Commentary

Learning to handle losses not easy

Updated: September 8, 2010, 6:55 PM ET
By Andrea Petkovic | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's Note: Andrea Petkovic made a huge impression here at the U.S. Open. The spirited 22-year-old German reached the fourth round, and her dancing celebrations -- and smoking gun finale -- have made for popular YouTube videos. The New York Times wrote a glowing feature, referencing her blogging prowess on ESPN.com. Here, regrettably, is her final entry, penned while heading back home:

OK, people. This is a sad day for all of us. Not did Vera only smash me out there on Arthur Ashe (I might have been nervous? Just a little?), but this will also be my last blog entry from the U.S. Open. Sigh. Tears in the eyes everybody? Guess so!

So I want to take the chance now to talk to you guys about losses and how we as tennis players deal with it. I can only speak for myself, but I have talked to a lot of other tennis players and the feeling I get is that although everybody has their own rituals after a loss, the general approach to losses is the same. Let's go through my rituals starting with the lost match point.

Everyone believes until the end that we can still win, turn this thing around, even if it is as hopeless as my match against Vera. So when the final point is played and there is no return ticket from there, I always feel a strange twitch inside my stomach, which is definitely created by huge disappointment and hot rage. Although the days where I broke 10 rackets after losing are over the first momentum is always a tough one to control (especially for me with my Serbian crazy blood). I bite my tongue, I try to stay objective and during handshake I always try to take it as a champion, smile at least, try and congratulate the opponent on a good match, fight/pullout -- whatever.

Now packing my bag, trying not to look like a girl that just lost, on my way out, straighten out my back to look taller and less beaten, turning around and walking off the court. OK, good, nobody sees me, I shrink, I troll to the locker rooms looking in the mirror tells me, "Yes, you do look like an angry 10-year-old girl again." I still take a shower, do the stretching, the massage, the bike, but as soon as I come back to the hotel room I order the biggest cheeseburger in the world with the biggest portion of french fries with it and Coke. No, not Diet Coke, Regular Coke. And I love it.

It's strange, but I figure I have been disciplined all tournament long, I ate vegetables, drank water, went running, fruits -- all that healthy stuff -- so when I lose I want to punish myself, or is it reward? Reward for what? The only problem about this policy is that I'm neither Roger nor Rafa. (Although my little sister tells me I look like Rafa when I have my hair open -- one reason you will never see me like that. Hey is that a compliment or what?) So that means I almost lose every week.

Burgers and french fries it is! But the worst thing about a loss is the night. I never sleep one minute after I lose a match. I beat myself up over random things: Why did I not do that? Why did I do that and why can't I play the match all over again? I would do much better and next time I will change this and this and that and stop. Learning from losses can sometimes be a bigger improvement than winning. That's at least my hope for next time. Those sad times, I love them and you should, too.

For all the sad times visit youtube.com, watch the Petko-Dance and let's remember the good times together. Thanks for reading, hope to have you back next year!