Australian Open Worst Dressed, with Bonus Academy Award Poll

Have no fear. I didn’t forget about the worst-dressed Australian Open players, as much as I might like to. There really were some doozies this year, although I suspect our first nominee will run away with this thing. Continue reading “Australian Open Worst Dressed, with Bonus Academy Award Poll”

Friday Fashion Face-off: Australian Open Best-Dressed Woman

I’m trying to catch up on my New Year’s resolution to write at least three posts a month. Today’s post counts toward January’s total. Am I allowed to do that? Of course I am. It’s my blog.

The ladies at this year’s Australian Open runway didn’t disappoint. Nobody blew me away, mind you. But it was a respectable showing for the year’s first Slam. Continue reading “Friday Fashion Face-off: Australian Open Best-Dressed Woman”

Friday Fashion Face-off: Australian Open Best-Dressed Man

Yup, I know. It’s Sunday, not Friday. Not only that, but this Best-Dressed Man post should have run nine days ago, not two. What can I say? Disorganization is part of my overall charm.

So without further ado, let’s get to our nominees… Continue reading “Friday Fashion Face-off: Australian Open Best-Dressed Man”

Aces for Australia

Could I be turning into a Nick Kyrgios fan?

Not of his tennis—I was always a fan of that. But of him as a person. The temperamental Aussie may be finally winning me over.

I imagine he’s won over quite a number of people recently. You’ve probably heard of his pledge to donate $200 for every ace he hits during the Australian tennis season to support victims of his country’s devastating wildfires. That’s a hefty pledge for someone who serves as many aces as Kyrgios does.

Under that brash exterior lies a heart of gold. Meanwhile, I sit behind my iPad snarking about everybody’s clothes. Kyrgios is putting me to shame.

It’s time to step up! I’m hereby matching Kyrgios’s pledge. I will donate $200–no, make that $250!—for every ace I hit during the month of January.

Oh lord, I just crack myself up. That would have been a pretty safe pledge for me even before my frozen shoulder.

Here’s the real pledge. A quarter for every ace Kyrgios hits. That works out to 1/800th, or .125%, of Kyrgios’s pledge. Sounds stingy, I know, but I don’t have his kind of money and he’s super-motivated to hit aces right now. A motivated Kyrgios is a dangerous thing. He hit twenty aces in his very first match!

In fact, just to be safe, I’ll cap my pledge at 1,000 aces.

Anybody want to join in with a pledge of their own? $10 for every ace you hit this month? $1 for every ace your team hits? Ten cents for each Federer ace? Let’s see if this blog can do some good for a change.

You can send donations to the Australian Red Cross.

Please share this post with any tennis fans who might want to participate.

Go, Kyrgios! ❤️ 🎾

My Tennis Resolutions

There are two types of people. Those who like New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

I’m firmly in the camp of resolvers. I love envisioning a new and improved version of me, one in which I’m flossing religiously and filing all my paperwork away and running 10Ks and drinking juiced kale for breakfast. That me is friggin’ awesome.

About a decade ago, in the days leading up to New Year’s, I made twenty-six resolutions. I had to write them down just to remember them all. I had all the bases covered—weight loss, housework, writing, exercise, learning a new language. I drew up a giant chart with colored markers and stocked up on shiny gold stars. It was all so exciting and promising…

…until January 1st came and I had to execute this monstrous self-improvement plan. I spent all my waking hours trying to keep on top of my chart, constantly checking to see which tasks were still uncompleted and feeling inadequate every single minute of the day. It was exhausting and dispiriting, and the chart was in the trash by the end of the week.

The key, of course, is to shoot for small changes—and not too many of them. Every year my resolutions shrink in size and number. Two years ago, I resolved to never leave a hair appointment without setting up the next one. Not exactly inspiring, is it? Nevertheless, that small change has stuck and has made my life marginally more manageable. That’s probably all we can reasonably expect from a resolution.

By now I feel like I’ve mastered this resolution business, which is why I was surprised to see that I didn’t make any tennis-related resolutions on this blog this time last year. How can that be? It surely isn’t because I have nothing to improve. I could have resolved to poach more, or learn a drop shot, or play more singles. I could have resolved to upgrade my tennis wardrobe. (Yes, you can steal that last resolution, if you want.)

This year, setting a tennis resolution is trickier since my shoulder is still frozen and I don’t know when I’ll be able to play again. But after a little reflection, I’ve come up with these three:

Resolution 1. Do my physical therapy twice a day, every day. Is it cheating if I’m already doing this? I don’t care. I’m including it anyway.

Resolution 2. Write a blog post at least three times a month. That’s a pretty low bar. Remember when I was churning out three posts a week? I must have been on crack.

Resolution 3. Be kind to myself when I play. When I get back on the court, I’m going to suck—and when I suck, I get negative. But what I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that sucking on the court still beats not sucking on the sidelines. Going forward, I resolve to just be grateful that I’m playing and enjoy.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Do you have any resolutions, tennis-themed or otherwise? What do you hope to achieve in 2020?

Gongoozling in the Digital Age

Have you forgotten our new vocabulary word already? Gongoozling means to be a spectator. (It also means something else which is NOT the subject of this post.) Go retake our vocab quiz if you need a refresher.

My (now frozen) shoulder still has me sidelined, so instead of playing yesterday, I gongoozled. I couldn’t watch my own team—they were playing an away match and I didn’t have time to make the trip. Instead, I watched one of my club’s other teams play its home match. Such inspiring tennis!

Here’s something I noticed yesterday, and not for the first time. I was talking quietly with another gongoozler when I overheard someone say, “Oh, wow—great shot.”

I looked back to the court, but of course I’d missed the whole thing. “No matter,” an inane voice in my head piped up. “I’ll just rewind it.”

You know, rewind. Like we can do with live television now, whether we’ve programmed the DVR or not. Just hit that handy left-facing arrow button on the remote and you get a second chance to see what you missed while you were busy googling what language is spoken in Greenland (West Greenlandic, English and Danish) or checking on the state of your cuticles (deplorable).

Only, much to my dismay, it turns out that real life doesn’t work like that. There’s no remote. If you missed it, you’re plum out of luck.

Probably in the dystopian future, when the world is so saturated with security cameras that no inch remains unsurveilled, we’ll be able to open an app and see a replay of anything we want. I figure it’ll work something like this: I set my time parameters (e.g., the last 3 minutes), point the phone camera at the area I want to see, and voila! I’ll have a replay of Eileen’s perfect poach.

But until that glorious day arrives, we’re mostly stuck in a you-snooze-you-lose reality. Better pay attention, bub, because this moment is happening one time only.

As I indicated earlier, this isn’t the first time I’ve come face-to-face with my bizarre belief that I can rewind real life. Almost always, it happens when I’m watching a tennis match in person. I’ve tried to explain this experience to other tennis players, only to have them look at me with an unmistakeable mixture of pity and concern. Apparently, I’m an anomaly. Or we could say I’m exceptional, which certainly sounds better.

Mostly it just amuses me when these mental blips occur. But they’ve got me wondering whether I’ve become a less attentive person overall. It’s clear that I’m less attentive during television shows or online because I don’t have to be attentive. As a kid, I was completely absorbed in Scooby Doo or Happy Days because rewinding live television wasn’t an option. If you missed it, you missed it. My default setting, like everyone else’s, was attentive.

Today, when it comes to television, my default setting is inattentive (except for Breaking Bad, of course). It’s especially that way when I’m watching tennis matches, because let’s face it, it’s hard to stay riveted when Rafa is toweling his face, kicking clay off the baseline, touching his shoulders, nose and ears, and picking his shorts between every point. He finally serves…and it’s a let. He gets another ball and starts his OCD ritual all over again.

The amount of actual high-quality tennis action in any match is small, compared to the time eaten up with unreturned serves, double faults, face mopping, ball sorting, ball bouncing and changeovers. And my attention, like everyone else’s these days, is frayed. As much as I love watching tennis, I multitask and daydream and end up missing some quality points. I have the luxury of doing that because of that wonderful little remote.

All that’s fine, until I find myself adrift in real life without my trusty rewind button. Fortunately, in most environments, my rewindlessness doesn’t affect me. I had a long walk in the snowy woods with my dog this afternoon, sans cell phone, and I was fully present, no need for a rewind. So all is not lost.

All I have to do is recapture that mindfulness on the tennis sidelines, in my new role of gongoozler.

Have you gongoozled any matches in person lately? Did you momentarily—even just for a nanosecond—have the instinct to reach for the remote and rewind something? (Please? Anyone?) Is the only solution to my inattentiveness less television? (Nooooo…..)

Holiday Tennis Gifts

Happy Cyber Monday, guys!

If you’re tackling your online holiday shopping today, check out the gift shop at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The shop stocks some nifty tennis-themed items, like Sugarpova candy, adorable ball-and-racquet cheese spreaders, fun hair ties, tote bags, vintage tennis can thermoses, and much more. They’re perfect for that special tennis player or blogger in your life.

Of course, they’re also good for treating yourself, if you’re into that kind of thing…which I am, so enough blogging. I’m going to shop!

(And, no, I don’t earn any money when you order. I’m still waiting for this blog to turn into a cash cow, or even just a cash hamster.)

🎾☃️

Little White Ball

Now that the leaves are off the trees (and hopefully off your lawn) and the summer clothes are packed away, a New Englander’s thoughts naturally turn to golf.

Wait—what?

Yup, I’m posting a golf essay on a tennis blog the day before Thanksgiving. Why would I do that? Four reasons:

  1. Golf is just a metaphor for Important Life Lessons.
  2. The essay does mention tennis. Three times, in fact.
  3. The theme feels Thanksgiving-y, in a counting-your-blessings kind of way.
  4. I needed to clear the cobwebs off this blog and post something. This is what I have on hand.

 

A Thanksgiving Golfing Essay

As anyone who has taken up golf knows, the first few outings can be rough going. You hack up a giant clod of sod while the ball remains placidly on the tee. You shank the ball off the butt of the club. You twist your spine, rotate your shoulders and unload on the ball, only to see it roll a begrudging ten yards. It’s a lesson in humiliation, especially if you’re in the company of seasoned golfers.

My mother came to golf late in life. A childhood tomboy and college tennis player, she enjoyed most sports, yet the plodding pace of golf held little appeal to her. When my father retired, though, she wanted to join him on his long golfing afternoons. Her early forays weren’t pretty.

My mother, God bless her, was a master of positive thinking. She knew she’d eventually conquer this sport, if she could only get past its two initial hurdles: one, learning the correct technique, and two, dealing with the soul-sapping frustration that comes with recording scores of 17 or 18 on a par 4 hole. That early frustration can itself lead to bad form and worse results–and ultimately drive a person to quit the sport altogether.

So my mother invented her own scoring system. She called it “counting my beauties.” While my father and their golfing friends would dutifully add up every stroke, my mother would record only the shots that soared straight down the fairway. Any shot that dribbled off the tee, or bounced meanly along the ground, or veered off in an unexpected direction, simply didn’t count in her score.

In essence, she turned a blind eye to her failures. She neither censured herself nor gave herself pep talks. The failures weren’t something to curse, accept, or forgive herself for. They just didn’t exist.

I was a young adult when my mother adopted her unconventional approach, and I found it a bit embarrassing. Her game of “let’s all pretend I didn’t take eight shots to get out of the sand trap” seemed childish. I imagined her fellow golfers rolling their eyes as she cheerily penciled in a “1” at the end of a hole.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom of her self-deception. Although her failures were evident for all to see, she refused to incorporate them as part of her reality, as part of the measure of her worth. By refusing to give them any weight, she robbed them of their power.

Of course, my mother was blessed with a healthy dose of confidence and optimism. (“Moxie” was one of her favorite words.) For me, such blithe blindness to failure is harder to come by. Losing a tennis match can leave me in a funk for the rest of the day. A publisher’s rejection invariably provokes a minor existential crisis.

But while my mother’s natural disposition helped her to focus on the positive, it’s also true that ignoring her failures reinforced her optimism. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, fueled not just by outlook but by choices.

As the weeks went by, my mother’s beauty count steadily increased. The higher her score, the happier she was, exactly the opposite of how most golfers want to see their scores trending.

Eventually, my mother didn’t need an alternate scoring system anymore. She worked her way up to the point that her score matched my father’s, in the process becoming an accomplished golfer.

I’ve spent most of my life outside the optimism loop, not seeing an on-ramp for someone with a naturally pessimistic outlook. While I’ll never be as sanguine as my mother, her scoring system makes me wonder if I can become more optimistic simply through willpower. Rather than focusing on my win-loss record in tennis or publishing, I’ve started counting my beauties. That well-placed serve. That well-turned phrase.

On my mental score card, I pencil in my “1.”

 

Hope you all have a beauty-filled Thanksgiving! 🦃🎾⛳️

**Essay originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor.

The Word Nerd Quiz

Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Participants in NaNoWriMo, as it’s commonly called, commit to writing a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. If you haven’t started your novel, it’s not too late—you’re only 1,666 words behind. (Unless, of course, you’re reading this on Sunday, in which case you’re 3,332 words behind. Better get busy.)

I should have no trouble tapping out 1,666 words a day since I’m again sidelined from tennis. More shoulder woes. I’m hoping it won’t take too much longer before I’m back on the court. In the meantime, I’m relegated to the lesser role of gongoozler.

Isn’t that fun to say? Gongoozler! As you’ve no doubt surmised, it means spectator. You can also use it as a verb—gongoozle—but after looking that up online, I’ve discovered an alternate meaning I’d prefer not to invoke. I’ll leave you to uncover that particular definition on your own—I am NOT going there.

Yes, I know. Now you want to go there. Fine. I’ll wait while you go google it…

(Ick, right? Why is there even a word for that?!)

I, for one, am not about to let the pervs usurp and distort this wonderful word. I’m going to say it with pride, or as much pride as one can muster sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else have all the fun. I’m the gongoozler!

Over the last week, I’ve learned a slew of other excellent words, courtesy of Joe Gillard’s Little Book of Lost Words. And because I’m always thinking of you, I’ve done the hard work of digging into this collection, identifying ten fun and useful words to throw around at our tennis matches.

What’s more, you’ll be able work these words into your NaNoWriMo manuscript. Now you only have to write another 49,990. You’re welcome.

Learning new words is fun. You know what else is fun? Vocabulary quizzes! Because nothing says weekend like a pop quiz.

The Vocab Quiz

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