Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Q&A: Should doubles players shift "as a unit?"

You often hear this advice given in terms of the analogy that doubles players should pretend they are tied together by a rope.

I think I recall where this Tennis Commandment came from. I recall reading it in a doubles book quite a few years ago. If I remember correctly though, the author was talking about playing Both-Up. Which makes more sense. At least it made sense to me then, and I don't recall what he said well enough to comment further.

But nowadays, you hear this going around and coming around as a general rule about how to play doubles. And it's just wrong. At least as often as not, if you shift laterally in the same direction as your partner, one of you is shifting the wrong direction.

Here is an example. Most points, even at the highest levels of the game, involve a rally with both teams in the Up-and-Back Formation. The baseliners are exchanging crosscourt drives.

Every angle you feed your opponent gives him a sharper angle of return, so what happens? The angle of the shots in this rally increases. You have some sharply angled crosscourt shots going back and forth.

If your baseliner hits a sharply angled crosscourt shot, your net player must shift toward his alley to guard against the alley-shot return. And the LAST thing your baseliner should do is recover in the same direction (toward center). That's the most common positioning error doubles players make.

Zap - there goes a crosscout a winner. But it shouldn't have been a winner, because instead of moving toward center, your baseliner should have moved out wide, into the alley, or perhaps even wide of it, to await that shot.

But, Clueless watches that crosscourt winner come back at a wicked angle and wonders how his opponent could hit such a sharply angled shot.

It was easy. Clueless FED him a sharply angled shot with that nasty angle of return. Then Clueless failed to position wide enough for that return. Instead of recovering TOWARD HIS ALLEY, he recovered toward center, leaving an opening as big as a barn door on his alley side.

The angle of return. The angle of return. The angle of return is what determines which direction you should move. No no-brainer rote rule will do.

Watch good singles players. When they hit a sharply angled crosscourt shot to their left, which direction do they recover? Toward their right. The closer they hit to the left alley, the closer to their right alley they position for that shot's return.

There's no arguing with the angle of return. It's geometry, Natural Law. Logic. Trumps any authority figure one might parrot.

In general, as the baseliner in up-and-back doubles, always position wider than you think you need to. Err to the crosscourt side. Watch out for that sharply angled crosscourt shot. Way too many of them go for clean winners in doubles, just because the baseliner thinks he should position inside the sidelines.

The opposite scenario is true too. If you center the ball in your opponents' court (as with a lob), both you and your partner shift toward center. Again, you're moving opposite directions, not as a unit. And this is true even when you're playing both-up or both-back.

I'm not saying that there aren't times you should shift the same direction, but more often not, that advice would be wrong.

Just another example of why you must use your own head and not just swallow whole everything you hear. If some tennis adage doesn't make sense to you, doubt it. Because there's a lot of junk going around out there.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Player Profile: James Blake Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2

What about James' game?

He plays right-handed and has a one-handed backhand. He is very fast, especially considering his size (about 6'1" and 180 pounds). His game is somewhere between that of an aggressive baseliner and an all-court player. The tennis season is so long that there is no off-time in which to make the major change to an all-court game though. James goes all out for every shot. He has no real weakness, but his opponents stay away from his forehand and try to attack his backhand.

According to his coach, Brian Barker, the most defining thing about his game has been a series of brief periods of tremendous improvement.

The first occurred while James was in high school. He was one of those small, slight boys that you hardly recognize by their senior year, due to a huge growth spurt. He grew 8 or 9 inches and filled out in his junior year. Before that, because of his size, he had the scrappy game of a small and very fast player. But now he had muscle too, muscle he could spend on topspin, making his shots big and heavy. Consequently, his game acquired an unusual combination of characteristics. Result? He went from losing in the first round of the national junior finals in Kalamazoo to making the championship match the following year.

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that this improvement was due to his growth, but possible explanations for his other improvement spurts have no such easy-to-jump-to conclusions about what caused them.

The second spurt of improvement came while he played for Harvard. He went from being just another player on Harvard's tennis team during his freshman year to being the top-ranked collegiate player in the country at the end of his sophomore year.

What caused that? Unless you know the details of Blake's story, you can't even hazard a guess. But note that Brian Barker was still helping James during this time. And note also that James says Harvard was a humbling experience, because there you find yourself among people who have written novels at the age of ten and found cures for diseases. That puts your great tennis play in perspective. It ain't so hot in an environment like that.

The third great spurt was in about 2001, after several years of getting nowhere on the pro tour. James would get very upset about his losses and try to distract himself by staying up all night playing poker afterwards. Then he decided to face facts and got Barker to travel with him the whole season, not just 15 weeks per year.

Well, OK, he also decided to cut off those beautiful dreadlocks (sigh) = be himself, not a sex symbol.

Zoom, another improvement spurt. Was it the dreadlocks? Or was it Barker promising to jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet if Blake ever won a title?

I kid you not. Sometimes motivating people is as simple as that.

Barker is obviously an important factor in Blake's success. Blake also cites his family. I suspect that Barker's influence is more than just technical.

James Blake, by his own choice, is a thoughtful person, not just a weathervane blowing in the wind. What you get when he speaks is the real him, not a parrot or someone whose behavior is calculated for effect rather than a natural expression of what lies within.

His coach and his family are likewise thoughtful people, who have provided a healthy environment for James to grow in, and they unselfishly have provided good guidance for his sake, not their own. I think that along the way, they have helped him discover important things about himself, life, and competition. Things that have helped him mature psychologically. It seems that, whenever he has learned something important that makes his attitude toward the game more logical and healthy, the next thing you know, he's beating opponents who used to beat him. The confidence he gains from that fuels the afterburners, and he then experiences one of these improvement spurts.

I think what's happening is simply that he suddenly starts playing closer to his potential.

Few players play anywhere near their potential. Players at the top of the Pro Tour are probably all playing at better than 90% of their potential. The rest of us are probably playing at closer to 50% of our potential – except in those rare moments when we get "out of our minds" and "into the zone."

Some reach the top of their potential briefly by pure psych jobs they do on themselves and their opponents, but players like Pete Sampras and James Blake are just really that confident and needn't make-believe they have any supernatural powers :)

So, they last. Barring any more catastrophes, you can expect to see James Blake at the top of the game for years to come.

He is currently ranked 10th in the world and battling for a spot among the top 8 in the Masters Cup to be played in Shanghai. He represents the United States (along with Bob and Mike Bryan and Andy Roddick) on the Davis Cup team, which will be playing Russia in the final on November 30.

If you are interested in him, check out his book, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life.

Which reminds me that, about halfway through this profile, I realized it had never occurred to me to mention something. So, I decided to leave it until the end for those who think his color matters. James' mother is white, originally from England, and his late father was black. So, I guess if he was African-American by virtue of his race, she is European-American by virtue of hers.

Which reminds me of the hilarious effect of the term "African American" becoming synonymous with "black." It is the famous blunder by French TV anchors who use the term even when referring to FRENCH blacks.

Asked by Sports Illustrated whether his success has changed or impacted his racial identity, James replied ...

It's definitely something I think about. It's funny because it's always "first African-American to do this or that" or "first African-American since Arthur Ashe." It's great to mentioned in the same sentence as him but I -- my mom especially -- gets antsy. "Why can't I just be American? Haven't I achieved enough on my own to just be James Blake: American?"

Part of me is African-American, but it's not the only part. My mom was like, it was one thing when you were first coming up and there was novelty or whatever, but she feels, "You've done enough to warrant just being called an American." I tell people over and over, "I grew up in Connecticut," but it always ends up as "Harlem to Harvard, Harlem to Harvard."

I love Harlem, I love the Harlem Junior Tennis Program, but I grew up here and I'm not going to deny it to make a better story. To me, the story should be about the No. 6 guy in the world, and not where I'm from or not from.

Ah, what a breath of fresh air.

Which in turn reminds me of one of Martin Luther King's speeches in which he repeated his often-repeated "I have a dream" theme. He said that he had a dream in which one day two people would stop dead in their tracks two steps after passing each other on a sidewalk – realizing that they had not noticed the other person's color.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Almost all the other nations in the world are, or till recently were, the product of an ethnic bloodline. But we are a creature of our Constitution. We are African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and European Americans = all just Americans.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The Operation Doubles Connection - October Issue

This month's issue of The Operation Doubles Connection, the free monthly newsletter of is now online.


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

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SB: The Drop Shot - What, Why, Where, When, Who

by Scott Baker

I love the drop shot. What is a better way to demoralize your opponent with just one simple shot? What is a better way to force them to the net if they are not comfortable at the net, or to simply play with their mind as you force them to cover every inch of the court? However, is that why you use the drop shot or do you use the drop shot for less desirable reasons?

A lot of times the pros (and many of us) will use the drop shot as a move of desperation. Maybe we are being out rallied from the baseline and have lost some confidence, or maybe we get tired and want the point to be over quickly. Either way, I do not recommend that you use the drop shot as a desperate resource. Rather, use the drop shot as a smart and offensive shot in which you know will result in turning the point into your point to win. In most cases, using the drop shot as a desperate resource will cause you to hit a poor drop shot from a lousy position and you will most likely not win the point.

You always want to be in a favorable position to hit a drop shot. You never want to attempt to hit a drop shot when you are well behind the baseline. This means the ball has a longer distance to travel before it crosses the net, allowing your opponent more time to react and get to the ball. The best position to hit a drop shot is inside the baseline.

One of the biggest weapons you can have when you are going to hit a drop shot is the element of surprise. Anytime you telegraph (let your opponent see what you are going to hit) the drop shot you could be in deep trouble. If your opponent sees that you are going to hit a drop shot they might run sooner than you expect. If they get there in time while the ball is still high enough they might have a good shot to hit a winner or to take control of the point. To keep from telegraphing your shot, you need to bring the racquet back like you would normally to make it look like you are going to hit a ground stroke. I see a lot of players bring the racquet back and then stand straight up before the swing. By doing this you let your opponent know too early what your plans are. The longer you can make your shot look like a regular ground stroke the more off-guard you will catch your opponent. The slice ground stroke lends itself beautifully to the drop shot. There is almost no difference in the stroke until you hit the ball. If you are a big topspin slugger, hitting the drop shot in disguise will be a little tougher and will be telegraphed sooner.

The drop shot seems like such a simple shot, but can be very tricky to hit and hit at the right time in the point. Let’s take a look at the where, when, why, what & who’s of the drop shot.

What is a good drop shot?
  1. A good drop shot is hit with slice/backspin.
  2. A good drop shot bounces 6 times before it reaches the service line. A great drop shot never makes it to the service line.
  3. A good drop shot is one in which the ball is on it’s way down when it crosses the net.
  4. A good drop shot is one your opponent does not expect.

Why do you hit a drop shot?
  1. To make your opponent run.
  2. To take control of the point.
  3. To bring your opponent to the net.
  4. To win the point.

Where is a good place to hit the drop shot?
  1. In the service box furthest away from your opponent. Always hit to one side or the other, never down the middle. Hitting to one side will give your opponent a longer distance to run and opens the court up for you.
  2. Hit the drop shot behind your opponent so he/she will have to stop and change directions before they start to run to the ball.

When is a good time to hit the drop shot?
  1. When your opponent stands well behind the baseline to return your shots.
  2. When you drag your opponent well off of the court deep to one side or the other.
  3. When you are standing on or inside of the baseline. Avoid hitting drop shots when you are standing behind the baseline. This gives your opponent more time to react and makes it a much tougher shot to execute!
  4. When your opponent is not expecting it.
  5. When you are hitting into the wind.
  6. When the balls are getting old.

Who do I hit the drop shot against?
  1. Players who do not run fast
  2. Players who do not like the net
  3. Players who stands too far back in the court
  4. Clay court players

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker

Scott Baker
Tennis Forum
E-Mail -
Copyright 2007, Scott Baker -- all rights reserved worldwide

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Match Fixing? What Match Fixing?

I don't get this: Match Fixing Hits Keep Coming (from Off the Baseline)

Where's the "match fixing" in all that?

Of course players are being offered bribes. Duh. Football players are offered bribes. Baseball players are offered bribes. Players in all major sports are offered bribes all the time. Jeeez, it is no news being trumped up into big news.

Gambling, gambling, gambling is the cause for 99% of it, not the occassional low-ranked player who wants to buy his way into "lucky loser" status for a chance to play in a major tournament.

And the more gambling there is on tennis, the more frequent bribe offering in tennis will be. It's a Law of (Human) Nature. Which is why I don't carry ads for gambling on tennis.

Tip: Ignore the press' tone. Especially when it's screeching bloody murder, pay careful attention to exactly what is being reported. (You need a sense of humor for this.) Bribe offering is not match fixing.

The fact that players are offered bribes does not make tennis corrupt.

TAKING BRIBES is match fixing. Too complex?

This is the latest craze in blaming the victim: because some crook offers a bribe, tennis is viewed as the corrupt one. So, what if the player refused the bribe? Muckrakers conveniently ignore that fact.

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Player Profile: James Blake Part 2

Part 1

In 2004, Blake was hitting with Robby Ginepri in Rome after both men had lost in the first round of the Italian Open. Blake, as usual, going all out as fast as humanly possible, stumbled while rushing forward to collect a drop shot. Head first, right into the net post.

He’s alive and walking today only because, when he felt himself flying, he was able to turn his head a bit to the side so that the post hit his neck a glancing blow.

He had broken his neck, and his scoliosis made it hard to determine how severe the injury was. So, for a time, James didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over the freak accident.

Mike Wallace (for 60 Minutes): Two days after the accident, James was transferred to another hospital for tests, still wearing his tennis clothes because he was too injured for them to be removed. “I was still covered in clay," he says.

Blake: I stunk. It was a low point in my life. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I knew I was seriously hurt, but I also knew that I looked ridiculous. So, I decided to laugh. I was so fortunate. My coach, Brian Barker was there. He said, ‘We got two options. We can laugh about this or we can cry about this.' And I immediately said, 'Let’s laugh. Let’s just kind of joke about it and hope that everything turns out all right. But if it doesn’t, I’ve got to find a way to still be happy with it.

Barker: He said, ‘We might as well laugh because you know, it’s pretty funny that a tennis player of my level with his coach standing right in front of him could run and go head-first into a net post.’ He’s like, ‘There’s got to be something funny about this when we look back.’ And he said, ‘So right now we’ll just kind of suck it up and make the best of it.’

Well, yes, the picture of it is kinda funny when you look back on it now, knowing that he was on a tennis court again in six weeks.

James insists that it was a fortunate accident, however. His father had cancer, and James hadn’t been told how bad it was getting. He would have been playing in Europe. But, coming home to recover from his broken neck gave him quality time with his father in the end.

It also put him through what only those who have been through it can know.

The exhaustion on top of the serious injury that had weakened him brought down his immune system and left him open to an attack of shingles, which is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. James, who pushed it in getting back on the tennis court probably sooner than he should have, seems to have suffered a particularly severe case of shingles. It affected the nerves on his left side, paralyzing half his face, blurring his vision, and forcing him to shuffle along like an invalid. The paralysis could have been permanent.

When he got better, he again pushed it in an effort to get back on court and found that he could hardly hit the ball. “That was the first time when I really came to recognize the limits of willpower and resolve,” he writes in his book, Breaking Back.

But he did break back into the top 50 on the ATP Tour the following summer.

But where was the turning point in his career? He can’t pinpoint one.

When he grew 9 inches a matter of months during his junior year in high school, he suddenly became a high school player who went undefeated his last two years. AND from being a player who never made nationals to beating the best juniors and becoming the top 18-year old in the country. Then, during his first two seasons in college, he went from being the No. 2 at Havard to being the top college player in the country. On the pro tour, he got nowhere for several years. Then – boom – he’s getting into the later rounds of Grand Slam tournaments and beating Andre Agassi. Even the triple-blow of what happened to him in 2004 didn’t take away his mojo.

So, where is that cliche called a “breakthrough”? What made him rise above the pack?

Many like to theorize. But Blake himself doesn’t.

In the May 2003 issue of Tennis Magazine, we read:

In Cincinnati, shortly before the 2001 U.S. Open, Blake beat two Top 60 players before losing to Patrick Rafter in three sets.

“A lot of guys, their egos are pretty fragile, and if someone ranked way below them gives them a good match, it’s, ‘Oh, I played horribly,’” Blake says. “Rafter didn’t say that. He told me, ‘You could have beaten me today. You could beat me on any given day. It’s just that maybe you didn’t believe you could. You had your chances and you didn’t stick to your game.’ To hear him say that was a big boost to my confidence. Rafter is one of those guys who definitely had to earn it, and maybe he saw that I wasn’t one of those kids who thought the world owed him something. But until then, I didn’t feel that I belonged on the ATP tour at all. After that, I started thinking, ‘Maybe he’s right. Maybe I do belong out here.’”

That’s it. Simple confidence. Otherwise known as “mojo.”

To be continued.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The BBC - Misrepresent Anything? Plug Your Ears!

Something tells me that Andy Murray has learned his lesson.

According to him, what he's said to have said ain't quite what he said.

Ordinarily, I'd think, "Yeah, a likely story." But, unfortunately, I know the credibility of the BBC. So I'm listening, Mr. Murray.

So, you say that your remarks in your interveiw with BBC 5live were taken out of context. OK.

Here is what the BBC says.

Murray told BBC 5live he believed some tennis matches are being fixed - and that all the players are aware of it.

Unequivocal. That's what they say he says.

But click the Interview button in that article and listen. He says NO SUCH THING!

Credibility Score: Murray 1 / Press -1

Where's a quote to that effect in this entire article? Nowhere!

Credibility Score: Murray 1 / Press -2

You don't even hear the question he was answering, do you? No context whatsoever. So, Mr. Murray is telling the truth. His remarks were taken out of context. Why?

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -3

Do Auntie Beeb a favor and read further than the headline, subheadline and first two paragraphs now and then. Always catch what's buried in the second-to-the-last paragraph.

You have Roger Federer saying he knows of no bribe taking. You have Tim Henman saying that he has no first-hand knowledge of bribe OFFERS but has heard rumors of such. He says nothing of any knowledge of bribe TAKING. So, since "all" the players are supposed to know what these two deny knowing, where's one bit of evidence here that doesn't CONTRADICT the BBC's claim? one bit of evidence that players are taking bribes?

Where have I seen that stunt before? Hmmm. Hmmm. Oh, I remember now! The Inquisition used to pull it. If you actually read the pile of testimony under the indictment, you discovered that it all was probative of innocence, not guilt. But of course nobody ever bothered to read much beyond the headlines.

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -4

I note that Andy's repeated efforts in plain English have all somehow failed to inform the press that he wasn't talking about "match fixing." That he was talking about bribe offering.

Who are the press to disagree with him on what he was talking about? They weren't present at the BBC 5live interview. How can they fail to regard Andy as anything but THE authority on what he himself was talking about? Sheesh.

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -5

It isn't just the BBC now. For example, here we have a journalist report:
  • Murray's clarification of his remarks as his "trying" to clarify them
  • his denial that he was talking about match fixing as his "seeking to clarify" his remarks on - you guessed it - "match fixing."
That ain't credibility.

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -7

match fixing / bribe offering

Journalists are wordsmiths, so don't expect me to believe that they don't know the difference between those two terms.

And here get an eyeful of the press' infuriating stubbornness in head-lining his comments as his "match fixing" comments! (That's for the 70% of readers who read the headlines and maybe the first few sentences only.)

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -8

It was taken out of context, I never said once that players fixed matches and that players were involved directly in betting on matches. I did say that there was a lot of betting in tennis and everyone knows that betting within tennis is going on. Three or four of the players have said that they've been offered [bribes to throw] matches, and I definitely said that that stuff goes on but whether players are accepting the money or not, nobody's been [found] guilty and until they have I don't think tennis matches have been fixed. I never said that. I know what I've said and I've spoken to a couple of other players about it and I don't think what I said is as big an issue as has been made out.

The bracketed clarifications are mine. When people speak extemporaneously in a press conference, they constantly misspeak like that. But when it's obvious what they meant, it is unethical for you to take advantage of the error to muddy the quote so that hurried readers miss the point or, worse, interpret it backwards. Honest journalists either indirectly quote accurately or add a bracketed clarification to make clear what the speaker meant.

It's about truth, not word games.

Notice in those articles, how seldom the British press credits the source of the information. How do you check their quotes against a transcript then? They make it sound like Andy said this to them. This makes the American press look good, because the American press would have stated that Andy made his initial remarks in an interview with BBC 5live.

Credibility Score: Murray 2 / Press -9

("Number 9 ... number 9 ... number 9 ... number 9 ....")

This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Players like Andy have learned a lesson about the press. Let's hope it sticks. For, as Dave Winship pointed last week, tennis must not just be clean; it must be perceived to be clean. Just the perception of corruption could have a devastating effect, and Andy's remarks were used to portray tennis as corrupt. Players must be wary of the press sexing up their remarks on issues like this.

Let's hope they also have learned how important it is for them to immediately report any bribe offers and to name names. If you are a player, any other player taking a bribe is not your friend: he is endangering your livelihood.

And it is good that tennis authorities are taking this seriously. The amount of betting on tennis has skyrocketed. So there WILL be attempts to fix matches. You can count on it.

Tennis must respond by shoring up its defenses against corruption. One weak spot in the battlements is the players who usually lose in the first round. They hardly win enough to cover expenses. That makes them vulnerable to bribery. You not only have to discourage corruption; you have to reduce the temptation to it.

Yes, this may mean that the players at the top may have to get a little less money so that those at the bottom get more. That won't kill anybody.

Why would anyone bribe a low-ranking player to throw a match he's almost certainly going to lose anyway? First, that isn't always as certain as one might think - not against an up-and-comer for example. And, second, this could be done just to implicate a player so that he doesn't dare disobey orders to do some dirty work for the Mob later.

Anyone who thinks the risk of corruption is a minor matter should study some history. The history of professional boxing. Once corruption in a sport gets started, it is very hard to stop. It spreads like gangrene throughout, and the result ain't a pretty sight.

All indications are that tennis is clean. This doesn't mean that no one anywhere has ever taken a bribe, but if that has happened it is rare. Let's take care to keep it that way.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Something Odd

I ran across something odd.

From The New York Times January 24, 1998:

Headline: TENNIS; Majoli Blunders Her Way to an Early Exit

That's an article about the 1998 Australian Open. And, way down at the bottom of it, we find this tacked on!

Nonheadline: "Apology to Spirlea"

MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 23 (AP) -- Richard Williams, the father of the teen-age tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, has recanted his charge that there is racism on the WTA Tour. Williams, speaking by phone Thursday from his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., also apologized to the Romanian Irina Spirlea for calling her ''a big, tall, white turkey'' after she bumped Venus at the United States Open semifinals in September.

''I love Irina Spirlea,'' Williams said. ''I don't see any prejudice at all. I met with her and apologized for making a stupid statement.''

"Big, tall, white, turkey," eh? Has Richard Williams ever looked at Venus?


I don't have to impersonate an omniscient God who reads minds to know that calling Irina "a big, tall, white turkey" -- wait. The Times leaves out the ugly word ugly.

So, let's correct the Times. He called her "a big, ugly, tall, white turkey." And I don't need to read minds to know that this racist and sexist slur was motivated by racism and sexism.

Richard Williams' own words testify against him on that charge.

But he had no such evidence against Spirlea when he impersonated an omniscient God who knows what people are thinking and accuses them of thought crimes.

So, that's not my question.

My question is that if he committed the offense in September during the US Open, why did he wait until January during the Australian Open to apologise and recant?

Over the phone???

He attacked Spirlea's reputation in public, so he should have recanted and apologised in public.

I want to know who called whom? Did Richard Williams call Robin Finn of The New York Times to make this wonderful apology and recantation? Or did Finn just call him, in hopes for some controversial stuff to liven up his copy with?

Was this "recantation" therefore actually just an "Oh, by the way..."

And why did the New York Times bury the story so that no one knows that Spirlea's accuser ate his words, so that restoration of her good name has not been made?

People have a right to their good name. And it's time some folks learned a little respect for that human right.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


By Dave Winship

When ATP officials quiz Andy Murray about his match-fixing allegations, they should surely censure him for his lack of discretion if they fail to squeeze names out of him. The governing bodies are fully aware that the integrity of the sport is jeopardised as much by speculation as by hard evidence that players have been taking bribes to throw matches.

Hard evidence would at least give them the opportunity to impose a swingeing penalty on an errant player to act as a much-needed deterrent to others. Until that moment arrives, the ATP and their counterparts in the WTA must rely on tightening up their anti-corruption procedures. An ATP spokesman has stated: "Nothing is more important than the integrity of our sport and the ATP has shown that it will act where it has information which requires investigation. Our anti-corruption programme has stringent procedures in place to deal with any suspected corruption." The plan is to tighten this up further by ruling that players will risk disciplinary action if they fail to inform the authorities within 48 hours if they have been approached to throw a match. ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers has disclosed that he will meet with the ITF, the WTA and the grand slam tournament organisers to consider setting up a tennis anti-corruption unit. "A dedicated global tennis integrity unit is a key priority for the sport and plans to create one are well-advanced," he said.

Certainly, some joined-up thinking would be nice. The approach to sports betting legitimacy is handled in a wildly inconsistent fashion around the globe. Bookmaking is highly regulated in some countries, criminalised in others. And those committed to curbing the industry now find themselves thwarted by the proliferation of online gambling websites. Gambling policy is riddled with contradictions anyway. It's an embarrassment that governments become so reliant on the revenue raised by the taxes they introduce ostensibly to control the social damage caused by excessive gambling.

The suppression of gambling on moral grounds is an untenable notion. Laws that are blatantly ignored and routinely violated are worse than useless. Gambling may be a vice, but it's a matter of personal choice. People who succumb to excessive eating, drinking, smoking or gambling have only themselves to blame. It's highly debatable if governments should be in the business of protecting people from themselves. But the rigging of sporting contests falls into the category of external harm and the state does have a duty to protect its citizens from it.

Anyone who cheats at sport and profits by betting on their action should be subject to the full rigour of the law. Until procedures are in place to facilitate the apprehension of these criminals, players like Andy Murray must put up or shut up. They must cooperate promptly and fully with the authorities if they have any incriminating evidence. If they are merely spouting uninformed conjecture, they would do well to reflect on the effect of their "revelations" on the reputation of their sport.

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, October 08, 2007

The Tennis Doubles Match Play Guide

It's done! The Match Play Guide is done. (I hate the end of writing and designing a book. You keep thinking you're almost finished and then remembering that you've gotta do this and that too. It's like the finish line keeps running away ahead of you.) The regular (US) edition is already available. The International edition will be available just two or three days.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Tennis Tip: Learn How to Pick Up a Tennis Ball

Does your husband refuse to play doubles with you because you can't pick up the stupid ball right? Do your teammates act like they don't know you when someone points at you and asks, "Who's that klutz over there who can't even pick up the ball right?"

Well, your shame has come to end. To the rescue - Tomaz Mencinger with the key to tennis happiness. No, it ain't your service motion or your backhand. It's how you pick up the ball.

Introducing the ultimate weapon in psychological warfare...

How to Pick Up a Tennis Ball - From Hopeless to Jedi Master

Ha! Wait until your opponents see you do THAT!

May the Force be with you.

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Mediocrity Pays Tribute

I just received an email message TO me, purportedly FROM me, which it is not. The FROM address is spoofed, apparantly because some competitor is worried.

I'm polishing my fingernails over it, of course, but I am also pursuing action against them right now.

So, if you receive an email message that says it was from me, I don't think you should open it. I didn't, because Windows warned me of active content. But here is the header information.

X-EMS: wait 10s
X-EMS: wait 20s
Received: from ( []) by ( with SMTP id l95D4qm7005284 for ; Fri, 5 Oct 2007 09:04:53 -0400
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2007 09:04:52 -0400
X-Originating-IP: []
X-eid: 7.0.Cq.2I3.1tH7t9.XoCJRF..P..1fAm.YGobPOE0
X-pid: 061240
Message-ID: <>
Received: (qmail 3370 by uid 518); Fri, 5 Oct 2007 09:04:54 -0500
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Check out what's new
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

This is an HTML message that does not contain a plain text body.

The originating IP address is...

OrgName: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
Address: 4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
City: Marina del Rey
StateProv: CA
PostalCode: 90292-6695
Country: US

NetRange: -
NetName: PDN
NetHandle: NET-14-0-0-0-1
NetType: IANA Special Use
Comment: Please see RFC 3330 for additional information.
Updated: 2002-10-14

OrgAbuseHandle: IANA-IP-ARIN
OrgAbuseName: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number
OrgAbusePhone: +1-310-301-5820

OrgTechHandle: IANA-IP-ARIN
OrgTechName: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number
OrgTechPhone: +1-310-301-5820

# ARIN WHOIS database, last updated 2007-10-04 19:10

The subject of the message is "Check out what's new". That can change in spammer's dumps on the Internet from recipient to recipient though.

In any case, I sent no such message. I never do. I reply to personal emails that ask me a question, and I send out a newsletter to those who sign up for it, once a month, period.
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Asian Tennis Federation's Threats

Here is proof that the human race is getting stupider by the day: The Asian Tennis Federation says that in tennis, we must forgo competition and execute racial quotas. But just for Asians. The big tournaments must kick 25% of the world's best players out of the draws, giving those spots to Asians.

Or else.

Or else what? Or else "We have the money. We have a big population."

Sounds like extortion to me.

I am tripping over my jaw. Where does one start with such an absurdity as that? If you make sport unsporting, what have you got? Not sport, that's for sure.

Duh, do you guys in the Asian Tennis Federation have the faintest idea what sports is about? Do you have the faintest idea what "fair play" is?

Or did you miss that chapter?

This is stunning obtuseness. Prepare for farce: how much do you want to bet that legions of social engineers will be calling it exactly what it most ain't = fair?

FAIR is when merit, and merit only, gets you to the top.

Not your race. Not who your Daddy is. Not your income. Not your religion. Not your sex. Not nothing but how well you play tennis.

Too complex?

Nothing is more inherently unfair and prejudiced and discriminatory than giving Person B a higher place than higher-scoring Person A because of who Person B is.

The very idea flies right in the face of what sports is all about - right in the face of the concepts of a level playing field and fair play.

The Asian Tennis Federation has completely missed the boat about sports, which may be why the Asian culture doesn't produce many top competitors.

OK, a different culture. But I have a suggestion: If you want to participate in world tennis, just catch on, please. Then you won't need any unfair quotas to see Asians in the draws.

In fact, the way to make sure that Asian tennis never gets any better is to give Asian players these handouts.

Asians are perfectly capable of competing with West in anything they set their minds to. (The Japanese have proved that many times in many ways.) Therefore, how dare anyone insult them by insisting that they need the crutch of special treatment.

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Your Emotions During a Tennis Match

Everything you do has a moral effect on you and everyone it relates to. That is, it affects morale.

So, when you're down, never let it show. Do feel what you feel, but it's private so keep it to yourself. Be like birds: they can be so faint they're one second from dropping dead, but, to hide their weakness from predators, they still manage to look fit as a fiddle. When you're dog tired, put a spring in your step. When you err, make light of it.

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Nonetheless, the surest way to show emotional weakness is to lie about your feelings by pretending you don't have them. For one thing, doing this is self-delusion. Furthermore, your adversaries just see right through the charade and smell blood.

Your feelings aren't "right" or "wrong," and you cannot control or change them. All you can control is your actions.

For the most part, it's best to keep your feelings to yourself on a tennis court. But many people confuse that with repressing your feelings.

Repressing your feelings is just a lie that buries them in the subconscious, where they mushroom unchecked by any limiting influence and where they rule your behavior like an unseen puppet master. So, know/own them instead. Let them remain in the conscious layer of your mind, where you are aware of their influence on your behavior and can temper it with reason and good judgment.

This is why some players show anger without harming their play or boosting the opposition's morale. Indeed, if you feel it, there's no real harm in showing anger now and then. So long as it's in a mete amount and there's no chagrin in it.

I really don't mind the shows of emotion, banging your racket, getting upset in the moment — that's just adrenaline. But that constant feeling of hanging your head, walking a little slower, just being dejected. You're showing your opponent that you're ready for him to beat you, and that's not a good thing.
— James Blake

Exactly. People play tennis for the same reason they read a novel — for the emotional experience it supplies. Therefore, expect a few emotions. That just means you're alive.

Disproportionate anger and chagrin, however, make errors a weighty matter. To keep chagrin out of your head, just keep things in perspective. A match is just a game — fantasy warfare, a war you really want to win but one waged in sport, one there's no loss in losing. And missing tennis shots is no measure of your personal worth!

For excellent advice on how to get along with yourself and your errors, I highly recommend Tim Gallwey's book, The Inner Game of Tennis.

One more thing. When you step out onto the court, don't forget something as important as your shoes and racket — your sense of humor. It's armor proof to the arrows and bolts of the inner battle.

Which is nothing, because it's all in the head.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tennis Match Play

No matter how tough, no matter what kind of outside pressure, no matter how many bad breaks along the way, I must keep my sights on the final goal, to win, win, win — and with more love and passion than the world has ever witnessed in any performance. — Billie Jean King

That's the essence of match play. It takes guts to ante up that total effort and desire, because you might lose. Failure is never a pleasant experience.

The chance of winning, and the risk of losing, is what makes match play exciting.

In fact, people who say they don't care about winning and just play for fun and exercise are usually doing so as hedge against ever really losing.

They are the ones taking the game too seriously. They are the ones with the ego problem. They are the ones who can't take losing. It is just a game after all, and this is playful competition.

Which is why opponents don't take personally. In fact, they appreciate their opponents for testing their metal by providing good matches.

There are people who have a problem with the notion of matching one person against another in head-to-head competition. They view it as inherently hostile.

Well, it isn't, but I'm not going to explain what takes but a little thought to debunk.

Losing is a bummer. Winning is a blast. But if you have a healthy attitude (what Pete Sampras and James Blake call a "short memory") it goes away in a little while. In just minutes or a few hours. Because your relationship with yourself is solid.

If you don't like the idea of one-on-one competition, try a stroke-play sport like golf, or some other form of exercise where, IF you compete, you compete against a standard, not another human being.

Tennis is a match-play sport. And if you try to play it with a stroke-play mentality, you are not going to enjoy it much.

Then you'll be thinking of your strokes while you play, not about winning the game. Why? Because you'd RATHER think about your strokes than the game. You'd rather forget that, at the end of the day, you'll be a winner or a loser. So, when you serve, instead of figuring out cunning tactics to use on the receiver, you'll be distracting yourself with thoughts about getting more knee bend and pronation in your serve.

Boring (and, by the way, not helpful toward improving your serve, either).

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