February 27, 2012

Olympic Tennis Fix: Getting Ready For London!

As of today, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are only 5 months away. Since tennis is part of the world's greatest celebration of sports, I want to make sure we're all prepped and ready when the first match is played. So consider this Post No. 1 in the Tennis Fixation "Olympic Tennis Fix" series.

This year's Olympic games will be centered in London, England. Tennis, however, will be played just outside London in the small, quaint and well-known town of Wimbledon, home to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (see the pic above) where one of our favorite Slams takes place. The Olympic matches will take place just three weeks after the conclusion of Wimbledon so I'm sure there will be plenty of people working long and hard hours to get the courts back into shape for the Olympics.

So here is your fun Olympic Tennis Fix fact: for the first time since 1924, mixed doubles will be an official Olympic event! The last gold medal in mixed doubles was won in 1924 by the United States team of Hazel Wightman and R. Norris Williams. While there was a rumor floating around that Andy Roddick and Serena Williams were going to team up for the U.S. in 2012, I'm not sure where that idea went. We'll see what happens as the Games get closer since the prestige of winning Gold at the Olympics seems to trail only slightly behind winning a Slam in the wonderful world of pro tennis.

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

February 22, 2012

What's The Difference Between Pressurized And Pressureless Tennis Balls?

What the heck is the difference between pressurized and pressureless tennis balls? And why should I care?

If you're like me, you're looking for only one kind of tennis balls - the cheap ones! I buy balls by the case at Costco so I always have a can on hand. If I happen to be in Wal-Mart, I'll buy balls there too as they are often priced at less than $2 a can (I guess whoever is setting the prices at Wal-Mart is not a big tennis player and doesn't realize they could get more than this).

But I was thinking that, since tennis balls are an absolute necessity to play the game and since I'm vaguely aware that there are different kinds of tennis balls, what are the differences? And am I playing with the right kind of balls?

Without getting too technical (or boring), here's the anatomy of a tennis ball - a rubber ball wrapped in a fuzzy fabric covering with either a solid rubber core or a hollow core filled with gas. When the core is solid, the ball is called "pressureless." When the core is hollow, it is filled with pressurized air or nitrogen so the balls are called "pressurized."

So what's the real difference between pressurized and pressureless tennis balls and why would you use one or the other?

Pressurized balls are the ones you usually find in a single can of three - probably the ones you buy most of the time. Their benefits?
  • More bounce - Pressurized balls feel more "lively" when they first come out of the can. The can itself is vacuum sealed to prevent the pressurized gas inside the balls from leaking.
  • More spin response - Because they're lighter, you can generate more spin with these balls.
  • More speed - Since they have less mass than pressureless balls, pressurized balls travel faster.
But these benefits are, like a good haircut, very short-lived. Within two to four weeks (or less) of opening the can, these balls will become pretty much unplayable. As the pressurized gas inside the balls escapes, these balls lose their bounce and feel "dead" or "wooden." That's why you probably open a new can of balls every time you play a match that counts for something.

Pressureless balls, on the other hand, feel a little "dead" right from the start. But, over time, as the fuzzy fabric cover on the ball wears away and the rubber inside softens, these balls actually become more bouncy. While that sounds good, the fact that these balls are heavier means that they strike your racquet with more force. And they require your arm and the rest of your body to use more force in hitting them. The result can be an increase in injury. And while the balls may become bouncier, their spin response decreases over time. A definite negative in these days when so many people, even me, are trying to generate spin on their serves and ground strokes. So where will you see pressureless balls in use? They're often used in lessons and in ball machines because of their longer life.

Conclusion - keep buying the pressurized balls in cans for use in your matches. But don't be surprised if you find yourself hitting pressureless balls in a lesson or with a ball machine. In fact, you may want to comment on this to show your pro and/or your tennis pals your vast command of tennis trivia. Or . . . not. Surprisingly, most people aren't as impressed by tennis trivia as you might think.

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

February 16, 2012

The Tag Heuer Watch - As Worn By Me And Maria Sharapova

I celebrated my birthday just a few weeks ago! Don't ask my age. All I'll say is I now agree that 50 is the new 30.

Anyway, my sweet husband gave me a fabulous gift that I was completely surprised by, that I love and - bonus - that has a tennis tie-in! I am now the proud owner and wearer of a Tag Heuer Formula 1 watch, the same watch worn by Maria Sharapova! Tag Heuer has sponsored Maria for a few years now so, if you go back and look at photos of her wearing Tag Heuer watches (as I did of course), you will see that she has quite a collection of them. But - good news - she does have the same one as me! And here's a photo of her, on the left, wearing it back in August 2011 when she won the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

So I tried to take a photo of me in my watch which is easier said than done. In the end, I couldn't pose myself in an appropriate Maria Sharapova pose and work the camera and get the watch in. It was just too much work (look - I can just now get my first serve to go where I want it so anything more physical than that isn't happening). But I did get this shot of my watch showing just how pretty it is and how easy it is to read. If that is important to you. Which it may be to some older people with bad eyes. Not me but maybe other people who are much older than me.

When I opened it, my exclamation to my husband was, "It's the Maria Sharapova watch!" and he said, "I know. That's why I got it." Which has me thinking - Maria is also sponsored by Tiffany and Cole Haan. So as long as I keep working the tennis angle, who knows what kind of fabulous gifts I could end up with? Just saying.

Image of Maria Sharapova © Tag Heuer

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

February 2, 2012

If It's Out, Call It Out!

So this just happened to me in a recent doubles match - in the middle of a point, I was on the ad side and my partner was on the deuce side and both of us were back around the baseline. I was close to mid-court and hit a forehand down the line that hit the outside line of the doubles alley (as I saw it) and angled away from my opponent. She reached for the ball but missed. She then said, "I wasn't really looking at the ball so I can't say if it was in or out. Can we replay the point?"

Now you and I know that, once my opponent expressed any doubt at all about calling the ball in or out, the point was mine. Because if you can't positively say that a ball was out, then it was in and (in the above situation) you lose the point.

How do we know this? Well, let's start with ITF Rule of Tennis 12 which states:
If a ball touches a line, it is regarded as touching the court bounded by that line.
Seems pretty clear. But the USTA has added their own Comment 12.1 to this rule which further explains:
If a player cannot call a ball out with certainty, should the player regard the ball as good? Yes. The Code sec. 6 and sec. 8 require a player to give the opponent the benefit of any doubt.
So let's look at The Code - The Player's Guide for Matches When Officials are not Present. Section 6 states:
6. Opponent gets benefit of doubt.  When a match is played without officials, the players are responsible for making decisions, particularly for line calls. There is a subtle difference between player decisions and those of an on-court official. An official impartially resolves a problem involving a call, whereas a player is guided by the unwritten rule that any doubt must be resolved in favor of an opponent. A player in attempting to be scrupulously honest on line calls frequently will keep a ball in play that might have been out or that the player discovers too late was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way.
If that doesn't make it crystal clear, let's look at Section 8:
8. Ball that cannot be called out is good. Any ball that cannot be called out is considered to be good. A player may not claim a let on the basis of not seeing a ball. One of tennis' most infuriating moments occurs after a long hard rally when a player makes a clean placement and an opponent says: "I'm not sure if it was good or out. Let's play a let." Remember, it is each player's responsibility to call all balls landing on, or aimed at, the player's side of the net. If a ball cannot be called out with certainty, it is good. When a player says an opponent's shot was really out but offers to replay the point to give the opponent a break, it seems clear that the player actually doubted that the ball was out.
Infuriating? That's putting it mildly.

Here's what ultimately happened in my match and I'm not happy about it. I said, "No, we're not playing a let. If you have any doubt, then the ball's in." My partner said, "You have to call the ball in or out." My opponent's partner said, "It's not a let. You have to call the ball."

So I'll bet you can guess what happened next. My opponent said, "Oh, well the ball was out. I was just trying to be nice." I absolutely could not believe it!

My partner and I did not argue but REALLY???  You're calling it OUT??? And honestly, my problem is not that my opponent called my fabulous shot out. It's that she was so OBVIOUSLY in doubt about the call and then had the nerve to make a late call and to call it out. If you're going to call a ball out, even if its a blatantly bad call, man up and call it out quickly and forcefully.

And I'll admit - while I'm mad at my opponent, I'm even madder at myself for letting her get away with this. My very poor excuse is that I was in shock over the fact that she called the ball out!

Next time, no more Mrs. Nice Guy from me. I don't care if this is a "fun" league and we're all out to have a good time. I'm not backing down. I'm not letting it go. And I'm not going into shock. I'm whipping out my rule book and taking my point.

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved