June 5, 2009

What Can You (Or I) Learn From The Pros?

As promised, I have been diligently watching the French Open, picking up as many Tennis Fixation tips to pass on as possible. Of course I'm watching mostly men's singles played by genetically gifted, highly trained pros. Which is, of course, the polar opposite of what I'm playing - mostly ladies' doubles played by ordinary, not necessarily athletically-inclined women.

So what can someone you and I learn from watching the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer or Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic? How about:

1. Be confident. Dinara Safina is the No. 1 ranked woman tennis player in the world right now without having won a Slam. She has been trashed-talked by many for this, most notably by Serena Williams (claiming to be the true No. 1). Yet, watching Safina play in the French Open this week you can tell - she believes in herself and has every intention of winning this tournament. She just exudes confidence on the court and that has got to be hard to face when you're on the other side of the net. She is my pick to win this year's French Open for the women and that should put an end to any talk of her questionable No. 1 status.

2. Never underestimate your opponent. Venus Williams loses to No. 29 Agnes Szavay. Defending French Open Champ Ana Ivanovic loses to 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka. Jelena Jankovic loses to unseeded 19-year-old Romanian Sorana Cirstea. Rafael Nadal, four-time defending French Open Champion, loses to No. 23-ranked Robin Soderling of Sweden. Then Soderling proceeds to take out Andy Murray! You never know if your opponent may be about to have the match of their life so be ready for anything.

3. Work with what you've got. Dominika Cibulkova, the "scrappy Slovakian" (I love that), is 5' 3" and another come-out-of-nowhere player who somehow manages to not just beat, but totally dominate, 6' tall Maria Sharapova, taking her out 6-0, 6-2. I know that Sharapova is playing her first Slam since her shoulder surgery, but she's 6 feet tall! How intimidating is that! Good for Cibulkova for not letting her relatively small size get to her. She's an inspiration to ordinary-sized women everywhere.

4. Never give up. First round of French Open. Lleyton Hewitt vs. Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic sets a new ATP record - 55 aces in a single match! But Hewitt just keeps right on playing even though ace after ace is going by. Imagine what it must feel like to face 55 aces. That's enough to win 2 whole sets and almost two more games! And because he doesn't give up, Hewitt wins the match and proceeds to Round 2 of the French Open!

5. Be a good sport. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez takes a direct hit in her arm and, ultimately, the point on a hard volley hit by Serena Williams. Martinez Sanchez claims the ball first hit her racket then her arm before going over the net and giving Martinez Sanchez the point. After the match, which Williams won, Williams accuses Martinez Sanchez of "cheating" and Martinez Sanchez says Williams comments are "stupid." The post-match commentary, in my opinion is unnecessary. The match results are what they are. Be a good sport and move on.

6. Have grace under pressure. Right now, no one symbolizes grace under pressure better than Roger Federer. He is the best clay court player remaining in the men's singles draw at the French Open and yet he still has to fight to win every match he plays. But he rarely looks ruffled, even when he is down two sets to love against Tommy Haas and has to take it to five sets to win. Remaining calm and in control works for Roger Federed - maybe it could work for me too!

Photo by Bob Martin/SI

© Kim Selzman 2009
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