Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fort Worth Major Zone.

This weekend I played in the Fort Worth Major Zone, in Men's 5.0. Note that I made the switch from 4.5 to 5.0 for the first time this year. Ultimately my goal is to win a 5.0 Major Zone tournament, so I felt like the time was right to make the switch since I've been playing well in the 4.5s, winning the last tournament I played in that division.

My first round match was yesterday at 8:00 a.m. I've been training a lot for the heat, and surprisingly, it wasn't excessively hot at first, but it was hellishly humid. My clothes were entirely soaked by the second game. The requisite first-round nerves certainly didn't help either. Nevertheless, I came out hitting pretty well and I was fortunate to have an opponent first round whose game I was fairly well-suited to beat. He had a fairly big slice serve, but it was sporadic - and that applied to virtually every aspect of his game. Although he had the ability to hit some effective slice shots down the line at times (I even got passed by slice a couple times - that was surprising), he didn't have the consistency to nor the drive to deal with my refusal to chase after his shots. (Note that "The Badger" also largely applies to my tennis game.) Plus, although I'm a religious baseliner, almost every point I won in this match was won at the net. Shockingly, I'd guess I won about 20/30 points at the net (which is good for me). A few of the points I missed at net were on overheads, interestingly enough, because when I served and volleyed, he sometimes threw up a skyball that would land somewhere between the service and base lines, and although I was often able to hit a good overhead back, sometimes another skyball came back deep again, and inevitably I started missing some because I was physically tired from hitting an abnormal amount of overheads.

Ultimately I wrapped up round 1 6-1, 6-3. In my 1:15 between matches, I ate a banana, a bag of cereal, a can of Gatorade, and a lot of water. Note that I did not consume a large tuna sandwich, which a friend of mine did in his 45-minute break between matches on Friday, leading him to the pleasant experience of hurling in his mouth during his next match. Yummy!

Round 2 was a much-anticipated match between me and another guy from around here. We actually were league teammates back in 2003, where we had a miracle comeback in a doubles match. However, for all the time we were on the same league team, and have seen each other in tournaments around town for a long time, we've actually never played. It's an interesting matchup, because he's a mostly a serve-and-volleyer, and I'm mostly a baseliner. Beyond our general type of games, I knew going in that I literally do have better ground-strokes and that he has better serves and volleys - so the trick would be how those interact with each other.

I jumped out to a4-0 lead in the first set by serving well on my end, and my opponent missed a lot of first serves. Almost without exception, I'm going to tee off on a second serve no matter who it's from. The trick with this guy is that his second serve to the ad side has NASTY kick on it. It tends to land halfway between the net and the service line and then kicks out to the fence, while bouncing about a foot over your head. At the beginning of the match, I was dealing pretty well with these. More on that later.

At 4-0 I was serving and my opponent passed me on a couple serve-and-volleys and came up with a couple more big winners, and broke me at love. At him serving 1-4, the serve went "ON." This is where I started to watch the aces fly by. Then I served at 4-2, and just flat-out didn't bring enough heat on the serve. I saw a couple more winners and busted out a couple sloppy unforced errors, and just like that, we were back on serve.

The first set wound up in a tiebreaker. I opened with a service winner. My opponent rocked a couple more service winners, then "mini-broke" me twice on my next two serves, followed by two more gigantic serves on his part. Yes, that's 6-1, or "quadruple set point" for him. I never give up, though, and won my next two service points, and his next service point, but at 6-4 he hit yet another monster serve that shut me down for the first set.

My opponent opened the second set on serve, and I broke him. He broke me right back. We then remained on serve for a couple more games before he broke me again. Up a break serving at 5-3, my opponent had match point serving 40-30, and I held off. Two or three more match points went by that I fought off - I was leaving everything on the court, and ferociously wanted to take the 2nd set to another tiebreaker. On his 4th match point, my opponent cracked another service winner to close it out.

After the match we had a little bit of chit-chat and I wished him luck - hopefully he's doing well today - he's a great guy. A friend of mine who came to watch me came up to talk to me after the match, and oddly- when I was talking to him, my ears felt like they were intermittently clogged and kept popping on and off. It was almost like I had been clenching so hard at the end of that match to play as hard as I could, it sort of messed with my sinuses. Weird.

Overall, I'm happy with the way I played. And let's be serious: like my friend told me - "no matter how you slice it, 4-0 is 4-0 - it doesn't matter what your opponent does, you've got to find a way to close that out. And then it's a totally different match from there." Amen.

The good news is, I almost never make the same mistake twice. :)


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