Monday, December 31, 2007

Australian Open: Strongest Field Ever

According to Tournament Director Craig Tiley, this year's Australian Open boasts the strongest field ever. Except for Vera Dushevina (ranked #44), who withdrew because of an injury, the top 100 men and women have entered.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Corruption in Pro Tennis

Why does professional tennis seem so vulnerable to corruption?

The answer is simple if you look at the issue from the viewpoint of the sharks swimming around in the underworld of sports betting. In tennis, you can bet on a sure thing.

How so? Tennis matches are head-to-head competition between just two players. To fix a match, all you have to do is get one of those players to take a dive. That's a sure thing.

In this, tennis is like professional boxing and therefore a tantalizing target for the corruption that plagued boxing till not long ago.

Therefore, it's much easier to fix a tennis match than it is to fix a football game or basketball game, where the outcome depends on the performance of many players. Sure, you can try to get a Brett Farve to blow a game. But the defense can score, or he could get benched so that a replacement wins the game. No sure thing by any means.

What's more, a tennis player can throw a match in ways are that are indistinguishable from the normal errors that plague every tennis player. Everyone has a bad day now and then. Everyone. In other sports, the bad days aren't as different from the good days as they are in tennis. So, for example, if a football receiver starts dropping crucial passes, you get suspicious. But tennis is such a mental game that a player's whole game can innocently break down on any given day. Nobody gets suspicious.

This is why the players getting fined should just accept the consequences and move on. In the long run, this crackdown will be good for them too, because it will be good for tennis. Tennis must never forget that it is an ideal target for the corrupters and do whatever it can to make itself a harder target in every way possible.

Because one thing is for sure: there WILL be attempts to corrupt it.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Tennis' "Sacrificial Lambs"

5-Euro bets? Potito Starace risked his career to place 5-Euro bets? Is that brain-dead, or what?

We'll never hear the end of the whining that he wasn't betting on his own matches. Leave it to a complete idiot to insult everyone else's intelligence.

He acts like he doesn't know the reason for that rule. But all it takes is a moment's thought to figure it out. The rules not only discourage and punish cheating, they discourage and punish stupid behavior that can land a player in bed with the Mob - owing them money for your bad bets and having them offer a deal you can't refuse - to pay them back by throwing your next match.

It is common knowledge that those are the Mob's patented tactics. Heck, they may be fixing matches to get betting players in debt.

That's why athletes must be clean. They not only mustn't cheat, they must stay out of predicaments where they can be forced to cheat.

And listen to Daniele Bracciali's whining...

"We were the sacrificial lambs. That is why they have got upset with us," he said.

"We are not champions and we are not important at a high level. But I cannot believe that we Italians were the only ones that placed the odd little bet."

What a victim-act. Where's the innocence in that? There's no defense at all in that statement, so he is admitting guilt.

But he thinks that just because everyone who may have done it didn't get caught, he shouldn't be punished? That is childish thinking. It's just an attempt to misdirect attention, like magicians do.

And all this whining for what? The punishment is but a small fine and few months ban. What's so horrible about that?

That's actually a blessing, because obviously these guys didn't have enough brains to stay away from betting and the serious fix it could have gotten them into with creditors.

They won't go broke, and they will have a few months off to work on their game (a rare advantage in pro tennis these days) and be back on tour in a few months. Nothing to crybaby about.

Let Potito Starace, Daniele Bracciali, and Alessio Di Mauro grow up and accept the consequences of what they've done.

This is how you keep the sport clean: by punishing every infraction of the anti-corruption rules you catch.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Playing Tennis - the Mental Aspect

When you step out on a tennis court, what is your goal?

That sounds like a stupid question. Your goal is to to win the match, of course.

Is it? Are you sure?

We are composite personalities, part true inner self and part ego. The troublesome ego has its own agenda. Which is vanity.

That isn't to say that the ego is bad. Like our emotions, it's there for a reason and performs an important function. You just want to be sure that it isn't in charge. The intellect must be calling the shots, not emotions or ego.

It's worth your while to really get to know yourself. We often have ulterior motives and intents, which can be buried in the subconscious.

If your goal is to win, then you should be ready to win ugly if you can't win pretty. Are you?

Aye, there's the rub. Many players constantly make choices motivated by the desire to swing "right" or to hit the "right" shot, not the desire to just win the bloomin' point. Result: they lose the bloomin' point.

But they look good doing it.

Looks. Appearances. That's what really counts - not the score.

This happens partly because we live in a society that is hypercritical of everything a person says or does and even FEELS. Virtually everything rises to the level of being "right" or "wrong." This pressures us to feel a need to win approval of everything we do. Even our natural feelings get judged, so we pretend we don't have the frowned upon ones and repress them.

In tennis this extends into an obsession with form, technique.

The ego TAKES THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE BYSTANDER. It is always nagging you about how what you're doing LOOKS to others. That's all it cares about. It will have you more concerned about how you're swinging the racket than about where your shot goes.

That's all vanity. The score is real. And it's just a game, not a measure of your personal worth.

The good news is that just by knowing yourself, you can avoid this pitfall. All it takes a little thought. A little quiet time for little soul-searching now and then to honestly ask yourself what you really want and what your goals really are. For, when you discover a silly goal deep down inside, it evaporates.

You won't get anywhere with a bunch of goals aimed off in different directions. You need one goal, single-minded pursuit of one thing. So, keep it simple: just play the game on the court, not any of the other stupid games people play.

When you thus get into the game itself, you're thinking about strategy and tactics, not your strokes. You'll be surprised at the different effect pressure has on you now: now it stimulates you and brings out the best in you, not the worst.

Now you start really having fun.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The US Davis Cup team

These fellows are all team players. Maybe not Andy Roddick so much, but the Bryans and James Blake love team play and know what it's all about. You can count on them. They come through for their team when they'd normally lose for themselves.

Because when the going gets tough, you disregard your feelings and push through for the team. There's nothing more rewarding than being part of something greater than the sum of its parts.

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Confused by nonsense on some ordering pages at the Main Site?

All the errors I introduced on 2CheckOut pages over the weekend are gone now. I hope :)

I was changing some Share-It options and didn't check the ordering pages I didn't think I changed. Boy, is THAT a lesson I'll never forget!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The Operation Doubles Tennis Connection - November-December issue

The combined November-December issue of the Operation Doubles Connection is now online. Sign up for your free copy every month here.


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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Bob & Mike: “They are just much better doubles players.”

Bob and Mike Bryan clinched the Davis Cup for the United States on Saturday with a win over the Russian team of Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-2. And Andreyev summed it up by saying, "They are just much better doubles players."

This is a sweet end to a year in which no American man has made it to grand slam final.

The win in the doubles put the score of the tie at 3-0, setting up the "dead" rubbers played on Sunday. They were shortened to best-of-three set matches, because they could not effect the outcome.

Igor Andreev earned Russia a consolation point by beating Bob Bryan 6-3 7-6, and James Blake beat Dmitry Tursunov 1-6 6-3 7-5, pushing the final score to the United States 4, Russia 1.

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Tennis Strategy & Match Play Guides

As I've been promising, I have found a solution for a print edition of the Match Play Guide and the Strategy Guide.

Though purchasing a download is always the most economical solution, you can now get both guides on a custom CD-ROM. As of today, the Match Play Guide is also avaialble in paperback.

The Strategy Guide is next and should be finished this week.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Davis Cup Drama

James Blake being a little blunt with press yesterday:

I wanted to play my best and be strong enough mentally and not have these people make kind of ridiculous questions about whether a top 10 player or a singles player on a Davis Cup finals team is mentally tough or not, because you don't get here without being mentally tough.

But, come on, James. They MUST resort to fiction, because they have ads to sell, names to make for themselves. It all started with "60 Minutes." You know - revolutionizing the "news reports" to make "stories" out of them. You know, the "human interest" angle. It ain't the news anymore: it's telling people what they want to hear, something juicy. No matter how ridiculously you have to exaggerate or distort the facts to make something out of nothing.

This press conference shows us that the press makes a federal case out it every time a player loses a game at 5-4. That's "blowing it" according to them. Ominous. A sign of mental weakness. (Gasp!) (Organ music.)

Blake again:

It was a style that lost me that game at 5-4, but it was a style that got me the win.

Yes, birdbrains. It's a game of odds. Blake is going to miss sometimes with his style. Whether the score is 5-4 or 4-5. But he is going to win more than he loses that way. Too complex?

I wish the press would just let reality be what it is.

They aren't even interested in anything but artificially created drama anymore. Kinda like a White House press briefing. Not interested in any of the real news or getting information. Just all digging, digging, digging for something juicy to make out of nothing.

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