Shoshin and the US Open 25

Shoshin and the US Open

I first went to the US Open in 1958 and saw Althea Gibson win what was then called the US Nationals. Forest Hills on the grass. Tennis was officially in my blood from that moment on. There were a few years that I didn’t attend but this will be about my 50th year of attending.

You would think it gets old.



A Japanese word used by zen teachers.
It means child’s mind. Beginner’s mind. Seeing something as if it is the very first time. 
The day you fell in love; the birth of a child; the first day you contributed to a cause that was truly personal to you. The day you won your first trophy.

We don’t have a word quite like it in English, yet each of us has an opportunity to experience it again. To find Shoshin.

So when I show up today, I am once again seeing something as if it is the very first time.

Each time I hear the sounds of those balls coming off the strings. The crowd shuffling along. The big tennis balls being carried around by the kids. Familiar faces from the industry. New faces.

I sit here this morning in a state of anticipation.

And the experience of Shoshin is a gift. A reminder to spend more time in this state.

This is also the task of the extraordinary players that will be doing what they can to stay in a state of presence. To avoid future tripping about winning and losing. To let go of past tripping about missed opportunities.

The greats in everything are masters of keeping their attention locked in on what is most important in the moment. Accepting of the ups and downs, the winners and the misses. Staying present. Fighting to keep the mental wiggles out.

Shoshin. No attachment to what we want out of what we are doing. Simply being. That is when these players are accessing the highest levels of their talent and skills.

So who will find this state over the next two weeks?

The obvious picks are Djokovic and Federer.

Djokovic. #1. Winner of Wimbledon. He has spent time in Shoshin since winning. Marriage. Honeymoon. Anticipating the birth of his first child.

But he has not found his tennis mojo. He couldn’t find that mental spot at Toronto or Cincinnati.
I don’t think he had a good story going. I suspect his story has been that it is normal to being distracted after a huge win, a marriage and honeymoon.

But NO. That story does not work for a guy like him who is the #1 player because he has no mental wiggles..

At his level, to win this Grand Slam, he needs to be in mental lockdown. There are too many players in the draw that, given a less that totally locked in Novak, if they are locked in, can beat him.

So I wonder if he is there. I hope so because I want to see him in the finals.

I always pick with my heart and I pick Federer. I made that announcement the day after he lost the final of Wimbledon. He came up a little short there against a totally inspired Djokovic.

Federer, though, has been the best player in the World since that final.

He is, at 34, in a state of Shoshin. He loves his life. We hear his interviews and it is wonderful to hear his comments about how content he is.

His story includes that he feels very little pressure. He has little to prove at this point. He is free. He talks of the enjoyment of family, travel and being the elder statesmen of the game. He thrives on being the model for the next group of players coming up.

He is living a life of effortless effort. What a great state for him to be in as the Open begins. Add to that state that he is fit, healthy and has found Shoshin in his tactics thanks to the wonderful Stefan Edberg influence. He is like a kid playing approach the net tennis for the first time, experimenting with the newness.

When a player is on a roll they get better with almost every match. A little dodgy early in the tournament but then the flow starts and, by the last match, the brilliance is on display. The mind becomes free of thoughts. The presence floods the mind and we see the very best of a player.

I hope to see both of these amazing players there on the final day.

As with Wimbledon I expect to see one or two players from the new guard making it to the semis.

Tsonga, Dimitrov and Raonic all have the games to beat anyone on any day. When against one of the top guys, though, they usually have the mental blink. Blink once and their serve is broken. Blink twice and they are shaking hands at the net wondering what happened.

Lopez. Garcia-Lopez. Nishikori (I really like this guy to do some damage, but his physical is questionable). Gulbis. Monfils. Any of them can take a top seed down but probably can’t keep it up day after day.

Murray. Wawrinka. Berdych. These three are the real deal and are likely to run deep into the second week. All, though, have been inconsistent. Nearly the best in the world but slightly wounded animals that some of the younger guys might be able to take down.
Ferrer. He is in his own class. Best guy in the world to not win a Grand Slam. Probably will make it to the semis because he is tough for anyone to beat. But then his record against Djokovic and Federer is going to be what keeps him from the final.

I am feeling it. The buzz. The uncertainty. Who will do what they arent supposed to do? Who will take the bad loss first.

It is like my first ever US Open.


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25 thoughts on “Shoshin and the US Open

  • Ed Schroback

    Hey Bob, i will never forget going to the US OPEN in Forest Hills in 1973 ..i used to go almost every day at the beginning..I saw Borg-Laver. In 1976 I left the match after Orantes was down 2 sets to Vilas, Then Orantes came back to win ;then win the final the next day against Connors..The first day the US Open opened at Flushing Meadows. I was there early and sitting on a bench near the entrance and a guy came up to me and asked “Well ,how do you like it”?..It was Slew Hester the designer and man who built it..I have so many stories there is not enough space to write them here..Anyway I am a Federer fan 100%. I will significantly cut down watching tennis after he retires..I sincerely hope he wins this years US OPEN..But i’m not sure if he can consistently win 7 matches;best 3 out of 5

  • Ed Schroback

    I forgot to add. i went to qualifying rounds every year..I saw Agassi at 15-16 years old get schooled by Jeremy Bates. I saw a chubby 15 year old Nadal lose and cry..Saw Dimitrov lose first round qualies at 17..I saw Steffie Graf at around 14-15 with those bouncing feet on a side court.Jennifer Capriati at 14-15..Ivan Lubijic with hair..The Bryans trying to qualify in SINGLES. Jimmy Arias at 15. Pat Rafter on a side court when he was lowly ranked. Dr Ivo karlovic trying to qualify for 6-8 years before he made main draw..

  • Ed Schroback

    Words of Coach Jeff Salzenstein:

    Proof that dreams do come true. (WATCH VIDEO AT THE END)
    He qualified for the US Open and fulfilled a lifelong dream
    to play in the main draw of a Slam.
    This could not have happened to a more deserving person.
    It was moment I will never forget as long as live.
    It was moment that James will always cherish.
    When he hit the ace on match point, we all had the
    opportunity to witness…
    the exaltation…
    the relief…
    the joy…
    all the pain…
    all the suffering…
    James has been through a lot to get to this point…
    financial issues…
    staying in hostels…
    playing in out of the way places like Gabon, Africa…
    lack of consistent coaching…
    injuries…tough losses…
    and yesterday, despite losing the first set 6-0 and cramping
    severely in his legs at the end, he found a way to hold serve
    and beat the gifted Ze Zhang from China 6-4 in the 3rd.

  • Pat Youngman

    Hi Bob –
    Someone told me that you and Joann moved to Colorado!!! I had a horrible past summer at Shelter Rock so I hope you two had a great one at Sand’s Point. We didn’t re-join this summer and are looking at our options. I’m sad that Joann isn’t here anymore – she was the one person that didn’t drive me insane! Great post today and keep in touch!

  • Abbi Greenfield Neuthaler

    I have played alongside a marvelous Japanese woman and she is the essence of shoshin
    It was a beautiful experience.
    I have a local doubles partner who smiles out of the corner of her freckled face and says ” don’t over think it Ab”
    It works…..


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