Friday, November 30, 2007


By now you probably know that the score is the United States 2, Russia 0 in the Davis Cup Final. Andy Roddick beat Dimitry Tursinov yesterday, and James Blake beat Mikhail Youzhny today.

We'll probably never hear the end of Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev's decision to hold Nikolay Davydenko out of the singles. At Number 4 in the world, he ranks higher than Roddick (at No. 6).

Who knows? Hindsight is 20-20, and Tarpischev has lead the Russians to victory before. He seemed to think that Davydenko couldn't beat Roddick, despite having a good track record against him.

But again, who knows enough to second-guess him? Maybe these match-fixing allegations have gotten to Davydenko. (Or maybe they know he's done it and fear he would do it in Portland.)

I don't know. But Tarpishchev's remarks sounded a bit defeatist to me. It's almost like he's just trying to make sure they don't get skunked.

Which has me scratching my head. You have to consider us the favorite, but not by much, and anything can happen in Davis Cup play. So, go figure. All I know is that you're not going to win with an attitude like that.

Good luck to the Bryan brothers tomorrow. They've been looking forward to this for a long time.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sampras Beating Federer

Some folks just can't let things happen the way they happen. Via the Dysfunctional Tennis Blog: Federer Lets Sampras Win.

Oh, so Pete can't win, can he? Because even if he does win you won't let him have won. So he either loses or doesn't win, right?

Here he is at 36 years old and has has just beaten the best player in the world, and you have to deny him his victory. That sucks.

Sure, the series was interesting to watch, fun to speculate the “what ifs”, but as I’ve said before, the only thing this it proves (or proved) is that both Federer and Sampras like the cash.

Wrong. The series proves that Sampras' game and Federer's game match up pretty well against each other. Wouldn't it be great if they were closer in age so we could see them compete against each other in major tournaments?

But some folks are driven on the winds of change like weathervanes. Sampras was around for only six months when they all pontificated that he was the GOAT. And then and he wasn't gone for six months months before the stampede turned and started pontificating that Federer is the GOAT.

Jeez, they all sound like caucus of crows darkening the trees in the fall. Guess what, folks? These know-it-alls don't know what they say they know. They never saw Bjorn Borg, Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Jack Kramer, Fred Perry, or Bill Tilden play, but they think they know who the GOAT is. Yes, I know I'm supposed to pretend I never thought of that.

And like who really cares, anyway?

But I digress. Let's look at that again:

Sure, the series was interesting to watch, fun to speculate the “what ifs”, but as I’ve said before, the only thing this it proves (or proved) is that both Federer and Sampras like the cash.

Fully bake that thought. Do either of these guys need the cash? It makes no sense to say that Pete Sampras and Roger Federer go all the way to China to play an exhibition match just for the cash. When have we seen them chasing cash?

Yes, their track record. Always check out the target's track record before you accuse them of something. How Pete and Roger have behaved in the past is relevant. They are among the last players you could accuse of chasing cash. And people who've never chased cash before don't suddenly become different persons and start doing it overnight. So, that is an accusation that just won't stick to these two men.

Then Randall torpedoes his own assertion by continuing:

Federer has to be some sort of glutton for punishment. He really does. By losing last night he’s now opened himself up to even more vomit-inducing press questions in the coming months on the Great Debate.

Exactly. Thanks for winning my case by giving him a huge motive for wanting to win that match.

Roger had powerful motive to refuse to even play Sampras. This is hard to explain as anything other than a fine sense of sportsmanship in Roger, in taking on the challenge. Pete has nothing to lose in losing but Roger does.

So just what was the motivation behind Federer deciding to lose the finale, and lose in straight sets? Simple. It’s good for business.

Where is all this omniscience coming from these days? Is God passing it out to his favorites so they can be just like him, able to read minds?

Sampras beat Federer. Repeat it 99 times. It won't kill you. This is no great surprise, because the previous match had been very close.

You're accusing Fed of fraud. On what grounds? What evidence? Just divining, that's all. It is wrong to ever puposely lose a contest like a tennis match. But most people are too thoughtless to think a minute and realize that these days.

Roger Federer ain't one of them though. And Pete would rightly be insulted by Roger throwing the match.

What's more, people were betting on this match. That's match-fixing you're accusing Roger of. You say he did it for money and that he lost because it would be "good for business," like some pool sharp who throws a few games to sucker big betting.

Federer doesn't deserve such wild accusations. There is zero REASON or EVIDENCE for believing these things about him. He just lost a tennis match. That's possible, you know.

This is getting like politics, where everything that happens must prove your firmly held beliefs or you will twist the facts until it does.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on Shifting as a Unit in Tennis Doubles

Over the past couple weeks I've been asking players what they think about the adage that doubles partners should shift left or right as unit, "as if roped together." I'm still not sure where this is coming from, but I'll take a stab at this misconception here and go into it a little deeper in the November-December newsletter.

First, like so many bits of bad advice, I think this one started out as good advice but was taken out of context, and the next thing you know, everyone is saying it's generally true.

But if you ask people how this is so, you'll find that none can give you one good reason. Typically, they cheat with the fallacious argument known as the "appeal to authority." It goes like this: "It's true because So-and-So [insert famous name here] says so."

I don't care who So-and-So is. Even if it's me ;-) So-and-So is fallible. And people who know what they're talking about can give give valid reasons for what they say.

Yes, there are times when you and your partner should both shift the same direction, leftward or rightward as a unit. These times usually occur when you are in a side-by-side formation, like the Both-Up Formation or the Both-Back Formation. But it can happen when you are in the Up-and-Back Formation too.

Nonetheless, more often than not, you and your partner should shift opposite directions, diverging or converging.

Here's the most common scenario. Both teams are in the Up-and-Back Formation. Before you say that isn't common at higher levels of play, think again. Many points, even at the top of the game are played in this situation. And almost every point at least begins this way.

Picture it: you have your deuce-side baseliners exchanging crosscourt drives. That's because they try to keep the ball away from the opposing net player. In this rally, some of those crosscourt shots fly at sharp angles.

Result? The Angle of Return gets nasty. When you hit a sharply angled shot, you give your opponent an even sharper Angle of Return. This means that, if you don't watch out, you are going to see a winner come back at a wicked crosscourt angle.

It's the most common error in doubles: a baseliner hits a sharply angled drive crosscourt (one that draws the opposing baseliner wide of the alley to play it) and then recovers THE WRONG WAY - toward center (leftward), instead of shifting out wider (rightward) to cover that nasty Angle of Return.

But now look what your net partner must do at the same time. He or she must shift the opposite direction (leftward) to cover the line down their alley the opposing baseliner has.

This is correct. Your team's shot has given the opponent a sharp and broad Angle of Return, and you two are spreading yourselves thinner to cover it.

This is the single most common scenario in doubles, and it blows right out of the water the adage that you and your partner should always shift the same direction as if roped together.

You can't dumb this down to any rote rule to memorize and follow. You have to learn to visualize the Angle of Return. Once you can do that, your instincts kick in, and you intuitively move the right direction.

I think many people are mislead by that adage because they're thinking in terms of words and instructions instead of visualizing what is going on. They probably are reacting to talk of the gap in the Up-and-Back Formation. Consequently, they probably think that you and your partner are far apart in it and that the opponent will be able to hit between you if you move opposite directions, spreading farther apart.

Wrong. Not in this case. Laterally, you and your partner are no farther apart than you are in the Both-Up or Both-Back Formations. So, from straight on, it's no easier to put a shot between you. And that opposing baseliner in the example above is NEVER going to get the ball between you from there. Your baseliner would have to be down on the next court to make the hole between you big enough!

The gap/hole in the Up-and-Back Formation is an ANGULAR gap. Only an opposing net player kitty-cornered from your net player has a line of fire through it. So long as you keep the ball away from that opposing net player, the gap is no problem.

Like I said, I'll have a little more on this in the newsletter. The website introduces the topic of positioning and the Angle of Return, and the Strategy Guide completely covers it.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

What's New

Please notice that the Operation Doubles Tennis blog now lives at a new address:

Please update your links and browser bookmarks to it.

I normally don't send out a newsletter in November or December, but near the end of this month I will send a short one, at about the time of the Davis Cup Final.

The "backup CD" option is now available for the Strategy Guide and the Match Play Guide. However, the price assinged is $5 or $6 higher than I understood it would be, so I am looking into that. In any case, you don't have to buy it: it's just an option for those who like having a backup copy of digital goods on a CD. If it lands in your shopping cart and you don't want it, just delete it. I will be making changes to this option in the next day or two - as soon as I figure out what all MY options are.

Because many people have expressed an interest in one, I have begun work on a Print Edition of both the Strategy Guide and the Match Play Guide. Only the cover will be in color, so, to insure the best conversion of the graphics to grayscale, I am converting all the artwork manually. It's most efficient to do the Match Play Guide first and then the Strategy Guide. I think I can be finished in about a week.

So that's what's new. Please remember to update your links and browser bookmarks to this blog:

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Nikolay Davydenko's Fine

Controversy has erupted about Nikolay Davydenko's fining for tanking a match against Marin Cilic, a Croatian teenager ranked outside the world's top 100.

Commenting on the umpire's warning that lead to the fine, Davydenko gave us the old....
This is just outrageous. How does he [the umpire] know what I was trying to do?

Ordinarily, I'd be firmly on his side, because I hate demonizing people by feigning omniscience to DIVINE their inner motives and intents and then condemning them for what YOU say they THINK and are UP TO. That rot is what politics has degenerated to, today. You just divine that they "don't care about the poor" or "want an excuse to wage war."

Case closed. How can the accused defend himself by proving a negative = that it isn't true?

But sometimes you can prove what a person's real intentions are. Here's a simple example. Let's say someone is complaining about a problem he has with someone else, say his doubles partner. He says that his partner always does this, and his partner always does that.

You get sick of hearing this every day, so you finally think about this problem and come up with some ways the complainer might try to resolve the issues with his partner. But guess what? He doesn't want to try any of them! In fact, his tone completely changes the moment you suggest actually doing anything about this problem. Suddenly, it's "no problem" anymore ... till the next time he crybabys in your ear about it.

You needn't be an omniscient mind reader to know that this "problem" ain't no problem, because he likes things the way they are and works to keep them that way.

So, concrete actions can reveal inner motives and intents, by pure logic. But always in a negative way, by proving insincerity, hypocrisy.

I don't know whether they did in Davydenko's case or not. So, I can't second-guess the official's judgement. All I know is that the official had the authority to make that judgement and did.

And, if you allow players this "How-can-you-tell-what-I-was-trying-to-do?" dodge, you have just opened wide the door to corruption, by making it virtually impossible to ever establish the fact when players throw matches. You have made match fixing so easy to get away with that it will run rampant.

What's more, even when childish players just tank matches because they're mad about something, the perception of corruption as the possible cause arises, which is almost as damaging to tennis as real corruption would be.

The circumstantial evidence against Davydenko weighs heavily against him. There are suspicious gambling patterns occurring around him. We are talking about Laws of the Universe here, laws of mathematical probability. So something untoward was going on to create that gambling pattern. Either inside information was leaked to some betters, or Davydenko just threw that match.

Either possibility is bad, but a leak needn't have been by Nikolay himself or with his knowledge and consent.

So, he's innocent till proven guilty, but I don't feel a bit sorry for the big baby.

He's a professional tennis player. One of the luckiest men in the world. He gets paid big money to accept gifts of the best clothing and equipment. He gets paid big money just to show up at tournaments. He gets paid so much big money for his wins as the World No. 4 that he could afford to throw matches any time he wants.

People pay money to watch him play. It's about time he grew up and realized that he enters into a contract with them when he enters a tournament. And his end of the deal requires him to do his utmost to win. Any less is breech of faith.

He owes us his best performance. Every single time he steps out there. So, it's time the crybaby grew up and stopped acting like a four-year-old every time he has a bad day.

He whines at us that...
Maybe my problems are psychological; maybe it's in my head.

Duh, you talk like this means it ain't your fault!

It's YOUR head, Dufus.

We know about the psychological battle in tennis. We play too, you know. We all experience the same emotions. But do we all act like you?

Did it ever occur to you that you should control what goes on in your head? What? is your mind some sort of race car that you "drive" with both hands off the wheel?

If you psychologically can't handle a bad tennis day, you have no business being a professional tennis player. The ability to retain your poise in competition is just as necessary as the ability to rip an 80-mile-an-hour forehand. You either have it, or your don't.

So, suck it up, Nikolay, or quit. Whacking the next two serves in anger over your last shot, in what amounts to an intentional double fault, is nothing but a professional tennis player's temper tantrum. Spare us, please. We pay to watch a man play, not a four-year-old.

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