Sunday, April 20, 2008

I've got Mental Issues

No, this does not mean I'm about to start spending time in the Learning Support department at school. All it means is that you don't want to get on my bad side on the tennis court.
As with most individual sports, a strong "mental game" is a key to success in the tennis world. Even if you've got the forehand of Roger Federer, the backhand of Richard Gasquet and the serve of Andy Roddick, if you have a flimsy mental game, you're not going anywhere fast.
You may be wondering why I'm writing this. Here's why: today, in my usual Sunday morning battle with my dad, I found myself up 6-2, 4-1. Things were going great. I broke daddio to love and was steaming towards the finish line. Serving to go up 5-1, I managed to hit 3 double faults and a net cord. Then 4 more net cords. I was reeling. It was now 4-3, and my frustration could be seen by looking at the stylish white streaks running down my racket head. I lost one more game to make it 4-4, but then managed to crawl back ahead to 5-4. I even broke to match point, but alas I ended up going down 7-5 and tripling the expletive count. It was 12:30 and a lot of english homework was sitting on my desk, so the game was called. The final score: 11-9 to me, but I was on the verge of tears. I hadn't even lost, but I was upset.
That's the thing about tennis. When you hit an emotional high, its impossible, or virtually impossible to hit a shot out. When you sink to the valley floor, the opposite scenario prevails. It's a frustrating sport, as Andy Roddick summarized well: "even on championship, you're not playing to win, you're playing not to lose."
A-Rod's right. The easiest way to win is just to loop everything to the back of the court. But its not satisfying to win that way. Its satisfying as hell to win with deft cross-court backhands, blistering down-the-line forehands or pinpoint aces, but it just so happens that those are tough shots to hit consistently over at least 2 sets, so when things don't go your way, its easy to get down on yourself. Pointless, but easy. And that's a fault I share with many of my tennis-playing brethren.

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