if you do have to key on a verbal instruction now and then, fine. Just don't make a habit of it.

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The Amazing Robot

Is it just me? Or does this robot's "quality" judgment leave much to be desired?

Look Ma! There is Operation Doubles, just ahead of a shower curtain that has been sold out since forever.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Act of Confidence

I ran across a little gem today in John Mill's column, Tennis Anyone? at the Confidence.

Of course, as Bill Tilden said, every missed shot tends to erode confidence, and every great shot tends to build it. But we aren't completely at the mercy of fate in this department.

Confidence, like other virtues (such as courage, fortitude, faithfulness, etc.) are developed by simply practising them. I forget where I read this long ago, but it was excellent psychological advice for the average person. Courage, or any other virtue, isn't in your genes. If you want to be a courageous person, act as though you are.

Act like a courageous person. Make the courageous choices. It's a simple CHOICE.

And you will know it when you are courageous.

It's the same with confidence: make the confident choices. John gives a great example.

Most players hit balls so "off center" because as the ball gets nearer to the contact point the average player will allow doubt to enter the picture and try to look where they want to hit the ball.

That little choice you make, to look away at where you want the ball to go, is a choice to NOT be confident about that.

Make the other choice instead. Mills says that he thinks once a player masters the habit of staying focused on the point of contact, they become confident players.

Right. It's an act of confidence. Just as you become courageous by performing acts of courage, you become confident by performing acts of confidence. In other words, your own actions affect you, and you are, in large part, what your own actions and choices have made you.

Read the rest. And then here's more at Operation Doubles about keeping focused on the point of contact.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Wimbledon: Afterword

If you'd like to read a good report (with great photos) on yesterday's Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, see this one at Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog. I'll highlight some of the points I'd like to comment on.

I remain surprised by how many players don't recognize Raja's tendency to serve flat out wide in the ad court on big points.

It is surprising, isn't it - even pros miss an awful lot of what goes on in the heat of the battle. Andre Agassi once said that people would be surprised to discover how little pros' play has to do with tennis, because they are so busy thinking nothing but, "Win the next point!"

It is the consequence of a noisy mind. Understandable on Centre Court during a Wimbledon final, but still a hindrance.

When your mind is thinking, it automatically distracts your attention inward, onto your thoughts. You WILL then fail to notice things out on the court. All tennis players struggle with this, even the pros.

I think that today's pro players aren't as good at controlling and quieting their minds as past tennis greats were. Why? Simply because they have a crutch = a coach. They expect their coaches to notice these things for them.

Unfortunately, your coach can't tell you that Raja serves flat out wide to the ad court on big points until the match is over. Besides, your coach is an aide, not someone you should depend on to do your observing and thinking for you.

How often does it happen that a player, even at this level, wins an intense tiebreak and drops serve immediately in the next set? I wish I had the stats.

So do I. It's the letdown that occurs in that situation. You must be ready for it, adjust you tactics (not strategy) accordingly, and mentally stoke your fire.

Then Hickman goes on to relate Federer's unravelling to the point that he asks for Hawk-Eye to be turned off. Of course the request was denied, so Federer started sarcastically whining as though Hawk-Eye and Company are "homering" him here in England, in favor of the guy from Spain.

I guess Andy Roddick is in the final, because Raja continues a dialogue with no one in particular, asking after a Rafa shot misses just over the baseline, "How was that one? Was that in?"

An unraveling that has silenced the entire stadium. The fans can barely applaud any of the points won or lost. Raja fights off a deuce after a double fault, and yet another flat serve ace out wide gets him on the scoreboard in the fourth set. Fans, still stunned, applaud tepidly.

Can you blame them? Atta way to take yourself down off that pedestal, Roger: act like a child.

Federer is on the verge of a breakdown, but guess what saves him at that very moment?

Hickman makes the crucial point that the rain delays are what caused unfairness - in Federer's favor, not against him. The rain delays created a final in which Federer was physically and mentally fresh, while Nadal was physically and mentally exhausted. Not fair.

Rafa's mental exhaustion showed through in the tiebreakers, where mental strength is most tested. And his physical exhaustion showed through in this inflammation of the knee injury.

True, this was no deliberate favoritism. But that doesn't make it any less unfair. Wimbledon should do everything possible to make sure that rain can't create such an unfair situation, especially in the finals, ever again.

Do read the rest.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Roger Federer Wins Wimbledon Championship

Women's Singles Champion: Venus Williams (seeded 23) of the United States defeated Marion Bartoli (seeded 18) of France in yesterday's final.

Men's Singles Champion: Top seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland defeated second seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain in the final today.

This was before the match...

Kinda like Yin and Yang, eh?

Image, image, image. If you ask me, they're both a little silly. But, boy, can they play tennis.

Women's Doubles Champions: Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Liezel Huber of South Africa defeated Katrina Srebotnik of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan

Men's Doubles Champions: Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra of France. Seeded 10th, today they defeated top seeded Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States in the final.

Mixed Doubles Champions: yet to be determined.

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Dona nobis pacem.

I think this post, Requiem for a Heavyweight, by Peter Bodo is an excellent piece of technical analysis. So, I'd like to highlight and carry further a couple of his main ideas.

First, this match between Andy Roddick and Richard Gasquet was a good match. Andy had a good strategy and played it well. In fact, as Bodo says, it was THE best game plan (though I don't like all those crosscourt approach shots), and Andy played it well. He just didn't win, that's all.

If a player misses most of many break point or set point or match point opportunities, he has a problem in that department.

But to make a big deal of just a couple such lost points confesses both simplism and ignorance of the game. Since when has it become a sin to ever lose a break point or a set point in your favor? I say to the press, "Give us a break, please."

Why does it constantly try to make something out of nothing? As in this requiem for Roddick the press has composed in its "story" of this match.

This is what I mean when I object to the use of fiction writing techniques in journalism. Ever since the 1970's, "telling a story" instead of "reporting the facts" has increasingly become the name of the game in journalism. Why? To make the news juicier. And so we have infotainment. Rather like Verdi on steroids.

Why? To sell a product, mainly through its curiosity provoking, emotion provoking, and controversial entertainment value.

But this match was great. It makes a great story without doctoring the plot to make some magnificent theme of moral weakness in Andy's loss.

But mediocre writers find it much easier to tell a negative story, because anyone can make a negative story interesting.

It reminds me... There's Faure's Requiem and Mozart's Requiem, and then there's Verdi's. Which is a litmus test for good taste. If you understand the Latin, it cracks you up laughing at the "climax" in "passus...passus...passus et sepultus est!" when the extravagantly overblown melodramma makes that bass sound like HE's dying.

Of course the press isn't the only guilty party. The fans, where they get to mouth off on the web, do the same thing. I guess that giving people a bullhorn is what causes them to kinda make up and embellish the world as they go along.

Worse, the resulting meme is superstitious. It supposes that some incorrect choice or character weakness is to blame for every loss or failure. Baloney, that's no different than a mendacious preacher proclaiming that, if you are good and God likes you, you will succeed in business. Superstition be damned: bad things happen to good people, and sometimes you do everything right and still lose.

The converse is just as true: good things happen to bad people, and sometimes you do everything wrong and still win.

As Bodo says, that match "is what it is," not what anyone chooses to make of it.

Indeed. I will go further and be blunt. When fictionalizing nonfiction is done in sports, it is just aggravating. When it is done in global matters of life and death, it is unconscionable.

The press has also used the fiction writing technique of building suspense through foreshadowing by making a huge deal out of the bitter disappointment Andy suffered in this loss. The subliminal suggestion is clear: "Stay tuned, folks, we may be about to see a tennis god fall!" Why? Because that's how you make a page-turner out of fiction and sell tomorrow's newspaper.

(The press blows the same artificial gasp every time Roger Federer loses a match.)

Again, this is manufacturing something out of nothing. Andy's bitter disappointment is no big deal. It's no life-changing moment, for crying out loud. It's just what happens when you work and play your heart out for something and lose. It's perfectly natural. It's what you risk by competing in sports. It's just a feeling. And it passes.

You don't get to the top of this game if you can't handle defeat better than the press seems to think anyone capable of handling it.

It was a just great match. And Richard Gasquet had far, far more to do with Andy's loss than any failing or flaw in Andy or his play.

Poor Gasquet doesn't get his due. He wins and yet somehow it's all about Andy. Not about Gasquet's tremendous achievement – just about Andy's mythical fall. The vultures.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Venus Williams Wins the Wimbledon Championship

Within a cloud of all the hype about her sister Serena, Venus Williams of the United States came out of nowhere at Wimbledon this year.

Yesterday in the semifinals, she defeated a game Ana Ivanovic of Serbia while Marion Bartoli of France stunned the world by defeating Justine Henin of Belgium. (Didn't I say that France has an awful lot of very good tennis players and many who love to play on grass?) Today Venus won her fourth Wimbledon title by defeating Bartoli 6-4, 6-1.

Bartoli herself said it best - that Venus "is the best player on grass in the world."

Venus handled the psychological impact of some wild errors, showing her maturity at the age of 27. I think the accomplishment is greater this year than in the past. When the Williams sisters brought the heavy-hitting game to the women's tour, the other players weren't used to it and could simply be overpowered on a day when Williams was making few errors.

But the women are used to it now. The women's game is faster now. Venus had to play great all around tennis to win this tournament, and she did.


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wimbledon: Days 9 & 10

Yesterday Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their third round matches, while Andy Roddick and Richard Gasquet won their fourth round matches. (That's what a mess too much rain makes.)

Today Nadal, Djokovic, Marcos Baghdatis, and Tomas Berdych won their fourth round matches.

Yesterday Venus Williams upset second seed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the fourth round. In the quarterfinals, Marion Bartoli defeated Michaella Krajicek, and top seeded Justine Henin defeated seventh seeded Serena Williams.

Today, in the quarterfinals, Venus defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Ana Ivanovic Defeated Nicole Vaidisova.

The men's doubles has been a hodgepodge of second and third round matches, with one more third round match remaining to to be completed.

The women's doubles likewise has one more third round match remaining.

The mixed doubles is still in the first round!

The results of so much rain delay can be pretty unfair. For example, Roger Federer, being the match on court in the first round and managing to finish before the rain delays, has had an extended vacation during the tournament, prompting all sorts of joking about where he is.

Richard Williams is desperate for attention and shouting anything he can think of to get it.

According to Serena Williams, Justine Henin had nothing to do with her victory over Serena yesterday. It was the thumb. Or the calf. Or the hamstring. Or whatever.

Apparently Richard never taught her that after a match, you should be honest about your play but should never make excuses and should give credit where credit is due - to your opponent for BEATING you.

Because it is unsporting, not to mention narcissistic, to devalue your opponent's achievement by saying that "basically all she had to do is show up" that day. We are getting really tired of hearing that.

Then Serena wonders why people react negatively to her. She ain't a teenager anymore.

She can play that game if she thinks to gain advantage through the mind games of gamesmanship that way. But then she will also have to pay the price in what people think of her for it.

Robin Soderling tried some psychological warfare of his own on Rafael Nadal, not that Rafa is a Wholly Innocent in that department himself. Soderling showed contempt for Rafa in every way possible.

Soderling even grabbed at his shorts in such a way as to imitate Rafa's well known habit of doing stuff like this...

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday!

A quick Happy Birthday, wherever you are, to my fellow Native Americans, European Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans - a breed of mongrels from the four corners of the earth joined in faithfulness to our neighbors by this magical thing = a bond that sets us free.

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DW: Wimbledon's Special Friendship

By Dave Winship

If it's true that individuals do more to promote peace than governments, the renewed pairing of Indian Muslim Sania Mirza and Israel's Shahar Peer in the Wimbledon ladies doubles event is a significant one despite the pair's insistence that they are not making any kind of religious or political statement.

"We've grown up together. We're great friends," explained 20-year-old Mirza, who was once the subject of a fatwa issued by radical Muslim clerics who took exception to her on-court attire. "So we said, why not? I have to keep saying this: I'm here to play tennis and so is she. That's the end of that. It has nothing to do with anything else." Mirza and Peer, seeded 16th, overcame Lisa Osterloh and Sofia Andersson in the first round. "We're just here to play tennis and we're here to perform and be the best we can be," Mirza added. "Everything we do or everything we say, we're normal human beings, and we're not here to make statements with every move that we make. We're just here to play tennis and we're here to perform and be the best we can be."

The two have been close friends since their junior days and played together at the 2005 Japan Open where they reached the semi-finals. However, Mirza got cold feet and broke up the partnership before the 2006 Bangalore Open, fearing a violent reaction from Islamic hardliners. "It's best that we don't play together . . . to prevent protests against my cooperation with an Israeli," Mirza said at the time. "There is no reason to arouse their ire." Peer is ranked just outside the top ten and could well qualify for the end-of-season WTA Sony Ericsson Championships next year when the event moves to Doha. Like other Arab Gulf states, Qatar does not recognise Israel.

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi was threatened with suspension by the Pakistan tennis federation when he competed in the Wimbledon men's doubles with Israel's Amir Hadad in 2002. The pair were awarded the ATP Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award the following year. Like Mirza, Qureshi insisted he never intended to make a political statement with his choice of partner. He nevertheless believed he had delivered a positive message. "I have had quite a lot people come up to me at the airport or on the airplane and ask me when I was going to play with the Pakistani player again," he said. "I never heard anybody say: 'Don't play with him' or something like that. In Israel everybody is pretty supportive about it . . . It's good for the game. They were telling me to keep it up."

Uprooted people are the most vulnerable and desperate of all. Arabs will never accept that the dispossession of Palestinians was a legitimate price the world had to pay for Hitler's oppression of European Jews. A just solution continues to elude world leaders as political intransigence threatens to obscure any shared vision of a peaceful future. In the absence of such a vision, the only way tensions can be relieved is through the humanity of individuals.

If they continue to progress through the draw, Mirza and Peer will cause quite a stir at Wimbledon. Their first match attracted a throng of people wearing saris, turbans and headscarves and they were very warmly received. One can understand them wanting to distance themselves from any political or religious symbolism arising from their reunion, but their friendship is none the less gratifying as an indication that humanity will prevail.

Copyright 2007, Dave Winship -- all rights reserved worldwide
Dave Winship is an L.T.A. coach at the
Caversham Park Tennis Club in Berkshire, England, and the author of magazine at

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Wimbledon Day 7

Rain again delayed play today.

Jonas Bjorkman, Marcos Baghdatis, Tomas Berdych, Mikhail Youzny all won third round matches. Justine Henin and Serena Williams won their fourth round matches. Venus Williams, Tamira Paszek, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic, Michelle Krajicek, nicole Vaidisova, and Nadia Petrova all won their third round matches.

Seven second round mens doubles matches were played. Winners were:
  • Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (1)
  • Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 10)
  • Jaroslav Levinsky and David Skoch (13)
  • Richard Bloomfield and Jonathan Marray
  • Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov
  • Scott Lipsky and David Martin
  • Harel Levy and Rajeev Ram
  • Wesley Moodie and Todd Perry
Four second round women's doubles matches were played. The winners are:
  • Cara Black and Liezel Huber (2)
  • Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama (4)
  • Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo (6)
  • Elena Likhovtseva and Tiantian Sun (10)
In mixed doubles, the 13th seeds, Rogier Wassen and Yung-Jan Chan advanced to the third round.

Serena seems to have had a fire lit under her. She really was injured today, but gutsed it out (with a little help from some timely rain). I love it, she said she'd rather die than lose. (I said that once :)

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NBC Fires Bud Collins

Via On the Baseline:

Bud Collins, who has been the face and voice of tennis journalism for decades, has been fired from NBC Sports.

The official reason? Time to go in a new direction.

Oh THAT explains it.

Not. Just what the hail does that mean? What direction? What does this babble say?

"A new direction" - where have I heard that line before?

I HAVE heard that line before. In a very bad place. It's kinda like the one about needing "new blood."

For what, pray tell?

People with legitimate and defensible reasons for what they do aren't so euphemistically glib.

The media ratings fall. In the overcrowded lifeboat the old guy is the first scapegoat to get thrown overboard.

They need a new direction all right. And they can start by cleansing journalism of fiction writing technique. But they never will admit that. They'll just keep finding scapegoats.

Bud contributed something unique to tennis coverage with his anecdotes and characterizations, plus a perspective that reaches back four decades to the birth of the Open Era. NBC thinks it needs to get of that special contibution right now, like it's an emergency or something.

Wow, this firing will save NBC a lot of money you know.

Read the rest of You can't Be Serious! to learn more about Bud's contribution to the game. Weigh in with NBC via email.

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