New Blog post - "Notes from the Kremlin" (8/2/11)
People ask me gently "Hey, what's up?". It's like a general question, but what they refer to is losing the Futures in Eilat, which is joined to the loss I took last week, in the first round of a challenger in Russia to a guy ranked 201 in the world. These are the questions I ask myself, what's with this drop in ability now?
Here are some of my insights (some may sound like excuses, but it's really not like that):
1. Burnout – I know my body and its ability to handle the grind. My system so far has worked like this – I play three straight weeks in tournaments and then take a week vacation in Israel. Vacation means training, working on elements in your game which is difficult to do in the middle of tournaments and so on. The last time I've pushed the envelope too far and got dragged to playing tournaments in a row, I either got injured or my performance dropped. Now, I'm in a streak of 7 straights weeks since December which included matches in Israel, Australia, Israel, Russia and now France, and according to the planned schedule I will play 9 straight weeks before even glimpsing at a holiday.
Unfortunately I'm experiencing what most tennis players do. If I used to press 'stop' without a problem after three weeks, now my only guideline is chasing points for the ranking. All I see in front of my eyes are ranking points, points, points. I realize I no longer play to improve, but instead run and check each time which place in the world ranking some more points will take me to.
2. Rookie mistakes – Chasing after ranking points leads to mistakes in choosing the tournaments I play in. Looking back I know, I was behaving like a rookie when I decided to complete in the Future in Eilat. I shouldn't have let the option of playing two weeks instead of one tempt me. It's not just the fact that there aren't that many points to gain in Eilat in the first place, it's that tournaments like that make you play badly against lesser players, which creates an unhealthy cycle. The confidence I brought back with me from Australia - I lost when I lost to players ranked 500, 600 in the world. I should have rested at home, fly earlier to Russia and get used to playing indoor, which is an entire different ball game.
And there was another mistake I've made in Eilat. Instead of looking out for my own interests, I also played doubles instead of saving my energy only for the singles and rest mored. A friend asked me to play with him to help him improve his ranking, and I do not forget how, a day and a half ago, I also asked such favors from friends. Eventually we grabbed the doubles title in Eilat, it didn't do a thing for me.
3. Specific preparation - Because of a flight debacle I made it to Kazan on Monday 11 PM knowing that I play 10 AM the next morning. Frequently crossing geographical lines has huge repercussions: First of all, I arrived to the tournaments after not holding a racquet for three days. It doesn't make sense.
Additionally, the body must adjust. Less than a month ago I was playing in Australia in a 40 degrees, last week I played Eilat in 25 degrees and now I've landed in Russia's -20 degrees weather.
But the most critical issue was moving indoors. Us Israelis are used to playing on hard courts outdoors, because this is what we were trained on, but you need to adjust specifically to each court. Indoors, you need at least 2-3 days to adjust to the fact the ball reaches you faster, so you have less time to prepare for your stroke. The usual wind which reduces the friction of the ball with the air isn't there, and the court is less coarse, which lessens the friction of the ball even more. This is how I found myself entering the court for the first time on the day of the match, trying to adjust to the surface in the 10 minutes of warm-up I had prior to the match, and got spanked in the first round.
But hello, not everything is black. The early elimination in Russia allowed me to practice right, and even the injury in the leg that I've been carrying since Australia is a lot better. Besides, due to the fact I'm going to play DC next month they got paired me with a coach for the trip to Russia, Moti Maaravi. To fly with a coach is a huge professional change, which is difficult to evaluate for someone who is used to traveling alone and manage his professional training with himself. There is another advantage: The social aspect. I told Moti that since this is my fourth time in Moscow and I haven't seen the Red Square yet, then tomorrow morning even the great cold weather won't break us.
It would be a bit of a shame to end a career without any money and say, like all tennis players, that eventually what I remember from traveling around the world are hotels, restaurants and tennis courts.
So I didn't get any ranking points, but I got to mark 'check' next to the Red Square.