sports psychologist & clinical psychology

VINCE SPADEA INTERVIEW 1 AT US OPEN 2006

Sept 1, 2006 – Q. Good win today. Why are you playing so well at this particular tournament?
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, I played hard the whole summer. I’ve played some good matches and I’ve lost some close matches to top players. Things are just kind of gluing together, just winning those bigger points that slipped by me, you know, earlier in July and August.
I’m hitting the ball more aggressive, just working on some things, serving better, serving smarter, you know. Just competing well. Have that consistent vigor, you know.

Q. Seemed like you really got the crowd into it and behind you. At one point you were pumping your fists to the side. Were they family, friends?
VINCENT SPADEA: No, I’m just trying to gain any type of energy from any source that’s around, including umpires, ball kids, fans, family. Finding excuses, whatever it is, to get myself over that hump. There’s so many humps out there on just a pointly basis. It’s just really difficult to go out.
I’ve been on the tour now 14 years. I don’t know what makes me get over that edge, find that right intensity to find that winning style. I’m just looking constantly for that edge right now. I’m just competing. Sometimes I feel like, okay, I’m using too much energy. I should be a little more stoic, sort of like the greats.
But, you know, it’s not totally my personality. There have been greats that were very outward, you know.

Q. Could the crowd be a factor for you against a world No. 1 in the next match?
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I mean, I feel like I can go out and make a great match out of it. Regardless of what the score is at that point in time, I’m always going to try to feel like I can, you know, stay on top or get into it or stay even, whatever the situation is going to present. You know, keep believing that I can do that.
There’s so many times where I’ve played matches like this where, you know, I either get outplayed, outclassed. Or I get in the match and then it’s tight. I just sort of fade. Or I’m in there and I’m not dominating, but I’m outplaying him, the legend, the high seed, and I’m just not able to close it out. Sometimes about 10 times in my career I’ve been able to close it out.
I’m just going to go out there and believe in myself, know, that it’s just another tennis match. I’m playing higher ranked players than I’m used to. He’s probably playing the best tennis that he’s ever played, and maybe that anyone’s ever played. So it’s somewhat challenging in that respect. But at the same time, Spadea ain’t afraid of you, right?

Q. Murray beat him a couple weeks ago.
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah. I think that mortalized him a little bit you know. You know what’s interesting about that match is he didn’t overpower him. How are you going to beat Federer? You need that ammunition at least, or more. Who is going to give it to him? Nadal maybe on clay. He couldn’t do it at Wimbledon. Who is doing it on these faster surfaces? Not many people at all. It was like the first match he lost.
The interesting part was that Murray used his guns, whatever they were, with tactical effectiveness. It showed that, you know, he might have been a little bit tired, a little bit unfocused. Whatever the matter is, it was a huge, huge upset. So it kind of inspires me to know if I can play an effective match to my maximum ability you know, I can’t make any predictions, but it’s definitely not something where I feel like, Oh, I don’t have Roddick’s serve or Sampras’ serve and volley game, or Agassi’s groundstrokes, I can’t even stay in there.

Q. Have you thought of anything to rhyme with Federer?
VINCENT SPADEA: He’s a predator (smiling).

Q. You have the book out. It’s in print. You can hold it in your hands and see it. How much of yourself did you really pour into that book?
VINCENT SPADEA: How much of myself did I pour into writing the book or exposing myself?

Q. Exposing yourself.
VINCENT SPADEA: I put a lot out, even to the point where I think my family were really they were reading it. They should know me better than anyone, any average person. They probably, uhm, were reading it with eyes wide shut, you know.
They were probably surprised about, you know, how I think, ’cause I tend to be I can be extremely extroverted or I can be just like, you know, very enigmatic, somewhat unpredictable.
I think I poured almost everything, if not everything. I can’t say to the extreme, but there should have been a couple more pages if I had maybe put it all. I think I just about put it all.
We only focused on one year, as well. I was trying to implement my past and the present, future. But it was mostly focused on the present of 2005. Whatever I was doing, whoever I was last year, that’s really what it mainly focused on. People change. I might have been different 15 years ago, and I was. I think I was a little more bashful, not as gregarious with anything, you know what I mean?
I think I left it all out there. It’s just an expose to the maximum as far as I’m concerned from my own person.

Q. James seemed to maybe react as you had broken a little bit of a locker room code. I don’t know if you read any of his comments. Maybe he’s a little upset you treaded on some ground. Did you see his comments at all?
VINCENT SPADEA: I had a guy come up to me today, a very well known coach, and he goes, I thought you pulled some punches. You were too politically correct.
I mean, you know, it’s like you can’t control everyone’s opinion. I mean, obviously there were certain excerpts in the book about that individual, James Blake, so obviously he’s going to have a biased opinion on his total outlook on the book.
You know, the book’s not about him. It’s not supposed to be about him. It’s just an excerpt. It’s a candid look at what I sort of looked felt surprised in his own mannerisms.
But overall, I mentioned that he’s done a lot of great things. It’s self explanatory what type of person he presents himself to be. I mean, like he said, I don’t know him. I’ve never been in his house. Nobody knows him who watches tennis matches.
I’m just giving you my take. I gave a little bit about his tennis game, because at that point he was sort of having a lot of those tribulations, trials, and he was struggling mentally and physically. He was 26, 27 years old, you know what I mean? He’s was the that guy they’ve talked about for seven years, eight years, you know what I mean?
Before, I mean from the last half of last year to the first half of this year, you know, he turned almost into an overnight celebrity. But before that, he was the guy who wasn’t living up to his hype, as I was, as so many Americans have been, trying to follow in those four thoroughbreds: Courier, Chang, Agassi, and Sampras. You know what I mean?
Blake wasn’t happy. I mean, that’s life. You know, it’s hard to make everybody happy and every day impact everyone perfectly. It’s just the way it goes. That’s life.
Even the presidents that are elected, half the world, at least, aren’t in harmony with that, especially in the U.S.

Q. Vince, has any other player spoke to you directly, or do you hear the feedback secondhand? Has anyone said, Hey, this is what I think about the book?
VINCENT SPADEA: I mean, naturally, the people that I slightly exposed, mildly in a mild, controversial manner, I mean, it’s not something incriminating. There’s no overwhelming amount of offensive material. It’s something that we want to know who these people are. I want to know. I was writing about it. I want you to know. I want you to know about me.
Three quarters of that book was about me. The other quarter was about other people in my workplace, you know. People write novels. They write non fiction books based on the closest things in their lives, and you have to reveal. I think that’s a better word to use, “reveal,” rather than “criticize” “expose” in an ignominious fashion.
But basically, that book is being appreciated I think overall as a literary effort to show what tennis is really about, what being a tennis player is really about.

Q. Have you played on Ashe?
VINCENT SPADEA: I played Ashe I think once only maybe. Maybe twice. It’s been a while.

Q. Singles?
VINCENT SPADEA: Singles. Round of 16 actually against Richard Krajicek, night match, which I lost.

Q. That was your last time?
VINCENT SPADEA: I believe so. There’s no other reason they’d put me on there. I never played Federer before or Agassi or anyone else.

Q. I was talking to your mixed doubles partner, Vania King, yesterday. How did that pairing come about?
VINCENT SPADEA: Well, I’m friendly with her brother. I think he came up to one of my family members and said, Hey, would Vince be interested in playing mixed doubles with my sister? I think that’s how it went. I was like, Sure.
I was trying to get in the doubles and/or mixed doubles. I didn’t get in the doubles, so I was looking for some more opportunity here. It’s a great event here, no matter what event you’re still in. We got a wildcard.
I don’t know that much about her. I know that she’s young and she’s I think played Federation Cup already. She’s obviously a precocious and good groundstroker, good player.

Q. Have you been in a match yet that involved a replay technology?
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I think once actually.

Q. What are your feelings on that?
VINCENT SPADEA: I mean, I think it’s interesting. I think it’s fun. I don’t see it changing anything significantly. Although I did hear was it Murray? I was playing maybe Ginepri in Cincinnati. There was a first set tiebreaker. Murray supposedly hit the ball out.
Ginepri was walking, after winning the set in a tiebreaker, and Murray appealed it, and it was actually in. Anyways, Murray ended up coming back and winning that set, which I thought was pretty amazing.
It can be kind of a crucial enhancement and also a deterrent for someone who’s walking feeling like they just won a tiebreaker, which is a pretty good feeling.
But I think it’s good for fans. I think it’s good for tennis. The screen, it’s a big jumbo screen. I think that’s very fun. I mean, my experience with it, I didn’t really I wasn’t so successful. I didn’t really see the balls the way I thought I did. I was wrong a few times.
But, you know, it’s ultimately maybe a little strategical. It takes practice. I usually wait till the end of the set when it’s going to be at least crucial, and then I just ask. Even if I’m about to lose, I just ask. I just maximize ’em.
I think it’s good for tennis, definitely. I don’t know if every tournament is willing to put out the finance for it. I know it’s an extra expense, for sure. It’s based on the individual tournaments, from what I gather.

Q. Have you been regularly checking the progress of the book on Amazon.com?
VINCENT SPADEA: I did once in a while. I get e mails from my collaborators here, my publicist and so on. If I get anything positive out of it, yeah, I’ll check it out. It’s exciting right now. This is the US Open. It’s a great time to promote it, capitalize on whatever we can do with it.

Q. Lindsay Davenport apparently also made a comment that what happens on the tour stays on the tour. Do you have a sense as to whether
VINCENT SPADEA: Was that pertaining to my book?

Q. Yes. Do you have a sense as to whether she and Blake are representative of people on the tour? Do players feel there should be privacy? What do you think their objections are or where do they come from?
VINCENT SPADEA: I don’t know. I mean, is there a historical like amendment that was made in sports that that should be the case? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t remember signing a paper that said that.
I don’t remember feeling any sort of inherent ruling or parameter or territory that I need to either go over or inhibit myself from talking about or doing. You know what I mean?
If somebody wants to, you know, throw pizza in the locker room against the wall and everyone is going to laugh, why should that be so detrimental? If somebody wants to do you know, if there’s something very, very serious going on, then leave that matter up to maybe a legal situation or a team.
But as far as everything else goes, it will come back around no matter if it’s in a book, in a newspaper, whether your friends or loved ones will hear about it. Things happen, you know, whether it’s around the locker room or outside.
I mean, there’s been plenty of incidents that go on on the court, in restaurants, in bars. You hear athletes all the time. It’s just happening, you know. I don’t think there should be like this wall, this great wall, of, Hey, I got my pass, and you’re just not human enough to know what my business is. You know what I mean?
I mean, we’re great athletes. We’ve done something forever so that we can get this type of edge to be a performer at a huge stage, but that doesn’t give us any rights to exclude ourselves or ostracize anyone else from knowing or feeling what we’re really like.
It’s one thing if somebody’s in your house and it’s like a paparazzi thing, or if it’s someone really being there’s some type of malicious intent. But I don’t feel like anything like that happened in what I was trying to expose.

Q. There’s a section in the book where you’re walking around the streets of New York. You’re pretty down. You’re doing some soul searching, looking for anybody to talk to, really questioning your career, what you’re doing on this planet. Where are you compared to that guy? Have you found what you were looking for?
VINCENT SPADEA: Yeah, I mean, I found that I love tennis. I was trying to convey that throughout the theme of the book that, you know, I came back and I realized what was important to me. Every idea, every authentic feeling that I ever had, every aspiration came from this great sport that I’ve been playing since I was five.
I realized that throughout those walks, throughout those negative moments at the wee hours of the New York streets. It sort of made me wake up. Everybody’s sort of hustling and bustling to their job. It’s about making an appointment, being punctual. I had no agenda.
It doesn’t mean you have to be a great tennis player to be happy. It just means you have to have something that you wake up for that is a challenge, that’s an ambition. You know, we are happiest as humans when we go out and we have goals and we have things that we’re going to look forward to.
After a week of vacation, sometimes we even feel sort of worthless. We’re sitting there in Hawaii. It’s like, okay, this is the eighth or ninth day, let me get back to somewhat of my regimen. You know what I mean? It’s just something that we feel better when we’re going to the gym three days a week, we’re pretending to eat healthy. This pursuit is what makes our brains I think structured and overall our lives become better.
I think that’s what I was looking for and I found. I went out and I worked with Pete Fisher. I got a sports psychologist. I got a trainer. I moved out to LA for a while. I just had this huge, huge revival for what I love. For anyone else, it might be something different, you know.
It was even excluding personal life. Personal life is just something it’s just another element. I didn’t feel like that was the void that was transpiring from all this chaos and indifference. I think I found that.
Right now, I mean, writing this book was a challenge. It steered me a little bit off track from like my complete mission to be a great tennis player. I’m getting a little older. It was something that I really wanted to do. I think it turned out well. I think I was pretty talented at it. I had some great people that gave me opportunities.
Now I feel like I I’m ranked 80 right now or something, 85. I’m not extremely ecstatic about that. At the same time, things I think are on the up. Things are looking up. I’ll be able to recapture that one moment hopefully, whether it’s this week or whether it’s in the next few months, until I lay down and bury the racquets and the hatchets and the brackets, try to catch it (smiling).
All right. See you guys.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

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