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The Glory and the Gory 10/02/2006 - 6:15 PM

2006_10_02_cowboy_luke Howdy, Tribe. I was up in game-rich Andes with Luke this weekend; kind of a father-and-son trip (Lisa had some stuff to do in the city), so we spent a lot of time together. Luke got up at 4 a.m. Sunday, crying. He didn't want to be alone in his room, so I brought the little cowpoke in and let him sleep in the "big bed" with me. He asked, "Is it going to be morning soon, and then we can see our faces?"

It was nice to get a big chunk of time with Luke. I guess all parents (and I apologize to those of you who have no interest in this subject) have their favorite  moments and times with their kids. Mine happens to be washing Luke's feet in the bath. I hold his tiny foot in my hand and, after lathering up, firmly massage and wash it. Luke's gotten used to it; he now requests the soapy foot massage and squeals with delight when he gets it.

Want to do something nice for your girl/boy friend, spouse, child? Wash his or her feet. A great friend of mine saw an arty movie a few years ago and, afterward, told me about a scene in which the female lead washed the male lead's feet and dried them with her hair. He said it was a real "turn-on."  I found that highly amusing; my friend was utterly oblivious the this  New Testament allusion.

I got some hay mowed on Saturday, before the real rain started.  I know that running a tractor at, like, 8 miles per hour, isn't NASCAR-grade cheap thrills, but if you ever want to scare yourself half-to-death, jump on a big old tractor (mine's an Allis-Chalmers WD-40, 1952 model) that doesn't have a cab or roll bar. Then just haul a Hay-bine or Bush Hog mower across a typical meadow or pasture land anywhere north of the flatlands. What might look like a slightly canted billiard table from a car window is actually an uneven, rugged piece full depressions, surprisingly steep grades, wet spots and machinery busting rocks. Start crawling along the side of even a mild pitch and you feel like this 4,000 pound machine is going to tip over at any moment, pinning you underneath.

When I dismounted after three hours of mowing on a chilly day with an intermittent drizzle, I was really stiff and sore. Still, it's a very Zen thing, doing slow laps of a giant, alternately benign and terrifying field, mowing row after row in ever tightening circles.There are things (like washing dishes) that some people (my wife) hate doing that I don't mind at all, because the result of my efforts is immediate, dramatic and obvious. Mowing hay is like that.

While mowing and contemplating, among other things, my little boy, I got to wondering how "tennis parents" actually get their kids to embrace and focus on the game. This isn't really because I want Luke to play tennis at a high level; my plans begin and end with us having a shared activity,or at least one that has nothing to do with catching, killing or eating things. You know, teach him a fun game that, unlike Uno or Maria Sharapova endorsed Speedminton, he can enjoy with me in as few as, oh, 10 years (by which time I could be dead, it occurs to me, but then there's the upside: no tuition checks to write!) - and with others for the rest of his life.

2006_10_02_sharapova I must say, though, that I can't imagine Luke doing anything (and certainly not anything with me) with the kind of patience it takes for a beginner, especially a child beginner, to get to where he can bat around a tennis ball. Watching him struggle mightily with some task, I've learned that offering help is not just not the right thing to do.

Want help setting up those train track, little guy?

No, daddy. Shut! You don't say something. I'm going to close you out (pulls shirt over his face so he can't see me, on the tried-and-true "ostrich" principle), Diesel's going to scoop you up (Diesel being one of the villains in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories) and dump you! You don't tell me what to do. Leave me alone!

Geez, sorry I asked!

Don't even ask me where he got this "Shut!" business, but I think it's got to do with the fact that the more formal shut-up is a forbidden word that gets  him on The Naughty Chair, no questions asked.

So anyway - how do parents do this tennis thing? I was impressed, going way back, with the story Todd Martin (see my recent post, The Michigander) told me years ago. He became interested in the game because his parents used to take him to the courts and set up his crib up next to the fence on the court where they played. Todd would then onto the rail, watching them. I think that even if Lisa and I had taken Luke to the park to watch us play tennis, his first reaction upon seeing us go into the court would have been to make a break for it. Freedom! Let's do something more in line with my  agenda.

This topic has stayed with me today because I had an email from David Johnson, a philosophy professor turned newspaper reporter.  David, whose father Franklin is the current president of the USTA, recently sent me this piece, which he wrote for a journalism school publication. It's the best and most informed thing I've read - by far - on the Menendez brothers, Erik and Lyle. They were top junior players, convicted of slaughtering their parents - both of whom were actively involved in the boys' tennis lives.

Okay, this probably is the most extreme and sensationalistic tennis story, ever (or, at any rate, before the Sharapova banana incident). And the Menendez brothers are no more representative of your "typical" tennis player than David Berkowitz was representative of your typical JFK security guard.  But Johnson's piece gives a few choice, intimate glimpses into the kind of intensity and, ultimately, dysfunction that is so routine in junior tennis - ironically, only some of these glimpses are actually focused on the Menendez brothers.

It takes someone "special" (and not always in a good way) to become great at tennis. It sometimes takes a special kind of parent and a special kind of chemistry, combined with a measure of luck, to go from being an ATP or WTA lurker - a Billy Wright, or a Michael Joyce -  to a Marat Safin, Roger Federer, or Marcos Baghdatis.

Think about it: If  you're a parent, where do you even begin? Make your kid play, on the premise that he or she will buckle and accept the fate of being the clay out of which you mold your dreams? What if your kid likes the idea of the game, but hates being bad at it - do you force him to confront his frustration, or just let it go - abandon him to the Gameboy or undertow of slackerhood?   Do some kids (almost all the wildly successful ones, if you ask them) actually love playing, from Day One -  and the ones that don't, but appear to have a gift, what do you do, leave them to their own devices (you can always go to school and learn the art of dry cleaning!)? Or do you try to find a way to manipulate them or cajole them or even threaten them (withholding love: works very time with the young and even those who should know better) into accepting that they can be more than they ever dreamed (or wanted)?

Here's the funny thing, to me. Stefano, Yuri, Richard, Melanie, et al, they all achieve a certain notoriety simply as "tennis parents." Yet what you are looking at is undenibly the cream-of-the-crop. Their kids flat-out made it, and as much as you may despise the parents, any charges against them ring slightly hollow until the tennis player herself endorses them. Let's be honest for a moment here. You loathe Yuri. But Maria wins the U.S. Open, and says that more than anything else she loves her "daddy". Whose word should I take on Yuri's character, yours or Maria's.  It's not a rhetorical question; it's a real and amazingly complex. In fact, it's a subject that makes "The roots of Federer's greatness" an eighth-grade essay question. Doesn't it make you want to reassess your assumptions when Vince Spadea writes about what a great guy Jim Pierce is?

For in the end,there's no way you're going to tell me that some guy or woman who invested an enormous in tennis, but whose kid never made it, somehow was a "better" tennis parent. This sport, like all of them, is about results - that's the glory and the gory of it. If you can't stand the heat, step out of that particular kitchen.

Oh, the ambitious parent whose kid never made it may be a better parent, maybe, but not a better tennis parent. For there exists a standard of judgment on that: it's called the game. Besides, who's to say what would have become of that kid if he or she had been Richard's, or Melanie's?  What tennis parent out there is honest enough to pause and think, Gee, if only I were Stefano Capriati. . . And, of course, it's always possible that the kid came up short at his or her end of the bargain - punishment enough to last a lifetime, for most kids, and undoubtedly a huge source of their own fears and perhaps even many of their performance anxities: If only I were Jennifer Capriati. . .

It works both ways, you see. It always works both ways.

This subject is far complicated than we generally acknowledge. We all know what horrible times Andre Agassi had with his dad, Mike - terrible tennis father supreme! - and how much tennis damaged their relationships. But who really feels sorry for Agassi today? Who among all of those  "nurturing" parents wouldn't want his kid to grow up to be Andre Agassi. Would Andre be better off if he had a great relationship with his dad, quit tennis at 13, and now works as an assistant marketing guy for Bellagio?

Or, put it this way: Can a "good" tennis parent be both an inspirational genius and a manipulative charlatan? Who does a parent have to please, anyway, to be deemed good: The media? The national association? The fans? The player? The International Tennis Hall of Fame? Because I'll tell you this: judging tennis parents is the easiest thing on earth; being able to support that judgment with cogent, fact-and-reason based arguments may be the most difficult. Imagine this whimical scenario: Yuri Sharapova is on trial for being a horrible tennis parent. Who would you rather be, the prosecutor, or the defense attorney?

I'll tell you who was a terrible tennis parent: Jose Menendez. Note that his kids never won jack. Isn't that really the domain of the terrible tennis parent? He or she puts his kid through hell; the kid ends up flipping burgers. Or blowing off his parents' heads.

Anyway, I've asked David Johnson to take a whack at writing a Tennis Life (that's a feature I edit for the mother ship, Tennis magazine) on this whole subject of junior players and their parents. He knows a lot about this; it will be an interesting read for sure.

 


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Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 02:11 PM

Yes, Ptenisnet, and Ridcully will be a great tennis dad, Captain Carrot will be a very solid baseliner, and Granny Weatherwax is exactly what the WTA needs…*sigh* as Pratchett said: “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can."

Death…I think he would be a really great coach. He can explain very well THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE which is so relevant in sports…

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 02:18 PM

Nice quote May. Where is that from?
You left out Vetiniari. Now he would make a good ATP chair.

Posted by Tim 10/03/2006 at 02:26 PM

may love that inspiring quote! thanks...

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 02:28 PM

The quote? It was probably taken from some interview. The internet is full of Pratchett's quotes, and for a good reason.

Havelock Vetinari? He could replace Etienne de Villiers. He wouldn't hear of round- robin…and Leonard of Quirm can invent something crazy to make tennis the most popular sport in the world.

What's your favorite Discworld novel?

Posted by Ray Stonada 10/03/2006 at 02:33 PM

The funniest thing about today's Roger Blog That was the line, "Shizuka accomplished something that I have not done YET, an Olympic gold medal." Capitalizing "yet" is just so Fed: leaving it lowercase would have been arrogant, suggesting that he will surely do it; capitalizing it expresses his confidence at the same time as his consciousness of it.

I also appreciate what a geek Captain Wasabi is: you can tell he gets off on knowing details of Japanese culture, like throwing in the reference to the teppanyaki and Kobe beef, just to show off his knowledge.

I'm glad he tweaked Agent Tony, too.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 02:39 PM

It's a tough choice but Small Gods probably.
Although my favorite Pratchett novel is the Bromeliad Trilogy (i realise they are separate books but I got the omnibus).

Posted by Tokyo Tom (TT) 10/03/2006 at 02:40 PM

Having lived in Tokyo and enjoyed membership at the Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club, I am v. impressed with RF. The Imperial Family donated the land and the club "promotes international friendship". While I have not played with the Emperor or one of the crown princes, I have seen them all there. Most of the Imperial Family enjoys playing and all are fairly useful club players. Japan is very protocol oriented and I imagine that only the number one ranked player would be invited to play and that fits into the rigid sense of seniority. Also Japan is very eager to use "Western" event to reach out. I would think the "first practice session" event fit in neatly with the invitation to play. Number one goes first. I have known Bankers with years of experience in Japan who do not observe the formalities as well as RF did in the structure of his posts- praise, thanks, recognition, etc. The Emperor would play each year at the TLTC and it would be mixed. He would be joined by foreign member and two ladies (usually pros). A friend of mine played with the instructions - never hit an overhead at the Emperor as he was beaned in the past. Sure enough, a short floater came up right in front of the Emperor and, while tempted, my friend simply sliced it into the open court. Of course, the Emperor and his partner won that day as did the Crown Prince, although I think having RF as a partner could hardly damage one's chances.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 02:41 PM

What in the world is a Baccarat Athlete of the Year award?

Posted by kiwibee 10/03/2006 at 02:47 PM

I love reading Roger's blog.He is very diplomatic about everything. A true Swiss.
The best ATP/WTA blogger must be Tursy. He is witty, funny and downright creative. Does he have his own website other than ATP ones?

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 02:49 PM

Does anyone know how much $250 AUD is in USD? It still seems a bit expensive for the likes of me but maybe, just maybe, my parents will get me the poster as an early Christmas present? (Is it too early for an early Christmas present??)

Posted by D-Wiz 10/03/2006 at 02:52 PM

Great post, Pete -- another one that has really gotten me thinking. And the Luke stories are great, as well as inspiring. Next time you write something that drives me up a wall I plan on commenting: Shut! ;)

Interesting how you said, “it takes someone ‘special’ (and not always in a good way) to become great at tennis.” It's a funny coincidence as I recently corresponded with someone about some of the traits I think tennis players (particularly the ‘greats’) share and I used some words that don’t usually have positive connotations. That isn’t a knock on tennis players; I believe they have to possess certain traits to be ‘successful’ and any player, as a whole individual human, may or may not be defined strictly by their tennis persona (usually not).

Anyway, maybe it’s a bit of the same with tennis parents. To be a successful ‘tennis parent’ (vis a vis the offspring’s tennis success), there are certain traits a tennis parent must possess? The majority of words we might use don’t necessarily have positive connotations but any tennis parent, as a whole individual parent, may or may not be defined strictly by their tennis parent persona (usually not).

At the same time, it seems to me that there are widely varying motivations behind the shared traits & whatever goals/dreams tennis parents have for their children. Furthermore, those motivations probably have different influences on how ‘tennis parents’ parent their tennis playing children. I venture a large number of tennis parents are highly critical & pushy, but depending on what’s motivating the parent(s), the criticism & pushiness come from different places and are employed differently.

I can’t help but think that Hingis’, Agassi’s, Fed’s, Safin’s, Sharapova’s, the WS’, the Menendez brothers’ parents were coming from slightly to significantly different places. I think it really makes a difference whether the kid ‘gets’ WHY his/her parent does what they do. Some of these parents might just be SOBs, some want a ‘better life’ for their kid, some want their kid to live out their own unfulfilled dreams, some are just trying to help the kid achieve the kid’s expressed dreams, etc. If the kid ‘gets’ his/her parent, it’s probably usually acceptable, if not necessarily ideal or enjoyable. I’m also inclined to think that the kids (with a requisite amount of ability) who really ‘get’ where their ‘tennis parents’ are coming from, whether they like it or not, are more likely to be successful.

Last thing – as for whose word to take on Yuri’s character, mine or Maria’s? I’d say neither. I don’t know jack about Yuri’s true character. But Maria loving her daddy more than anything else isn’t necessarily a testament to his true character. She loves him. I presume that reflects that she ‘gets’ him and why he is like he is, accepts him for better or worse, trusts him. Yuri & Maria are fortunate for that. However, I don’t think we always love others based on character. Love isn’t a merit-based endeavor much of the time; very often we love because we just do, particularly so between parents & children. (btw, I’m not saying Pete meant that lovability is some measure of character as I doubt that he meant that -- just making a distinction that occurred to me.)

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 02:52 PM

momofan
It comes to about $180 give or take a few dollars.

Posted by marieJ 10/03/2006 at 02:55 PM

"The toilet in my bathroom is like a space shuttle, there are so many buttons that I am always afraid to press the wrong one. I definitely want to buy one for my apartment! "

the funny quote of the day !!!
fed if you want to beat tursunov at his game you need to be better...
but as someone said fed is writing as mr-allways-nice-fed, even if he plays tricks on poor mirka, now you all know why he likes playing with his food... lol

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 02:56 PM

Thanks ptenisnet. I was right, that *is* rather too much for me, even if it is for charity. Right now I'm still busy working out how to ration my dining points lol!

No, no, I'm serious -- they say you're supposed to use only 10.5 points a day but that's ridiculous: dinner in the dining commons itself is 7 points! Anyway, I don't know what I'm going to do cuz I never eat breakfast anymore, even though I'm super hungry, and I'm *still* worried about my points. If I couldn't go home on the weekends and stock up on food, I'd probably starve to death LOL!

Freshmen 15, try to get me now! (Actually, Freshmen 5 just did ;)).

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 02:56 PM

Tough choice for me too, Ptenisnet, but the main contenders in my case are: "Mort" and: "Going Postal". "Witches Abroad" and "The Fifth Elephant" are also at the top of the list.

Concerning Tursunov: BLOGBOY IS THE BEST!!!!!

(Or as Pratchett said: "Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind" Dima, be careful with those exclamation marks)

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 02:58 PM


Sanja: yeah, that idiot never fails to crack me up. This whole Art Shell saga is way too funny (and I don't care for football). The All-Star game column was Pantheon level, definetely, with the great MJ story at the end.

Oh, and I remember that part in the book.

I hope he does another Curious Guy soon. Those are always fantastic (I got to know Klosterman through it, and I'm a big Klosterman KAD now). Also miss the Best Sports Moves Ever, in no particular order.

I was now going through my Sports Guy archive (I save the "special" ones), and I found this, from the Who's the 06 NBA MVP? column:

"He's the Black Mamba, he's Kobe Bryant, he's the 2006 MVP, and since we finally have that settled, I will now light myself on fire."

C'mon, get this man to be your president. What can possibly go wrong?

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 03:00 PM

I have to say, I am quite disappointed in Rajah. He was a vegetarian till age 15 and then he went non-veg. Pshhhh. I was a vegetarian till age 15 and then I went VEGAN. Beat that, Rog!

No, no, it's okay, he has to do what he has to do to be a professional athlete. Reason #34 on my "Why I cannot be a Pro Tennis Player Ahtlete": I will never, ever eat meat, never ever, and I will probably never drink animal milk again. Still, it's kind of sad that I'd have to have such bad karma if I wanted to play professionally or even have a little more energy than I do right now. Oh, well. I might need to crash in bed by 9:00 every night but at least my conscience is clear!

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 03:03 PM

JJ: A LOT. The man wants hall of fames to be sort of pyramids. That's un-American.

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 03:03 PM

Btw, he makes up for his non-vegetarian transgressions quite nicely by being so cute LOL! Love the preppy pic up top with Tim Henman -- gee I just love preppy guys so much! Reminds me of all the fun I had in high school! :)

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 03:04 PM

May
All good choices. I thought Soul Music was very clever but couldnt get too much into it.


Momofan
I vaguely recall the discussions but what's Freshman 5.
Also here's a tip. Parents are at their most vulnerable your first year out of the house. So they might just spring for the poster.

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 03:09 PM


May: Good evening to you. A little late, I know, but I took a nap after posting the last one.

I'd agree that the best part about the Fed's blog is the whole toilet thing. Goofy Fed is almost as funny as Angry Fed, or even Annoyed Fed.

Best joke, definetely the IMG one. Which probably will become reality, anyway.

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:10 PM

Poor Pete. Dealing with government/car stuff is like the biggest pain ever.

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 03:11 PM

ptenisnet:
Freshmen 15 = 15 pounds you put on during freshmen year of college

Freshmen 5 = the first 5 pounds out of the freshmen 15. You see, it's incremental; you don't just put on 15 pounds, you put on first 5 over the course of, let's say, two months; then another 5, then another 5. And likewise, you can't just LOSE the 15 pounds overnight. Gahhh it takes FOREVER to lose 15 pounds, believe me...

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 03:11 PM


May: you dig Simmons?

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:13 PM

To anyone who thinks Roger doesn't have personality: Read these durn blogs. He's not talking about toilets with any sort of goofy naivete....

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 03:14 PM

thx momo
found a website that talks about it.
If you think Freshman 15 is bad you should try First Job 30.
And it's cumulative too.

Posted by Sanja 10/03/2006 at 03:14 PM

JJ - I read Klostermann live blogging on Page 2 for the media crazy two weeks before the Superbowl and it was great - got me hooked on him, also.

Yes that part about MJ was hilarious and brought back a memory from back in my teens. I was watching MJ on Oprah and he was talking about dating his wife and saying something like "Well I knew I wanted to be with her I just didn't know what to do" while keeping eye contact with his wife and she was giving him slight nods. I thought "it's ok MJ, I'm scared of her too" - that woman definitely wears the pants.

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 03:15 PM

All this talk about food and Swiss people reminds me that I have a bar of Swiss dark chocolate from Whole Paycheck under my bed. See, it's amazing what you can learn from this Tennis Board.

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 03:16 PM

Good evening, JJ. I have started to read Bill Simmons as I got curious who this guy you are so enthusiastic about is…I am sure you aren't surprised.

Did you get my email?


Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:18 PM

I want to see Roger play tennis with the King of the Cosmos from Katamari Damacy. He'd get schooled by a guy with a yule log for a head.

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:24 PM

I think Robby Ginepri might have run the course of his "I'm a good player" statute of limitations. 11 first-round losses? Poor guy. However, this del Potro kid is definitely on my radar now. He's like, what, 17?

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 03:25 PM

Hey, guys is this mici or what:

"4 the recored Says:

brian so you think that sampras would have beaten hewitt, but he didnt when the plyed in the us open did he.

did he beat safin in the us final, no he didnt. and we are talking about safin in the aus final, safin best slam and pete’s worse hard court slam.

would he have beaten fliper, he almost lost to him untill fliper got heart in wimbeldon, 1/4 was it???!!!!

I will give this pete I belive would have beaten nadal with out any problems in wimbeldon and I belive also at the franch has nadal doesnt know how to returne good 1 serven and pete had 2 of those.

the thing is the fed has peoblems with differnet players then pete had, and usulley he doesnt have any problems.

so I do blive that pete could have lost to hewitt, safin, fed, nalbandian, bgdhadis of this world, why?????? because of their returene of serve and passing shot, that almost nobody had in pett’s time.

agassi is not great returner like the us madia tries to sell, how many times he gets acesd a lot, even nadal pot 18 aces pass him, I dont think in his life nadal served so mant aces,

and pim pim, 51 aces,

and fed last year us final 17 aces.

agassi can make a winner of a returne, but it in or out, he doesnt pot enoght ball in play, unlike fed, who is the most diffecult player to ace.

that is the big differnce.

and remeber if fed would see a serve and volley player the heart him and he cant pass him from the baise or think that the best tactic in to come in, he will do it, that is why he is all court player.

that is what he did to sampras in 2001 wimbeldon, he beat him serve and volling, and see all the serve stats fed wines more high % of 2 serve points and his 1 serve is gust as afactive as petes on grass, just that pete served aces and fed openets pot a hand of the ball but dont pot it back in court.

he also serve and vollyed his way to his firest grand slam wimbeldon in 2003. and he will do it again if he sees he have to.

again there is no problem with the article saying that fed want be no1 for 6 years its opinion, I dont agree but you ca give it, the problem with the article is that you try to pot fed recored and slams in that article, by backing opinion of who moya!!!!!!!!

and day after said something else, the fed was the beater player, and most of the players that played both saying that fed is beater player.

i GAUSS YOU DONT UNDERSTAND THAT FED IS THE REASON THE RODDICK, HEWITT, SAFIN DONT HAVE AS MUCH SLAMS AS THE OTHER PLAYER IN SAMPRAS ARE, FED BEAT THEM THIS IS THE REASON.

so you want fed to lose to them so they will have more salm and then his achvments will be beater, this is your point."

Gotta love the handle..."4 the recored." LOL!

Oh, she also says:
"AND BY THE WAY I AM IN MY 20′S.

DONT KNOW KNOW THAT THE MADIA TRYS TO SELL THAT THEY KIDS GO WITH NADAL AND THE MORE MATURE WITH FED.

ANOTHER THINK THAT THE MADIA AND SPORT WRITERS GOT WORNG, DID THY????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I am laughing.

Posted by Fan of Tennis 10/03/2006 at 03:25 PM

I don't think Roger is trying to 'best' Tursunov at Blogging... I just think he's telling us what he's really thinking and what's going on with him. At least what he is writing is interesting (to me)... unlike some of the past bloggers who were just boring as hell (oops...was I suppose to say that?)...

It gives me a little 'insight' into Roger - the jokester, the diplomat, etc. Plus, have you noticed that some of the player blogs are just one or 2 paragraphs! Yet it seems like Roger is really writing a lot in his blog which is great.

I bet a lot of people would like to see a little of "Captain Wasabi" come out on the courts by Roger sometimes. lol!

Tokyo Tom (TT) - great post and thanks for the oversight about Japanese culture...

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 03:30 PM

Ptenisnet: I felt the same about Soul Music. But I really liked Susan.

Fed can be quite goofy, but he was really outdoing himself with this toilet business. Some company managers are very happy now.

Momofan: you are not the only one laughing… "achvments" - that's mici alright.

Posted by Fed Fan 10/03/2006 at 03:33 PM

We have got to have some TW tribe definition for 'Captain Wasabi', that is just too cool to be passed up folks. Suggestions, how about JJ, the king of odd tennis phrasing?

Posted by Fed Fan 10/03/2006 at 03:35 PM

Company managers happy? Don't be so cynical, good grief. My sister went to Japan and toilets were a huge topic of conversation, it's so hilarious what people are like over there.

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:38 PM

If Federer is Captain Wasabi, then Nadal is Lieutenant Wedgie.

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 03:41 PM


May: Yes I did. 'Twas lovely, indeed! And no, I'm not in the least bit surprised. Will answer later on.

Sanja: yep, MJ may be MJ, but he's no less whipped than Doug Christie. What a column.

Also, forgot to mention, the NBA previews are always fantastic, plus everything regarding Vegas. Oh, and the Unintentional Comedy Scale, and so on and so forth.

Simmons for President in 2008!

Posted by rafa fan 10/03/2006 at 03:41 PM

momofan, you are really Mici in disguise? You write in perfect Micinese! It just like a bad voice-recognition program, lol.

Posted by marieJ 10/03/2006 at 03:46 PM

4 the recored : sign of mici !
she's going to get mad to see her post from tennisx down here momo ! lol

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 03:48 PM

awww what is mici doing posting at tennis-x...

And is anyone else curious if it's pronounced "mickey" or "mee-chee"?

Posted by marieJ 10/03/2006 at 03:56 PM

she told me her friends nicknamed her mici from mickey mouse but with her spelling it could easily turn to be mici mouse...
wait for her comeback or post to mici in tennisx to see what happens ! it's fun she's betrayed by her writing...
a mouse who can't hide... in the blogosphere of tennis...hehe

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 04:08 PM


You know, as it usually happens with Mici, she's absolutely right about what she's talking about.

ALL HAIL MICI!!!

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 04:10 PM

No, rafa fan, I am most certainly *NOT* mici in disguise, lol. I'm a prankster alright but I would never tamper with the holy language of Shakespeare like that. My poor English professor would probably have a heart attack if he saw that, lol.

Posted by Fan of Tennis 10/03/2006 at 04:11 PM

Also goes to show that she really does post that way and it's not an act if she's posting that way in other blogs... She is who she is! Go Mici!

Posted by momofan 10/03/2006 at 04:13 PM

Actually, I have it on good faith that Mici's legit. It's just funny to see her posting under other handles at Tennis-x and seeing her English give her away. I'm afraid "micinese" is a one-person dialect, lol.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 04:32 PM

I havent seen mici here in quite some time. Is she diversifying?

Posted by Tari 10/03/2006 at 04:40 PM

ptenisnet:

Looks like she is! Actually, I chatted briefly with mici on another forum and she said she's taking a short break but will be back soon here. I think she'll get a kick out of being 'discovered' over at tennis-x...I give her credit because I can't even go to that site anymore. It's a shame, because it used to be an amusing stop on my tour of daily news sites.

Posted by mj. 10/03/2006 at 04:40 PM

Still wondering how Rafa Nadal's remark (in Spanish at the presentation of the Masters Series Madrid on Monday) that it wasn't known whether Federer would play the Davis Cup tie in February as the Swiss didn't usually play the first round ties was reported by someone careless or incompetent at AP (and then picked up by many who use such news agencies like FoxSports and even the BBC) as "Rafael Nadal is not sure whether he will play against Switzerland as he doesn't usually play the first play off".... even the most junior sports editor should have known that only a broken foot would keep Rafa from representing Spain in the DC.

Posted by rafa fan 10/03/2006 at 04:43 PM

I had a brutal dispute with Mici about Nadal a few blogs ago. It was the first time I understood what she says. But she knocks Nadal alot, and said he was second tier and got me going. I know she is out there somewhere!

Posted by Tari 10/03/2006 at 04:50 PM

You know, I give credit to all of the guys that are DC stalwarts for their countries. It's very commendable...but to suggest, as us quite often done, that Roger hasn't pulled his weight as far as DC goes is ridiculous. I suggest that anyone with a question have a look at his entire record with that. Only within the last year or two has he tapered off, and he's 25. I think comparing him to a rising 20 year old at the same time in their careers would be more fair.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 04:51 PM

Tari,
I always thought mici had a lot to say and sensible stuff too.

Posted by clayton 10/03/2006 at 04:53 PM


I feel bad for Jim Pierce because the tennis media - a very narrow media at that, dominated by the likes of Mary Carillo - found him guilty and licensed itself to smear his name every chance they could possibly get. Somehow, given the success of Mary Pierce over the years, it doesn't surprise me to hear that Spadea says he's a decent human being.

I think people should guard against wholesale condemnation of somebody just because of a couple of news article that are potentially slanted.

The latest personally damning media report to be circulated is the NYT article on the situation of Joe Giuliano. The allegations against Giuliano haven't been proven. One player - Tara Snyder - has made allegations, which need to be taken seriously and investigated. But i don't like this automatic assumption of Giuliano's guilt on the part of many in the tennis community based on ONE newspaper piece.

Posted by Gerry 10/03/2006 at 04:53 PM

Dunlop: Your observations of the junior tennis world are so astute. I have an 11 year old who wants to hit with me every day, takes a weekly lesson, plays in tournaments, and likes watching tennis on TV. He also loves playing baseball and plays well. But, he doesn't have the focus of the guys who are in the top 10-20 in SoCal, doesn't move his feet as he should, tends to choke against lesser players,etc. SO WHAT! I find myself frustrated with all this, but remember that I was no different at his age. I always wonder what it would look like to track the rankings of kids through the 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and see when kids fall out or appear from nowhere. Physical and mental abilities develop over a long time and at different rates. I want him to love tennis when he's my age. If he develops to be able to play college tennis and it's consistent with his educational goals, that's OK, but not the priority. But, we all (even good teaching pros) sometimes forget that just because we know what it is to focus, an 11-year old might not. My 6-year old is a "natural" player and has to be dragged off the court. As you say, I'd have to do something horrible to keep him from becoming a very good player, like making tennis unpleasant by pushing too hard, too soon. He will play soccer, baseball and basketball for at least 6 more years. Thanks.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 04:54 PM

mj,
I wondered about that. Rafa saying that he never played a 1st round DC tie sounded whacky, but I wasnt sure.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/03/2006 at 04:58 PM

All I will say is this, if Gerry's kids are also 11 and 6, there is a rule that no one on this board is allowed to comment on whether or not we appear to be flipping out on the sidelines if and when they play each other!

I do find though, that its amazing how much more logical things seem about one half hour after the match is over. During the match, that's anther story.

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 05:01 PM

Gotta take issue with a couple things in Mici/Momo's post...

--No way, ever, in any way, ever, EVER, is Sampras beating Nadal on clay, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. To think that is truly ludicrous. If RAMON DELGADO is beating Sampras in straight sets on clay, think about what Nadal would do to him.

--The media doesn't exaggerate Agassi's return skills. Yes, it's a bit easier to ace him, but big servers can rack up big numbers against anyone. I think, in fact, it's a testament to Agassi's amazing return skills that Joachim can set the record for most aces in a match against Andre and Andre wins IN 4 SETS. You really think anyone else (besides probably Roger) could pull that off?

Posted by Clayton 10/03/2006 at 05:07 PM


Agassi was the master of the ripped service return, but that ultimately was a low percentage play against Sampras.

Contrast that with Lleyton Hewitt's demolition of Sampras in the '01 USOpen final, where Hewitt achieved six breaks of serve in 3 sets merely by dipping his returns and then passing Sampras on the next ball. I'd say that Hewitt is a better returner than Agassi hands down.

Posted by steggy 10/03/2006 at 05:08 PM

new post up, just in case anyone cares.

Posted by Ryan 10/03/2006 at 05:16 PM

Clayton--I disagree becaaaaaause...
Lleyton is great at getting the ball back in play, but that strategy doesn't seem to be working out for him anymore. Players have too much power, and they can tee off on his safe returns. Also, Hewitt returned incredibly during that match, but Pete still had a handful of victories against him (which people tend to forget), although they were when Sampras was better and Hewitt wasn't at his best yet. Also, I think you're measuring Agassi and Hewitt in terms of Sampras only, which skews things a bit (even then, though, i feel that if Lleyton and Pete were the same age and played 34 times, Hewitt wouldn't match Agassi's 14 victories). Agassi's punishing return gave him the edge in countless matches--Lleyton's return kept him in matches, which he won not with his returning edge but with his speed, anticipation, etc.

Posted by AmyLu 10/03/2006 at 05:38 PM

MJ, I couldn't believe it either when I read the AP article about Nadal and Davis Cup. And I e-mailed them that even I, with my limited Spanish skills, could read his comments in Spanish and grasp that he was talking about Federer. Rafa definitely intends to play in Switzerland so hopefully he won't have any injury issues that prevent him from doing so!

Posted by Gerry 10/03/2006 at 06:17 PM

Dunlop:
BTW, you're exactly right about the attitude of former top players re their own kids. I saw a former tour player who had his son in the 10s of a tournament. He was laid back, yet involved. Taking some video, but I can't imagine that he was going to torment his kid with a post-match analysis. The boy was not particularly good, but I think he was 9. The father knew it didn't matter at all.

Posted by Rosangel 10/03/2006 at 07:02 PM

Pete asked: Who really feels sorry for Agassi today? I'd suggest not even Agassi himself. I have, however, recently read Mike Agassi's book, and I did feel pretty sorry for Andre's older siblings Tami, Phillip and Rita, none of whom was as good a player as Andre. Mike Agassi himself says that they were all effectively guinea pigs for what happened with Andre. Rita Agassi ended up marrying Pancho Gonzalez, many years older and a total womanizer, utterly against her parents' wishes, and that marriage was something that Mike clearly saw as being a reaction to the way he had treated her as a child and his sheer obsession with teaching his children tennis and the way he drove them and criticised them as a result. At least Mike Agassi was able to stand back and see something of what he had been like to his children, and to recognise how they suffered. But given the choice between being a good father to all his children and being the father of a grand slam winner, I guess he would do the same again. Andre might not feel sorry now, but how do the others feel? Phillip Agassi has been very supportive of his brother's tennis career (he was there in the stands at the US Open), but it would be fascinating to know of the thoughts of Andre's siblings. Do they think it was all 'worth it?'

Posted by marieJ 10/03/2006 at 08:13 PM

rosangel if you can achieve a good deal of what you set yourself as goals maybe...
it reminds me of many stories on how in some villages of africa, india and elsewhere in the world they sacrifice so much so a few of them can emmigrate to our golden countries and work hard to give back what they did recieve or sacrifice...
i think agassi did give back so many things and he's giving even more now that he has plenty of time and dedication for others who are still in need...

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/03/2006 at 09:48 PM

Vivien:

Of course I meant Sesil Karatancheva, who claimed she was pregnant and then aborted to justify her levels of testosterone when she was caught by doping ofense (the same tests proved she never was pregnant). Got mixed up with the names; Svetlana Krivencheva was another bulgarian tennis player who may well be retired by now.

Posted by skip1515 10/03/2006 at 11:47 PM

1. Pete, this was a great post, with wonderful transition from tractor to forehands. Thanks.

I wish you luck in finding the right balance for Luke, you and tennis. Not because I’ve had it tough, or because it has to be unpleasant; tennis is a tough, tough sport to learn, especially for a really young beginner (there’s a reason t-ball was invented). There’s not a lot of enjoyment to be had in swing-miss-swing-miss-chase balls-swing-miss-swing-contact!-chase balls.

My wife always thought I should teach our girls how to play, and never really understood why I didn’t want to be the one teach them; there are enough times when parents have to correct their kids without adding the tennis court scenario of “Well done/No, no, do it again”. If my girls had wanted to play, really wanted to play, then it would have been a no-brainer. But their interests didn’t go that way, so today they play, but it’s not a regular part of their lives.

I do think we missed something by not having them play some organized team sports from early on. The lessons that can be learned in that arena – how to deal with pressure, the obligation to the team and practice, what it’s like to lose, and win – are super valuable and, contrary to what non-sports folks think, really do translate to the rest of life. But we didn’t make this a priority for the girls.

They’ve been exposed to many other things, though, and they’ve profited from them. As a parent you hope the mix you throw at your kids becomes a recipe for a successful childhood, whatever the definition of that may be. It takes many years to find out if the recipe was a good one, however.

2. Kids spend the time on court necessary to be above average players due to either a parent’s asphyxiating compulsiveness or the child’s own passion. A good tennis parent benefits from the latter. But even in that case you’re continually faced with some of the toughest decisions a parent makes: when am I pushing my child too much, and when does my job as a teacher of life’s skills require me to *make* them do something? We could be talking tennis, practicing an instrument or homework here; it’s all the same, and all a huge challenge.

I once saw a number of instruments laying about a client’s house. We talked about the various means of cajoling kids to practice; she had intentionally had her 3 sons learn instruments so the four of them could play chamber music quartets. Among her prodding devices was a wager: if they could find an adult who didn’t wish they could play music now, as an adult, she’d pay that son $100. She’d never had to pay up.

3. Scene 1: I’m working with NJTL as a coach and attending a 12 and under tournament. While watching a match I mention to a competitor’s mother that this is great for the kids – all the lessons they learn, etc., etc. – since the odds of any of them getting to Wimbledon are all but nil. She says, “Why do you say that?”

(In the next second I save some face with a reflex catch of a ball hit out of the court and return it by throwing it around my back.)

Scene 2: A few years later I’m a full time teaching pro, now at a boys’ 14 and under tournament. This time I comment to the mother of one of our players how great it is that these guys all stand such a good chance of getting scholarships, since they’re all so skilled. She asks if I don’t think they’re talented. I reply, “If Bob (her son) had played the piano for as many hours a week, and for as many years, as he’s played tennis you’d expect him to be a very good pianist, but you wouldn’t expect him to be Horowitz.”

No ball is hit out of the court to help me salvage an uncomfortable moment born of my injudicious honesty.

Dunlop Maxply would be right 99,999 times out of 100,000 in predicting to a parent that their child wouldn’t end up being a touring pro, but he’d upset 100% of the parents he spoke to.

4. Scene 2 teaches me a metaphor I still use with adults: they should approach tennis with the same attitude they would in learning an instrument. It’s necessary to play a ton of boring scales if you want to be proficient. Substitute crosscourt forehands and backhands for scales and that’s what they need to be good players. Invariably, when I say this many heads nod in agreement. Why do people expect that musicianship requires monotonous, repetitive practice but tennis doesn’t?

5. The most advanced kids I’ve come across all share an uncanny social ability. They’re not more mature, really, but more poised. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

6. Hank: you mean you’re supposed to concentrate? Ohhhhhh….

Posted by daylily 10/04/2006 at 06:24 AM

Pete, what an absolutely beautiful child....and nose........i am serious, i'm a nose freak. living in the midsouth, most of them are formed by generations of limited anglo gene pools, so when i'm in new york or ANYPLACE that boasts large numbers of various ethnic groups i go nuts looking at wonderful schnozzes!

luke is just edible. you lucky guy.

Posted by Vivien 10/04/2006 at 09:39 AM

Miguel: thanks! What a weird and sad thing to do.

Posted by Mark Eckley 10/04/2006 at 11:31 AM

Great post- thought provoking and had a few laugh out loud bits, too.
(Taking Sharapov and Sharapova to court to 'prove' his relative success)

Asking a family member about another's character will get you a rational, reasoned reading rarely. Literally too close to home.

Ask a mom about her kids- 'let's see... they're pretty much perfect, but they don't call enough.'

Ask a daughter about her dad- 'he was like a benevolent king king, protected me and taught me about the world.'

Ask a sib about a sib- 'sure they're nice, smart and attractive, but wow do they have limitations!'

So one cannot judge a tennis parent from the player's take. Anymore than you can 'prove' something about a kid from their mom's perspective. We'd learn the most about the player from a sib- maybe you can interview John Roddick and find out how he feels about Andy's renewal under Connors' tutelage?

Posted by Todd and in Charge 10/04/2006 at 12:11 PM

Sorry I am late to this but Pete this post is superlative as are many of the comments.

I cannot agree, however, that the measure of a good "tennis parent" is solely whether or not the kid has on-court success. My values, and those we try to instill in our kids, emphasize fairness, good sportsmanship, honesty, friendship with others, effort, and skill over results, though those are nice and desirable at times too. I also want my children to be well-adjusted and comfortable with competitiion -- both the winning (that's easy), and the losing.

From what I have seen at the junior level, "success" in terms of winning at tennis requires single-minded devotion, channelling of all energies into the sport, practice every day, and a full-time orientation to the match play, the superseries, the designated, etc. Interest in other activities by the child is generally discouraged, friendships are encouraged with other junior players over others, and the parents and coaches repeatedly drill in the child that this is only way you will get better.

We got our kids into tennis by introducing them slowly to the sport, taking out a basket and teaching them how to hit, playing lots of mini-tennis, and having the family go to the courts together and compete. They play other sports too and we're fine with that -- we want them to succeed with their brains ultimately, not their bodies, but we use tennis to teach them life skills, to build character, to learn how to compete, and to spend time with them and each other.

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