Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tony Romo Deals With Continued Criticism as High-Profile Dallas Cowboys' Quarterback

''You're always frustrated and disappointed when you don't play to what you feel like you're capable of. That was me last week. There's a lot of adversity you have to go through at different times, and if you keep plugging away, playing hard and just trying to get better, it'll come out the right way. ... This week was all about trying to execute better so we could come out and get a win.''

--Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys' quarterback, discussing his ability to bounce back from a last-minute loss to the New York Giants with a solid, but unspectacular 21-7 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Romo, who has been roundly criticized for his inability to win a playoff game for the Cowboys as well as his ability to put up great passing statistics (17 career 300- yard passing games) without scoring enough touchdowns, is on the hot seat in Dallas, a city that is hungry for a Super Bowl winner. Many people feel that he has been given too much notoriety for very little performance.

"Tony Romo was anointed as a star without doing anything in the NFL," said former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett.

"He's still young, still learning, growing," Dorsett added. "He's on that curve. It kind of reminds me of where the Giants were a couple years ago with Eli (Manning), who had a dominating guy on the offense in (since-traded tight end) Jeremy Shockey, similar to what was going on here with T.O. Now maybe his growth as a quarterback will speed up. He doesn't have this T.O. guy in his ear. I don't know exactly how much of an issue it was with T.O., because I wasn't there. But you sure heard a lot about it. So now that's gone."

"I thought Romo really was determined to be smart, relative to turnovers and was taking what was given to him," Jerry Jones, Cowboys' owner said after the Carolina game.

After throwing three interceptions against the Giants, Romo was careful with the football. Romo finished 22-of-32 for 255 yards and no interceptions.

Romo appears to be immune from the criticism and continues to try to learn and improve.

"The criticism is meaningless to me," Romo said about fallout from the Giants loss. "If I throw four TDs last week, everyone thinks you're amazing and might be this or that. It's the same as if people tell you you're no good. It doesn't matter. It's all about improving and doing it on the field."

"I am much tougher on myself than any of you guys ever will be," Romo told the media. "I have goals I hope to achieve as an individual and collectively as a group. I get frustrated and disappointed when I don't live up to what my standard is. That's why I come back with a purpose to improve. My sole focus this week was to understand why I did certain things and not make those mistakes again.

"Sometimes you have to go through the growing pains to get there."

For many Cowboy fans, their patience is wearing thin.

Excerpts from ESPN.com, Dallas Morning News and FoxSports.com, September 29, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mark Sanchez: NFL Rookie Living A Dream and Having Fun

"I'm loving every part of this. This is all I could ever dream of."

--Mark Sanchez, New York Jets rookie quarterback, after a 24-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans that brings the Jets' early season record to 3-0.

Sanchez, from USC, is the quarterback of only the fourth 3-0 Jets team in franchise history. He's the first NFL rookie QB in 40 years to win his first three starts. The victories included an upset of the New England Patriots.

Sanchez, the fifth player taken in the NFL draft in April, received a five-year, $50 million contract ($28 million guaranteed).

"I'm not winning these games," Sanchez said. "We are winning these games."

Sanchez did not have a great game. He went 17-of-30 for 171 yards, with two passing touchdowns, one rushing score (14 yards), one interception and two fumbles (one lost). He made some rookie mistakes.

"I like the way he bounces back; he doesn't let one play get him down, and he learns from his mistakes,"

--Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets wide-receiver, who caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and set up another with a 46-yard reception.

Excerpts from ESPN.com and the New York Post, September 28, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michael Crabtree: NFL Rookie Holdout

"He's a very focused kid. Far more focused than kids his age. He compartmentalizes things. My impression is that in his mind, he's compartmentalized this as saying, 'Hey, my job is to be ready to play when my people put me in position to play.' He doesn't think he's part of that. He's just focused on getting himself physically and mentally ready for the NFL. And he thinks the business side of it -- of signing or not -- is a whole separate issue, and he's not concerning himself with it."

--Trent Dilfer, describing the mental mindset of Michael Crabtree, who is holding out for a larger contract than the team that drafted him, the San Francisco 49ers, are willing to offer. Michael Crabtree, a rookie wide receiver out of Texas Tech University, is considered a great NFL prospect.

The 49ers have offered him $20 million to sign. Crabtree was the second wide receiver taken in the 2009 NFL draft.

Dilfer is a retired NFL quarterback and current broadcaster who has worked out with Crabtree.

Crabtree is being advised by the quartet of Eugene Parker, Crabtree's agent (who represents NFL veterans Hines Ward, Richard Seymour and Larry Fitzgerald), former NFL superstar Deion Sanders, Texas state Sen. Royce West and Crabtree's cousin, David Wells. Wells is in the bail-bonds business, served as a bodyguard for former Dallas Cowboys players Michael Irvin and Adam "Pacman" Jones, and is widely known in the Cowboys organization. Wells says it takes a village to raise a young African-American man, and that he always wanted to make sure Crabtree had someone strong for support.

Many consider Crabtree to be ill-advised and think he is likely to badly hurt his rookie season, if not his career, by holding out. He is the only rookie out of 256 to holdout.

The 49ers have until Nov. 17 to sign him if he's going to play this season. After Aug. 14, the club was no longer permitted to trade Crabtree's rights. The next point he can be traded is at the start of the 2010 trading period on March 5. If Crabtree is not signed and he is not traded, he would go back into the April 2010 draft.

Excerpts from ESPN.com, September 24, 2009.

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Tiger Woods: Focus, Technique & Execution

“When you’re over that putt, all you think about is where you’re playing that ball. All the other stuff takes care of itself. It’s nothing else but starting that ball on that line with the correct speed. That’s it.”

--Tiger Woods, talking about his mindset, as the Tour Championship gets under way at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Woods is the odds-on favorite to win the tournament and regain the championship trophy he won by eight strokes in the inaugural tournament in 2007. A win would also give him the FedEx Cup for 2009.

Excerpts from the New York Times, September 24, 2009.

For more on Tiger Woods and Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Tom Brady Magic: Patriots Make Last-Minute Comeback

"The interception was a really bad play. You can't do that. You learn from them, get focused and concentrate on what you have to do."

--Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback, discussing his resiliency and ability to bounce back after throwing a interception to defensive end Aaron Schobel was rambling 26 yards with an interception for a first-half TD by the Buffalo Bills.

How do the Patriots do it? How do they keep winning in the NFL?

Composure and Resilience

Brady threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:06 as New England beat the Buffalo Bills 25-24. The Patriots have not lost a regular-season game with Brady at quarterback since Dec. 10, 2006. Brady had a great game statistically. He completed 39 of 53 passes for 378 yards. He still has great receivers: Randy Moss (12 catches, 141 yards), Wes Welker (12, 93) and tight end Benjamin Watson (6, 77, two TDs).


“Get your hats on. We’re gonna score before the two-minute warning, get the ball back, then we’re gonna score again and win this thing!”

--Tom Brady, in the huddle at the end of the gam.

"You see Tom coming off the sideline and he comes into the huddle, talking about 'We're going to win this game,' " Moss said. "And when you have guys like that saying positive things and then going out there and making it happen, you have to have your hopes high and really think positive."

Competitiveness and Hard Work

"We have a real competitive locker room, a real competitive team," Brady said. "When you're in a situation like we were, it's when you really have to step it up. It takes every guy on the field to step it up. Hopefully, we will continue to do that."

"It's a great feeling to have that rhythm and that aspect of the game back," offensive tackle Matt Light said. "Not that we didn't have it last year, but (Brady) was out there making all the right plays and delivering the ball downfield, and those guys were making huge catches."

"A lot of composure. A lot of great throws," Watson said. "A lot of confidence, and he would say we as an offense have a lot to work on. ... In six years, I've seen him do it plenty of times."

"I know he had to be nervous, but you can never tell with this guy. Nothing he does is ever a shocker," new Buffalo Bills cornerback Shawn Springs said. "When they say 'hard work pays off,' he symbolizes that. There are no coincidences with Tom Brady."

Sharing the Credit

"He ran two great routes," Brady said of tight end Watson. "The first was an incredible route, great protection. And the second one was an incredible catch. It was the same play. Same coverage, and the safety really squeezed him on that one, but he recognized it. I told him it was the best catch I'd ever seen him make."

On the final two drives, Brady finished 12-for-14 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. This was Brady's 29th winning fourth quarter drive of his career.

Having Fun

"Two-minute drives always are fun for a quarterback," Brady said. "Spread it out, the pass rush gets a little tired, you get a feel for the coverage, you just have to be patient.

Continuous Improvement Mentality

Still, there is much room for improvement.

"I'm glad it's over, glad we are moving on, got a win, and we'll learn from it. We've all got to improve, we've all got to make better plays," Brady said. "You can't just leave it to chance."

"We made a lot of mistakes, but we'll just look at the film, make the corrections, and move on," Adalius Thomas, New England linebacker said.

Excerpts from ESPN.com, Associated Press, The New York Times and MetroWest Daily News, September 15, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

For more on the New England Patriots, click on the New England Patriots Peak Performance Case Study.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Update: Serena Williams Amends Her Apology

Prior to her championship doubles match at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams issued this amendment on her blog:

Hey guys!!!

I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible - I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA, and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst. I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I'm wrong.

I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner.

I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad. I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result.




For more on cheating and bad behavior in sports, click on Cheating and Bad Behavior.

Serena Williams Loses Her Cool

"If I could, I would take this ... ball and shove it down your ... throat."

--SerenaWilliams, in the heat of battle at the U.S. Open.

This tirade has been seen thousands of times on YouTube. This meltdown was unacceptable. It was totally out of line and inappropriate. All tennis players, established and aspiring, young and old, amateur and professional are watching. Everyone wants to see where the boundaries are set, where the limits of bad behavior lie.

On Saturday night, in the midst of a tense second set in the women’s semi-finals of the U. S. Open against Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams was called for her second foot fault of the match on a second serve at 5-6, 15-30. Defending champion Williams then walked toward the line judge, screaming, cursing and shaking a ball in the official's direction, threatening to "shove it down" her throat. Williams was penalized a point for unsportsmanlike conduct that gave a 6-4, 7-5 upset victory to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters.

When Williams was through yelling, Engzell called the linesperson to the chair. Following a brief chat, Engzell requested that tournament referee Brian Earley come onto the court.

Another discussion ensued, with Williams joining the mix. In the end, Williams was called for her second code violation of the match – this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. As tennis rules dictate, a player’s second code violation is a point penalty.

Since Williams’ point penalty came with the Williams serving at 15-40, the game was awarded to Clijsters. And since Clijsters led by a set and 6-5 at the time, the match was hers.

The U.S. Open officials who have earlier fined Serena for $500 for racket abuse in the same match, reporterd fine her $10,000 and gave indications that further penalties may be imposed on the player after the investigation over the entire incident is over.

“The grand slam rule book allows for an investigation to be conducted by the grand slam committee administrator to determine if the behavior of Ms Williams warrants consideration as a major offence, for which additional penalties can be imposed. This investigation has just now begun,” said referee Brian Earley in a statement.

Reports say that the WTA tour chief Stacey Allaster had reportedly termed Serena Williams’ behavior as both “inappropriate and unprofessional”. John McEnroe, reportedly said that Serena should be suspended for breaching the code of conduct. It had been reported that Williams had reportedly refused to apologize. She seemed quite unrepentant.

However, later, in a statement released by Serena, the player has reportedly said that she should have kept her cool during the altercation.

“Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience.”

--Serena Williams, in an apology.

Right after the match, Serena was in denial.

“I haven't been called for a foot fault all year until I got to New York, so maybe when I come to this tournament I have to step two feet back,” said Williams, whose first foot fault was called by a different linesperson in the sixth game of the second set.

“Kim played really well, and I think she came out with a really big plan,” said Williams. “I think that the next time we play I'll know a little bit more about her game, what to expect, and what to do.”

About 20 minutes following her tirade, a composed Williams said she likely foot-faulted.

“I'm pretty sure I did,” said Williams. “If she called a foot fault, she must have seen a foot fault. She was doing her job. I'm not going to knock her for not doing her job.

After the match, Williams did not acknowledge her poor sportsmanship. Asked in her postmatch news conference what she said to the line judge, Williams wouldn't say, replying, "What did I say? You didn't hear?"

Williams also minimized the incident. "I've never been in a fight in my whole life, so I don't know why she would have felt threatened," Williams said with a smile.

The line judge went over to the chair umpire, along with tournament referee Brian Earley. Williams then went over and said to the line judge: "Sorry, but there are a lot of people who've said way worse." Then the line judge said something to the chair umpire, and Williams responded, "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? I didn't say that." The line judge replied by shaking her head and saying, "Yes."

Williams already had been give a code violation warning when she broke her racket after losing the first set. So the chair umpire now awarded a penalty point to Clijsters, ending the match.

"She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty," Earley explained. "And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct."

When the ruling was announced, Williams walked around the net to the other end of the court to shake hands with a stunned Clijsters, who did not appear to understand what had happened.

"I used to have a real temper, and I've gotten a lot better," Williams said later. "So I know you don't believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed." Really? Worse than this? Really?

Serena also overshadowed and tarnished the achievements of Clijsters. In only her third tournament back after 2 1/2 years in retirement, the 26-year-old Belgian became the first mother to reach a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon 1980.

“I never really expected to be beating Venus and beating Serena,” said Clijsters, who upset Serena’s sister, Venus , in the fourth round. “You try and you try to bring your best tennis, but you don't expect things to be going this well this soon.

“That's why I, knock on wood, just try to stay focused and not lose my rhythm that I've been having over these last two-and-a-half, almost three weeks that we've been here. Just trying to keep that going until the whole tournament is finished.”

"The normal feelings of winning a match weren't quite there," Clijsters said. "But I think afterwards, when everything kind of sunk in a little bit and got explained to me about what happened, yeah, you kind of have to put it all in place, and then it becomes a little bit easier to understand and to kind of not celebrate, but at least have a little bit of joy after a match like that."

Clijsters hadn't competed at the U.S. Open since winning the 2005 championship. Williams came into the day having won three of the past four Grand Slam titles, and 30 of her previous 31 matches at major tournaments.

One could see this meltdown coming. When Williams hit backhands into the net on consecutive points at 5-4 in the first set, Clijsters had broken her for the second time and taken the opening set. Upset, the American bounced her racket, caught it, then cracked it against the blue court, damaging the entire frame.

When Williams walked to the changeover, she clanged it against the net post and was given a warning for racket abuse by the chair umpire.
That would prove costly at match's end.

"I mean, the timing is unfortunate, you know," Clijsters said. "To get a point penalty at the time, it's unfortunate. But there are rules, and you know, like I said, it's just unfortunate that it has to happen on a match point."

Simply put, this is an ugly incident that tarnishes what should have been a special match and championship for Kim Clijsters and, thus far, remarkable career of Serena Williams. Serena has lost a championship and the respect of many. The U.S. Open organizers and the WTA officials should come down hard on Serena to ensure that others are not tempted to berate an official and to send a strong message to all elite athletes about their increasing boorish behavior.

Serena, the way to move forward from this and learn is to acknowledge the behavior and suffer the consequences, real consequences, not just a slap on the wrist. Everyone, let’s take this opportunity to take the high road.

For more on bad behavior and sports, click on Cheating and Bad Behavior.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oudin Finally Ousted from U.S. Open

"The dream...it's not over yet."

--Melanie Oudin, talking with Good Morning America after being eliminated from the U.S. Open.

Oudin finally was sent packing by 9th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 6-2, in the quarterfinals. Oudin had upset Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to get to the quarters while garner a huge fan base who fell in love with her youth and energy. American tennis has been given a shot in the arm by Oudin's run and her personality.

Though she finally seemed overwhelmed and outmatched by Wozniacki, we should see much of Melanie Oudin in the future, due to her considerable talent and typically strong mental approach to the game. However, it was her coach who took the blame for the loss.

"I'll take the blame," said her coach Brian de Villiers. "I didn't prepare her mentally, didn't explain to her how this would be a long, tough match and how she needed to be patient. And then her legs weren't there, and she got irritated with herself ..."

Consequently, Oudin produced 43 unforced errors and only 11 winners.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

For Melanie Oudin, Mental Toughness Pays Off at the U.S. Open

“I try to pretend that it's not like Arthur Ashe Stadium playing Maria Sharapova. I try to just pretend it's any other match, even just practicing. Sometimes I tell myself I'm just practicing at my academy at home and I'm just playing one of my friends.”

--Melanie Oudin, discussing her approach to her matches.

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia staged another upset Monday afternoon at the U.S. Open, extending her surprising run to the quarterfinals with another come-from-behind victory, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 over 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. Oudin once again upset a more-seasoned, higher-ranked opponent.

Oudin, the 70th-ranked player already had wins over No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 29 Maria Sharapova, a former No. 1 and U.S. Open champion, along with one over former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic this summer at Wimbledon. Now, she's knocked off the No. 13 seed at the U. S Open.

Melanie Oudin defeated Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

“I learned, once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls,” said the American, who once again rallied from a set down to beat her heavily-favored opposition. “And if I believe in myself and my game, then I can beat them.”

Previously, on Thursday afternoon, Oudin knocked out another top Russian, Elena Dementieva, in three-sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. Dementieva was ranked No. 2 earlier this year. Oudin’s ranking will now rise to the low 50s from 70.

After beating Dementieva, Oudin said, “I didn't think that she was blowing me off the court. She wasn't hitting winners left and right on me. We had long points. I was right there with her. I knew if I could play well and keep being aggressive and stay in there that I could do it.”

Oudin has displayed a great deal of mental toughness, and an ability to reach back and gather energy late in the third set.

Hard Work, Passion and Focus

“Someone asked me at Wimbledon, how I would describe the whole experience,” said Oudin. “There's not really one word. Everything about it is just unbelievable. But basically I love to play tennis, and that's why I'm here. I'm loving it.”

“I guess it’s kind of surprising, but it’s like I’ve worked so hard for this,” said Oudin. “Finally, everything is just coming together. I’m playing how I’ve been wanting to play, how I knew I could play. I just haven’t been able to do it continually for an entire match. These past matches here, I’ve been able to keep it up the entire time, not just a couple points here or there, a set here and there, but like the entire match.”

Confidence and Composure

“She’s just playing with such confidence now, and she thrives on playing in front of people,” said Brian de Villiers, Oudin’s coach since she was 9. “Before we went out, she was like: ‘I cannot let Sharapova intimidate me. I have to just hold my ground.’ ”

Oudin has now beaten two women who were once ranked No. 1 (Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon and now Sharapova).

“I think she has a great amount of potential,” said Sharapova, who, like Dementieva, was gracious in defeat. “I thought she played really well. I thought she has many weapons. You know, she certainly held her ground.”

After looking average, anxious, and out of her league in the first set against Sharapova, Oudin regained her composure in the second set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead before Sharapova recovered. Sharapova fought through the next three games before Oudin won the set on her seventh set point.

Competitive Spirit

“I’ve always been so competitive, doesn’t matter what I’m doing,” Oudin said, adding: “I always want to win more than anything. I’m not going to give up, you know, no matter what the score is.”

She has become the youngest American to move into the quarterfinals at America's Grand Slam since Serena Williams in 1999.

All four of Oudin's wins have come against Russians and her next match could be against yet another. That's sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 Open champion and the only Grand Slam tournament winner left on Oudin's side of the bracket.

Tenacity and Determination

"It's kind of hard to explain how I've done it," Oudin said. "Today, there were no tears because I believed I can do it. Now I know I do belong here. This is what I want to do. I can compete with these girls no matter who I'm playing. I have a chance against anyone."

Oudin improved to 6-1 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year when she's lost the first set. She is 17-4 overall this year in three-set matches. In all the matches, she has shown tenacity and determination.

"I don't actually mean to lose the first set," she insisted. "Sometimes, I just start off slowly. Maybe I'm a little nervous. Today, my timing was off a little. But I just totally forgot about it, started off the second set like it was a new match, and I started playing better."

With a serve that needs work (she won the match with Petrova without serving a single ace) Oudin is winning with high energy, footwork, technique, precision. Mostly, though, she is thriving in pressure situations that has destroyed so many others in her situation.

"You don't know if she's winning or losing," said her father, John. "She doesn't seem nervous out there -- and I don't know where that came from."

“It’s kind of hard to explain how I’ve done it,” Oudin said. “Like today, there are no tears because I believed that I could do it. And it’s like now I know that I do belong here. This is what I want to do, and I can compete with these girls no matter who I’m playing. I have a chance against anyone.”

Against Petrova, Oudin started slowly with Petrova serving well and Oudin unable to control her service games. A mere mortal would have had a difficult time bouncing back from a 1-6 beating. Petrova had been playing very well, beating her first three opponents without dropping a set.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all,” Oudin said. “If they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

In The Zone

“She gets pretty much in her own zone,” John Oudin said. “Nothing breaks her focus. I don’t know where she gets it from.”

Oudin, though, kept her composure and got going in the second set and got the crowd into it with her.

“She has nothing to lose,” Petrova said of Oudin. “She has the crowd going for her. She’s just having a blast out there.”

I know that I can compete with the best in the world now,” Oudin said. “And I will know that forever.”

Friday, September 04, 2009

Melanie Oudin: "Believe"

“I think she’s very talented. She was in the court and not afraid to play. She was playing very aggressively, really enjoying this atmosphere, you know, the crowd support and really going for the winners.”

--Elena Dementieva, who lost to Melanie Oudin in an upset in the second round of the U.S. Open. Dementieva is still seeking her first Grand Slam title.

To help with motivation, Oudin has "Believe" written on her tennis shoes. After reaching the fourth round as a qualifier, she upset the former No. 1 player in the world, Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

Oudin, from Marietta, Georgia, continues to excel at the U. S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday by upsetting No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, in the second round. She moves on the the third round to play Maria Sharapova.

The “Believe” message on Oudin’s shoes was her boyfriend's idea. Austin Smith, 15, is with her in New York. He said Oudin did not want to follow the lead of other pros by putting her name or nickname on her shoes.

“For me, it’s all about that,” Oudin said. “It’s believing that I can beat these girls.”

Excerpts from the New York Times, September 4, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Notes from the U.S. Open: Andy Roddick Learns Confidence

"I think I used to get more up and down on an individual results or two. I maybe used to be convinced after two bad weeks that it was going to fall apart forever or after two good weeks that I'd probably never play a bad match again. I think maybe I have a little more confidence in the process than I used to."

--Andy Roddick, discussing his past problems with confidence and self-criticism.

Andy Roddick, who Roger Federer has beaten in 19 or their 21 meetings, comes to this year's U.S. Open seeded fifth. His classic five-set loss to Federer at Wimbledon has rejuvenated his career and increased his fan support.

"I would be lying if I sat here and said I totally understood it. But it definitely made it easier to get motivated to get back on the court," says Roddick about his fans' reaction.

Roddick also hired Larry Stefanki last year as his coach. Stefanski has helped him with confidence, his self-criticism and internal dialogue. Roddick has also seemingly benefitted from his marriage to model Brooklyn Decker.

Will Roddick be confident and play well this year at the U.S. Open?

Excerpts from the New York Times (August 30, 2009)

For more on Peak Performance, go to The Handbook of Peak Performance.

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Dinara Safina: Mental Battles

"I try to do something good, but when it doesn't go good, then I go like too much into myself, what I'm doing right, wrong, instead of thinking more what I have to do with the ball."

--Dinara Safina, #1 ranked women's tennis player in the world and top-seed woman at the U.S. Open in New York.

New York, New York (USA)-- Dinara Safina came very close to becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open. She entered the match with the best women's winning percentage (52-12, .813). She was matched against Olivia Rogowska, a 18-year-old from Australia, a wild card competitor with one single career title as a professional and one victory over a top-50 player.

Rogowska won the first set in a tiebreaker when Safina seemed to lose her chronic war on nerves.

No top seed on the women's side at the U.S. Open in the Open era had ever lost a first-round match. It's only happened four times in the majors in 41 years. The highest seed to lose in those circumstances was Martina Navratilova, a third seed in 1976.

However, Safina worked her way back into the match and she was able to subdue the No. 167-ranked player in the world. The final was 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, but Safina was challenged by Rogowska and by her own emotions.

"A total mental battle," ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez observed. "She fought herself."

Despite her overall success, Safina continues to struggle mentally.

Excerpts from ESPN.com (September 1, 2009)

For more in Choking, Panic and Failure, click on Failure: The Peak Performance Field Guide #2.

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