Photo of Andy Murray: Getty
Most of my posts have had a rather serious tone to them, so it's time to have a bit o' fun with this one. For any professional tennis player, there are hazards that they must avoid: the heat, dehydration, injury, non-nutritional food... and sock tans. Well, they can avoid the first four, but the last one is pretty unavoidable. For both men and women pros, they have the same type of oufit: tennis shoes, socks, shorts (men), skirts (women) and a top. Throw in some head bands and wrist bands, and there is a lot of skin that is covered with the exception of their arms and legs. This leads to some interesting tan lines that can be impossible to cover up.
For women pros, it can be quite the challenge to try and find inventive ways to combat the tennis "sock tan". At official WTA parties, they often wear dresses that often expose more skin than what they did on the tennis court. This exposed skin is often a shade or two (or three or four) lighter than their highly bronzed skin that was exposed during their day job. It can be especially awkward with strapless high heels (or high heels of any kind) or a strapless or backless or sleeveless dress. I'm not saying it's an ugly effect. I just find the patterns of different skin colour fascinating and quite amusing because they can't really do anything about their tan lines. They are there to stay, no matter how much they try and cover them with fake spray tans and lotions.
Photo of Novak Djokovic: Rogers Cup
Tennis players deal with the horror of the sock tan easier or harder with the issue depending on the tone of their skin. In the photo at the top with Andy Murray, I don't really see how a fake spray-on tan is ever going to help him blend his tennis-playing tanned neck and arms in with the rest of the real shade of his skin. Novak Djokovic, seen in 2009 at a Montreal fashion show having fun at an event for the Rogers Cup, appears to have been more successful in banishing the evil sock tan from his body. I can't really see any sock tan - even from where his socks were. His body groomer at the event must have done one hell of a blend job. Tennis players have got to hire that person! They would be in high demand.
It's not just tennis players who feel the wrath of the sock tan. Everyone who works outside for a living has to deal with this issue. Sock tans can be ugly. They can be interesting. They can be funny. They can be annoying. They can be time consuming to get rid of. But the one thing that they shouldn't be is stressful. I can see how anyone who works outside (professional tennis players included) who get stressed out and go to extreme lengths to get rid of their sock tans. Some don't care because they know it's impossible, but for others it can be an obsession. Fake spray or lotions just seem to make the situation worse - you have to be so precise with that product. What if you "went over the lines" and into your tanned skin with that type of product? Major body art problem there.
So the solution? Ignore it and be proud of your natural skin tone no matter how humorous it looks ? Slather on the tanning creams, lotions and sprays? Or go the old fashioned route and get some more of that natural tan on your unexposed skin. It appears to work for Canadian professional tennis player Vasek Pospisil (below). In the end, does it really matter? It's only a few tan lines or sock tans. What are you going to do - not go out in public because of your sock tan? Besides, the place where you reveal your sock tan the most is at home, indoors where your loved ones won't care if you have one or not - at least they shouldn't.
Photo: Vasek Pospisil/Twitter
Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty
When 2016 eventually comes to an end, Milos Raonic will probably sit back and say 'good, but not good enough'. Although there are still more than two months to go in the 2016 tennis season, Raonic's year has again been plagued by injury, misfortune and disappointment. This is not to say that 2016 has not seen progress or celebratory times. His brilliant run to the Australian Open semi finals and the Wimbledon final were proof that he continues to make significant progress in terms of style and substance. Mystifyingly, it is the mental side of the game where he has shown the most weakness.
When Raonic showed up at the beginning of the year wearing a mouth guard, I thought maybe it was because he was having dental problems. This should have been a major light bulb flash. As I know from personal experience, teeth grinding is a sign of stress and can manifest itself in any number of ways not connected to the jaw: body aches, back problems, headaches and mental stress. This was a sign that Raonic was under severe mental stress - probably not from anyone more so than himself. That this would manifest itself even further and to extremes at the U.S. Open in September would prove that the mental side of the game is something that Raonic still needs to work on.
Raonic puts a lot of pressure on himself. Perhaps it comes from the realization that he is not built like a traditional tennis player and has had to mold his body into something that will be effective on the court. Maybe it comes from the fact that he has to work hard - harder than most top players to achieve what he wants to do in tennis. Still, maybe it is internal pressure that he puts on himself or comes from outside sources that want or need him to do well. Some pressure is good. A lot of pressure is bad and, as we have seen at the U.S. Open, it can have a devastating effect on the body.
Raonic's game at the 2016 Australian Open looked devastating. It looked like a brand new Raonic. Until he injured himself while leading Andy Murray in the semi final, it looked as if Raonic could win the whole thing. Although the injury was physical in nature, perhaps the mental stress of the situation was the instigator. From that point on, through the winter and spring, although he made significant progress in consistently making his ranking or getting to the quarter finals, semi finals or final of tournaments, there was always this underlying push to his game - of trying hard, maybe too hard to put himself over the finish line. This was no more evident than at the French Open where he drew himself into inexplicably long matches and ended up losing to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the 4th round.
His success at Queens Club and Wimbledon showed that he was back on track in both his physical game and mental game. His work with John McEnroe, initially, worked. But I do think that as the summer wore on, Raonic settled back into the depths of his mind, where doubt, pressure and the element of 'winning at all cost' paid a price. The pressure of performing at home in Toronto, skipping the Olympics and everyone expecting him to come out of the blocks fresh and dominant because of that decision was his ultimate undoing.
I was more shocked at Raonic admitting that it was the pressure that felled him at the U.S. Open, rather than the fact that he lost to Ryan Harrison in the 2nd round. I don't think I've ever seen or heard of a tennis player admit that it was the mental side of the game that was the root cause of their physical downfall. That he would admit that is telling and it shows how much the mental side of the game has wreaked havoc on his game. He has to get it together. I would not be surprised to hear that he has engaged the help of a sport psychologist to help him exorcise the demons from his head.
I've heard various tennis analysts say that the game is mostly mental. The proportions vary, but from what I have witnessed over the past few decades of watching and following tennis, I have to say the game is 90% mental. You can work on your game in practice all you want, but if you can't focus on doing the best possible job when the umpire says 'play', then it is all for naught. It truly is scary what kind of a dominant player Raonic could be if he could only get the mental demons out of his head. It's ironic that his compatriot Vasek Pospisil is going through the same kind of doubt and intense self-examination right now. They are both too talented to let their heads start playing tricks with their games.
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