Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Tennis’

Love Game: A history of tennis

May 09, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History, Tennis No Comments →

Tennis in 1600. Image from BibliOdyssey.

Tennis has always been – beneath the flannelled pomp – an outsiders’ sport. For all the glamour of its major stars, the A-list oligarchy of Roger-Rafa-Novak, it remains in a small but vital way a sport liked by people who don’t necessarily like sport. And not just liked, but pored over, cherished, meditated upon and generally engaged with in a way that seems distinct from the more garrulous engagements with other mass spectator sports. It isn’t hard to see why. Tennis is a strangely intimate spectacle. At times it can resemble less a display of athletic excellence than a revelation of personality, glimpsed through the familiar repartee of serve, rally, volley, drop shot, winner. Then there is that touchingly stark on-court isolation. No other sport presents its players so nakedly to the world, alone in all that space, surrounded only by ball-grabbers and towel-handlers, engaged in the most mannered of arm’s-length emotional wrestling matches. Little wonder it is so easy to identify rather too closely with a tennis player, to imagine those distant professional athletes as warriors, victims, heroes, friends and general objects of private obsession.

Read the review of Love Game by Elizabeth Wilson at The Literary Review.

Liveblogging Without Watching: Federer v Nadal at the Australian Open 2014

January 24, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 1 Comment →


This is a match we have hoped for for over a year, it starts in a few minutes, and WE’RE NOT WATCHING. Too intense, makes us nuts. However, we will follow the scores and post updates from our friends Dorski (who named her son Kevin Roger) and Mike A (who may have to sedate himself).

Join our liveblog! Post your updates and observations in Comments.

The net! Win at the net!!

* * * * *
Dorski: Federer serves first, gets the first point. Nadal drinking and fastidiously aligning his bottles before getting up to serve.

Rafa is wearing the coolest red Nikes with “Rafa” on them to match his red shirt. Oh, got it wrong. Rafa’s shirt is grey in front and red in back. 1-1. Fed is wearing a blue shirt with some thin red piping on the edges, white shorts and red sneakers with a white stripe. 2-1 Federer.

Game 4. Nadal serving. 40-40!!! Advantage Nadal…does his running/sliding from one end of the court to the other and gets the point. 2-2.

Roger! We are temporarily un-retiring from watching tennis

January 22, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 6 Comments →

AP photo

Roger Federer has beaten Andy Murray in the Australian Open quarters in four sets. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Remember when we used to take victory for granted? Bring back 2006!

* * * * *

Juan is at a conference in Melbourne and his hosts took their group to the Rod Laver Arena for the Federer-Murray match. “Andy was very noisy,” he reports, “Roger so relaxed and calm. Andy was very powerful while Roger was very precise. Close fight.” He took these photos from the stands.



Djokovic: How d’you like him now?

September 06, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 7 Comments →

Not really, but tough to argue with success.


He bounces the ball a million times before he serves. His play is plasmatic. He seems to flow toward the corners of the court. He is an origami man, folding at the waist to dig up a drop shot, starfishing for a high forehand return, cocking his leg behind his head in an arabesque as he blasts a backhand down the line. He lunges, he dives, he beats his pecs. He once yelled—in Serbian—“Now you all will suck my dick!”

He is dominant, but he is not universally adored. His showy personality and subtle game are a niche taste. Haters call him Djokobitch. Jerzy Janowicz, the Polish player, said recently that he was “a fake.” But now, with the waning of the Federer-Nadal duopoly, which has fixated tennis for the past decade, the love he craves is within his reach. This week, at Flushing Meadows, where he was once booed, Novak Djokovic will attempt to assert his sovereignty.

Read a profile of the Djoker by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker.

Will Ree-shard Gasquet hold his nerve, or will Rafa Nadal crush him as usual? Will Stanislas Wawrinka ever emerge from the shadow of you-know-who? Is Juan Martin del Potro going to remain a one-slam wonder? Who is the world number one-in-waiting?

* * * * *

Ooh, surprises! Not that surprising when you consider the talent behind them, but we like it when the narrative strays from the plot. We haven’t been following tennis since we released Roger Federer from his “obligations” (17 slams being an excellent return on our emotional investment), but if the US Open final is between Wawrinka and Gasquet, or Del Potro makes it to the Oz final, we’re going back to watching tennis.

BBC presenter apologizes to Bartoli for something Pinoy presenters say all the time (Updated)

July 08, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 8 Comments →


The BBC presenter John Inverdale has apologised to the Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli for describing her as “not a looker” shortly before her win on Saturday, calling his remarks clumsy and ham-fisted.

Opening his coverage of Sunday’s men’s final for BBC 5 Live, He said he had written to the player to apologise “if any offence was caused”, after his comments a day earlier sparked a furious response.

The BBC was forced to apologise after Inverdale, speaking before Bartoli’s match against Sabine Lisicki, told listeners of Radio 5 Live: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”

Continue reading at the Guardian.

Tapos yung mga di kagandahan, sila pa ang malakas manlait sa anyo ng iba. (Self-loathing?) Sino nga ba ang madalas na nagmamaganda?

* * * * *

From Cooper and Butler: A Wimbledon Love Story, at Vulture. Uuyyy, selfies. Below them, the President of Serbia.

Text exchange with two sportswriters

Us: And while Britain weeps for joy, Scotland declares independence and names Andy Murray president.

LeK: Wahaha! Ees about time. Sean Connery for prime minister!

Us: Dali! Sulsulan mo in exchange for a lifetime supply of single malt.

LeK: Good deal. Let’s all take the high road!

Us: Well you do have a personal stake in the fate of the Scotch, este Scots.

LeK: Of course. Noon pa, Scotland Forever. What Robert the Bruce started, Andy, Sean, Nessie and I will finish!

FireQ: Hahaha! What do you think of this small group pissed kasi hindi raw 77 years ang British drought because there are women who won during that period?

Us: Kuraz! Hindi ba Ingles si Virginia Wade?

FireQ: Yup, pero parang namimilosopo na sila hehe.

Us: Baka kasi sabi ng tatay nila hindi sila kagandahan kaya’t kailangang mamilosopo.

In order to play tennis well, you have to make your brain shut up.

June 26, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Tennis No Comments →

double fault
Double Fault by Lionel Shriver (We Need To Talk About Kevin) is one of the finest novels ever written about tennis. If you ever spot it, snap it up. We’re amazed that it’s not better-known, and that it hasn’t been adapted for film. It’s about two professional tennis players who fall in love and marry each other. A terrible idea. Extremely competitive people working in the same field should not marry each other. The dating period will probably be fun, but in the long term, when one of them realizes that the other is more successful at what they do, there will be trouble. (Especially if the less successful one is actually better, just less lucky.)

* * * * *
The game may be as mental as it is physical, but playing it well entails making the brain shut up. At my worst, my head is crowded with imperatives—first and foremost, though you’d think this would go without saying, WATCH THE BALL! Then: Step into the shot! Hit the ball in front of you! Get your racket back! But these clamouring edicts are an impediment to obeying them; they so clutter my mind that I might as well have strewn a clatter of gardening tools on the court itself.

Why is having hit the ball correctly thousands of times before never any guarantee of hitting it properly this time? That is the central puzzle of tennis, a mystery on parade at Wimbledon as well as in public parks. Even professionals will abruptly futz a shot they’ve hit dazzlingly since they were five.

Part of the answer is that there is no “this shot.” Any impression of having hit a ball before is an illusion. “Baseline forehand” is a crude umbrella under which cluster a constellation of infinitely various circumstances. Geometrical elements make every shot distinctive: angle, velocity, spin, and bounce. More interestingly, emotional variables pertain. How confident do you feel today? Did you lose the last point? Did you lose the last ten points? Are you still a little pissed off that your partner showed up 15 minutes late? Are you focused, or merely telling yourself to focus? That is, are you dwelling fully in the moment, or did you just start debating lamb patties vs haddock for dinner?

For tennis tantalisingly offers perfect inhabitation of the present tense, what drummers call playing “in the pocket.” During brief, intoxicating periods of hitting at the top of your game, the mental cacophony quiets, and there’s no longer any space between “telling yourself” to do something and doing it. This flow state seems like not thinking. In fact, it is perfect thinking.

Read My tennis obsession by Lionel Shriver at Prospect.