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Respected tennis writer Joel Drucker answers your questions about the thrills and spills of the recreational player. Got a hole in your game or a question for Joel? Drop him an email at therovingplayer@thetennischannel.com and you may find yourself in a future column.
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Q) Dear Roving Player:
Losing is so painful to me. Whenever I lose at a tournament or during a league match I feel like a leper. What's the best way to deal with things after a loss? 
-Defeated Darren


A) Dear Darren: 

No question, losing is awful, and despite all the things you hear from others about the need for perspective and how great it is to play, it still sucks to lose. 

But I recently learned a valuable lesson on dealing with a loss when I attended the John Newcombe Tennis Fantasy Camp. I had just suffered a complete meltdown, blowing a 4-0 lead and losing a singles match, 7-6, 6-1. I was in tatters, and for ten minutes sat by myself with a towel over my head, staring into space. But this was a team competition, and soon enough, per the spirit of the Austrlians, it was time for me to grab a chair and cheer on one of my mates. So that step is pretty useful if you're playing league tennis: There are others every bit as important as you, so get over yourself and move onwards.

Tournament losses are much harder. You're alone, and if you're like most of us recreational schleps, you're hardly playing at Wimbledon, but instead are all by yourself, trudging past a 7-11. I'd suggest you buy yourself something nice to eat or drink, listen to an upbeat song - and grab a glimpse at the newspaper so you can read about people who are truly suffering. 

Then, the next day, you can take a rational look at what happened and what you can improve. 

The biggest message I've learned from the Australians: Get over yourself, mate. It's just a tennis match. Don't let your self-definition hinge on whether you won or lost. Live to fight another day. 



Q) Dear Roving Player:
Is there a way or ways that is accepted by teaching pros to get someone over the hump from a 3.5/4.0 serve and to get to much more proficient serving?
-Herb, TX


Dear Herb:

By proficiency I assume you first mean power. But I'll guess that you also mean direction and variety. At the 3.5-4.0 level, most players can get in a reasonable percentage of serves, favoring a moderate slice that curves a bit in each court. The big challenge to improvement is to get more of your body into the serve - most notably, using your legs to thrust into the ball. What most recreational players do is throw up the toss and hit the ball with their hands. I'd suggest you put significant energy into bending your knees - but don't go nuts as if you were Boris Becker. The other thing to examine is if the early part of your motion is sufficiently slow and if your toss is low enough. That's right, low enough. As players attain proficiency, they toss too high and break the kinetic chain of movement that makes for a smooth whip-like motion. Practice is also a good idea. Before or after your next match, hit 25 balls to each court. 

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Oakland-based Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Author of the book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, Drucker's work has appeared in a wide range of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, CBS and The Tennis Channel. For The Tennis Channel he's worked as an on-air analyst and is co-producer of the program, Center Court with Chris Myers. An avid recreational player, Drucker's lefthanded 4.5 game attempts to combine the tactical array of Brad Gilbert with the variety of John McEnroe, a style he fondly refers to as "Spinning Ugly."