|Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,
Our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson.
Jotting Joe has left and gone away,
Hey hey hey.
- Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel
I am finally settling back down to Earth after the last couple of weeks of tennis competition, commemoration, coronation, canonization, and celebration called the U.S. Open. You got to hand it to the U.S.T.A. - do they know how to throw a party or what?
Each Slam has it’s distinct flavor. The Australian Open feels like a great big beach party, abundant sunshine and a celebration of Australia’s sporting culture. The French, elegant and refined, a bit aristocratic and cultured. Wimbledon of course, celebrates the grand traditions of the sport, the gentility of the game’s origins. But the U.S. Open is all about “Star Power.” After all, this is the land of “American Idol.” It's New York City, The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps, where the players are the play and the spotlight burns the brightest. No wonder the players talk so much about playing “under the lights at the U.S. Open.” It is their chance to shine on the daily ESPN highlight film, to get their precious 15 minutes allotted to them by the immortal New York King of Hype and Pop Culture, that pasty guy with the funny hairdo, you know - the other Andy (Warhol).
The U.S. Open is all about is all about star power and no one shined brighter than Federer, Sharapova, and Andre Agassi in his farewell appearence.
But it’s not just the highlight films, it’s the pre-match locker room interviews, the post-match courtside inter-reviews (aside from John McEnroe‘s exceptional work with Andre), and the player profiles, with more spin on them than a Roger Federer forehand. It’s information overload, a kind of over-the-top psycho drama. It's a place where “bigger is better” and eye-popping, tongue wagging sensationalism is the norm. It’s Black Hat versus White Hat “winner take all” and “win at all costs” journalistic jingoism. The Talking Heads tell us the sport needs “personality” to survive and, by God it will create them if need be. It all makes for good television but what is the trade-off and what kind of message is being sent to our youth, nay to all of us, as to what sport means today?
The Record setting crowds filled Arthur Ashe Stadum almost every day.
Indeed tennis has been adopted by Big Business like an orphaned waif desperately foraging for it‘s next meal. And nowhere is the banquet table set more abundantly than at the U.S Open. Sumptuous product endorsements, juicy appearance fees and mouth watering contract bonuses are served up by a wait staff of nattily tailored personal agents and corporate Svengalis. Big Business operates by its own set of ethics. If some sports have remained “pure” it is only because the sport/product doesn‘t pencil out on the bean counter‘s spread sheet. We look to the stewards of our sport to navigate this world, to direct the sport.
Is the decision to extend the changeover time limit to cram in more TV ads so they can sell us the latest anti-depressant medication to ease the anxiety caused by the sobering side effects of my erectile dysfunction prescription a good thing for tennis? Thank God for Tivo!! (Technology saving us from technology - you gotta love the irony.) Truly the big winners at the U.S. Open were the corporate honchos that view tennis in terms of market share, viewer ratings, and profit margins and bureaucrats who measure the sport in terms of gate receipts and bottom line revenue figures. But what about the parent of the preteen kid who is hitting the dog saliva soaked ball on the garage door?
As much as we’d like to, few of us will ever whip a backhand shot like Federer.
this era of sports doping scandals, it’s becoming harder to distinguish between sports felons and sports heroes. And it is not just on the professional sport scene where money and ego mix to dangerous levels. College athletics have fallen prey to the student/athlete turned entitled “Campus Superstar.” In tennis we have our own issues of doping and cheating, stalling with bathroom breaks and injury timeout abuses, sideline coaching, intimidating behavior, taunting and jeering, spitting at umpires and opponents,
and an in-your-face attitude. Sometimes boxing looks dignified by comparison. This behavior gets “tolerated” (or worse) because it adds “personality” and sells the sport.
The “integrity” and “virtues” of sport, the Code of Sportsmanship, personal responsibility, grace under pressure, fair play, respect for your opponent, humility (now regarded as a “weakness” rather than a virtue) seem in dangerous short supply or perhaps dangerous under exposure. That script doesn’t have quite the sizzle that sells the sport.
The new marketing marriage made in heaven.
The truth is, the media can “package” the sport but it can’t change the “nature” of the sport. The media can bludgeon us with its skewed take on tennis but when we put hand to racquet and foot to court the game itself will send us it’s own subtle, more personally resonating message. It will teach us that as much as we’d like to, we can’t hit the serve like Roddick or whip a passing shot like Federer or look like Sharapova.
Simply by playing the game, we will learn that winning isn’t close to “being everything” and that in playing for something beyond 15 minutes of fame we’ve inadvertently struck up a love affair that lasts a lifetime. And like any relationship that we hope to endure we must learn the rules, learn to give and take, show respect and consideration, compassion and yes, even humility. With these lessons learned, although our serves may never clock in at mach speed, we may share something even more powerful with some of the true greats of the game.
By the way, wasn't that Joltin' Joe I saw in the crowd doing the Wave?
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Power First Training
In the early 1980's, there was a paradigm shift in the professional ranks from consistency-first to power-first. The reason for this successful shift was that the power-first theory, when properly taught, assures consistency as a by product, almost like getting consistency for free. Ray Brown argues that, to play power tennis, control of the body from the waist down is even more important than the quality of the player's stroke technique from the waist up.
Process and Outcome
Performance psychologists urge players to “stay in the process” and “stay out of the outcome.” That means staying away from thoughts about winning or losing because of their negative effect on your performance. While this concept sounds easy in theory, it is more difficult to put into practice. Scott Ford shows you how playing tennis in the zone not only keeps you focused on the process; it also keeps you defocused from the outcome. The result is better tennis.
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Mary Pierce has had a long and storied career, but still is capable of big wins and very dangerous in the major events. She owns two grand slam titles, the Australian in 1995 and the French Open in 2000. But interestingly, in 2005, at the tender age of 30, she reached the final of both the French and US Open, notching big wins along the way. Mary is one of the classic big hitters off both wings, and if she can get healthy and regain her form she is capable of another assault on the top ten. See her strokes in T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video, only on TennisOne!
ProStrokes Gallery: Fernando Gonzalez - The Backhand
Fernando Gonzalez has been in and around the top ten for a few years, but has recently made a commitment to climb even higher. He has hired the renown coach Larry Stefanki to add variety to his punishing backcourt game. Known for perhaps the biggest forehand on the tour, Gonzalez is looking to add to his resume by moving forward and ending more points at the net with approach shots and volleys. This personable Chilean is definitely moving “up”and appears poised to rejoin the top ten. New this issue, the Gonzales backhand.
Virtual Tennis Academy
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training, and much, more from a hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from the convenience of their own home.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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