belief

Caroline Wozniacki: Sick and Tired

Caroline Wozniacki won’t beat you with power.

She doesn’t have a booming serve to guarantee her easy points. She won’t intimidate you with her reckless aggression, nor will she take time away with forays to the net. Through her struggles during this year’s clay court season, it has become readily apparent that the source of the former No.1’s prior successes laid almost exclusively on one concept: belief.

Far from a simple “I think, therefore I am” scenario, the Dane’s belief was two-fold. For one, she believed in herself, in her fitness and consistency. An underrated athlete, Wozniacki could run all day, tracking down what would be a winner against any other player, and force her opponent to hit one extra ball. At her best, she did everything well which, against her more combustible rivals, was good enough to take her through most of the matches she played over the course of 18 months.

This leads to the second, more changeable part of Wozniacki’s sense of belief. She not only believed in her own ability, but she also believed in the inability of others. Though her opponents could hit more winners and endear crowds with their flashier styles, Caroline was consistent, maddeningly so. Even with her back against the wall, she was content to keep grinding until she had worn her opponents down into a pile of frustration over what appeared to be wasted opportunities.

When trying to fend off the criticism she faced as a Slamless No. 1, Wozniacki once quipped, “if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think they’re not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.”

To a large degree, that was true. More often than not, Wozniacki figuratively (and literally) put the ball in her opponent’s court, seemingly begging them to put away the high ball she would plant in the middle of the court. Time and again, however, the big hitters missed that ball at a match’s most crucial junctures. They would get overexcited, they would get nervous, they would get tentative. Either way, they would hit the ball out and Wozniacki would go on to win the match.

But in the last year, something changed. The big hitters stopped missing. They began to grow in their own belief, chipping away at Caroline’s confidence in the process and causing her game to regress as a result. Now lacking her once unshakable on-court calm, she still goes for as much (or as little) as ever, but the errors have begun to pile up, allowing players like Bojana Jovanovski leverage to borrow against her own blistering groundstrokes.

Against this compromised version of Wozniacki, more risk pays off. Locked in a first set tiebreaker, the young Serb played emphatic tennis, with five of her seven points ending on a winner.  Jovanovski parlayed this momentum into a 3-0 lead in the second set, and even had two chances for a double break.

For a moment, though, it still looked like Wozniacki maintained a degree of mental ascendency over her competition. She steadied her game and made Jovanovski think about that which she was on the verge of doing: beating a top 10 player at a major tournament. Even as Jovanovski took the lead again, there were questions about whether the more mentally fragile Serb could close the deal as she served for the match. More surprising than the upset itself, Jovanovski played a calm, drama-free game to serve out the match to 15, ending Wozniacki’s clay court season with an abysmal 3-5 record (including her two wins on Charleston’s green clay).

There will be those who will look to Wozniacki’s shaken confidence as the sole contributor to a loss like this, but attention must be equally paid to the young woman who followed up a nail-biter of a win over Wozniacki in Rome with a decisive victory in Paris. The Dane is not playing with the same ruthless efficiency of two years ago, but the ball was as much in Jovanovski’s court as ever. Perhaps sick and tired of missing when it mattered most, the unseeded Serb got out of her head and bundled the struggling Wozniacki out of the tournament. For Wozniacki, there is an air of tragic irony to lose in this way. After all, it wasn’t about Jovanovski’s ability to hit her opponent off the court.

It was that Jovanovski believed she could.

Melanie Oudin to wear personalized Mi Adidas Barricade 6.0 at US Open

PORTLAND, Ore. – August 23, 2010 – American tennis player Melanie Oudin will step onto the U.S. Open court in her one-of-a-kind adidas Barricade shoes she personally designed through miadidas.com,  adidas’ online shoe customization service.

The 18-year-old from Georgia designed her first pair of mi adidas shoes last summer prior to her exciting quarterfinals run at the 2009 U.S. Open.  Oudin wore “BELIEVE” on her Barricades and became the youngest American player to advance to the tournament quarterfinals in 10 years.

For the upcoming U.S. Open, Oudin has designed a new pair of Barricade 6.0’s via mi adidas and will wear “COURAGE” on her feet as she takes on the competition in Flushing Meadows.

“The reason I chose the word COURAGE is because in order to believe you have to have the courage to do so,” Oudin said.  “Courage to me means playing with no fear and going for it no matter what.  You can believe in yourself so much but unless you have the courage to go on the court and put yourself on the line every time you won’t make it.  You need courage and belief to make it to the top.”

Fans can make their own unique statement on-court by designing their own Barricade 6.0’s at www.miadidas.com.

Creating customized shoes traces back to adidas founder Adi Dassler, who strove to create the best performing footwear for athletes when he started developing shoes more than 60 years ago.  Today on www.miadidas.com, athletes can customize their own basketball, running, soccer and tennis shoes choosing from a wide array of colors, designs, materials and logos for thousands of possible custom sneaker combinations.  Focusing on fit, performance and design, mi adidas provides athletes with an easy three-step design process to create their ultimate personalized shoes.

Love in Tennis

In life, ‘love’ envelopes all that is good and passionate. In tennis, ‘love’ is on the other side of the spectrum. It’s the equivalent of nothing, nada, rien, nichts. How is it then that an Indo-European word meant to show great belief and affection turns to anger and disgust in the world of tennis?

When we are down love-40 in a game of tennis, it conjures up thought that we are inadequate, and that perhaps we should find a new job, hobby, or general change in the path our life is heading. But what if being down love-40 is exactly what we need in order to breakthrough and perform our best? Every day there are unnecessary things in life that bring us down and draw energy out of us. It’s those times when our character is tested that we see exactly how strong we are. That we are indeed empowered, in control, and the serve is ours for the taking if only we believe.

The next time you are down love-40 in tennis or life, think of it as an advantage to prove your passion and dedication. To a tennis player and spectator, love can turn from anger and disgust into glory and triumph in a matter of seconds. There is no greater reward than to come back from the depths of despair and stand up victorious and joyful.

This column is dedicated to the ‘love’ of tennis: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s called Romi’s Rants, Raves and Missives.