Tuesday, 22 August 2017

'WELL WRITTEN DAN COLASIMONE' ( ABC )

Comment: Nick Kyrgios continues to be hated many Australians, but he has never behaved as badly as some footballers . 

Flog. This is the word that comes up most often in the comments for articles about Nick Kyrgios. It doesn't matter if it's a story about him winning a tennis match, losing a tennis match, saying something ridiculous or saying something nice. 
It has become an office joke here at the ABC that anything we publish about the 22-year-old tennis player will be met with that same response on Twitter and in the Facebook comments.
"Flog!"
It can only be in a similar spirit that news.com.au announced the news of the Canberran's loss in the final of the Cincinnati Masters event to Grigor Dimitrov on Monday: "Nick Kyrgios flops in historic title bid".
It is a headline dripping with schadenfreude.
Here is a young player who has put together just about the best week of tennis we've seen from an Australian male in years.
In a Masters event, just one notch below a slam, he beat the veteran Ivo Karlovic, ranked 34 in the world. He beat the wily David Ferrer, ranked number 25 and one of the toughest guys to get through in any tournament. He beat Alexandr Dolgopolov and world number 13 David Goffin. He blitzed world number one Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios played twinkling tennis. When at his best he solicits more 'oohs' and 'aahs' from tennis crowds than anyone on the circuit, barring perhaps Roger Federer. He had Cincinnati in the palm of his hand.
But he fell short in the final against Dimitrov, the 26-year-old, 2-metre Bulgarian world number eight, playing at the height of his game. Throughout the tournament, aside from being brilliant, Kyrgios was well-behaved and gracious. He had kind words for Dimitrov and charmed the crowd by praising their city and inviting them all out to ice cream next time he's in town.
And yet some in the Australian media took the opportunity to stick the boot in over the loss by calling it a "flop", knowing full well it would appeal to a certain segment of their audience — the flog mob.
"Haha typical Australian media," was Kyrgios's reaction on Twitter. And he's right to be bemused by the headline. You can almost see the satisfied smirk on the face of the sub who wrote it.
Kyrgios is a flawed athlete. He has made mistakes. The worst thing he has done in the public eye was to make a gross and nasty comment about Stan Wawrinka's girlfriend. On the court, his biggest weakness is his lack of drive, which sometimes sees him practically quit mid-match.
A big mouth with no filter and a tendency to tank are problems for a professional athlete. But why does Kyrgios continue to attract such pearl-clutching contempt when other sportsmen, especially those in our football codes, do and say much worse all the time?
For an NRL player, a big performance in a State of Origin game seems to erase months or years of nefarious behaviour, as far as public perception is concerned.
An AFL footballer on a bender is just that — a young bloke cutting loose with his mates — whereas Kyrgios on a night out is a cue for handwringing and moral outrage, as we saw recently.
As far as we know, Kyrgios has never hit a girlfriend, manhandled a random woman at a bar, punched anyone at a nightclub, dry-humped a family pet or relieved himself in a hotel corridor while black-out drunk.
But many Australians can't let go of the fact he once took on-court heckling way too far or sometimes appears not to care.
It's funny, because the rest of the world finds him fascinating. The New Yorker and the New York Times have both done major profiles of the Australian in the past year, while the British press loves to splash attention on him ahead of every Wimbledon.
Yes, they come down hard on him when he stuffs up, as witnessed in the Wawrinka episode or the tanking cases, but nowhere do they hold on to their Kyrgios grudges as grimly as in Australia.
Americans especially love a precocious talent with a chip on his shoulder. They called John McEnroe a brat, which is practically a compliment in the US. They could have called him much worse, his behaviour was atrocious. And we call Kyrgios a flog.
Will Kyrgios ever be fully appreciated in this country for his talents?
Perhaps if he goes on to become world number one and stays there for a while, the majority of Australians will jump on the bandwagon and decide they really kinda like him now, as they did with Lleyton Hewitt, who once had a rocky relationship with the public.
Until then, having a top-20 ranked tennis player should be something Australian sport fans are more appreciative of, especially one who is fascinating to watch and has the skill set to become the best in the world.
It's time to get behind Kyrgios. Stop being flogs about it.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

'HUNTER OR THE HUNTED' ?

I once read a quote by the great Andre Agassi as he gave his usual informative view on life as a pro tennis player. Agassi spoke of 'the hunter or the hunted' and it was one of the most insightful things I have ever read as far as tennis is concerned.
The terminology of course refers to who you are as a tennis player and what role you play when you step on court. It's all about being comfortable with who you are, the most important part of being successful in sport in general.
The following is a personal story regarding the final doubles competition of last tennis season here in 'sleepy hollow'. It involves an old man and a young fellow who I have all the admiration in the World for as he finally got his head together and became one of the town's finest tennis players.
It goes something like this.......
Around two months prior to the last doubles comp of the season I sent my mate Matty a text, "Hey Champ what you up to, you want to play a comp " ?
Matty is 24, half my age. When looking at tennis tournaments as a 48 year old you have to use your experience as far as choosing partners goes, you want one young enough to chase the lobs.
'Yeah ok, sounds good, but I haven't hit a ball for around six months'.
"You will be fine buddy, let's start doing some training".
So train we did, twice a week for 8 weeks, for maybe 90 minutes each session.
We talked about doubles tactics and worked on cross court hitting. It didn't take Matty long to get back in the swing of things, he's a talent, every shot in the book, big serve, big groundies, great volley, the complete tennis player in any mans language. Did I mention he was 24 and fit ?
A week prior to the comp I texted through our entry and the tournament organiser asks the question, 'How you guys hitting 'em'? 
"Matty can't hit the side of a supermarket at the moment and I will simply play from memory".
Good luck he says, probably with a smile. 
I text Matty a day before the comp when I see who is playing and who we have first round. 
"Champ, we got a real tough first up match, not sure if we got a seeding but I put them off the scent anyhow, told 'em we are a bit underdone at present but will give it a shot".
Matty fires back a quick text.
'What you tell 'em that for ? We have been training a fair bit. Don't we want them to know that we are in form' ?
That one made me smile, typical young fella, wants to start a comp with all the bells and whistles, like walking into a boxing arena with the loud speakers raging, 'AND HERE IS THE UNDISPUTED WORLD CHAMPION'.........
Nope I was not interested in any of that.
"Champ it's like this, we are going into this comp as the hunters, I am way too old and past my prime to be going in to any competition as the hunted, there's a big difference. We will have no pressure on us, no one expects us to trouble the score board, trust me".
There's a long pause before the reply.
'Ok mate'.
Now in round robin competitions every team has to play every team but our draw was a horror show to say the least and I believe it was because we were meant to be 'cannon fodder'. Remember I was playing from memory, Matty couldn't hit the side of a supermarket, we wouldn't trouble the score board.
First match we broke at 5-5 and we served the match out, one set matches, first to seven games.
Second match, down 3-5, we win the last 4 games.
We win our next four matches with ease, we take the title. I don't often hug men but I did give Matty a big one when we took the last match 7-3.
"Champ, you see what I mean ? We had no pressure whatsoever, you played the loosest tennis I have ever seen you play and basically I did nothing except get a few back. As far as I am concerned this was YOUR title. Legend".
For the record, the two teams who we beat in round 1 and round 2 finished second and third respectively.
Still not sure to this day whether Matty could understand my approach to the competition and whether he appreciated me telling the tournament organiser we were simply there to make up the numbers but it's like this.
Matty when you are my age I trust you will find yourself a former pupil, if ever you take up coaching of course, and run the same idea past him as I did with you.
If he wants a seeding, a number next to his name to give you guys some sort of 'halo' around you that is supposed to give you an air of invincibility,remind him of that day in 2017 when you and the old bloke flew under the radar.
The 'hunter' should always play with a mind set that has nothing to lose.
The 'hunted' is a whole different ball game.
I know which one I would prefer........


Monday, 7 August 2017

'THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE'

Here in sleepy hollow, Albany, Western Australia we are a long way from anywhere yet we have made the headlines in the State Newspaper, possibly for all the wrong reasons, not for tennis but for our most popular sport behind soccer, AFL.
The reason why we have made the headlines is because in our junior AFL competition there were some rather lopsided results, which as you know can work in two ways. It destroys one team's self confidence plus it gives the winning team a false sense of who they are.
It has happened since the beginning of time, particularly in junior sport because certain teams will be put together with no thought of how advanced some players are and how much they may in fact dominate a competition.
Grading systems perhaps should be upgraded when placing 100 plus kids into teams of 20 to compete against each other in a ridiculously physical game, particularly before a kid even turns 15.
So this is what the junior AFL Association did, they stripped the points from the winning teams and gave them to the losing teams. It has pissed a lot of people off though I do see some merit in the idea as keeping sport competitive particularly at a young age will give a child a sense of belonging whereas one sided games will make a kid question their ability, mentally and physically.
Keeping a kid in a sport is perhaps the most challenging thing for a coach, a parent, an association, but one thing is for certain, it is a necessity to get the mix right.
So as far as tennis is concerned, how do you keep a kid enthused when he or she continually gets beaten ?
Tough one.
I once read a result in a State event where a coach had destroyed one of their students 6-0, 6-1 and I thought that it had ego written all over it, 'I am your Coach, I am your Master, I own you'. Was that result supposed to toughen the kid up ??
I believe it was a case of the 'coach' having their head so completely stuck up their own bum that they failed to look at the situation as perhaps an opportunity to give a kid some confidence.
I vividly recall playing a 15 year old kid several years ago in an Open event in a country championship. I battled to even lose a point and had to hit a few shots long and wide to give him 2 games each set. Was I doing that kid a disservice by giving him those games ? I believe I was helping HIM to believe in his very young ability.
If I had taken those 4 games would it have helped the kid to grow as a player or would it have deflated them to a point of looking at another sport to play ? Was it simply a case of an old man having some sympathy for a young kid ?
For the record I got beaten by the same score in the next round by a guy who made the semis, he smashed me but I was not upset by the result, it gave me heart. If I had lost 0 and 0 then I would have questioned my ability as a player, a coach, a human being. 
So do we need to 'manufacture' sporting results to keep the youth interested in sport ? Well I think it doesn't hurt when all is said and done because a kid will learn from a loss more than a win and if a kid loses 2 and 2 as opposed to 0 and 0 they may just find those 4 games a tonic for the future.
A double bagel may turn their attention to another sport as not winning a game may be too big a hurdle to clear for future matches.
I believe our local AFL association got the penalty correct for opposition coaches going for glory with percentage boosting wins over opposition that was lacking physically, mentally and technically as after all, a kid playing our national sport does not own the luxury of choosing which side he or she plays in. 
Some kids get picked in a 'Super Team', others get chosen to play in teams that battle to win a match all the while as they struggle to develop their skills to further their development.
We had two results locally that caused a stir, a 95 point win where a coach maintained that he tried 'everything' to nullify his own team's scoring ability and another 70 plus win that had the winning coach maintaining that he also did what he could to 'help the opposition'.
I know for a fact that both of those winning teams had access to some very talented youngsters and the losing teams were not so fortunate to be laden with talented players.
Fact of life, however the losing teams should not be forced to question their own ability due to their association's inability to even out the talent available at selection time.
So to tennis. It's a sport that only the strong survive, we all know that but if we can keep a kid interested long enough it may just mean the difference between a player persevering with it or throwing the racket in the cupboard and taking up AFL.......
The irony of it all.........