Sunday, February 27, 2011

Peace through Tennis: The Indo-Pak Express

Photo: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

In today's political world of turmoil and trouble, Rohan Bopanna (India) and Aisam-ul-Qureshi (Pakistan) are helping to spread a message of peace through tennis.

India and Pakistan are nuclear powers in the Indian sub-continent. And they have often been bitter adversaries and foes in global geopolitics.

But that did not stop Indian Bopanna and Pakistani Qureshi, friends for 14 years, from joining forces in 2007 to play doubles.

By 2010, the rising duo sported some major credentials: the U.S. Open Final, Wimbledon Quarterfinals, 5 ATP tour finals and the Johannesburg Open Championship. They recently ranked as high as in the top 10 of doubles teams in the world.

And they have become known as the "Indo-Pak Express", offering an example of how sport and tennis can help build bridges.

On their tennis rise, Bopanna commented: "We just have to keep learning from every game going forward. That's the only thing. We just have to learn from our mistakes, keep trying and keep improving for the tournaments ahead."

Qureshi added: "It has been a good thing for the last two years. if you see our rankings, it has been improving every month, every week. So, it feels really good. Doing well with a really, really good friend on the Tour is like the icing on the cake."

As for any political message sent by the pair, Bopanna humbly insists that tennis is, of course, their main focus. He explained: "It's just two friends trying to help each other in their respective careers. He doesn't have anybody from Pakistan to play with."

Of course, most observers know that there is something special going on here also - wherever the Indo-Pak Express play tennis.

As Qureshi reflected: “It’s a message of peace to the world. We are not talking about just Indians or Pakistanis. It’s about the beauty of sports. In football, you see so many different nations, so many different cultures, so many different religions, they are all playing in the same team."

“It’s the same thing about tennis. We are trying our best to send the same message of peace through our game, whatever we can do in the best way possible. If both of us, from different nations, different cultures and religions, can get along well, others can, too."


The Indo-Pak Express

Sunday, February 20, 2011

GQ Magazine's "25 Coolest Athletes of All Time"

GQ Magazine's Feb. 2011 Edition is out.

And this month, they list their "25 Coolest Athletes of All Time" (in no special order).

For GQ, "cool" means "grace", "style", "swagger", "guys you know by just one name", and just plain wow.

Any tennis players on the list?

You bet.

Bjorn Borg
"Borg is beautiful." He is "seamless." Resistance is futile. He's not brash or loud like Connors or McEnroe. Nor is he boring or robotic like Lendl. He's "as inscrutable and noble as a statue." Said Arthur Ashe once, "Borg is larger than the game. . . like Elvis."

Arthur Ashe
Ashe is "graceful, refined." But on court, he had a "killer streak." Ashe is "one of many great American tennis players, but the only one to have America's greatest tennis court named after him."


Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Maple Leaf Missile" wins first ATP Title

San Jose, CA USA

His serve is a nuclear bomb.

Some have thus dubbed him: "The Maple Leaf Missile".

20 year-old Canadian Milos Raonic upset top seed and World No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in straight sets at the SAP Open finals in San Jose.

The final score read 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), and match time was 1 hour & 51 minutes. Raonic is the first Canadian to win an ATP singles title since Greg Rusedski in 1995, who went on to become a British citizen.

The 6'5" Raonic sports a huge serve which can reach close to 150 MPH, together with crisp volleys and powerful groundstrokes. Many invoke the obvious comparisons to the legendary Pete Sampras. Raonic's second serve, like that of Sampras, can be equally deadly.

Veteran American James Blake, who lost to Raonic in the second round, bemoaned: “I watched Milos ace me with a second serve tonight and it was around 123. It's a big difference in how the game has changed in technology and how the game is getting bigger."

Raonic started the 2011 season ranked 156th in the world. His victory in San Jose will elevate him to No. 59, making him one of the fastest-rising young stars on the men's tennis.

"It's been amazing," Raonic said after winning his first tournament on tour. "I can't stop smiling."

Congrats, Milos.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Three Golden Rules of Tennis

The Three Golden Rules of Tennis

Are there any universal rules of tennis that will help lift all players to higher levels of success and growth?


Here are 3 interesting and pivotal concepts borrowed from some top coaches and writers.

1. Never Do Anything on Court that Does Not Help You Win
* From Allen Fox, Ph.D., former World-Class Player, Coach, Psychologist and Author.

Fox tells us that champions never lose sight of their ultimate goal - to win. Losers, meanwhile, often seem to be driven by a fear of failure. Thus, for Fox, the first (and final) "Golden Rule" is to ask yourself: "Will this help me win the match?" If not, don't do it, admonishes Fox.

Examples of things that happen on court that typically enable and encourage players to get "off-track" or not "let-go-of-a-point" are: bad line calls, faulty umpire instructions, crowd distractions, weather issues, court surface problems and many other related topics. Of course, these types of issues should not be completely ignored. Rather, they should be carefully managed to avoid losing focus on the final goal - to win.

All too often, warns Fox, lesser players feel pressured and fear failure, and quickly fall into excuse-making, defeatism or personal antagonism. Only the rare player can elevate his or her game with anger. For most of us, we draw far better dividends by staying focused and keeping "our eyes on the prize."

2. Never Do Anything on Court that Does Not Help You Become More Loose
*From Jeff Greenwald, M.A., M.F.T., former World No. 1 and USA No. 1 in Men's Singles and Doubles (35-and-Over Division), Sports Psychology Consultant and Author

Greenwald suggests that a player's best tennis happens when tension and tightness is released. But conversely a certain amount of arousal and adrenaline should be maintained. Thus, Greenwald prefers the term "loose" as opposed to "relaxed". Being "relaxed" may imply a certain lack of intensity or focus. Being "loose", on the other hand, forces the player's mind to think about his or her body. And encourages the player to make things more limber and fluid.

The goal for Greenwald then is to "drop into a looser state" so you can execute with your highest confidence. How is it done? Greenwald says that the key is to first be aware of your body's tightness and literally "call up" this looser state. Shift attention to your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, upper and lower backs. Are they loose and limber? Are you breathing deeply?

Even simple technique reminders such as committing to a "split-step-and-go", "early racket preparation", or "full follow-through" often helps many players increase their physical looseness and shift away from tension. Simply pay attention to your body and loosen it up, counsels Greenwald, which then paradoxically allows you to forget your ego and get out of your head.

"Looseness" of hands, say most coaches, enables a player to grip the racket in the ideal manner - as if holding an raw egg or live bird. "Looseness" of body, suggest most coaches, empowers: footwork to be quick and urgent, swing technique to be smooth and fluid, and the mind to be focused and intense.

3. Never Do Anything on Court that Does Not Help You Improve Your Game in the Long Run
*From Vic Braden, Legendary Coach, Sports Psychologist and Bestselling Author

Braden reminds us that all of us are naturally focused on short-term results. What is the score? What is my rank or rating? How can I win now?

Yet, half of us will lose our matches. Indeed, every player in a tournament will eventually lose - except, of course, for the winning champion. Yet even the champion has suffered his or her share of past losses. Therefore, we will all eventually lose. Braden suggests however that while "losing" is inevitable, "defeat" is optional.

In other words, we can never be defeated if: we first play to the best of our ability on every shot and point, and then learn from our losses to improve our game for the long run. Our victorious opponent, after all, has conveniently shown us our weaknesses and our strengths. We win by building our game up with the knowledge we have gained - fortifying our strengths and addressing our weaknesses.

In this way, Braden defines for us a "new kind of winning" - one in which we can't lose. Many coaches call this the "cycle of improvement." Our final goal is to always come back and, of course, "play our game" - but this time an all-new and improved game.


1. The Winner's Mind, Allen Fox, Ph.D. (Racquet Tech Pub.: Vista, CA, 2005)
2. The Best Tennis of Your Life, Jeff Greenwald, M.A., M.F.T. (Betterway Books: Cincinnati, OH 2007)
3. Mental Tennis, Vic Braden (Little, Brown: New York, NY 1993)