Saturday, April 05, 2014

Lessons from Rafa - overcome injury in my own tennis season

Like my tennis hero - the superhuman grinder, Rafael Nadal - I too faced a debilitating injury last year in 2013. Out of the sport for about 2 1/2 to 3 months with moderate Tennis Elbow. I reluctantly skipped one of the major USTA NTRP Championships of the summer, one that I had fiercely competed for years prior.

But during that time, I honed in my game, let my tennis elbow recover. I performed strengthening drills with my red TheraBand FlexBar every day.

The toughest moments were getting out to the park and seeing a beautiful sunny day, but unable to hit.

That immobilization of the mind feels many times more painful and constricting than the physical pain of the injury. Every competitor wants to get back ASAP. But I knew I had to take it a step at a time.

Recovery and Healing

I trained extra hard on my conditioning and stamina using the "Prepping Like a Pro" training program I had practiced with Yann and Dan during the previous winter.

As a child, I remember the story of an US Olympic gymnast many years ago had severely injured his legs in a training accident to a point where he was bed-ridden and in a wheelchair for a good long time, wondering if he would ever compete again. Desperate to be ready again in the next 4 years, he instead did the most intense upper body training he could do during the time he was incapacitated from the waist down. Able to hold the Iron Cross move on the rings - he turned his weakness into an asset.

Focusing on what you can change, and crushing it - that is what champions do. Disabilities are only limiting / crippling if you allow them to be, but mostly if it is allowed to effect yourself.

The Desire to Compete

One day I even went to the practice wall, with a tennis elbow wrapped tightly. All the walls were taken and all the courts were full, and still I waited to see if I could try to muscle a few good strokes with a soft foam practice ball for youth. I tried both the red and the green. Fortunately, I did feel too much discomfort - however, as soon as I tried the regulation tennis ball, I could immediately feel my forehand twinge and had to stop.

Those 2-3 months could not have come at a worse time in the middle of the summer months when tennis is in full swing. I aggregated the injury in only the 2nd tournament of the season (Shilou Open). When I went out to participate in a Charity Event for wounded warriors a month later, I was not even half the player I was - losing in the first round for both singles and doubles. It was devastating.

The Will to Win, compels us. The Wisdom to Know how, enables us.

Speed bumps - Living the rest of your life

During those long tennis-less weeks I socialized more with friends and tried new activities that let my right arm rest. I echo'd what Pete Sampras experienced. For Pete during the summer of '99, he had to pull out of the US Open, but he recalled that "it was the best injury of my life because that’s where I met my wife" met some really supportive and encouraging women that helped me feel better and my mind off the game for a while. It was a very fun summer for me and probably one I will always remember fondly.

But after skipping the USTA NTRP Championship at College Park, and actually was relieved about not pushing my elbow any further. Content to be in the atmosphere, I just cheered friends on and visited the College Park Aviation Museum instead. I knew I would have 5-6 weeks to properly heal and then train to get back into form.

Returning to Action - the dividends of being well-prepared

By the end of September, I was able to regain my peek form and finally secured the DC Open title (NTRP 4.0) which I had been attempting to win for the last 4 years. It was a privilege to play on the same court as the Citi Open (ATP 500) event I had covered just about a month prior for

My final tournament was out at Leesburg, VA in a beautiful facility called Ida Park. The tournament director was very professional and I have always had great memories from the very civilized competitors that I've faced there. It is one of the farthest treks for a Mid-Atlantic USTA tournament in the DC area, but in my opinion well worth it. The perfect court surface and slightly higher elevation out west also suits my game well.

By the end of that event, even though I lost in the Finals, it was a very good showing in the 2nd half of the season for me. I played solidly against a very strong adversary who was once on the same USTA team as me, during a very blustery late afternoon breeze, and we both had really long rallies.

Be the Best you *know* you can be

With that strong finish, I was able to secure the #1 ranking again for the Mid-Atlantic Men's Singles NTRP 4.0 section. The year also allowed me to "medal" in all of the notable DC area NTRP tournaments. Finishing with the finals or championship in all these locations is a very satisfying feeling. I still can remember each of the trophies and not only the final victory, but all the emotions and the electric atmosphere of USTA tennis.

I would highly encourage avid tennis players (especially singles players), to give USTA tournaments a try because it replicates the true spirit and intensity of professional tennis the best out of any of the formats available. It truly is an Open field of competition and you must learn to be completely self-sufficient in these single elimination rounds.

For next season, I hope to compete at the NTRP 4.5 level and will continue to document my experiences. And I hope for all the readers out there that read this and all my articles, I have been one positive step building toward your own goals in tennis.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rafa's 2013 - a tale of Recovery from Tragedy, Human Perseverance and Reclaiming World #1

After a long 7 months layoff from tennis because injury, trained and trained, day in and day out. He missed out on the US Open and the Australian Open. Instead of rushing to jump back immediately, he fought perhaps the greatest battle of his life.

Uncertainty during difficult times

In his book, Rafa, he confesses about how his greatest fear - inertia. If he had to stop playing tennis even for a few days, what would happen? It has been ingrained as deep as breathing into nearly every day of his life since a child. To give it up for over half a year, his faith is truly great.

Admittedly there was doubt for even the most passionate Nadal fans. The big question to the entire tennis world was if - not just when - he would ever return to the game.

Staying Focused on Rehab

Following doctors orders, he put away his tennis racket and did not play any tennis for 7 months! Always in the gym, stretching, strengthening, doing all the workouts he could without injuring himself in rehab. Updating his facebook page weekly with pictures in the pool or relaxing with his family - nowhere near a tennis court. He was spurred on by the inspiring encouragement from fans; Rafa pressed on and stay loyal to his team's advice.

The test of patience

Watching his rivals climb over him and his rankings - I'm sure it must have been painful to be completely absent in nearly 3 Grand Slams.

Patiently, he relinquished the US Open Hard court season, the Indoor European season, the year ending ATP World Tour finals. Even then after the new year, he tested the waters carefully yet listened to his body and his coaches - skipping the Australian Open.

The thousands of ranking points slipped away; millions of dollars in prize money forfeited; optimism followed by caution to wait just a little longer, then a few weeks more... the tennis world wondered if this was the end.

Only he would be able to show the world if he could rise again...

Then one title after another, starting with a ATP 250 final, and from there his confidence grew and his body became stronger...

  • Brazil Open
  • Mexico Open
  • Indian Wells BNP
  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Rome
  • Roland Garros
  • Montreal
  • Cincinatti
  • US Open

Ultimately, 2013 World #1, ATP Comeback Player of the Year, and 10 titles dominating almost every major hard court and clay court tournament on the tennis tour.

Year of Greatness: Reborn

Rafa not only came back in 2013, it turned out to be his best year of his career. The world witnessed a legend who crystallized the competitive tennis fuel in his soul so completely. In his essence so dedicated to the sport (every atom of his being, as he put it) that nothing could stop him.

The half-time intermission was over, he was ready. Not just 60% or 80% or 90% but his mind/body was hungry for it - like a predator that had not feasted. Absolutely determined. driven. unstoppable.

How many professional athletes in Any sport can go in into rehab for 7 months, come on the field in mid-season and still regain the pinnacle of champions by year's end.

Great Champions find a way. Vamos Rafa. See you in 2014!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Citi Open 2013 HD Pictures

Somdev Devvarman - jumping backhandDelpo signs autographsDelpo swingTomicMarcos Baghdatis - stretchedKei Nishikori
Marcos BaghdatisSomdev DevvarmanJohn IsnerMatosevic - fist pumpMilos RaonicAlexandr Dolgopolov
Istomin serveIstomin vs QuerreyCiti Open Tuesday (7)Grigor Dimitrov - follow throughDimitrov volleyGrigor Dimitrov forehand
Citi Open Fans on grandstandGrigor Dimitrov ball tossRyan Harrison advancesLleyton HewittLleyton Hewitt - focusLleyton Hewitt - contact

Citi Open 2013 Media, a set on Flickr.

Citi Open 2013 Media, a set on Flickr.
Washington, DC - ATP 500/WTA combo event; Tennis-Bargains Senior Photographer, Mikhail Bezruchko - FB Page:

On assignment for
All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Citi Open: Round of 16 Wed/Thurs Preview

Wednesday Preview

Tuesday was a fun filled night, see clips of the action here. If you get to the tournament site in the early afternoon, head over straight to Court 1 where Radek Stepanek takes on Michael Llodra. These are two of a dying breed - serve and volleyers (what's that you ask?). Right next door on Court 2, take a peek at the doubles action with former UVA alum Treat Huey and the booming serve of 6 ft 5, Domnic Inglot.

Rain Delays
Wednesday was only a half day because of the rainouts - therefore the play is "stacked" for extra action on Thursday. Check out this article on how to deal with rain delays at tennis events, and how to get a good deal from it!

Thursday Double-Headers

Thursday promises to be another action packed day with top seeds Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, Tommy Haas and John Isner all taking the court. They may possibly have to play double-headers (back to back matches). Let's look at some of the best matches and courts to check out today.

First up is Juan Martin Del Potro taking on Ryan Harrison. This is JMDP's first match after his incredible Wimbledon semi so expect some early rust, while Harrison is confident after a straight set victory over former US Open champ Lleyton Hewitt yesterday. There should plenty of entertainment in this one.

Tommy Haas will be action on Center court taking on Tim Smyczek to finish their 3rd set. Smyczek is a crafty all court counter puncher but expect Haas to get through in straights despite coming back after a bit of a summer break. At the same time on the Grandstand, you can hop over to Melanie Oudin and Angelique Kerber.

At the same time if you want to get a first-come-first serve seating up front on Grandstand, you'll want to catch at least the first set of Jack Sock taking on Top 20 Japanese star Kei Nishikori. Sock's got impressive power and he'll have to stay consistent to outmatch Nishikori. Kei moves like the wind and uses his core strength to hit incredible ground strokes on the run. I'm going with Kei in 3 sets but this should be a fun encounter.

So dont wait folks, make sure you get your tickets here or head on over to Rock Creek Park and we'll see you there .

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Citi Open 2013 - Coverage, Play Interviews, HD Pictures and more!

Somdev Devvarman - jumping backhandGrigor Dimitrov forehandGrigor Dimitrov ball tossIstomin serveCiti Open Fans on grandstandIstomin vs Querrey
Citi Open Tuesday (7)Grigor Dimitrov - follow throughDimitrov volleyAlexandr DolgopolovRyan Harrison advancesLleyton Hewitt
Lleyton Hewitt - focusLleyton Hewitt - contactSomdev defeats defending 2012 championAlexandr Dolgopolov sliceSomdev Devvarman - backhand 2Somdev Devvarman - backhand 1
Somdev Devvarman - backhand 3Alexandr Dolgopolov serve

Citi Open 2013 Media, a set on Flickr.
Washington, DC - ATP 500/WTA combo event; Tennis-Bargains Senior Photographer, Mikhail Bezruchko - FB Page:

On assignment for
All rights reserved.
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