March 30, 2009

Don't Win The Warm-Up!

News flash! No points are awarded for incredible shots made during the warm-up before the match starts!

The warm-up is just that - a warm-up. It gives you an opportunity to loosen up, to hit a few ground strokes, hit a few volleys, maybe a couple of overheads, hopefully several serves. And while you are going through your warm-up shots, your opponent is also going through theirs. So you owe it to her (or him) to provide some nice feeds that can be hit back to you.

In other words, the warm-up is not the time to hit incredible angle volleys. It is not the time to hit an overhead right back at me. It is not the time to respond to my ground strokes with a never-ending stream of lobs.

Perhaps, you're thinking, this is all so obvious. Does anyone really need to be reminded that the warm-up is just the warm-up? Well, my recent experience is that there are several women out there who either don't know or don't care about properly warming-up. Maybe they just want to get their shots in and are oblivious to whether I ever get a chance to hit anything decent. Maybe it is some great psychological ploy on their part - asserting their authority before the match even starts. Maybe they just don't like to warm-up and don't care what happens with me.

But I think going through the warm-up appropriately is a required act of tennis etiquette. And failing to warm-up appropriately is just rude.

Either you know what I'm saying or you don't. Hopefully you do and you'll never aim your warm-up overhead right at me.

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 23, 2009

Roddick & Fish Win Doubles!

I didn't forget about the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells that finished this weekend. Rafael Nadal beat Andy Murray in the men's singles final. No big surprise there. Nadal is just playing a different level of tennis than everyone else.

Vera Zvonareva beat Ana Ivanovic in the women's singles. Ana wore that same purple dress that I can't stand which I think is a jinx for her and she needs to ditch.

But the story I was most interested in was Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish winning the men's doubles finals. Roddick lost to Murray in the single's semi-finals so he made a great showing as a single's player at the tournament anyway. But in the meantime, he was playing doubles with Fish and they ended up taking out the doubles team of Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram who had beaten the Bryan brothers to make it into the finals! Fish and Roddick are now the ATP's No. 5 ranked men's doubles team! I thought that was great and when Andy Roddick is a highly-ranked doubles player, that can only mean good things for doubles.

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 22, 2009

Loving London & Wimbledon

I just got back from Spring Break with my daughter in London. The weather was fabulous, we saw an incredible Picasso exhibit at The National Gallery, and I convinced my non-tennis-playing ambivalent-about-most-things daughter to take a Tube ride out to Wimbledon with me.

However impressive you think Wimbledon might be - it is! Getting out to Wimbledon is not that hard and the walk to the grounds is probably about half an hour through a very sweet little English village. Really.

We saw Court No. 1 and took a tour of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Here's my top 7 favorite things I learned at Wimbledon:

1. The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is propagating the theory that "love" in tennis is derived from the French "l'ouef" meaning the egg which looks like a zero (?) and therefore means nothing. I've already stated my opinion on this (which is basically - who cares?).

2. There is a very cool holographic presentation with John McEnroe taking you into the locker room and talking about champions during his time. Even my daughter thought this was good.

3. What we play is "lawn tennis" not "real tennis."

4. Venus Williams is really tall. I saw one of her dresses. It would be past my knees.

5. Maria Sharapova is also really tall and has very big feet. I saw a pair of her shoes.

6. My daughter not only has never heard of Bjorn Borg, she does not think he was the least bit cute.

7. I wish the shop at the museum had more cute stuff that I could have bought.

I loved Wimbledon and am now inspired to go to some Slam, somewhere, soon. The Championships at Wimbledon will be played from June 22 to July 5 this year and I'll be watching the TV broadcast and looking for the entrance to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum so I can tell anyone who'll listen "I've been there!"

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 15, 2009

Really Easy Doubles Strategies

When I play tennis, I don't want to think. I just want to hit and have fun. I don't think I'm alone here. But, Surprise! I've found that if I don't think, I don't have as much fun because I usually don't win that way. And losing is definitely not as fun as winning.

In doubles, strategy and court positioning can be WAY more important than the ability to hit a good shot. And strategy and court positioning require THINKING. But wouldn't it be great if you knew some winning strategies that didn't require much thinking at all? Guess what? I know a few! These are strategies to apply in any match you play at any point in the match. In fact, you should use these in EVERY match you play. And once you learn them, you can apply them without hardly thinking at all!

1. Pick on the weaker player. You and your partner should be figuring this out right from the get-go, during the warm-up. In every doubles team, there is almost always a weak link and that is who you need to be hitting to. And I don't care if that person is hurt, pregnant or in her 80s. I have played all of those ladies and, if they get on the court, they should be prepared to play.

2. Get up to the net - both of you! You've heard it over and over - the team that controls the net, controls the match. So you and your partner must always be working towards taking over the net. It may happen right away, on your serve or return, or it may take a few balls for you both to get up there. But as long as even one of you is playing back, you're playing defensively and that is not a winning strategy.

3. Go down the middle. I love to hit angle shots. When they work, they're so pretty. But when they don't work, they're downright ugly. Hitting up the middle is the safest shot for you to hit and it is often the most confusing shot for your opponents to get to. Just who is responsible for that ball up the middle? You can win a lot of points while they try to figure that one out.

4. Hit at their feet. Ladies do not like to squat down and take the low ball. They will either bend from the waist and mis-hit, reach down with their racket while remaining upright and mis-hit, or just not try at all and outright give you the point. And when they don't even try, they'll usually tell you that you've hit a "good shot" which you may or may not have done. Exploit laziness and bad knees! Hit low!

5. Lob over their heads. Maybe the other team has taken over the net and keeps taking over the net. Just lob them. And, don't worry about hitting a great lob. Just hit it deep, over their heads, and make them run. Move it around and try to mix in some short balls. Lots of ladies can run down lobs. But most ladies can't run down lobs all day. And even ladies who move well can get exasperated with this kind of stuff and start making errors.

6. Hit short dinky shots. Personally, I hate those kind of shots. I'd much rather have a ball hit hard at me with some pace. I do not like to play matches where there's a lot of "puffballs" being put into play. And a lot of people I talk to feel the same way. ("This is not real tennis!") So take advantage of our impatience and hit "easy" shots. It does not require much skill on your part to let someone like me whale on these shots and, invariably, hit them out.

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 13, 2009

Back to Roger Federer

I just got the latest issue of Tennis magazine (April 2009) and here's the first few sentences from Publisher Chris Evert's "Chrissie's Page":
What is it about Roger Federer that pulls at our heartstrings? Watching him break down during the Australian Open trophy presentation after losing in five sets to Rafael Nadal in the final brought tears to my eyes.
She ends her piece with: "My heart goes out to him."

Does this sound familiar? I wrote a whole post on how bad I felt for Federer and how it made me cry. It was even called "My Heart Is With Federer"! Chris Evert and I are on exactly the same page!

Footnote to this whole thing - I wanted to add a photo of Roger's post-Australian Open crying thing to this post but then I came across this pic where he looks totally hot! Much better than seeing his breakdown again! (To my husband - You look totally hot too!)

2nd Footnote - Breaking News - You know Roger's girlfriend is pregnant, don't you?

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

March 12, 2009

"Laugh and Win at Doubles"

OK - this book I bought because I just liked the title so much - "Vic Braden's Laugh and Win at Doubles" by Vic Braden and Bill Bruns. Laugh and win at doubles? Ha!

But its a great book because it is 100% focused on doubles and that's pretty much all I play. "Laugh and Win" covers it all - partnership decisions, strategy, court positioning, teamwork, psychology, practice drills.

And you can tell from the writing, Vic has played and thought about doubles plenty. In a section on resolving partnership conflicts, he says:
For example, when terrible things are happening to a good player - you - on a day when you clearly are making most of the errors, you must somehow remain confident and not succumb to frustration, since a lot more shots are going to be coming your way as the other team attacks the weak link. Here's where you need not only internal fortitude and a better volley but also a partner's open support. You need a partner who starts taking more balls down the middle and assures you, "Don't worry, just keep playing hard; you'll get back on your game." You want a partner who is strong enough to respond to your problem in a healthy way, not someone who snipes at you with barbs such as "God, can't you get one service return back?" or "That's about five overheads you've missed. I've got to start taking all of them."
Geez, I hope I've never said anything like that to my partner!

So - "Laugh and Win at Doubles" - another book I've read multiple times and highly recommend!

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 10, 2009

Indian Wells Sort-Of Slam Gears Up

The next big non-Slam tournament starts this week - the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. This joint WTA-ATP tournament lasts two weeks and draws some of the tour's highest ranked players.

On the men's side, 48 of the top 50 players will be there, including all of the top 20 men. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and James Blake are all scheduled to play. Sort of like having an extra Slam in the Spring!

On the women's side, top players include Ana Ivanovic, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina. Noticeably absent - both of the Williams sisters who haven't played this tournament for the past few years since Venus withdrew from a semifinal against her sister and the resultant fan backlash was interpreted as racial. Maria Sharapova is expected to play but only in doubles. So it should be interesting to see who comes out as the top woman at Indian Wells.

I'll keep up and let you know!

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

March 5, 2009

When In Doubt, Call It . . . In

Yesterday, I played a 3 HOUR match, and ultimately, unfortunately, ended up losing. But it was a lot of fun and one thing that made it fun was that my opponents were very nice and made only one call, in the entire 3 hours, that I thought was questionable. It was on a deep lob I hit that looked like it might have caught the back line. At that point, my partner said to me, "Do you want me to say 'Are you sure?'" But I told her to let it go - we had been playing for so long and up to that point, I had had no problems with any of their calls.

"The Code: The Players' Guide for Unofficiated Matches" addresses the "when in doubt" situation as follows:
6. Opponent gets benefit of doubt. When a match is played without officials, the players are responsible for making decisions, particularly for line calls. . . . [A] player is guided by the unwritten law that any doubt must be resolved in favor of the opponent. A player in attempting to be scrupulously honest on the line calls frequently will find himself keeping a ball in play that might have been out or that the players discovers too late was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way.

It is mentally exhausting to play for 3 hours. And making calls on close balls adds to the challenge. Had my partner and I felt that we were being hooked or cheated, I'm sure we would have walked away from that match in disgust. But when you are playing against opponents that you feel are trying their best to make good calls, even a 3 hour match that you lose can be enjoyable. Well, maybe not enjoyable. But it was a lot of fun.

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 4, 2009

Senior Ladies Kicking %#*!

Yesterday, I spent a few hours watching singles matches at the USTA's 39th Annual National Senior Women's Clay Court Championships, being held at the Houston Racquet Club. OMG!

From where I sat, I could see directly across 3 courts so I got to see 3 different matches going on at the same time - 55+, 65+ and 75+ singles. Let me just warn you - if you think you are going to take any of these ladies on in singles, even the 85s and older, you better bring an incredible one-handed backhand slice with you. Because that is what everyone was hitting. It was all about placement and running your opponent all over the court. Bring her in on the short ball and then lob over her head. Sound familiar? I think I play this kind of match at least once a week! And it always works!

The court closest to me was the 55+ ladies. The first set went 6-0 to one of the women. I was sure the first set loser would just be trounced in the second. But she not only made a big comeback, she only lost after taking it to a tiebreaker. And she came off the court really upbeat about the whole thing. I was right there - not trying to eavesdrop - and her husband came running up to her, telling her how great she had played and then told her that her opponent had played on the Tour and had at some point beaten both Martina Navratilova and Chris Everet. She said, "I know! That's why I'm so excited!" Talk about looking on the bright side. I have to agree with her - if I could talk about the time I took someone who had beaten Martina to a tiebreaker, I'd be pretty happy too.

It was such a great tournament to hang out at for a while. All of the women were friendly, supportive and seemed to know each other. They all gabbed like crazy, which sort of surprised me. If there had been that much sideline chatter at any of my matches, I'm pretty sure someone would have called the league director.

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

March 3, 2009

Improve Your Mood on the Court

Do you ever find yourself on the tennis court in a bad mood? Maybe you're losing. Maybe you're playing poorly and you're worried that your partner is mad at you. Maybe your kid just got detention at school (again!). Maybe you just have had a really crappy morning and there's no one reason you're in a bad mood, you just are.

Well, let me warn you. Based on my own experience, if you don't snap out of that bad mood, you're going to lose. I have a few tricks I use to coax myself into a good mood on the tennis court. Any one of these usually guarantees that I will snap out of my funk and end up having fun:

1. Calm down. When I am tense, the unforced errors just keep coming. This is when I have to remind myself to get a grip, calm down, breathe deeply and then just play ordinary tennis. Nothing fancy or cute. Just get the ball back, stop the errors and wait to get into some kind of groove.

2. Take a break. Sometimes I need more than a few seconds to calm down. I need a real mental break of at least a minute. This might mean a slow walk back to my position. It might be a short "strategy session" with my partner. It can be a tied shoe that suddenly needs re-tying. Again, I just try to find a minute to calm down and refocus on the match.

3. Lighten up. At times, I just go ahead and acknowledge that I'm having a bad day, to myself and to my partner. I'll then try to make a joke out of it. Instead of discussing any kind of strategy with my partner, I often talk trash about the other team (sorry). I just try to say something to diffuse the tension I'm feeling and get into a happier frame of mind. And if my partner joins in, all the better.

4. Eat something. I don't know if this is really valid for everyone but it certainly works for me.

5. Remind yourself - it's only tennis. I may have a bad day today, but I'm pretty sure I'll play again tomorrow and could very well have a great day! So I try to accept those bad days, move on and enjoy the rest of my matches as much as I can.

© Kim Selzman 2009
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March 1, 2009

Retrieving & Returning Balls

This seems like a silly topic for a post. How hard can it be to politely retrieve and return tennis balls?

Well, if you've ever been hit in the back by a ball (as I have) or had a ball SLAMMED at you when it was not in play (as I have) or had a ball roll across your court from another court in the middle of a point (as I have), you know it may not be as easy for some people as it might seem. So here are just a very few observations on how to retrieve and return balls:

1. Return balls nicely to everyone - your partner and your opponents. There is no need to bounce the ball at someone when their back is turned. You don't win points for that and you certainly don't make friends.

2. Bounce, hit or toss the ball to the server (or her partner) gently, in her general direction. You don't have to place it right in her hand but you also don't have to make people run down balls when it doesn't count towards a point.

3. And I don't like when people roll the ball to me. I'm sorry but I just don't want to bend down if I don't have to so if you can bounce the ball over to me, I would appreciate it.

4. Say something, anything, before you return the ball so the other person, whether its your partner or your opponent, knows its coming. Especially if their back is turned. All of these are acceptable: "Ball coming." "Here's a ball." "Here's a second (or third)." "Do you need another ball?" "Do you have two?"

5. When your partner is serving, make sure she always has however many balls she wants or needs. Usually this would be two. But some ladies don't have the pockets or shorts to hold a second ball so they will want one and you will have to keep feeding them that second ball when necessary. Some ladies like to hold onto all three balls. Whatever makes your partner most comfortable, make sure she has it.

6. When your ball ends up on another court, wait until the point on that court is over to politely ask for your ball back. Thank them for returning it. Be polite and say thanks every time because your court may slope towards theirs and you may be rolling a lot of balls their way.

7. When someone else's ball ends up on your court, wait until their point is over to politely return the ball back. Let them know the ball is on its way with a simple and audible "Ball coming!" Whatever you do, do NOT roll the ball back to them during a point. At best, it is distracting. At worst, it can be a hazard to the unsuspecting player who steps on that ball.

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved