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Seven Thoughts From Behind the Baseline

By: Jane Voigt

As the end of another tennis season winds down, memories bubble up. Each and every one could apply well to life on and off a tennis court.

ONE: We are never too old to step on the court. Serena Williams became the oldest WTA Champion at 33 years, 24 days at the WTA Finals in Singapore. She won her 18th Grand Slam at the U. S. Open.

As of today, 25 of the top 100 ranked ATP players are 30 or over. On the WTA Tour, only 11 of the top 100 women are of that age. And let’s not forget the Bryan Brothers. At 36 with growing families, Mike and Bob won their 102nd title at the BNP Paribas Paris Masters on Sunday.

Last, but not least, Cara Black. At 35, she won her third WTA Finals title with fellow veteran Sania Mirza. Black has 60 career doubles titles, and a young daughter. She has left tennis for now, but has said nothing definitive about a future to pro tennis.

TWO: Stay inside the lines. Thanks to Hawkeye technology, players can challenge line calls. Some men and women are better than others at their guesses. Some use them up, as if to take a moment to re-caliber their minds, strategies, and tactics. No rule against that.

Boundaries are good for the game and free players’ minds to move forward to that next point – which is the point, right?

THREE: Changing the direction of the ball is risky. If a player knows when a pattern works, he or she will use it as often as possible. For example, a ball served out wide. The return comes back without much thought, the receiver having been stretched way off-court. The server then whacks a cross-court winner. That tactic and execution carried out through proper precision can inch us closer to our goals.

FOUR: Don’t argue with the chair umpire. Fabio Fognini has taken this to the limits of acceptability, sanity and, possibly, action from the ATP. He flips off fans, opponents, and draws all sorts of media attention away from matches.

Following the guidelines enacted by a chair umpire keeps our game reasonably orderly. Sit down, Mr. Fognini. We have ceased to be amused.

FIVE: If you have an important occasion coming up, get enough sleep. Roger Federer, one of the game’s sages, says he needs ten hours of sleep each night. The Swiss rehabilitates sore muscles, a spent brain, and refreshes himself for another day in the life of a top-three tennis player. This regime is probably not always possible with four children, but concept is key.

SIX: Eat well or pay the consequences. With obesity an ever-expanding problem in the United States and around the world, a diet can equate to the import of strong mental focus. Remember the cliché — garbage in, garbage out — associated with computer code? It’s not a cliché; it’s fact. Have a match in the morning and munch on meal of Chipotle the night before, you should expect crummy results.

A clean diet opens the hatch for clean tennis, no matter if you win or lose.

SEVEN: “Stay down, keep your head down.” This comment belongs to Venus Williams. She said it after defeating Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon in the longest women’s singles match in 2005. Williams thrust every fiber of her six-foot-one body into turning the tables on Davenport who had lead big in each set.

Asked how she came back, she smiled and said, “I told myself to stay down and keep my head down.” Almost a decade beyond that historic match, Williams keeps on winning over adversity. Her inspiration is felt by anyone and everyone who watches tennis. This year, now 34 years old, Venus Williams’s results speak plenty. Finalist in Auckland, winner in Dubai, quarterfinalist in Stanford, runner-up in Montreal – where defeated sister, Serena – and Quebec City.

Follow Jane on Twitter @downthetee!

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