May 28, 2010

“Les Espadrilles Sont Tre's Mignon!"

I’m just as crazy about the French Open as the next person and goodness knows I want to see Fernando Verdasco changing shirts between sets. But what I really want to do is shop at Roland Garros. And, guess what? I can!

That's right - Roland Garros has an official on-line boutique so I can shop for all of the French Open tennis gear I want in between watching matches on the Tennis Channel. And I’ve already picked out my absolute favorite, must-have item. It’s these très chic Roland Garros Mauleon espadrilles. I mean, how French are espadrilles?! And these are absolutely fantastique! In a dishy shade of orange (this summer’s hot color) and accented with navy, pink and white, the “terre battue” is barely going to show on these cuties. And the price is totally right – a mere € 19.99, or about $25. And, during the French Open, shipping to the U.S. for these and any other item is only $15! Magnifique!

So I’m not strolling the grounds of Roland Garros right now. I can still feel très à la mode wearing these Mauleon espadrilles all summer long. And I’m sure that if I’m wearing these, someone, somewhere will tell me – “Les espadrilles sont très mignon!” (“Those espadrilles are so cute!”)

If you want to shop at Roland Garros, go to their website – – and click on Shop!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 25, 2010

Rafa's Watch Worth A Cool Half Million

You may notice something a little different about Rafael Nadal when he plays the 2010 French Open. No, he hasn’t changed his whip-like forehand. No, he’s not wearing a pink shirt (which I happened to love last year). And no, his knees aren’t bothering him anymore. The difference? He’s sporting a watch. But not just any watch. No, no, no. This is a $425,000 watch limited edition Richard Mille RM027 Tourbillon. Yowzah!

Now before you start saying, “Hm. It must be nice to be Rafael Nadal and have people throwing luxury timepieces at you,” understand that Nadal entered into a partnership with Richard Mille and was actually involved in the design and testing of this watch. It was expressly made for Nadal who plays tennis under some pretty harsh conditions, to put it mildly. Using exotic materials usually reserved for industrial or aeronautical uses (titanium, aluminum lithium, you know what I mean), this watch is super light and super durable.

And, of course, super expensive. But even if you’ve got the money, you can’t just walk into your favorite high-end jewelry store and get one of these watches. Only 50 of them are being made – a very, very limited edition. Yet, think about it – if you had one, you still wouldn’t be able to play like Nadal, but at least you could tell time like a pro.

This piece originally appeared on Strawberries & Scream: A Watch Worth A Cool Half Million.

Photo via Richard Mille

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 24, 2010

Tennis Fashion Fix: French Open 2010 - Venus In A Black Lace Negligee???

Is it me? Do I just not get it? All I'm saying is that is looked to me like Venus Williams crushed Patty Schnyder 6-3, 6-3 on Day 1 of the French Open while wearing a black lace negligee. Trimmed in red.

Venus Williams French Open Tennis 2010

So why would you wear something that looks like it might have come off the sale rack at Frederick's of Hollywood when you're competing in a Slam? Well, here's one good reason - publicity. Not only is every tennis site talking about this outfit, so is every sports site, every news site and every celebrity gossip site. Here's my favorite headline from CBS News' Celebrity Circuit blog: Venus Williams' French Open Outfit: Is She Naked?

Maybe you think this is actually a very cute outfit and you're going to rush out today and try to buy it. No such luck. This is a piece from Venus' very own Eleven line - not available to you, me or anyone but Venus. She designed this herself. That means there was no sponsor pressuring her to put this get-up on because that's what they're rolling out for all the tennis moms to play in this summer and they've paid her a lot of money to wear whatever the heck they feel like putting her in. No, this is her design. Her choice.

In my mind, she's a great player, ranked No.2 in the world right now. She could win the French Open! So why wear something this tacky and take the focus away from her game? It must be me. I don't get it.

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 22, 2010

Tennis Fashion Fix: French Open 2010 - Serena Looks Hot!

With the French Open just days away now, the question everyone is asking, or at least the question I’m asking, is “What will the pros be wearing?” That’s the first question. The second question is “Will it look good on me?”

And I’m excited to say that Serena Williams will be in an incredible Nike dress that is going to make her look fabulous and will probably make me look pretty darn good too. The “Love Game Dress” from Nike’s Electric Collection is too cute in “marina blue” (also known as turquoise) with “electric green” trim. (Nike is well-known for making up its own colors that don’t match anything you already own.) It has wide straps and a “high impact” built-in shelf bra. Hey—if it’s good enough to support Serena, I know it’s good enough for me. The best part? Cute, little pleats down at the hem line and contrast electric green piping up the front that I’m sure will make Serena, and me, look nice and skinny. I love this dress!

The Electric Collection has a ton of separate in it also— all in marina blue, electric green, cool mint and white. I guarantee you that Serena will be wearing some combo of this stuff when she plays doubles with Venus.

My conclusion—Serena is going to look unbeatable when she hits the red clay at Roland Garros. Nike has really done her right for this Slam. And, I personally am going to be acquiring a few pieces from the Electric Collection. The colors are perfect for summer and, if they make me feel like Serena on the court, that’s got to be a good thing!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 21, 2010

Strawberries & Scream Launches Today!

I am really excited about a new website that just launched today - Strawberries & Scream. And why am I so excited? Because I'm a contributor! That's right - I'm doing product reviews for Strawberries & Scream just for the pure joy of doing it! (In other words, they're not paying me yet.) Check this fun site out - if you love Tennis Fixation, you'll love Strawberries & Scream. My first post is all about Serena's French Open dress:  Serena's New French Open Collection:  Can I Pull It Off?  And don't worry - my Strawberries & Scream posts will always be right here on Tennis Fixation - I would never leave my fav Followers out of the loop!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 19, 2010

Adjust Your Attitude To Win In Tennis

We all know that, as much as it is a physical game, tennis is really a mental game.  And if you are not in the best mental place possible during a match, most likely you are going down.  So when everything's going wrong on the court, how go you get positive?  Oh, and since it's the middle of a match, how go you get positive fast?  Here are 3 easy steps to follow that will get your head back in the game:

1.  Be aware.  The biggest part of gaining a positive attitude on the court is recognizing when you have a negative attitude.  You know that negativity is not going to win you any points.  So you need to be aware of what's going on in your head and, if it sounds anything like this - "What is wrong with me?"  "I'm terrible!"  "My partner must hate me!"  "Why did I ever think I could play tennis?" "We're so going to lose this match!" - you need to be aware you're having those thoughts and realize they're not only not helping.  They're actually hurting. 

2.  Forget about winning and losing.  Play one point at a time.  We've all heard that and we may even say it a lot during a match (I certainly do).  But, honestly, you need to forget about the outcome of the match and focus on what's happening on the court right now.  Even if the whole team is watching from the sidelines.  Even if winning this match makes you club champ.  Even if you've been wanting to kick this girl's butt since high school.  So get your emotions out of the match.  Stop projecting out to some future event that isn't happening yet - like how great it would be to win this match or how awful it would be to lose.  Forget about the outcome.  Just think about how to play the ball that's right in front of you at this very moment.

3.  Look good.  That's right - take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and then . . . just look good.  Put a smile on your face and look happy, energetic, alert, and confident.  Just acting positive and upbeat will make you feel much better and will bring you back from the brink of a mental breakdown.  And it will keep from giving any encouragement to your opponent.  Acting as if you're playing a great match and have no intention of giving up can often deflate the opponent who thought she had already destroyed you.  It may even put enough doubt in her mind as to what's going on to send her over the edge.

I'm throwing in a bonus Step 4 if you're playing doubles:

4. Talk to your partner. Let her know what's going on in your head. If you have even a half decent partner, she will let you know that its not the end of the world right now and she hasn't thrown in the towel yet either. Communicating with your partner may be all you need to get some positive vibes going on the court.

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 17, 2010

Tennis Makes Your Smarter!

You know that tennis is great exercise.  That's part of the reason you're playing, right?  But did you know that tennis is good for your brain too?  Tennis makes you smarter!

In general, exercise is great for your brain.  Experts have found that:  "When you exercise, muscles begin to use oxygen at a higher rate, and the heart pumps more oxygenated blood through the carotid artery to the brain. In fact, the brain uses about 25 percent of the oxygen that you take in. Because exercise creates endorphins, people who exercise regularly have more energy, feel alert and have an increased sense of well-being and better memory retention."  (You can read this and way more details in this article:  Mind-Body Exercise Connection.)

But tennis is not just plain, old exercise.  It's a mental game too.  In his post 34 Benefits of Tennis, Dr. Jack Groppel, Ph.D. and USPTA Master Professional, notes that, "Psychologically, the simple fact that you are practicing (or competing) one-on-one (or two-against-two in doubles) means that there is a human interaction necessary to perform. Studies have shown that one learns to manage adversity, improves problem-solving skills and learns how to manage mistakes and crises. Some studies have even shown brain growth through the problem-solving activities of tennis."

So now you have another great reason to justify all that time on the court - you're just trying to get smarter!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 16, 2010

Get A Real Second Serve

How many times has this happened to you? Your opponent has an incredible, hard, flat first serve that you can barely return. But, when you get her second serve, it’s a puff ball that you can nail? This happens to me so often that I’m wondering - why don’t these ladies get a real second serve?

A real second serve is something that you can not only rely on to go in, but it also has a little extra something to it. That little extra something is usually spin. By adding spin, your serve bounces a little higher than expected and/or curves off to one side after bouncing in the service box.

The nice thing about this type of serve is that, when your first serve isn’t working for you, a real second serve gives you something to fall back on without just sacrificing your service game.  Sure, its easy to hit a puff ball second serve that goes in and gets the point started. But having a spin serve that goes in is a lot more valuable to you and way more disconcerting to your opponent.

A spin serve is probably going to require some work on your part.  You may have to change your grip.  You may have to think about hitting the ball differently.  But its worth it when you finally get it and have something more to show your opponent than an easy puff ball.  And, face it - if you want to move up to a higher level of play, you can't be serving puff balls.

Now, there are several different kinds of spin serves (as we’ve discussed in Ten Types of Service Spin????) but you don’t have to learn all of them. Start with learning one spin serve and start learning it now. It may not be fun.  It may be very frustrating for a while.  But in several weeks, I’ll bet you’ll have a real second serve.

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 10, 2010

Are You Following TennisTweets?

I don't know if you're into Twitter - I am. I can waste many, many hours following all kinds of people on Twitter. And the people I waste the most time following are tennis players. Because lots of players - pro and not-so-pro - are tweeting about tennis.  (Tennis Fixation included!)

So how wonderful that you can now go to one place and keep up with what the pros are tweeting about! Just go to and you can see tweets from every pro who is saying anything about anything on Twitter. Or you can look in the sidebar to the far right of this very blog, and you'll see the Tennis Tweets widget where the most current tennis pro tweets are scrolling.

The great thing about following these tennis tweets is that a lot of times the pros aren't talking about tennis. For example, Vince Spadea was very critical of the biscotti at Coffee Beans recently. Bob Bryan tweets for the Bryanbros and always has something interesting to report - glass in his trainer's cheeseburger, fishy seared tuna updates, stuff like that.

Because Tennis Fixation is on Twitter (our tweets are also in the sidebar on the right), I already follow a lot of these players. But finding this one place where all of their tweets are put together is a great time saver. And I also learned some interesting Tennis Twitter Trivia at the Tennis Tweets site. Which tennis pro has the most Twitter followers? That would be Serena Williams with 1,628,709 followers! Her sister Venus is a distant second with only 501,142 followers. These two tweet about all kinds of things - not just tennis.  I love reading their stuff.

While I really think you should be a Tennis Fixation Twitter follower, be sure you check out Tennis Tweets, especially when the French Open starts (which is just days away now!).  I'll be checking it out and will update you with anything exciting in the world of Tennis Tweets!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 8, 2010

Finding the Right String Tension for You and Your Tennis Racquet

What tension is your racquet strung at? Do you know?

You may know how your racquet is strung and you may be very happy with that and any discussion of "optimal racquet string tension" may not be of much use to you. But I'm guessing many of you don't know anything at all about the tension of your strings. You just hand your racquet over to your stringer and say, "Just do whatever you did last time."

That means your racquet might possibly NOT be strung at the best tension for YOU and, if, like me, you need all the help you can get on the tennis court, then you need to learn about string tension. So let's learn a little about string tension.

You probably know that your racquet has a tension range - the optimal range within which your racquet should be strung.  You can usually find this range by looking inside the throat of your racquet or somewhere on the frame (where you'll find all of your racquet's specifications).  For my new racquet, for example, the range is "58 +/- 5 lbs."  Meaning, according to the manufacturer, the optimal tension range on my racquet is somewhere between 53 and 63 pounds.

So I've got a 10 pound range to work with.  How do I know how tightly or loosely to have my racquet strung?

Well, there's some physics involved here (what a surprise!) that you've got to understand in order to pick the tension that's right for you. In general,
  • lower string tensions provide more power, a larger sweet spot and are easier on the arm, and
  • higher string tensions provide more control and spin.
Why is this true? Looser strings have more of a "trampoline" effect on the ball, sending it back with more energy. Less of the ball's energy is absorbed by the strings and the strings sort of trampoline the ball back.  This also results in less vibration and shock being sent through the racquet to your arm.  But because the strings are "deformed" more when loose, any slight change in racquet position can result in a bigger change in the ball's direction on return.   So your return shot may be less accurate.

Tighter strings do not deform as much, absorbing more of the energy generated by the collision between the ball and the strings and thus decreasing the amount of energy traveling back with the ball. So a less powerful shot.  This collision also results in more vibration being transferred to the racquet and to your arm.  But because the strings do not change shape as much (they're not as "trampoline-y"), the direction of the ball is less apt to change. You get a more accurate shot.  Got it?

You may already know what tension your racquet is strung at and you may be very happy with that and all of this talk of string tension physics may not be of much use to.  Except for chatting up people around your tennis club.

But, if you don't know about your string tension, what you SHOULD do is spend a little time, and probably a little money, figuring it out.  You can do this by starting with having your racquet strung at the midpoint of its tension range. On my racquet, for example, that would be 58 pounds (and that is exactly where I had it strung for the first time). Play with that for awhile, see how it feels and then, based on the physics explained above, consider increasing or decreasing the tension a little to get your racquet to play in a way that is best for you. You know if you want to generate more power with looser strings. You know if you want more control on your shots with tighter strings. Your racquet stringer may not know anything at all about what you want.  (But don't be afraid to talk to him or her about that stuff - that discussion should be part of their job.)  Then play with this new tension and see what you think. It should only take you one or two string jobs to come up with the tension that works best for you.

And finally, if you're going to all of this trouble, write down somewhere what type of strings you're using (look at this post - Tennis Strings - What Kind Should You Use - to get an idea of the different kind of strings you can use) and what tension your racquet is at so that you'll know what to ask for the next time you take it in for restringing.


© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 7, 2010

Quick Tennis Fix: Tossing A Glass of Water

Sometimes all you need in tennis is a really good analogy. And I think this is a pretty good one.

When you're tossing your ball for your serve, think about tossing up a glass of water without spilling a drop.  This will help send your toss up without it spinning off to one side, or behind you, or any other place but where you want it to go.

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 6, 2010

Happy 201st Tennis Fixation Blog Post!

OMG! How did this happen??!! Yesterday was the 200th Tennis Fixation blog post and I didn't have a big blog party to celebrate! I didn't even realize I was at 200!  Aaack!  So instead, here's the 201st Tennis Fixation blog post - Hooray!!

And, if you're wondering, after 200 blog posts, just what the Tennis Fixation position on skill and strategy is, how we remain happy while still playing some pretty darn erratic tennis, here are a few words summing up the Tennis Fixation philosophy of ordinary, fun tennis:
“Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull.” - W. Somerset Maugham
Here's to playing imperfect but exciting tennis!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 5, 2010

Tennis Strings - What Kind Should You Use

Why can't tennis be a fun and happy sport where we just play and have a good time and don't think about the equipment too much? Like horseshoes. I'm probably wrong on that. There are probably entire web sites devoted to the analysis and purchase of professional horseshoe equipment.

Regardless.  The reality of tennis is that, for the vast majority of us, the quality of our tennis equipment can have a significant impact on how well we play the game. That means having a decent racquet, the search for which can be an exhausting process (as summarized in the post A New Tennis Racquet: Part 6 - I Finally Buy A Racquet!). It also means having that racquet strung properly since those strings are the only thing (supposedly) that actually comes into contact with the tennis ball and gets it to where you want it to go.

Just as tennis racquets have become incredibly technologically advanced in recent years, so too have tennis strings.  And while most players spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about their racquets, not too many talk about their strings. Or even know what kind of strings they're using. So what kind of strings are you using right now?  Do you know?  And what should you be using?

There are two factors to consider in a string:
  • Playability - what does it "feel" like when it hits the ball
  • Durability - how long does the string last
What you're looking for is, I think, a string that lets you feel yourself striking the ball (as opposed to something that imparts a "dead" feeling) but that doesn't break too easily.

Here's a list of the kinds of strings commonly available today and the strengths and weaknesses of each.  Hopefully this will help you pick the right string for your racquet and your game.

Nylon - The most popular string used by most recreational players, myself included, is the nylon string.  This string is also sometimes called "synthetic gut" as is has some of the playability of natural gut without the lack of durability of natural gut.  This is also the string that's most reasonably priced and widely available.

Polyester - This is a very popular string for pros as it allows them to hit really hard without breaking their strings. This string, however, gives more of a dead feel so its not as playable. This is probably not the string for most recreational players and players like me (playing nice, fun, ladies doubles).

Kevlar - Even more stiff and durable than polyester. This string is very stiff and can be strung at a really high tension because it is so strong. Dead feeling and, again, not recommended for most recreational players.

Natural Gut - This is considered the "best" string because of its playability. It is also usually the most expensive string and the most temperamental. Let me just say that I once had a racquet strung with gut to try it out.  That string job lasted less than 24 hours.  I got to play with that string one time.  I never figured out what caused my string to break.  When I took it back to the stringer to complain, I was told that I should know not to leave a natural gut string job in my car where it gets really hot.  Sorry, I didn't know that.  And I didn't think my car got that hot that day.  Anyway, I care a lot about my equipment but not enough to get my racquet restrung every few days so I've avoided natural gut since then.  Want to know all about natural gut and how its made from cow intestines? See Natural Gut 101 on the Tennis Warehouse site.  Believe me, you're going to learn way more about natural gut than you really wanted to know.


© Kim Selzman 2010
All Rights Reserved

May 4, 2010

It's Easy To Hit Volleys

I recently did some tennis drills.  Not upper level drills.  Just regular old drop-in drills at my club.  Where anyone at any level is welcome to join in if they feel like they can keep up and want to pay the $7 fee.  These are not instructional drills really.  They're just an opportunity to hit a lot of balls and play some live ball games. So I don't expect everyone at these drills to be a great tennis player. Or even a good tennis player.

But at the drill session I'm thinking of, two women in my group were clearly beginners and watching them attempt to "hit" volleys.  They were swinging wildly and, of course, ineffectively.  Their form (or lack of form) reminded me how easy it can be to volley a tennis ball but how hard we often make it.

Here's what I wanted to tell these two ladies:  Don't swing at the ball.  Just block it back.

The vast majority of volleys are effective when they are simply a block shot where you put your racquet out and the ball bounces off of it. Why?  Why is a block shot usually all that's necessary to hit an effective volley?
  • Your opponent has less reaction time.  Because you volley closer to the net, you're also closer to your opponent. You can often "get away" with simply blocking the ball back because your opponent has less time to react.
  • You have less reaction time.  When you hit a volley, you take it out of the air, before it can bounce on the court. When a tennis ball bounces on the court, it can lose 40 to 50% of its speed (or so I'm told). So the ball you take out of the air is coming at you faster, giving you less time to react. Meaning - you just don't have as much time to set up and swing at the ball when volleying as you do when hitting a ground stroke.  So a block shot can be more effective than a poorly executed swinging shot (which often turns out to be a mis-hit).
  • You can use the pace of the ball.  Because you're taking the ball out of the air before it bounces, its not only coming at you faster but also harder.  You can use this pace or drive to simply block the ball back and your volley will still have some of that drive on it.  It won't all be absorbed by your strings and racquet.  This is as opposed to the ball you take after the bounce where you have to hit harder just to get it back up and over the net.
Those are just a few of the reasons a volley that's a simple block shot can work so well. But I didn't say any of that to those two ladies. First, because I'm not a tennis pro and I'm sure they would have figured that out pretty quickly.  And second, because, avid Tennis Fixation readers, I'm just thinking of you.  Maybe one of you will come up against one of them, or someone just like them, and then YOU can be the effective volleyer!


© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 3, 2010

A New Tennis Racquet: Part 6 - I Finally Buy A Racquet!

So, for the past several weeks, I've been in search of a new tennis racquet and I've been keeping you updated as to how that search has been going.  To recap the process:
Now comes Part 6, the part where we put all of this knowledge into play and I actually buy a racquet (at last!).

After demo-ing three racquets and deciding I just wanted to buy something already, I settled on the Prince EXO3 Red 105.  This was the racquet I felt the most comfortable with since it was an improvement over my old racquet but was not so radically different from that racquet that my mechanics were going to have to change much.

While my racquet selection may or may not be all that interesting to you, what you might be interested in is how I went about buying my racquet.  I decided to go into my local pro shop and buy the racquet from them in person rather than ordering it on-line.  I did this because (1) as I've said before, I'm lucky to have a full-service pro shop located close by to me, (2) I wanted to talk to someone one last time before I settled on this racquet, (3) this is a new model and I couldn't get a significantly better price on-line, and (4) if there is any problem with this racquet, I want to walk into the pro shop and have them help me through the return or exchange process.

You may, however, be unable to find a pro shop offering a full selection of tennis racquets.  Or you may find a racquet you like but come up with a better price by buying on-line.  I don't have any problem with making an on-line purchase.  Just be sure you are buying from a reputable retailer and that you understand what their return and exchange policy is.  I would be wary of buying a used racquet on-line since you may not get exactly what you think you're paying for.  I would also question buying a racquet from someone who gives you an unbelievable deal on a racquet when no one else is offering a similar deal.

So my racquet search is ended and I've been playing with my new Prince racquet for a very short while now and am truly happy with it.  Balls are going over the net that I know would never have made it with my old racquet.  Some of my mis-hits are truly incredible shots.  But, it wasn't like I bought the racquet and started playing with it that day.  No.  I had to get it strung.  Which opens up a whole new can of worms - tennis strings and stringing tension.  To be analyzed in depth and discussed very soon here at Tennis Fixation!


© Kim Selzman 2010
All Rights Reserved

May 2, 2010

Is Your Thirst Unquenchable?

I know I spend a lot of time here at Tennis Fixation trying to keep you hydrated (see, for example, Drink! Drink! Drink!). But do you find yourself constantly drinking and never feeling satisfied? Is your thirst unquenchable? If so, pay attention! That insatiable thirst may be a clue that you have diabetes. Visit your doctor right away and get tested for diabetes!


© Kim Selzman 2010
All Rights Reserved

May 1, 2010

It's National Tennis Month!

That's right! May is National Tennis Month! So, in celebration of National Tennis Month, here's a bit of tennis trivia that I'm guessing most of you don't know.

During ATP and WTA tournaments, tennis balls are changed out after every nine games. Except for the first set of balls, which are changed out after only seven games. Why? Because those balls are are also the balls used during warm-up. See? You learn something new here at Tennis Fixation all the time!

Happy National Tennis Month!

© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved