Davis Cup, Buenos Aires: tennis or fútbol?

This week the Tennis Channel was replaying Davis Cup matches from a few days before, when the Czech Republic defeated Argentina 3-2 in Buenos Aires.

I noticed several things onscreen that made me happy. First, the red clay and green walls brought to mind the French Open, and I remembered exciting matches I had enjoyed watching during this year’s tournament in Paris. Second, although it’s still early spring in Buenos Aires, the sun was shining and fans were dressed in short sleeves. Weather data on the internet said it had been 75 degrees last weekend, so I made a mental note to look for off-season airfare to Argentina– maybe I’d find a bargain.

But what intrigued me most was the Argentine spectators’ passion. They voiced approval and encouragement throughout the match. After every point there was applause, shouting and horn-blowing. Some fans even beat drums or blew whistles. Occasionally spectator emotion erupted between first and second serves, or on an impressive shot, even though it didn’t end a rally. See for yourself in these highlights from Juan Del Potro’s match vs. Radek Stepanek.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EKHCiYiMN4

 

The sound of the Argentine horns resembled the vuvuzelas that garnered notoriety during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I don’t know whether they were actual vuvuzelas, but they certainly lent the tennis matches in Buenos Aires a rowdier atmosphere than would have been tolerated, for example, at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. New York fans are sometimes criticized for brashness and noise at the US Open, but Argentines bring the concept of spectator participation in tennis to new levels.

 

vuvuzela2jpg

 

The difference between New York and Buenos Aires fans, as I see it, lies in the fact that the Argentines appear totally engrossed in the match itself, and their cheering stems from their passion for the sport and the players. While a lot of US Open spectators are there to see great tennis, quite a few come mainly to enjoy a good party.  [Read more…]

Maria and Serena and the 2012 US Open: day/night costume changes

Some of the male players are varying their shirt colors at the Open, but generally they keep to the same overall color scheme — this year, it’s mostly a red, white and blue one. But Nike has upped the glamour quotient with its top female tennis celebrities by giving them dark dresses to wear for evening matches. All this costume-changing is making the fashion experience of the US Open feel more like a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie.

Maria Sharapova

US Open 2012_MariaSharapova_Day

 

Maria’s dress for daytime matches is a demure pink, with brown criss-cross stripes that form a diamond under the bust. Its clean lines and sleek shape emphasize her cover girl proportions. While the pink is pretty, in my opinion it’s far too dainty for Maria’s incessant grunting and ruthless style of play.

 

MariaSharapova_USOpen2012_Night1

 

Maria-Sharapova-Back-Court-Night-Womens-Tennis-Dress

 

The nighttime dress offers sheer sex appeal. Sewn from a shimmering fabric that’s not quite black, not quite brown (Nike calls it “Anthracite”), it drapes slinkily over Maria’s body. The back yoke is cut in to expose the shoulders, with gold thread detail that traces a Spiderman-type of motif. What does Spidey have to do with tennis? The dress is gorgeous, but really: the sexy fabric and gold Spiderman decoration? All she needs now is some Swarovski crystals embedded in the bodice.   [Read more…]

Migraines, and a menu of voices

It’s all in my head, right? I mean, the fact that two days ago I suffered a terrible migraine had nothing to do with the fact I’d just attained my “personal worst” record for any USTA adult league season I’ve ever played in. It was just a weird coincidence, wasn’t it? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.

I’m a migraineur, a person who gets migraines. Fortunately, most of mine go away with medication, and this one seemed ordinary enough at the outset. While I’m stumped as to what causes my headaches, I like to think they’re brought on by food, hormonal or environmental factors. I’d rather not consider that inability to deal with everyday stress or disappointment might also trigger migraines for me.

But what happened this time? Well, I awoke with a “regular migraine” that worsened as I thought about the previous night’s tennis match (an 0-5 loss for our team) and my own disappointing season. I was surprised my win/loss record ended up so low (1/6), because I felt as though I’d been playing better this year. Granted, I’d played mostly singles, whereas previously I’d focused on doubles — so that was a change. Plus, nearly all my opponents were 15-20 years younger. But so what? For me, it was personal best experience — not a personal worst.

Statistics, however, told a different story. Namely, that compared to opponents who were also rated USTA 3.0, I’m hadn’t measured up. Moreover, if I thought I’d played well, I’d also lost my grip on reality and couldn’t recognize my own lack of progress.

The voices argued inside my head. My VoJ (Voice of Judgment) was clamoring: “Anne, you suck at tennis. Why do you bother with this sport?  It’s no wonder people don’t want to play with you — before long, they won’t even want to say hello to you.”

The Voice of Reason persisted: “You’re always reminding yourself that tennis is a journey — it’s your journey, at your pace. Not someone else’s. Where are all you women going with tennis, anyway?  Isn’t it about learning and having a good time?”

[Read more…]

Bring back the joy!

There’s a sign I drive by most weeks, usually on my way to play tennis.  Although it stands outside a car repair shop, it reminds me of a resolution I made when my tendency to self-judge was sucking the fun out of my chosen sport.  I decided, in short, to bring back the joy.

Before choosing to look for joy in tennis, I thought what would bring me pleasure was playing better, so I focused on that alone.  I took lessons, watched videos, read books, kept track of wins and losses.  And guess what?  I didn’t play better, and I didn’t enjoy myself.

Step back, and it’s obvious.  A recreational activity like tennis should be enjoyable – if not, what’s the point?  But it’s easy, especially for us women who’ve given up careers and are looking for a way to evaluate “productivity” outside of making school lunches and coordinating book fairs, to take something we do for fun and start to measure our progress.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  But I let it go too far – I lost perspective.  I lost the joy.

No more.  I’m taking practical steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  To start, I remind myself constantly: “bring back the joy.”  It’s one of the things I say to myself during matches.  Or I ask myself on tough points, “Are we having fun?”  Because whether I win or lose the point, I want to enjoy playing it, and not “having fun” usually means tightening up and playing worse anyway.

Here’s another one, but it’s a bit touchy.  These days I avoid playing with people whose styles don’t match up well with mine.  Many times, it means I try not to partner with women who are more serious and intent on winning.  It’s not that I don’t care about winning – but if I concentrate on the score too much, or think about whether I’m living up to my partner’s expectations for me, I start making more mistakes. I feel bad about playing poorly, so I play worse – it’s a downward spiral.  My progress is slow, but I’m learning to put negative thoughts aside, stay loose and have a good time.  This helps me play better.

[Read more…]

New match. Love-all.

Maybe it was as simple as sunlight deficiency during the winter months, but I was on the verge of quitting tennis after a few disastrous performances earlier this year.  “Performances” – that’s the key word.  As if a bunch of people were watching me play a ladies match that counted for nothing, that would not be recorded in the USTA’s computers or anywhere else.  I had let tennis become all about me and how I was doing, whether I was playing well and what others would think of my abilities.  Narcissism was killing my game, and it was certainly killing the fun others might receive from including me in their games.

Not surprisingly, I also couldn’t get going with my writing projects.  I had nothing worthwhile to say.  I’d type out a few sentences, then backspace over them to delete most of what I’d written.  My feelings were similar to those I experienced on the tennis court.  I feared my writer friends might judge me as eddying, stuck in the same essay — while at the same time they were progressing from one chapter to the next in their books.

So something had to change.  Fortunately the days got longer, which for me seems to make a big difference.  Don’t forget the iPhone weather app icon, 73 degrees and sunny, was created in Northern California.  But I also decided that, if I couldn’t enjoy tennis and writing, I would have to find other activities.  After all, no one was forcing me to do these things – they were luxuries I supposedly chose to pursue.

So I made two big changes.  In tennis, I started to focus on singles.  At first I did this because I figured other people were getting sick of partnering with me, but then I started to like it.  It was simple: just me, my opponent and the ball.  I could concentrate better, I didn’t need to worry about interpersonal dynamics on my court, and I didn’t need to stress about letting my partner down if I missed a shot.  Perhaps it’s the ultimate expression of narcissism, in that singles means every ball is mine, but I’m no longer worried about my performance.  I’m just playing the game.

In writing, I started to check into things I thought would be fun.  It’s a subtle change, but while I had enrolled in a creative writing program with the goal of writing a non-fiction book because that’s what the syllabus said I was supposed to do, now I’m thinking about heading in a different direction.  What I like is the intersection of writing, social media, podcasting, video and the interaction with readers – in other words, forming an online community.  There’s so much to learn here, and that’s why I enjoy it.

So I’m augmenting my traditional writing classes with others on internet publishing in all its forms.  I hope to change my blog posts to be shorter but more frequent, and to add podcasts in the future.  So stay tuned.  It’s a new game.