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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Mar 30, 2011

3/30/2011 5:00:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

Watching the Maria Sharapova/Alexandra Dulgheru quarterfinal last night, I couldn’t help but think. How many ways are there to hurt myself? It wasn’t something I went into the match wondering, but 17 double faults, 18 breaks of serve and over a hundred unforced errors (76 of them belonging to Sharapova alone) over three and a half hours will do that to a person.

To many of you, this urge to give yourself a permanent injury timeout may feel confusing, frightening…and familiar. It’s called Tennis Rage. And I’m here to help.

OVERVIEW AND FACTS:

WHAT IS TENNIS RAGE?

Tennis Rage occurs when a match is so bad it makes you want to punch yourself in the face. A central component of Tennis Rage is the inclusion of a top tier player who is playing so far below their level one of the Full House girls could beat them. And not the older Full House girl who looks like she could run back and forth a few times. One of the other ones. The urge increases exponentially when that top player is one’s personal favorite.

ARE YOU AT RISK?

Are you a tennis fan? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you are at risk.

EXHIBIT A: Andy Murray v. Donald Young, Indian Wells 2011.

If Murray fans see this face, beware!

Even though Murray had struggled a smidge post-Melbourne, this should’ve been a 30-minute match, tops. Then the first few balls started flying off of Murray’s racquet. And so it begins…

SYMPTOMS:

Early warning signs include confusion, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, loss of patience, lots of teeth sucking. As it becomes clear this is more than just a slow start and the unforced errors begin to really pile up, so do the symptoms:

* Panic.
* Loss of appetite.
* Loss of speech.
* After the first set ends in the inevitable wild error (often a double fault), loss of lunch.

At this point, the most effective treatment is to simply run. Sure, it’s difficult to look away from a car accident, but when you’re the one in the passenger seat this is really where you want to open the door and stop, drop and roll to safety.

But sufferers of Tennis Rage are too stupid for that.

We’re into the second set. Here’s where the on-court stink inevitably becomes contagious. Specifically, one player’s nerves spread to the other and the stadium becomes a funhouse. At this point it becomes clear there ain’t no getting’ off this ride alive. Now Jesus comes into play, or Allah, or whoever the sufferer’s go-to guy is.

EXHIBIT B: Dinara Safina v. Sam Stosur, Indian Wells 2011.

Sam Stosur is a spectacular player. Until she’s not. And no one hits a ball 16 feet out with quite the same panache as Sam. So when Safina stole the first set with a thoroughly dominant tiebreak, the second set promised to be mercifully brief for all involved. But then Dinara tapped into the grid of nerves powering the match and the double faults began to flow...

By now you’re in too deep. You’ve invested an hour and a half in this trainwreck, you can’t just walk out of the movie with twenty minutes left. Yes, you’ve convinced yourself there’s only twenty minutes left. You’re now delusional. And gripping a rosary so tight it’s burned an impression in your hand forever, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style.

At this point, treatment most closely resembles Lamaze. 

* Quick, rapid breathing.
* Ice chips.
* Cursing the person who did this to you.
* An epidural.

All of this will be pointless. You’ve stayed too long at the party, you’re in the tail end of a second set and you’ve now begun punching yourself in the face. Congratulations, you have Tennis Rage.

ACUTE TENNIS RAGE:

Any match involving a top player who you love who is also humiliating themselves in front of millions of people is enough to inspire self-harm. But Acute Tennis Rage sets in when the offending match goes to a third set. Third sets can lead to paralysis and even death. Tether yourself to something large and heavy, because it’s about to get real.

EXHIBIT C:  Maria Sharapova d. Alexandra Dulgheru, Miami 2011.

As the players break themselves at love in quick succession, dragging the other back into the match kicking and screaming over and over again, you’re what we like to call “white knuckling it.” Symptoms include speaking in tongues and loss of bowels.  God has abandoned you because even he couldn’t watch this mess. This is where you have to really play mind games with yourself to survive.

* Imagine the offending player as a harmless infant. Aw, 6-month-old Maria in a onesie kicking her pudgy 3 foot long baby legs! Adorable!
* Imagine their charity work. Sharapova does so much for so many. Maybe not tonight, but in general!
* Pretend you’re watching another match.  Like that super-great Petkovic/Jankovic QF from earlier in the day. I’m told the Ivanovic/Clijsters match was something special too. Of course, I have to take others’ word for it since it wasn’t played on a court with cameras. But this match was. THREE AND A HALF HOURS OF THIS MATCH!

This is where the moonballs begin.

At this point, it’s best to either call 911 or put your head in an oven. Of course don’t turn it on! That would be an irresponsible thing to tell you to do. But if the pilot light weren’t lit, and the doors and windows were sealed tight, what a wonderful little nap you’d have! And relief. Sweet, sweet relief.

There’s no cure for Tennis Rage. But it is manageable. Our faves are our faves for a reason, but even the greats are going to have bad patches. The important thing is to remember it’ll pass. Glory will be theirs again!

In the meantime, if you or someone you know suffers from Tennis Rage, get help. And remove all sharp objects and flammable sprays and liquids from the home.

The life you save may be your own.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.