Sunday, September 13, 2009

You're going to shove what where how hard?

Nothing like a good old-fashioned tantrum to put the US Open back on the map. Brings back memories of those guys we loved to hate or hated to love – Nastase, McEnroe, Conners … They were assholes, but they were interesting assholes. Portraits of what can happen to the tremendously talented, pushed, driven, and spoiled.

As soon as instant replay hit the grand slams, tennis became fair, clean, and a little boring. Sort of like one Sampras match after another, only of interest to those of us who play. And while I get my kicks out of ogling this guy or another (because nowadays only the astonishingly beautiful are allowed to play), I could do with a little more overt personality. It’s hard to get totally invested in a side when it’s just nice versus nice.

The last great character, Marat Safin, retired this week. Safin had a combination lethal serve, deadpan delivery, and unpredictability. He once dropped his shorts and mooned the crowd after a bad call. Call me tasteless and juvenile, but I’m really going to miss him.

Because, you know, tennis is much, much more than just shoving the ball from one side of the net to the other. It’s poker, chess, gymnastics, track, but most of all, it’s a game of nerves. One man or woman out there against all odds.

So, you go Serena. I never liked to watch you play before, but now I can’t wait. You might try once more to put your game face on, but we’ll know exactly what’s behind it.


  1. I tuned in just as Serena was bounced so I missed the dramz. I don't think I would pay a bit of attention to tennis if Connors wasn't in the booth. I guess I like my tennis with some snark for the main course.

  2. I was watching yesterday when It happened. Overofficiating, temper tantrum, cool, I thought. I grew up on Nasty Nastase.

    Although the commentary in the booth between McEnroe and Mary Carillo when he suggested that it's always a good thing when women players take a few years to go off and have babies and find themselves, was almost as good. She sounded like she might shove what where how hard herself.

  3. Does all this come in categories: stiring, wit (ironic & sardonic), bullying, and self-indulgent tanrums?

    I always find it mesmerising to watch as LLeyytton pulls himself off the canvas with his utlimately corroding brand of psychologising.

    Confidence and self-belief ultimately blind-side good behaviour.

  4. If no one demands they grow up, many won't. Has an entertainment value, however.


  5. A footfault was called on 0-30 second serve when Serena was down a set and about to lose the second. So Serena said something to the linesperson to the effect of "If you're wrong, I'll take this effing ball and shove it down your mother effing face." (In pure anglo-saxon or germanic words, depending on which etimology you subscribe to.)

    Linda's right, vintage Nastase.

  6. See, this is why I don't like to be first in line. Everyone after me gets the benefit of hindsight.

    Loose Caboose

    wv ouspide

  7. Looked like a bad call to me, eh?

    We need another Nastase or McEnroe!

    My friend's daughter, Amber Liu, won the NCCA women's singles title twice, but can't match up with the pros. She did marry Michael Chang, however.

    How much tennis do you play, AH? I used to play a lot back in the day.

  8. Ok I get it. Seems rather poor form.

  9. So is the correctness of the call yet to be decided?

    Like I care...

  10. Petrea;

    The call stands because it was made and can't be reviewed. It might even have been correct - it just looked close to me.

    Footfault calls are often thought of as chicken___ in big matches and especially on important points. It's kind of like NBA basketball where certain calls are just not made at the end of a close game. The referees who are responsible for calling footfaults don't really like to do it because it's very technical and often the player doesn't know they're doing it. After yesterday's match, there's now talk of using automated techniques to call footfaults as they now do to call the ball in or out of bounds - so it will no longer be up to the referee.

  11. Sure, tennis is a wicked game, with nerve.

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  13. I'm just saying there has been a good ole court explosion for a long time.

  14. I used to go to the National Junior Hardcourt Championships in Burlingame. The kids had learned to use certain words, like "fudge", to replace cussing. One guy kept saying "nails" everytime he messed up. At one point he elaborated, "Nails, that's tough." There were a lot of outbursts, but always in code.

  15. I feel puzzled by this, but unsure how to express it. Or whether to bother ...

    If I park in a 1 hour zone and get pinged for being 1 minute over, what rights/obligations do I have?

    If I drive in a 40kph zone and get pinged for travelling at 45kph, what rights/obligations do I have?

    Is this the rule of law (yes!)? Do we accept the ruling of whatever adjudicator is empowered in that jurisdiction?

    Is there any element required here to accept the obligations of being a role model?

    Is there any obligation here to accept that we are in the w-r-o-n-g?

    Or is bad behaviour an acceptable element of competition? Is winning and the pot of gold the only focus?

    What if this occurred in the business arena? Which it did last October ...

    What if this occurred in the political arena? Which it did in Florida in 2004 ...

    What if this occurred in the military arena? Which it did at Abu Ghraib ...

    Is brinkmanship, foul language, and aggression an acceptable form of life to you.

    To you ... to each of you ... the individual you ... ?

    I support the rule of law. The rule of the majority, even to my own disadvantage. I thought that was what democracy was. I thought that was what being civilised was. That moving from childhood to adulthood involved the acceptance of the two-edged sword of maturity.

  16. Hi AH. Thanks for popping over to my block and leaving such a nice comment. I didn't see the tennis, so I can't really comment - except to say that I abhore bad manners (well I AM English, so it's inbred!)
    I've been catching up on your posts. Your sculpure post made me laugh. It reminded me of a sculpture I made years ago of my dad - he had an extra joint in his leg when I'd finished!

    I didn't realise the fires were so close to you - glad you were safe.

    Thanks for a great blog.

  17. Ogling this guy or another is kick enough for me. :)

  18. GO SERENA GO, even if she beated my sweet PENNETTA. I adore this caracter.

  19. Don't like instant replay in any sport. Do like the car rental commercials where McEnroy screams at the attendant.

  20. Julie made me smile.

    So, if they automate the footfault, we'll have nothing left but racquet abuse. I love when they call that penalty because it conjures up all kinds of images.

  21. I didn't see any of this "fun", but have heard various reports.

    As any athlete knows, there are times that ticky-tack fouls are called, there are times they are not. Generally accepted rule is when you are in the situation Serena was in, you don't mess with the game---let them play. So unless she's hucking the raquet AT you, leave her alone and leave the foot-faults alone too. As when Michael Jordan would take 4 steps to get to the hoop and it was not called---that's just the way it is.

    Unless of course, someone had money riding on the match and this line judge was in cahoots with someone over money.

    and AH---I love the image of raquet such a pedestrian sport as tennis too! Then again, my feeling has always been---if you want to abuse something, go ahead, just don't make watch!

  22. I once owned a Pancho Gonzales tennis racket that I purchased with blue chip stamps. A passing fad for me but may I suggest you follow the link. His is a very interesting story

  23. wow PA, what a story. Of course I've heard the name but had no idea went along with it.

  24. Agreed. The story of Gonzales is sobering. Shows Agassi in an even nicer glow.

    I like the differentiation between pround and prideful ...

  25. As I said: home ground and honesty.

  26. It's been a long time since I watched tennis matches. I'm completely confused by the idea of a "fault" that does not get called when the match is close and near the end. Maybe I should ask, what's the consequence of the foot-fault being called, when the athlete it's called against does not have a meltdown and simply accepts the call?

  27. A footfault is when the server steps on the baseline or into the court before striking the ball. The consequence is that it's like a serve that's hit out or into the net. You get two tries to serve to put the ball in play. A footfault costs you one of those tries. If you footfault on your second serve, it's a point for your opponent.

    In Serena's case, it appears that she hit the ball while both feet were off the ground and then landed in the court. That is ok. If your foot doesn't hit inside the court before you hit the ball, it's not a footfault.

    If they installed an electronic footfault detector, it would slow the game down because there would be more footfaults than are currently called. But after awhile, the players would get used to standing further behind the line when serving. They would adjust.

  28. Julie: AH knows why she cannot be serious!!

  29. Let's go to the rulebook:

    The Rules of Tennis

    The Singles Game

    8. Foot Fault
    The Server shall throughout the delivery of the Service:
    a. Not change his position by walking or running. The Server shall not by slight movement of the feet which do not materially affect the location originally taken up by him, be deemed "to change his position by walking or running".
    b. Not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the base-line within the imaginary extensions of the centre-mark and side-lines.

    USTA Comment: The key to understanding this rule is to realize that the Server's feet must be at rest immediately before beginning to serve. Immediately thereafter, the delivery of the service begins with any arm or racket motion, and ends when the racket contacts the ball (or misses the ball in attempt to strike it).

    If either foot touches the Court, including the baseline, or the imaginary extension of a line specified in Rule 8b. after his feet are at rest but before he strikes the ball, he has committed a foot fault.
    There can be no foot fault if the Server does not attempt to strike at the ball. As long as the Server makes no attempt to strike at the ball, it is immaterial whether he catches it in his hand or his racket or lets it drop to the ground.

    USTA Comment: This rule covers the most decisive stroke in the game, and there is no justification for its not being obeyed by players and enforced by officials. No official has the right to instruct any umpire to disregard violations of it. In a non-officiated match, the Receiver, or his partner, may call foot faults after all efforts (appeal to the server, request for an umpire, etc.) have failed and the foot faulting is so flagrant as to be clearly perceptible from the Receiver's side.

    It is improper for any official to warn a player that he is in danger of having a foot fault called on him. On the other hand, if a player asks for an explanation of how he foot faulted, either the Line Umpire or the Chair Umpire should give him that information.

  30. Oh Earl, you're delicious.

    I was riding my horse this afternoon so caught only the last set of the men's final, which is perfect really, if you can ever time things that way. Nice to have a new face.

  31. Could having both feet off the ground be considered vertical running?

    A new face is welcome ...

  32. Serena is a giant bully and she had it coming! But yea, gimme some damn personality anytime. Djokovic has got some, I hear he does wicked impersonations of fellow players. But Federer? Geesh, he is great, but his whole giant "RF" logo. How come it's not on his ass as well? but I am stunned Del Petro ousted him. But they all go down eventually. Gimme more mad McEnroe! Nutty Nastase! Remember that Brazilian player of a few years back? Forgot his name, great sense of humor, think he had a coke habit..

  33. get rid of all electronic machines that monitor play. Then the players will be back to yelling at everyone and themselves...

  34. Thanks for all the explanations.

    If I follow correctly, it means that Williams' opponent would have been serving next, and Williams would have been one point away from losing?

    Now that I have a better grasp of the issue, I have to say that for entertainment value, Ken Mac probably has it right: more controversy, less certainty sounds like more fun than an electronic fault-finder.

  35. Oh Jean. Let's not let a good thing die. Serena was two points away from losing the game, the set, and the match. Her first serve must have been out, and her second serve, being a foot fault, was a point for her opponent, leaving her one point from losing the game, set, and match. Her outburst then cost her another point, because she'd been warned earlier for abusing her racquet. That last point ended the game, the set, and the match.

  36. There were players I always felt if they had one more touch of the ball before the game was over, they could still win. Great ones have come back when they are in the last set, down 3 games and serving. When Jimmy Connors was in that position, no one left the stadium. Serena is also one of those who, particularly in the past couple of years have become one of those. To be two points away from winning a game an staying it the play, and to be called for a foot foul, and already have an earlier call for racket abuse, in a Grand Slam match worth $1.8 mil. . . Can’t we cut some slack for a tick tack foot fault call? People have been getting away with those for years. Personally, as a Saint, the most I have said on a court, in a fit of dismay over play was Oh Shostakovitch or Oh, Frappe, instead of the S--- and F--- words. But, it is nice to be in company where people can be so controlled, and wag their fingers at those caught in those moments. It also makes me feel good knowing those people have never slung invective at their loved ones.

  37. I'm gonna put a Zuflacht on you...because you're mine!

  38. This?