Monday, March 13, 2006

Fort Worth Spring Open.

I played in a tennis tournament this past weekend (it had been almost a year since the last one). I played in the 4.5 division instead of the usual 5.0 for a myriad of reasons, chief among them being that I need to get back into tournament shape before I can have a respectable showing in 5.0 again. Here’s the general breakdown:

Round of 8 (Saturday, 8:00 a.m.): My opponent was mid-40’s, lefty. His serve was a bit weak, and his game was basically consistency. I ran him corner-to-corner quite a bit in the first set to tire him out, which was pretty effective. 6-1. For the second set, in classic Adam-fashion, I started thinking about how this match was in the bag, and how I needed to conserve energy for what could potentially be three matches that day. Predictably, I started playing like crap and gave the guy 4 games in the second set, and ended up having to exert more energy at the back end of the set than I would have staying consistent throughout the match. Final score: 6-1, 6-4.

Quarters (Saturday, 11:00 a.m.): I was matched against the #2 seed, who turned out to be 65 (!!) years old. However, the guy was really good. He played an extremely aggressive game, serving-and-volleying and chipping-and-charging the entire match. I don’t believe any point lasted more than 6 shots. However, the match was incredibly draining. The guy played Jimmy Connors tennis big-time; his shots had zero topspin, and not much backspin – they were flat, brick-like shots. A typical characteristic of these balls is a tendency to hover about a foot or two off the ground after the first bounce. Since I have a two-handed backhand, I have to squat incredibly low to return the ball. Many points consisted of his serve, my return down the middle, and then he’d hit one of these nasty strokes ad-side, I’d scramble to the corner and duck to where my left knee was practically hitting the ground, and either rip a passing shot, lob or miss either of those shots by a few inches.

The entire match was pretty even and consistent. I broke him once during the first set; 6-3. We each got one break during the second set, and it went to a tiebreaker, which I lost (4). The third set was more of the same; he actually jumped up a break on me, and had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4, but I broke back (must…resist!) and held to gain a 6-5 advantage. On his serve in the final game, we toggled deuce point wins a few times, and his undoing was the third deuce point in that game, where he gained the offensive and dumped an easy backhand slice down the line into the net. I won the next point, and the match.

Semis (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.): Predictably, I was throttled at this point. I had already played 5 sets of tennis, about 4 total hours’ worth. Enough whining, though – I wanted to get the match over with. If I were to theoretically win and make the finals, I wanted the final match to be the only match that day.

My opponent was a nice guy, who had chatted with Monika during the finale of my previous match. It turned out that he and his wife were of Monika and I flipped around (in terms of education and jobs). During the warm-up, I realized that the guy possessed a fairly similar game to mine, and knew it was going to be a brutal experience.

I slept through the first 5 games of the first set, and went down 0-5. Realizing that I hadn’t been bagel-ed in year, even by a freaking touring pro a couple years ago, I convinced myself to get my shit together and got back to 3-5, before he held serve and won the set 6-3.

Starting the second set, I felt a bit rejuvenated, and knew that as long as I left everything I had on the court, I wouldn’t be too disappointed at the end of the match. We stayed even until 4-4, where I was broken for the first time that set; which, I might add, I couldn’t complain too much about because he had great shots that game, and there wasn’t much I could do.

I went back to the bench for the changeover, had a couple Scooby-Doo fruit snacks (hell yes, the mid-match weapon of choice), a chug of water, and decided I was going to break his serve the next game.

Now, over the course of my tennis career, my dad, among others, has been disgruntled with me for my negative temperament on the court. What can I say? As my friend Brandon (see “Ten” below) says, “If it isn’t perfect…” Needless to say, I often hit shots that are far from perfect, which leads to copious amounts of self-depreciation and wasted energy during the match. However, I have gotten better with age, and conducted myself appropriately this weekend, and didn’t yell in disgust once…except for the final game.

As I mentioned, I was determined and ready to give everything I had in the last game. 15-0, I dumped his serve in the net. 15-15, unforced error on his part. At 15-all, he serves, I hit a pretty good return down the ad-side line and rush into the net. He lunges for the ball and tosses up an pretty easy lob which I’m expecting to drop in the vicinity of 3-4 feet in front of the net on my side for an easy overhead.

But somehow, when that ball shot up in the air, it must have gotten caught in a jet stream, or a bunch of birds farted at the same time, or the bugs that I’d been swatting decided it was time for sweet, sweet revenge, because that freaking ball moved back, and back, and back…I found myself backpedaling from 4 feet behind the net to the service line, a few more steps…frantic now…and basically lunged to hit the ball behind me, whacking the top of the frame, shanking the ball to the next court. At that point, I managed to restrain myself to what I’d describe as a very loud “GRRR,” a what-are-the-odds-that-would-have-happened-GRRR. That was the most obnoxious I was that day.

And that was the shot that sealed the deal on that match. My legs were a combination of Jello infused with nails that would clamp down on my bones when I stooped down to dig up low balls, my core was like an old tree trunk that would snap-crackle-pop with each turn or bend, and I had zero energy left. I’m not even sure how the last couple points went.

I have great respect for my last opponent, though, not only because he was a nice guy, but also because he was the most gracious winner I’ve ever encountered in my tennis career; I’m known for overuse of the superlative, but I’m serious about this one. We exchanged business cards, and hopefully we’ll get to play again in the future. I sent him a congratulatory e-mail this morning because he indeed won the tournament the next day, which doesn’t surprise me.

I weaseled my way into another tournament this weekend, even though the entry deadline had passed. It will be particularly interesting since I doubt I’ll be able to hit the practice court until Wednesday, because I am so sore. Stay tuned.


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