Monday, January 30, 2017

Honoring the Olds

This was a beautiful weekend.  Yes, I am pleased with the results.  I couldn’t handle it if Rafa had crushed Fed – never mind Fed’s breezy insistence that getting to the finals was winning enough.  I would however have been fine if Venus had beaten Serena, but only because it was Venus.  But in this Fed happens to be absolutely correct – Venus making it to the finals was winning enough.

This was a beautiful weekend, characterized as it was by a celebration of the Olds.  Long-term readers of this blog will know that I have long argued against the pressure placed on aging players to submit their retirement papers.  Like Marion Bartoli promptly did after finally winning Wimbledon, and who seems to have remained a confused mess ever since. 

Retirement, ideally, should never be rushed.  Yes it’s all well and good to go out on top.  But that does not mean that you should make a mad rush into the decision to give up a career for which you have worked very hard for many years.  Marion’s mad rush to retirement has never made sense to me.  I wonder if she regrets?  Will Ni La regret?  We know that Clijsters did because she came back to the sport after having her first child.  We know that Kimiko Date did because her phenomenal return turned out to be inspirational. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

OCD or self-calming rituals?

In his autobiography, Rafa has denied any engagement in superstitious behavior.  He also denied using his rituals to intentionally waste time by giving himself a breather.  He refuted any notion of engaging in these quirks in order to deliberately irritate and thereby distract his opponents.  Instead, he described his rituals as mechanisms to help him focus on tennis.  His rituals serve the purpose of keeping him mentally balanced and sharp.

What others see as irritating quirks, Rafa described as what I would label efforts at self-calming or self-soothing.  The psychobabble term for this is ‘emotional grounding’.  Grounding rituals are activities that individuals repeat with the exclusive goal of getting themselves in the right mindset in order to perform their best. 

Grounding rituals are useful in many situations, not just performance-related ones.  For example, individuals suffering from bad nightmares associated with combat trauma may use grounding rituals to help them to reduce anxiety and terror.  When awakened by a nightmare, the individual can be instructed to sit up in bed, plant their feet on the floor, and repeat out loud: “I’m sitting on my bed; my feet are on the floor; I’m breathing in and out”, over and over until the anxiety passes and the ghosts of the past release them.  That is a grounding ritual, intended to help manage anxiety.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

OCD or just superstitious?

I’m watching the Australian Open and enjoying every moment of the brilliance of so many of these tennis players, talented newbies as well as rejuvenated Old Farts.  Yes, I hope that Serena doesn’t get too distracted by pending marital bliss to not hoist another trophy and make some more herstory. 

And no, I am not surprised that Isner and Djokovic have been bounced.  Isner’s continued reliance on a serve and a forehand will only help him to make pointless history for long-assed matches against journeymen.  And Djokovic needs to take a second look at his diet.  For someone who has become the health guru of the tennis world, dude seems to be bordering on anorexic, and had the low energy to match.  Kudos to Istomin and his mommy/coach.

But I got up particularly early this morning to watch the match between Rafael Nadal and Marcos Bhagdatis.  I wanted to see if Rafa was back.

As expected, much of the commentary focused on Rafa’s compulsive and obsessive rituals.  Yes I have been guilty of making fun of Rafa’s ass picking in the past, but this morning I watched with genuine compassion for someone who may be struggling with a serious mental health challenge.  Rafa is showing signs of significant stress – he is losing his hair and dude looks ragged.  Something seems off.