Re: New blog post (24/1/11) - "Crash" - by Amir Weintraub
"I kbow you from somewhere" - 31/1/2011
This week I will take a pass on describing my performance in the Eilat Future. For two reasons: A) Nothing interesting happened here that didn't happen when I was here last week. B) It's beginning to be a little unpleasant. I got thumped in the semis again, this time by a Serbian opponent ranked 658 in the world. Bummer.
But something did grab me this week. Something that can give a little example as to the mental issues tennis players go through during their careers. In short, the story is like this: While I'm hanging in Eilat I see a familiar guy, this mountain I ran into a few years ago.
After straining my memory for a while it comes back to me – I played against him 4 years ago in a challenger in Uzbekistan. He was a 1.90 meters tall giant. A Russian guy by the name of Pavel Chekhov. He didn't have ranking points yet, I was around 500 in the world.
I remembered how the 18 years old kid beat me during the last round of qualification, then he made the finals and started an incredible run of wins. Within a few weeks he made it to the top ranking of 291 in the world. Everyone who saw him knew he's on the sure way to become a top 20 player. He had a serve, a huge forehand. Everything you need.
When I met him in Eilat, the giant remained a giant, but there was nothing left of that player.
He fell out of the top ranking. He had this rare and bizarre phenomena which had wrecked promising careers for several players – he forgot how to hit a forehand. Literally. Forgot. No other reasonable explanation for this. He just can't put the forehand into the court, no matter what he tried to do. Today he has no ranking points, after losing them all. In the last 23 tournaments before Eilat, he lost 21 times in the first round. Even in Eilat, which is the smallest tournament there is, he couldn't get past qualifications.
Another player this happened to, only with the serve. Is Argentinian Coria, who was 3 in the world, and one day discovered he can't make his serve go over the net. Coria would finish matches with 17, 20 or 23 double faults. After all the troubles with drugs, injuries – he ended up unable to put a serve in the court and had to retire from tennis.
Other Phenomena you can find even in the smaller tournaments, are players which are ranked very low, but still keep a prestigious team around them. Part of this is due to the player feeling that the breakthrough is gonna come any minute now (which of course, does not happen), and they allow themselves to hire some hot-shot ex tennis players as coaches.
Some of them are guys who were already in the highest levels, got injured, and to get back to the top they decide to continue and act just like they did when they were at the top of the game, so you see them being dragged to obscure tournaments with teams like it was grand slam.
Famous coaches have a psychological impact on the rivals. In Eilat I ran into a Spanish Player and a Belgian player, each with his own personal coach. Both coaches were ex players who retired last year from tennis – Olivier Rochus from Belgium who was 24 in the world, and the other was Fernando Vicente who was 29 in the world and beat players like Agassi, Henman, Philippoussis and Tommy Haas.
Inexperienced players and those who get stressed out a little more than the rest see the other player with that coach and start shivering without even knowing if the other player is any good. Just knowing that "That" guy is over there, has an impact.
A little embarrassing, but I have to confess I also fell into this trap of fearing the rival's coach. I played a challenger in the US and the draw paired me up with Alex Bogdanovic from England. Top 150 player at the time. When I stepped up the court, I see his coach is none other than legendary Brad Gilbert. I froze. I lost 6-1, 6-2.
I remember that most of the match I was preoccupied with Brad Gilbert and not the match. I looked for him in the audience; once in a while I glanced at his direction. After the match I was honest enough to admit to myself that I lost that match to Gilbert, who was sitting in the stands.
In exactly one month and a half we're playing against Poland in DC. I already got the news that I was the number 2 racquet. I just now begin to understand the guys, Dudi, Harel, Noam, Andy and Yoni, who had to manage two careers for years. The personal one and the DC career. To the pressure of getting the ranking points and grasping your career by the teeth, there is an added pressure of bigger exposure and not-so-amazing results like the results I had just now in Eilat, which are now not only a personal matter, but also embarrassing to me as a member of the DC team.
I feel that pressure growing and growing. The pressure to get ranking points. The pressure not mess up in small tournaments, the pressure not to mess up in Davis Cup. The pressure to start and make some money. Pressure.
Next week I'll be far away from Eilat. A challenger in Russia. Away from everything I hope to get things back on track. Point by point, game by game.