September 26, 2012

What's The Weather Like On MY Tennis Court?

Autumn is officially here and, in Houston, that means that which I dread the most in my tennis matches - rainouts. While we don't get much in the way of cold, snow or ice here during the fall and winter, we can get plenty of rain. Ugh.

So watching the weather becomes a priority. And that's why I'm pretty happy with an app I found that gives me a very localized, very "micro" forecast of the weather right in my own neighborhood. The app is called "Ourcast" and I've put a shot of the opening screen to the left.

What can this app do? When you check in, it precisely identifies your location (using the pin drop feature) and then tells you, minute by minute, what the weather forecast is in your exact area for the next two hours. Since Houston is one of those places where it can be bright and sunny at my house but pouring rain at the tennis courts two miles down the road, this is just the kind of weather information I need.

Ourcast also allows you to broadcast what kind of weather experience you're having, letting others know just what to expect in your vicinity. It even allows you to comment on the weather - through words or through little smiley or pouty weather icons (depending on your mood, so if your tennis match gets rained out, you can choose the pouty rain cloud when checking in).

What I really like is that one of my local news stations is tied into the comments section of the app, allowing me to not only see what people like me think of the weather (with our smiley and pouty icons), but getting a little "professional" insight into what is going on.

Best thing about the Ourcast app? It's free. I always love free stuff. Especially if it might help my tennis game. You can find Ourcast in the iTunes store for your iPhone and there is also an Android app.

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 19, 2012

The Coman Tennis Tiebreak - It's So Easy!

Have you heard of this "Coman" tiebreak? Not the Conan tiebreak (check out the photo). Not the Coleman tiebreak. It's the "Coman" tiebreak.

Although the Coman tiebreak has been around since the 1980's, it was not until the early 2000's that it was adopted by the USTA for national league play, leading to its widespread acceptance.

So what's the difference between a Coman tiebreak and the standard tiebreak procedure?

As you know, a tiebreak is used when the score in a set reaches 6-6. It is one game that determines the winner of the set. So when the tiebreak is over, the winner will have won the set 7-6. Since it is a game that is part of the set, service rotation does not change.

To start a standard tiebreak, the player whose turn it is to serve begins by serving one point from the deuce court. Serve then passes to the opposing player or team who serves two points, the first from the ad court and the second from the deuce court. The serve then alternates between players or teams, with each serving two serves, first from the ad court and then from the deuce court. Players or teams switch sides between the 6th and 7th points and then every 6 points after that. The winner is the first team to reach at least 7 points AND be ahead in the tiebreak score by 2 points (so 7-6 is not a winning tiebreak score but 8-6 is). Note that a "super" tiebreak is sometimes used in lieu of playing a 3rd set where the tiebreak score may be first to 10 points.

So what about the Coman tiebreak? The Coman tiebreak is JUST LIKE the standard tiebreak except that players switch ends after the first point and then after every four points.

That's it.

Why this change?

1. In a standard tiebreak, during a doubles match, players will end up serving from both sides of the court, rather than from "their side." The Coman tiebreak ensures that doubles players will always serve from their side and thus helps provide some consistency within the set. In other words, the tiebreak serving conditions are consistent with the set serving conditions.

2. The Coman tiebreak also results in more frequent changes in sides, meaning that the effects of the court conditions (sun, wind, overhead lights, etc.) are more fairly experienced by both players or teams.

Now you're ready for any tiebreak that comes your way. Just remember - it's Coman. We're not talking about an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie here!

Not sure what to do after the tiebreak? Check out this Tennis Fixation post for the answers: After The Tiebreaker, Who Serves?

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 17, 2012

After The Tiebreaker, Who Serves?

How many times have you played a tiebreaker after which everyone tries to figure out who gets to serve at the beginning of the next set? And from which side?

Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe in every match you've played, everyone knows the rule. But I've played in plenty where the question has come up - most recently in a Girls 16s SuperChamps (and they should know) (and I was officiating, not playing) (as if). So here's the answer once and for all.

1. Who gets to serve after the tiebreaker?

Think of the tiebreaker as a game. Before the tiebreaker, you're tied at 6-all (or in a pro set, you might be tied 8-all, or 11-all, whatever). After the tiebreaker, the score for the set is now 7-6. So the tiebreaker is the 13th game of the set.  This means that whoever served the first serve of the tiebreaker, gets credit for serving this 13th game. So the serve for the next set passes to the other player or team. Get it?

In other words, in singles, if I served the first serve of the tiebreaker, you get to serve to start out the next set, even if somehow you had the last serve of the tiebreaker. I started the tiebreaker game so now its your turn to serve.

2. From which side do you serve after a tiebreaker?

Following the logic above, the tiebreaker is the 13th game and that means when its finished, since its an odd  game, players need to switch sides. So if I got first serve in the tiebreaker on the East side of the court (for example), now we start the second set with your serve and you serve from the East side of the court.  Whether we actually switch sides or not will depend on the score of the tiebreaker. But to know which side to be on, just go back to where that first server was in the tiebreaker game. (Yeah, it might mean some weird switching or no switching, but the 13th game logic applies and helps ensure that no player or team gets an unfair advantage due to sun or wind conditions.)

To sum it up - as long as you remember that the tiebreaker counts as a game and the server for that game is the first person who served in the tiebreaker, you should be able to figure out who serves after the tiebreaker and from where.

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 14, 2012

How Many Vibration Dampeners Can You Have On Your Tennis Racquet?

I recently got a great question from Tina S. asking if you can have more than one dampener on a tennis racquet.

I really didn't know the answer to this question which made me feel a little stupid since I consider myself "Queen of Tennis Rules, Codes and Other Court and Equipment Related Issues." So, before doing any kind of research on the question, I thought I'd ask some of my tennis pals to see if they knew the answer.

Well, let me tell you - people were adamant on this one. Yes! Of course they knew the answer! The problem was - some of my friends were unshakable in their belief that you could have one, and only one, dampener on your racquet. Others were just as insistent that you could have just as many dampeners on your racquet as you want, dammit!

So what's the answer? Well, I first looked at the ITF Rules of Tennis. Rule 4 governs "The Racket" and pretty much just states that racquets must comply with Appendix II of the Rules. Case 3 of Rule 4 is a little more helpful:
Case 3: Can vibration damping devices be placed on the strings of a racket? If so, where can they be placed?
Decision: Yes, but these devices may only be placed outside the pattern of the strings.
Case 3 refers to "damping devices," plural, being placed on the strings of "a racket." So that seems to me like its inferring that more than one device could be used. I'd say the answer is yes, more than one dampener can be used on a racquet.

If you look to Appendix II, paragraph a, you learn that devices "utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration" are permissible, but you don't get much info beyond that.

I think the best answer can be found on the USTA's website. Richard Kaufman, USTA Director of Officials, states: "Dampening devices may be located on the outside of the last cross string on the sides, top and/or bottom of the racket face. Multiple devices are permitted. The device may not be placed inside the outside cross strings but the device may touch the outside cross strings." (Click here to see his answer on the USTA's website.)

So Tina, use just as many vibration dampeners as you want!

If you'd like to know more about vibration dampeners and why you might use one (or more!), check out this Tennis Fixation post: Using A Vibration Dampener On Your Tennis Racquet.

Thanks to Tina for submitting her question. And if you have a tennis question, please send it in. As you can see, I love researching this stuff!

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 12, 2012

What You Can Learn From The 2012 U.S. Open Winners

I'm always so sad when the latest Slam is over. What? I have to pay attention to my family again? I can't sit on the couch all day watching tennis? I can't walk my dog AND constantly check my Twitter for tennis updates because something might happen in the 12 minutes I'm away from the TV?

Anyway, the U.S. Open 2012, the last Slam of the year, was more fun, more exciting, and more instructive (in my opinion) than all the other 2012 Slams AND the London Olympics put together. Here's what you and I can learn from this year's U.S. Open winners:

Women's Singles Champ Serena Williams - Never give up.

How many times have people written off Serena Williams? She cut her foot and couldn't play half of last year. She lost in the first round of this year's French Open. She wastes her time selling her own line of purses, etc. on the Home Shopping Network. But - Wow! Does Serena Williams ever, ever give up? She basically rolled through her U.S. Open matches (remember how she trounced Andrea Hlavackova 6-0, 6-0?) and, played one of the all-time great women's finals by battling it out with and finally beating No. 1 ranked Victoria Azarenka in three sets. What a year Serena has had - Wimbledon (singles and doubles), the Olympics (singles and doubles) and now the U.S. Open. No matter how weird or bad things get for her, Serena makes it clear - you should never give up.

Men's Singles Champ Andy Murray - Be willing to make changes.

This was Murray's fifth Grand Slam final. That's right. It took him five times to win a Slam. He was good enough to get to a final four times before but it took this fifth time for him to pull it off. And what made the difference this fifth time? He changed his game. Under the coaching of Ivan Lendl, Murray has gone from being an excellent counter-puncher who just keeps pushing the ball back over the net, to someone who takes the offensive and makes things happen. So if Andy Murray can make changes to his game, surely you and I can.

Women's Doubles Champs Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci - Be nice.

These two Italians are part of the up and coming future of women's tennis. They won doubles at the French Open and now here they are with their second Slam title. And with their U.S. Open win, they take over the No. 1 and 2 WTA ranking spots in women's doubles. But the most interesting match these two played during the U.S. Open was when they faced each other during the singles quarterfinals, with Errani pulling off the win. While the two had a very cute victory dance after their doubles win, Errani was a little more subdued when she beat her doubles partner in singles, showing - no reason to be the gloaty winner, especially when the person on the other side of the net is your friend and doubles partner.

Men's Doubles Champs Mike & Bob Bryan - Communicate.

What can you NOT learn about doubles from the Bryan Brothers? Watching them play is like watching some kind of Doubles Domination DVD. “Just do what these guys do and win!” But what I get from these two is the constant, nonstop communication that goes on during their matches. I mean - come on! They're twins! How much talking and whispering and strategizing and hand tapping and chest bumping do they really need to do? Every point? Every serve?? But they do it and they do it a lot. The Bryan Brothers prove that one of the most important things you can do in a doubles match, if not THE most important thing, is constantly communicate with your partner.

Mixed Doubles Champs Ekaterina Makarova & Bruno Soares - In tennis you never know what can happen.

Russia's Ekaterina Makarova and Brazil's Bruno Soares don't usually play doubles together. But when a last minute ranking issue prevented Bruno from being able to register with his regular partner, he sent his coach out to the U.S. Open practice courts to track down Ekaterina. She agreed to be his partner and so he signed up with her - with only 30 seconds to spare until the sign-in deadline. Whew! But who would ever have guessed that they would end up winning the whole thing? They knocked out Bob Bryan and Lisa Raymond in the first round and Mike Bryan and Kim Clijsters in the second round. The lesson here? You never know what might happen in your tennis match. Hang out on the practice courts enough and you could end up winning mixed doubles at the U.S. Open!

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 3, 2012

What's It Like To Play Serena? Andrea Hlavackova Learns The Hard Way

How would you like to be Andrea Hlavackova? You've never made it beyond the 2nd round of a Slam. You hold no singles titles and your WTA ranking is currently in the 80's. But somehow you fight your way into the 4th round of the U.S. Open. And not only that, you do it by beating the tournament's 14th seed, Maria Kirilenko, whose WTA rank is No. 12 and who was just a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon. Thrilling, right? You've finally arrived!

Except that your 4th round opponent turns out to be Serena Williams. And Serena is, as she is so often these days, on a mind-blowing roll. She just won Wimbledon. Singles and doubles. And she just won Olympic gold. Singles and doubles. And so its really no surprise that Serena beats you. What is disheartening, however, is that Serena doesn't just beat you. She thoroughly trounces you - 6-0, 6-0. Yikes.

Here's my glass-is-half-full take on it. How fabulous to be Andrea Hlavackova! You're playing tennis at a level that got you into the 4th round of a Slam. And it took Serena Williams' unreal tennis to knock you out of the tournament. And you're really not out yet - you're still in it in women's doubles where you've had great success, being a finalist in both the London Olympics and Wimbledon.

Andrea Hlavackova - your time is coming. Keep pounding away and you'll get there!  

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

September 1, 2012

Think You Know Tennis Trivia? You Need To Try ESPN InPlay

Not only did I enjoy watching Andy Roddick CRUSH Bernard Tomic last night, but I watched the match while playing "ESPN InPlay" on my iPhone and that made it even more fun. ESPN InPlay is an interactive mobile app that allows you to rack up points in pursuit of the ultimate prize - tickets to the 2013 U.S. Open (maybe that's how I'll finally get there)!

So how do you play? First, you go to the website - - with your smart phone or tablet and log in through Facebook. The app will then countdown until the next trivia game starts. Last night, the app started up right before the Roddick/Tomic match got underway and, thanks to the countdown, I was all ready.

The app then asks you trivia questions about the match in progress (that you're presumably watching on ESPN2) and the players playing. It's a lot like the trivia games you used to play at pizza places or buffalo wing joints where you answered trivia questions with a handheld device in a certain amount of time. (Does anyone but me remember those days and how upset your kids would be if they had to share one of the little answer machines?) So, for example, I got 10 points for knowing that Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003 (duh). I got another 10 for knowing that the U.S. Open is played on hard courts (double duh). But I missed out on 10 points for not knowing that Bernard Tomic is the only teenager ranked in the Top 50 (wow!).  I also lost out on 10 for not knowing that Tomic, an Australian, lives in Stuttgart, Germany (go figure).

But the fun part of the game is the predictive trivia questions where you are asked questions about the match in progress. That's how I won 10 points for guessing that Roddick would win the third game of the first set (that was a given since he served first). And I won another 10 for predicting that Tomic would  not win more than 3 games in the first set (sort of lucky guess, it looked like it was going that way right from the beginning).

Will I be the big winner in ESPN InPlay? I'm guessing not. I was only able to play for the first set last night so my current score is only 170 points. The leaderboard shows that "Eric H." has 2,810 points. I don't think I can catch him. But I did really get a kick out of playing the game while I was watching the match and I think I'll keep playing throughout the U.S. Open.

The next round of ESPN InPlay is scheduled for September 3 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. To download the app, just go to If you play, look for me on the leader board. I guess I should say look for me at the bottom of the leader board. I wonder if they give a prize for coming in 347th place?

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

Tennis Fashion Fix: I'm Loving Venus Williams At the U.S. Open

Here's a surprise - I'm loving the way Venus Williams is looking at the U.S. Open. Now, I'm not talking about her tennis play. While she's already out in singles (losing to Angelique Kerber in Round 2), she has a strong possibility of winning doubles with sister Serena. But check out her outfit from her first-round singles victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The dress she's wearing in this photo is from Venus' Eleven collection and is the "Fall Rose Garden" dress. It is white with a black contrast collar detail and is covered in pink, black and red roses with a gray trellis background. The word "Love" is sprinkled around too (which may be cute but is not what I'm looking for in my tennis game). While the print is not my style, this is a vast improvement over some of the disasters we've seen Venus wearing in recent years (remember the French Open negligee? the Wimbledon curtain romper). She's also worn the Fall Rose Garden tank and a white skirt while playing doubles with Serena as you can see in this photo:

I wonder why players wear dresses for singles but skirts for doubles? I haven't figured that one out yet.

Anyway, the most interesting thing to me about Venus' Eleven line is not that she's wearing it but that she's got someone else wearing it!  American Varvara Lepchenko is also sporting Eleven apparel.  Here she is on Day 1 in her first round victory over Mathilde Johansson. She's wearing the "Classic Geo Love" tank and a black skirt:

I love that tank. While it comes in black and gray, I'm really liking the hot pink. Here's Varvara on Day 3, when she beat Anastasia Rodionova in Round 2.  She's wearing the "Fall Italico" dress that I believe Venus wore at the French Open:

Although you can't tell from the above pic, this is a pretty great dress, color-wise and design-wise. And the fact that Venus is having someone else wear her clothes (and someone else is actually agreeing to wear her clothes!) can only mean good things for the Eleven line.

Best of luck to Venus in doubles and keep your eye on Varvara - she's coming on pretty strong!

© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved