Monday, July 7, 2008

NTRP Summary

Things that worked.
*My serve, though I need to remember to be more aggressive on that first serve!
*Fitness. Five matches in three days, and I'm okay! In fact, in that last match, I think I got better as I went.

Things that need to be improved.
*Footwork. I think this is the #1 thing that causes me to be so inconsistent. I'm not where I need to be to hit the shot I want (namely, deep and with spin). I hit way too many short balls, which are rarely punished by my opponents, but it will not get me to the next level.
*Consistency/Patience. This is more of a mental thing. I think I'm finally starting to understand...especially when I noticed that the winners I did hit were not the hardest shots I hit, but the ones with the best placement (and usually, spin).
*Strategy. I was able to find and exploit the weaknesses of some of my opponents, but it is taking me way to long (usually an entire set) to do so! If I come in, I also need to have a strong overhead for those lobs.

Questions for the peanut gallery.
1. Would you have played the consolation round, even if it meant possibly losing to a lower rated player? Because that happened to me today. Honestly, I'm a 3.5 in doubles for sure, but not necessarily in singles, where I would put myself as a 3.25! As always, there sure were a lot of 'no shows' in the consolation draw. Do some just figure 'screw it' if they don't get a shot at the 'real' final?
2. Anybody like to share any ideas/strategies for dealing with opponents that are in love with their drop shots? Honestly, I'd never seen so many until this weekend, and two of my opponents used them A LOT. If you get to it, what do you do with it?
3. How do you deal with bad line calls? In that last match, there were a few, though I never questioned. I didn't want to get distracted by that, and in the end that is exactly what happened. I'm not necessarily someone who plays better when they are angry and upset, but in retrospect I'm wondering if I should have said something or not?


Sunday, part 2.

One of the women giving me a 'scouting report' was actually another one of the players in the 3.5 draw who knew my opponent. I had met her the day before, as she was the losing half of the four hour singles match that I mentioned previously. The 3.5 main draw final was going on the same time as us, so she asked if I was okay with here staying and watching my match as well as that one. I was actually delighted. In my first match, my opponent had about 8 people rooting and clapping for her, and I had zero. Made me jealous! Xisbum did come and watch a bit of my match with the Texan, though...and it sounds silly, but I think I play better when I have a 'friend's box'!

Anyway, the scouting report was that she had some really funky and junky strokes, especially on the backhand side. R told me to try to hit high balls to that BH and to hit with some power so she couldn't junk me to death.

That scouting report was dead-on, and then some. My opponent, J, also had some bizarre slice spinny serve that literally landed about two inches past the net. *shaking head* It was all I could do to get it back, and then she'd lob me. And the drop shots! Aiy, aiy, aiy!!! She'd drop shot my serves! MY SERVES. At one point, I said out loud 'You've got to be kidding me.' If I got to the drop shot and returned it without hitting an error then she'd lob me...I was so far in I never had a shot at running down the lob (though I tried!).

Absolutely disgusted, I lost the first set 1-6.

So, once again, I played around with my serve. She only would drop shot me on her BH, so I either went into her FH or hard into her BH. Finally, it started to work. I also starting getting to those drop shots and placing them for either a winner, or something she couldn't hit a lob off of. And then, she stopped hitting them. In a rally, if I stayed patient, more often than not I could draw her into an error. I was down 2-4 at one point, but got it back to 4 all. Broke her for 5-4. Served it out to win the second set 6-4.


My game plan had actually *worked*!!! My fellow player on the side, along with some other players, were watching, and I got applause after winning the second set! Kinda cool!

Because this was consolation, we played a 10 point match tiebreak in lieu of a 3rd set. I got a quick mini-break, and held onto it until 6-5. Then I went on a bit of a roll, and got it to 9-6! And then she went on a roll, and we got to 9-all. I win the next point, 10-9. Rally. Short ball, I attack, come in, she hits a short lob...I put it away. She calls out. I was pretty sure that it was in, but I didn't question and didn't argue. It was her baseline, and I wasn't sure enough to question.

Well, not sure enough until I saw one of the spectators get immediately up and run over to the official to get her to come and watch. Oh man! So, that told me right there...she hooked me, and hooked me bad. Okay, okay...settle down, right? Nope. She took the next two point, and won 12-10.

So. I could rant and complain about the hooked call. The woman who got the ref told me afterward that not only was my ball in, it was evidently way in. Instead of getting hung up on that, I'm trying to focus more on the fact that I failed to put away the match several points should have never gotten to 10-9 to being with.

So, all in all...a good experience. I got a lot of tennis in, and played four vastly different opponents. And I'm left with some very clear things to work on...(continued...)


Sunday, part 1.

The plan for Sunday was consolation semi at 9am, doubles at 10:30am (with adequate rest), and if I made it through, consolation final at noon. Whew!

When I arrived at the site the organizers told me that my partner had indeed called, and we had to default the doubles match. Sucks, but what are you going to do? Her baby was sick, and she was needed elsewhere! Plus, we are playing a club round robin tournament Wednesday, so we'll get a second chance there.

My singles opponent was tiny...but a firecracker! I had my usual slow start, during which I noticed that my opponent liked pace, hit with some nice pace herself, did not 'dink' or dropshot, and had great topspin off of her FH. She had a weak one handed backhand, though, so the plan was to play and serve into that as much as possible. If I gave her anything even resembling a short ball on her FH side, she put it away. I got down 1-3, but hung in there and starting finding my own strokes. I finally evened it at 4-all, then 5-all, and then I finally got up 6-5. I had to start going for more on my serve as well...hitting it a bit flatter and shorter in the box seemed to produce more weak returns or a return error. In the end, that made the difference as I served it out 7-5.

Second set...would she melt down, keep fighting, or would I have the second set melt-down? Well, this time it would be her. I finally started grooving on my ground strokes, making less errors, actually being patient, kept going for that first serve, and won the second set 6-1. She also hit a lot more errors, and after the match she admitted to not feeling very well. It was quite hot, and I do think it bothered her, especially toward the end. Chalk one up for me in the fitness least compared to her!

I had a bit of break before the consolation final, during which I was approached by my previous opponent and two of her friends, who informed me that they were pulling for me and gave me a bit of a scouting report on my opponent. *laughing* They were dead on, too. I also almost got the win in the final because my opponent, J, didn't know she got to play again. I mentioned it to her, and she said 'I'm glad you said something, I was getting ready to leave!' Oh well, I wanted the match...I wanted to get a win the proper way!



I spent 10 hours at the tournament site Saturday. Hey man, at least I got my money's worth, right?

The plan for Saturday was a doubles match at 10:45 and then a consolation singles match in the afternoon. My doubles partner and I had planned to meet at 10am to warm up for our match. This is the same person I partnered with the previous year at 3.0 doubles and we won!

At 10:30 she rolled in, having overslept. Turned out to not be a problem, as we were going to have to wait...all the courts were taken, and because of the four hour singles match, things got a bit backed up. They had an indoor bubble though, and we were able to go in there to warm-up and hit a few balls.

Only three teams signed up for 3.5 doubles, so we were put into a round robin. I knew three out of our four opponents, and both of the women we were to play for this match. One of them had been my teammate this previous season on one of my teams.

We ended up playing this match in the bubble since that singles match just wasn't ending. My partner was very happy with this, but I would have preferred to play outdoors, as I think that would have given us an advantage against our opponents.

The match got underway, and it was a frustrating one, no doubt. My partner, who hits very hard all the time, was missing just a bit on her groundstrokes, neither of us could seem to hit a decent return, and our opponents completely took our net game away from us. We lost 3 and 3. It was one of those matches where afterward, we looked at each other and kind of scratched our heads! One of our opponents had one of the most hideous service motions that I've ever seen...and still we couldn't seem to capitalize. I suppose, once our net game was taken away, we didn't have a plan B. Neither one of us has the patience and consistency to lob for days on end.

Ah well, disappointing for sure, but we had one more match the next day. My partner left, and I found out that my opponent for consolation singles had scratched. Instead of just doing one match, that actually advanced me in the singles bracket!

There was another woman, a singles player who had just lost her second round, that was willing to stick around and take the place of my scratched opponent. She was visiting from Texas, where she is a 3.5 who also plays 4.0. She was a great player, and blew me out the first set 1-6. I dug in, and managed to make a match of the second set, but still lost 4-6. She seemed to get to everything, and possessed a very effective drop shot. So my plan in that second set was to take away that drop shot by moving her around...and it almost worked. It was a fun match though, and I was very grateful for her for sticking around and playing.

As we suspected, the organizers couldn't get Tennislink to substitute her as my opponent, so we chalked the match up to a 'fun' match, and I still advanced in the consolation draw.

At this point, I had planned to watch fellow TTW'er Xisbum's doubles match, but one of the clerks at the desk asked me to hit with him! Lol! I was tired, but they are so nice there that it is hard to say no. So I said okay, but only one set and in the bubble (which also allowed me to watch Xisbum's match which was on the neighboring court).

I won this set 6-2 (or 6-3, can't remember!). Of course, when it doesn't count, I hit so much better! This tells us, gentle readers, that Topaz is also a headcase. It was a positive way to end the day though, and I felt like I got some good practice in.

I got to watch the final set of Xisbum's match, which was a close one, but unfortunately, this was just not the tournament for TTWers!

After this, I had to negotiate with the organizers a I was scheduled to play both singles and doubles at 9am the next day! Funny computer!!! They decided to do the singles first and move the doubles to 10:30. I would have preferred it the other way around, but I didn't want to be too pushy. These were seriously nice people and I didn't want to be a was just the consolation round after all...if it were main draw, I wouldn't have worried.

I called my partner on the way home to inform her of the change, and she said her youngest was sick with a fever...if he didn't get better, it didn't look like she'd be able to come out for the doubles match.

VA/MAS NTRP tournament, part 1

Last year, I participated in a very well-organized tournament about an hour from where I live.

This past weekend, I just got done playing this tournament for the second year, this time as a 3.5 playing in both the singles and doubles divisions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the draw had more than 3 people in it (unlike my last NTRP tournament!).

A bit of background...I'm trying to transition to singles after three seasons of mostly doubles. I just spent my first season at 3.5, and it is an understatement to say that it did not go how I had planned. *eyebrow*

Friday night.
I started my singles matches Friday evening against a woman that I could find nothing about...she was not in Tennislink in leagues or tournaments. So I had no idea what to expect. There were a few first round singles matches going on that evening for both men and women, and as we were gathered while the ref told us some basic rules, you could totally tell that people were 'sizing' each other up. My opponent was taller and stockier than me...but I was expecting someone with no tournament and league experience, so I was hoping to have the advantage in that respect.

I was so wrong.

I lost 1-6, 2-6. My game plan these days is pretty simple...keep it in the court, go corner to corner, stay patient, and attack the short ball. Well, let me tell you, that is hard to do when you're getting blasted off of the court. She overpowered me and just never seemed to miss. I had a bit of success bringing her in...the only thing she seemed a bit uncomfortable with was volleying, but more often than not I didn't get that far in the point to exploit it. She had a great serve, which didn't give me trouble (I blocked it back), but it also put me in the defensive right off the get go.

An easy way to sum up this match would be to say...she controlled everything. I made her work for it...I managed to keep her out there for an hour and a half, and it was hot...but I couldn't find a way into the match at all.

Later I found out that she had been a pretty successful high school player and this was her first competition back. Her coach is a player that I met at a tournament about a month ago, and he told me that he expected her to win the whole thing and end up with a 4.0 rating. He also took no credit for her game...said she pretty much came to him with strong strokes on both sides, good movement, and a great serve.

After me, she took apart the #1 seed 1 and 0. She then took out a player that beat me earlier this summer in three sets, which put her in the final. Incredibly enough, she lost the final in three sets to a woman who had a four hour first round match! As you may have guessed, that woman was a backboard. She just never missed.

And I have to to get to be a backboard?

The draw was big enough that the organizers decided to have a consolation draw, so I did have that to look forward to the next day.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

For Jonas...

My dear, so nice of you to comment on such an old post...but Gulbis is indeed from Latvia.


Sunday, May 11, 2008


Ok, so the whole 'resurrect the blog' idea hasn't exactly taken flight. Not that anyone is reading right? *eyebrow* Anyhoo...I'm thinking that this may be a summer break blog only. Unless, of course, I get a new job, one that doesn't give me summers off, but does give me adequate time to go to the bathroom and eat lunch every day. That would be nice.

Dinara Safina needs at least a quick mention though, for her fabulous play of the week, upsetting Justine Henin AND Serena Williams ON CLAY, and then taking the title in Berlin. She showed some great mental strength in some tough matches...maybe she should give big bro a lesson?

This was also a bad week in the ATP, as a clay court title was won by someone NOT Federer or Nadal. Nadal fell victim to the nastiest blister ever in existence on someone's foot, and Fed was fallen by the 'worm' Radek Stepanek in two tiebreak sets. Nicole Vaidisova was in his player's box, giving more life to the rumor of their relationship, but she didn't look all that enthralled to be there. I don't know, if I'm rooting on my sweetie, or even just a friend, I usually show a bit of emotion. Though, seeing Mirka do a pretty good ice queen imitation this week as well...maybe that is what they do?

The title was taken by Djokovic, who battled the *other* Swiss (Stan the Man!) in the final. He was pushed to three sets, but again, he capitalizes where others have fallen. He's also gaining on Nadal and, given Nadal's usual let-down in the latter part of the season, looks a good bet to overtake him by year's end.

Unless, of course, Nadal has moved to #1 by then.

Either way, the next two slams should be very interesting. There is no denying that Fed is in slump, whether caused by mono or not makes no difference. And Nadal is vulnerable on hardcourts, though he also doesn't have much to defend either. If he's in good shape, he could move up.

Ok, so, just a few quick thoughts.


As for my own game, we are just getting into the swing of the USTA season. I'm on 3 teams, and also eyeing more tournaments this summer. It is 'go' time! :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coming out of hibernation.

At least, I hope to. Life gets in the way sometimes. However, with the USTA season just about upon me, I'm thinking my musings about my own game will go here, with the occasional blog from a tournament.

Speaking of which, I have many tasty pictures and videos from three days spent at the Sony Ericsson tournament a few weeks ago. If I get my act together, I will post them.


That may be a big 'if'!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A weekend to remember!

And it isn't even over! Or, is it? Wait, add four hours, change pm/am...ok, yes, at least in Australia, the weekend is over.

And for once, we are thankful for the rain and smart Aussie planning. The first grand slam to have not just one, but two covered stadium courts, a rainy day in Oz means we still get tennis. And this time, we got LOTS of tennis. Enough that you were afraid to go to sleep, because you may miss something. You will be able to tell a die hard tennis fan by the circles under their eyes but the smile on their face.

Now that I'm caught up on my sleep, I thought I'd catch up on my thoughts here.

The upset bug started with Australia's own Casey Dellacqua. Once highly criticized for her lack of fitness, she broke through upsetting 2006 champ Amelie Mauresmo. It isn't so much a surprise that Mauresmo went down, but who it was that took her out. The shots of Dellacqua's family in the stands, crying, is heartbreaking. Momo's certain decline, at least to me, is also heartbreaking. Her best tennis is behind her.

ESPN took no prisoners in their coverage of some of the American brats...uh, uh, I mean men. Highlights of Mardy Fish acting like a crybaby, and Andy Roddick arguing with the chair ump (saying something along the lines of 'stay in school kids, you don't want to end up a chair ump') and making himself look like a total heel. Way to go boys. They both lost, Roddick going down to German Philip Kohlschreiber. Really, Andy has two things, his serve and his forehand, and the thing is...everyone else that and *more* these days. It isn't enough. He will continue to decline. Plus, his personality loses him fans every time he opens his mouth. I was disgusted by the on court antics of both Fish, but especially Roddick.

So, some minor ripplings started things off. I say minor, because really, I wasn't too surprised to see Roddick go out. Anybody with a good ground game is going to trouble him, and Kohly has more than just a 'good' ground game. Fish's tournament, even with a first week loss, was not bad for him.

The ripples soon became waves.

Another American, a less bratty and more honorable version, James Blake, found himself in a lot of trouble real fast. Down two sets to Grosjean and down breaks in the third, it seemed as if we were witnessing another Blake meltdown where he goes quietly into the night. But suddenly, as if someone literally put a sparkler in his arse, Blake came alive, and once again defeated the five set monkey on his back. Good going James! He remains as the last American man in the draw, though props to Spadea for lasting as long as he did, going out in the third round to Ferrer.

The waves continued to rise.

It is safe to say that it is becoming just as hard to be a Gonzo fan as it is a Safin fan. After his utterly spectacular display in Oz last year, it is has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. The hungry up and comers don't care who you are or where you've been. They just want to win, and Gonzo became victim to the young Marin Cilic. Last year's finalist, gone before the second week!

But what of the other finalist from last year? Well, before we check in on him, the women were having a rocky time of their own.

ARad caused a storm of her own in last year's USOpen when she dispatched defending champion Maria Sharapova. I guess she was eager to prove it wasn't a fluke, as she took out #2 seed Sveta Kuznetsova!!!! Holy crap! Not to be outdone, perennial 'pretty girl but not a big game' Maria Kirilenko decided to cause some waves that didn't revolve around her face, clothes, or body when she took out Anna Chakvetadze, the #5 seed.

And then started what everyone thought was going to be a mundane match for #1 seed Roger Federer against the forgotten Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who is sometimes better known for his tattoos, piercings, and being one of the few players to wear glasses as they play. He quietly goes about his matches, and cuts a dark, serious, and intelligent figure on court.

He was ready for the storm. He had a plan. He was not afraid. The waves reach their peak!

Tipsy stretched Fed to 10-8 in the fifth, the longest Fed has ever been taking in five sets, and the earliest he has been in trouble in a major EVER. He did by never backing down and not being intimidated. He had the belief. He troubled Fed with hard, flat serves, and a blazing inside out FH. Fed allowed him in by not being quite on with his timing, especially in the beginning of the match, and also by not taking advantage of BP. It seemed as if Fed got a little lazy, thinking that every match, unless it is against Nadal, would be a walk in the park. Tipsy took him by surprise, and nearly took him out IN THE FIRST WEEK. Oh what a match! One of those that you were happy to be watching, when you hear the amazement even in the voice of the announcers...if only there wasn't that darn time difference.

I watched up until the third, but have the whole thing on DVR, and I've watched the replay. And, as much as I love Fed, oh how I wish Tipsy had come through. I hope he takes a lot from this and starts becoming a threat on the tour.

And if you thought it was over, you were sorely mistaken.

Meanwhile, a few people were actually making their way quietly through the draw. AnaIvo, Djoko, Serena, Venus, Masha, Petrova, and Henin all were through, and Caroline Wozniaki and Marta Domachowska took advantage of their opportunities to advance as well. Nice to see some new names in the second week.

The night session in Oz was supposed to start at 7:30 (their time). But, because of the Fed/Tipsy match, it started late. Venus took out Sania Mirza pretty routinely, and then, just before midnight, Marcos Baghdatis and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt took to the court. And you knew that sleep was not going to be yours quite just yet.

I had a few hours, between 3am and 7am, before I got up to go to my tennis lesson. Baggy/Hewitt were just getting started!! I went to my lesson, caught some of the match at the club, then came home, caught a bit more, fell asleep for a few games at in the beginning of the fifth, and then woke up for the end. And I'm *so* glad I saw it. The emotions and fight these guys displayed was just unbelievable. When Hewitt finally came through in the end, and he dropped to the court...oh my. These two players shared a warm embrace afterward, so nice to see, especially after the bratty antics of the Americans, and both left the court in tears. It was heart wrenching to see, and still gets me on the numerous replays.

A few hours later, play was to start again! Yes! A tennis fans' best day, by far!

A few more men went down, with Kohlschrieber's run being ended by the Fin, Jarkko Neiminen, but the bigger news was JWTsonga, who after taking out another brat, Brit/Scot Andy Murray, in the first round continued to take out seeds by defeating his doubles partner, good friend, and French hopeful Reeeechard Gasquet. Tsonga may have taken time to develop his game, but it seems to be in fine form now!

Nalbandian seems to have spent his off season...sleeping? He went down without a whimper to JCFerrero, who is always a threat on hard courts. And so, Fed breathed another sign of relief.

Hey, remember that Nadal guy? Yeah, he is still in the tourny, and got handed an easy last match when PHMathieu retired with an injury.

Also, in the time I started writing this and the tennis has come full circle, local gal (if you can call New South Wales local) Casey Dellacqua has been ousted by Jelena Jankovic, but takes a success slam experience with her.

Some women's quarters are lining up nicely...Henin/Sharapova (rematch time!) and Jankovic/S. Williams are making me salivate. I hope we see good tennis prevail!

And, in the match that makes tongue twisters giddy with glee, Ferrero will meet Ferrer.

Whew! All for now!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


The prodigal daughter returneth. Or something like that.

My excitement over the start of a new tennis season and our first calendar grand slam has brought me a phoenix rising from the ashes! Or something like that.

My initial thoughts...

*Lindsay! So great to have her back, and seemingly enjoying the game of tennis more than she did pre-Jagger. Looks like he is already pretty comfortable with the hardware, too.

Lindsay will more than likely meet Sharapova in the 2nd round of Oz. *sigh* Not ideal. It all depends on whether or not Maria has taken her strong YEC showing and built upon it, or reverted back to the shaky play she exhibited during most of the '07 season. My heart says Lindsay, my head says Sharapova. I hope my head is wrong.

*Some great tennis has already taken place in the first few weeks of the new year. Justine and Sveta have already thrown down in Sydney, with Justine coming out on top in three. Sveta has beaten Justine on clay, and I think she could threaten her from time to time...she is certainly closer to it than anyone else.

*Vaidisova has come out strong, with what looks like better movement and fitness than she's ever had. Hopefully her mental game has also strengthened, and there will no more losing matches that she she had won until her head got in the way. And yeah, I know she is supposedly engaged to Radek. I don't really have anything to say about that. *shrug*

*In addition to retiring, Hingis has now been banned for two years. I remain skeptical. Why? Because her hair test completely exonerated her! Because the tests traveled overseas before being in a lab. And, because I simply don't want to believe it either.

*Nadal is coming in to the new season with injuries already, as is the Djoker. How can anyone possible bet against Fed? Maybe just because it has to end sometime, right? Right?

*Maybe Nalby will help keep things interesting on the men's side.

I won't go into the draw and seeds for Oz, because quite frankly, it has already been done, and nobody does it better, in my opinion, than Wertheim.

Here is his men's seed report: The Mighty Men.

And his women's seed report: The Wonder Women.