1. Actually Playing Tennis
It's been a nice tennis weekend. I played tennis at SICC yesterday with a partner from the firm, his friend and his sister (this lineup + sister) and...let's just say that the highlight of the session was the compliments I got on my Masha outfit, i.e. this one:
The rest of it was...I think "horrifying" is too mild a word to describe how horrifying it was. But the bottom line is this: It is seriously, seriously time for me to sort out my serve. I avoid playing games with people because I can't serve, and I hate having to serve in front of people that I'm not very comfortable with because I hate looking bad in front of them. The moment when I knew that I had to get a serve, even if I had to pay for it, was when it was my turn to serve and I fucking served four fucking double faults in a row.
I just could not get the ball into the court. It went over the net for sure, but all the balls that went over the net landed beyond the service line. I was not happy with myself at all, and I think it showed, 'cause Partner tried to be encouraging when I finally got one serve in.
That's it, then. I'm starting tennis lessons at Marina Square this Tuesday and I'm going to tell my new coach that I aim to learn how to serve properly at the end of the 10 sessions. I mean, seriously. I've been playing for two and a half years and I still can't serve? I need to stop being lazy. I don't practice it because I'm not good at it and it's not fun to do something that I can't do, which simply pertuates the vicious cycle of my being unable to serve even more. My desire to win has to be backed up by actual competence at the sport; ergo, I'm glad I finally stopped procrastinating and got myself a coach. It's about time.
(Downside is, I'm paying $780 for ten one-hour lessons. I chose this guy because he operates out of Marina Square which is near the office so I don't have to rush back after work and all that. I hope he's good. He should be - he knew, or knew people who knew, Roger Federer's beloved first coach who died in a car crash when he was still a new pro. My new coach told me that he thinks Roger is sick of tennis. I desperately hope he's wrong; it will be a very sad day, a very depressing day actually, for me when Roger announces his retirement. Sigh. Let's not even think about that yet.)
Today, Mr Topspin tried to help me with my serve, which was very nice of him. And I suppose the bright side was that I discovered the problem lies in the ball toss: I always toss the ball too low. That, or it's too high above my head. People weren't fucking kidding when they told me the hardest part about the serve is the ball toss. It's so difficult to get it in the right position. I don't think I have much issues with instinctively knowing when to hit it; the problem is really all in the toss. And the toss is going to be the solution to be the problem. I just know this. Everything else - the knee bend, the different kinds of serve - will follow once the toss has been sorted out.
Maybe I should just pull a Dinara Safina and copy her toss. It's so high, I'm sure I'd never miss the optimal contact point if I had that toss.
Bleah. I wish I'd just wake up tomorrow and magically know how to serve properly. Since that's obviously impossible, I have no choice but to work at it.
In other Actually Playing Tennis news, I'm getting more and more comfortable hitting a forehand. I think watching Roger in Monte Carlo this week has inspired me this weekend, kind of. The backhand is still...bleah. I went for a kill shot today - tried to go for a winner from the centre of the court. The good news is, the ball didn't land in the net. The bad news is, the ball was out.
Super, super sad. That would've been a really awesome one.
2. Roger Federer
He lost to Jurgen Melzer Friday night when I was still at work. I broke my rule of never watching a match that he's lost because I needed to see how bad it was.
It wasn't that bad. He just wasn't consistent. He played the points preceding the big points well, but when it came to the big points, he just couldn't pull it out. His breakpoint conversion was 0 for 7. Would be okay, except he was broken first in both sets and was playing catch-up in both sets. I honestly couldn't tell how much of his loss was due to Melzer playing well and how much was due to Roger playing below par, but I was definitely disturbed by how many times Melzer actually wrong-footed Roger with his annoying backhand dropshots (how did Wei Chuen know this?! I complained that Roger was losing to Melzer and Wei Chuen said, "Lol is Melzer doing his backhand dropshots?"), and the number of times Melzer was able to hit clean winners off his backhand. It wasn't like Melzer dominated; Roger had so many break back points immediately after he was broken, but he just couldn't convert.
If he'd made one less unforced error on a break point that he faced; if he'd made that inside-out forehand on a break back point that he had; if the winds hadn't been so gusty, if the dirt from the clay hadn't been swirling in the air and getting into his eyes; maybe even if he'd had a different opponent. I don't know. I try my best to distance myself emotionally from his matches, but I can't help but feel sad when he loses to someone that he has no business losing to. Not to belittle Melzer; he's a good player. But I just can't imagine Roger still losing to him if he'd come on court with his A-game. I definitely appreciated that he tried all sorts of ways to get himself back into the match, but his performance as a whole felt flat to me. Mr Topspin said today he didn't look like he wanted to win, and that's true to the extent that he looked almost resigned that he just wasn't going to pull off the comeback that day.
I'm still waiting for him to go back to his winning ways. It may be in futility, but I'm just so invested in him that I won't stop waiting until the day he retires. I'm waiting for him to win a Grand Slam again, waiting for him to beat Djokovic finally (this year), to beat Nadal again, etc. His results have been pretty good this year, until he lost to Melzer. I would've taken it better if Melzer hadn't lost 3 and 2 against David Ferrer immediately after beating Roger, but Melzer did. So how do I still tell myself that Roger lost to the better player? Perhaps he did lose to the better player on the day; but honestly, if I were him, I wouldn't accept that kind of outcome for myself at all.
This is why I wasn't excited or optimistic when he showed quite an impressive form against Kohlschreiber in his opening match. His pattern of late has been like this: he dispatches a lower-ranked opponent ruthlessly, he gets all his fans excited, then he plays like a shit against a top-ranked opponent. It's like he's forgotten how to hit his kill shots. Or maybe the players are just getting faster and catching up to him.
I don't know. But the worst-case scenario would be for him to lose interest in competing. My new coach said that he's done it all and there are no challenges left for him. I suppose that's true, but I selfishly want him to win 20 majors before he retires. He's 4 majors shy of that tally. Does he still feel motivated to win? Can he still do it? Only time will tell; but as a diehard Fedtard, I will always believe that he can.
3. Other news
I just finished John Banville's The Sea. It beat out Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Julian Barnes' England, England for the Man Booker in 2005. England, England is one of my favourite novels, if not my favourite, and I really loved Never Let Me Go, too, so I was expecting something mind-blowing from The Sea.
The writing definitely blew my mind. The pacing and plot, though, not so much. I found myself losing interest halfway through because it felt like Banville was piddling along like a snail and losing focus of what he wanted to do and what he wanted to say. The style also changed quite drastically in the first part and to the second part: the density of the prose simmered down in the second, and the sentences became more truncated and abrupt. It's a nice way to signal the narrator's increasing sense of loss and desolation and I didn't mind it, but if I'm not ordinarily used to writing dense sentences, I wouldn't be able to keep up the intensity and I would revert to my usual way of writing, taking the easy way out. It felt a bit like that with The Sea. But then, what do I know? I'm just a poseur wishing she could write.
As for the plot, the stupid blurb misled me into thinking the book was about A and so I kept wondering when A was going to be revealed. That definitely distracted me from the novel as a whole. I wish publishers would be more responsible about writing these blurbs.
Lastly, the writing. SHIT, it was AMAZING. So lyrical, so poetic, so beautiful. It's been a while since I've read something so intricately and lovingly and beautifully written. Most of the time I was reading it just to see what else he can do, what other beautiful sentences he can come up with.
I shall read his other novel that was shortlisted for a Booker but which lost to Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. I hope I like it, story-wise, better than The Sea.