“Three weeks before the Nat’l 50 Grass Court Championships in Philadelphia. Will be going there as the defending champ and likely #1 seed based on having won one of the two already played Nationals this year. For three years my goal has been to achieve the #1 ranking in my age group. Two years ago I had Brian Cheney, the then #1 down 4-1 in the third set tiebreaker in the semis at this same championship. If I win the match I am a likely #1 at year end. Brian had other plans as he took the last six points of the match. So I once again approach this tournament with my goal within reach. ”
Will I be able to execute? Will I be able to rid myself of whatever counterproductive thoughts pop into my head that might undermine my chances? Will I be able to train hard and stay healthy? Will I be able to maintain my motivation? WILL I BE ABLE TO REMAIN FOCUSED ON THE IMPORTANT STUFF?
That is my work for the next few weeks.
“I started preparing by entering the 45 sectional clay and gr (ass, both during July. I needed matches to get my mind into the right gear. I know that I need to get myself thinking about my game, not about my future results in Philly. To do that I play matches and work on thinking about the point that I am playing, not the score. I only can experience this in match play. Practice matches just don’t have the fear factor working that makes it difficult to let go of winning.”
I also chose to play in the 45s because I didn’t want to be practicing my match play where the risk of losing was higher. To lose in the 45s means nothing in my drive to be #1. Any loss in the 50s would immediately ruin my chances. I would rather put in all on the line in one tournament…Philly.
“Going into these events my only concerns were finding my interest, narrowing my focus and gett ing into tennis shape. As usual this approach to playing took all the pressure off of winning and freed me up to play great, as if it were practice. I won the clay court event beating Bob Bull, a player who is known for his clay court tenacity and is certainly one of the best 45 players on clay in the East. I had lost to him both other times that I had played him, so winning against him was extra sweet. More importantly was that I had competed really well. Certainly a very positive first step towards my goal.”
Next came the 45 sectional grass tournament. This tournament is so special to me. It is played at the legendary West side Tennis Club in Forest Hills.
“I first played there when I was in the 35s, probably about 17 years ago. I had never been on a grass court a nd I was, at the time, ranked about #5 in the East. The top players were Seewagon, James and Tanis. Everybody else trailed them. Somehow when I walked on the grass I felt sensational. I played on it as if I had played on it for my whole life. In that first grass tournament I made it to the semis and started to experience myself as a “”better”” player. It just changed the way I felt about myself.”
I won the event for the last two years and was eager to see how this would interfere with my focusing on the right stuff. I also came into the tournament aware that I was on an Eastern winning streak dating back to March of 2000. These are definitely thoughts that would help me play badly. I would be challenged to get them put away in a mental lockbox.
“My quarterfinal match provided my first set of challenges. I had a weird mindset going into it. I feel so secure on the grass and have had so many easy matches on the grass that I feel that I should have no problems unless I am playing one of the top national players. On the other hand I knew how good and what a fierce competitor Jim Malhame would be. Anyway, I was a bit nervous because I was thinking more about winning and how it would be bad if I lost. During the match this manifested itself by me being overly lackadaisical. In spite of moving well to get to balls I wasn’t moving my feet with intensity when I wasn’t moving to the ball. I was a bit flat. I did serve really well when I needed to and I made a few good shots when I was receiving. But I wasn’t closing him out. I felt that I escaped with a win that was closer than the 6-2, 7-5 score indicated. I was in trouble in the second set and had difficulty being proactive. I played well enough and badly enough to give Jim enough chances to win or lose the second set. Fortunately for me his lack of recent match play caused him to miss a few that turned things in my direction. Whew! I was much more nervous about this match than I was aware. That is no ¹t a good thing. I must pay more attention to how I am really feeling going into my matches. It is not bad to be nervous. It is a negative to be nervous and think you’re not.”
“My semifinal was against Paul Moss, an Eastern player who played for Penn years ago. He is a an excellent shot maker and knows that his best surface is grass. He had been practicing with Val Wilder, the #1 40 in the World, all week, so he was ready for me. I was more relaxed going into this match for I knew that Paul’s shots would play into my strengths. The more somebody hits penetrating shots against me the better my volleys and returns tend to be. I started out playing amazing. I won my serve, broke his, and held in a matter of about 12 minutes. The first set was over in less than 20 minutes. I was serving as well as I can ever remember, including 3 aces in one game. The second set was more of the same and when I went up 5-3 and then my wheels started to come off. A little mental future trip when I thought about what a great win this was about to be. A romp. An assertion of my dominance. Bam! I took it right in the face for that kind of thinking. He broke me and what was a romp became a battle. We went to a breaker. I fell on the first point of the breaker and it got worse from there. I missed returns. I hit two double faults. One set apiece. I had been 2 points away from being in the shower after an hour and a quarter.It was hot.It was humid. He was up. I was neutral. I had to muster it up to fight through some wimpy thoughts (like i am just using this tournament as practice for the nationals, therefore i don’t need to win every match). THIS IS WHY I AM PLAYING THESE PRACTICE MATCHES! This thought bounced around my mind while I sat on the court for the ten minute break between the 2nd and 3rd set. ”
What do I need to do to recover from being 2 points away from the locker room and now at one set apiece. I hadn’t anticipated this. I determined that this was my opportunity to take right steps in a challenging competitive situation. I decided that I would play each point as if it was the whole match. Nothing in the past. Nothing in the future. I would compete fiercely for every ball that came to my side. We started the third set and I was a different player than the one who had struggled to lose the second. 6-2 to me and a lot learned. Paul was a worthy opponent throughout and showed me the value of staying positive even when you are getting beaten like a drum. He stuck around long enough to catch a concentration lapse and was right in the match. Thank you Paul for reminding me of that. I intend to keep that in my mental tennis bag.
“So I relearned in this match that I can’t be fooled by things coming too easily. Good opponents never quit. I need to be alert to feeling overconfident to the point of putting forth less than 100% effort. I was again reminded of the importance of playing with a sense of urgency throughout the length of a match regardless of the score. AND, AGAIN, TO FIGHT AGAINST THINKING ABOUT RESULTS.”
“Playing against Aussie David Brent in the finals would be a major challenge. He is a player that I believe is better than me. My three consecutive clay court wins against him two years ago not withstanding, I was still unable to accept that I had his number. With his perfect continental grips, his big time serve and his impeccable volleys, I was hoping to just play a good match and get out of there with my confidence. Winning and losing was irrelevant. I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be competitive for each and every point. I would run had for everything and keep putting the ball in the court. We had to wait over an hour after our scheduled time to start due to another match. I was calm while waiting. I felt very comfortable and peaceful. Unconcerned about the match. I really felt that I was going to play good tennis and that is all that mattered to me. I played one of the cleanest matches that I have ever played.I broke his serve three times in the first set and rarely missed a shot. Won it 6-1I was clearly focused on only the point that I was playing. I was so solid, mentally and physically that he couldn’t sustain any offensive momentum. I was there for every shot. I got nervous and lost focus when serving at 4-3 in the second set. It had less to do with winning and more to do with me thinking that Brent is a great player and that I should be careful. Right after thinking that I started each point more defensively on my serves and, just like that, I let him into the match. After the changeover as I was about to serve at 4-5 I felt hot, and tired, and old. I lost the f irst point. I acted more tired, feeding into it. I did a squat and got up slowly. I noticed what I was doing and I quickly grabbed myself by my brain and said, ‘what are you doing? You weren’t hot and tired and old two games ago. Get it together. Snap out of it!’ I did it. I righted myself. That was the defining moment of the match. If i play a weak game there we go to a third set and anything can happen. I was forced to check my will and determination as I played that 4-5 game. I decided that focusing on feeling tired and hot at that moment would be a bad move. I refocused on type of serve and location and putting every ball in the court. It was one of the finest mental matches that i have ever played. I was living each point moment to moment. I was never upset with my play in a way that crept into the upcoming point. I was emotionally calm. I was physically relaxed. I was mentally clear. An enjoyable weekend on the courts. Two exceptional victories. Much food for thought as I prepare for Philly.”
“It is always nice to still be playing on the last day of the tournament, whether it be for the championship or for third place. In the past I would watch the singles finals with envy and feel unfulfilled. This year I felt at peace while they were going on. I had played well all week and that seemed to be enough to fulfill me. I felt self satisfaction from knowing that I gave my all and played up to my capabilities.”
“Kirk and I played our closest friends on the senior circuit for 3rd place. One of them, Phil Landauer, won the singles in the morning. The other, Neal Newman, was the player that I defeated in the finals of the National Indoors in March. We have all been close for many years. They have won many National doubles titles together. We were down 7-6, 5-2 and fought off two match points on their serve and won the set 7-5. After 3 hours and 15 minutes they beat us 6-4 in the third.We all hugged and furthered our bond with each other. It was another of many memorable matches that I played this week. It was also my third 6-4 in the third set loss of the week. ”
“I have learned a lot this week and have new goals to work on. I learned that being in the zone at a higher level, as I was for months, doesn’t last forever. I learned that I was not prepared for it to happen. When I played my match against Pancho it was the first time that I had a long enough mental wiggle to be out of the zone. I didn’t notice it and, as a result, I didn’t do anything about it. My new goals are: to find the method for staying in the zone at this new level for longer stretches of time; to increase my awareness of when I have dropped out; and to develop some steps to follow when I have dropped out. The funny thing is that I have had these same goals each time I have moved up to a new level.”
“I also discovered how I moved into this new level. I went to play the National Indoors in March only intending to work on my game in preparation for the World Championships. With winning or losing out of the equation and the goal being to play good tennis, I relaxed into my game. From that came six months of the most exciting tennis I have ever experienced. I expect to be a more frequent visitor to this place. In fact, I plan on moving in.”
Back on the grass today. Watched the singles semis and saw all of the players sprawled on the grass because it was so slippery. It was really treacherous. Many o f us have grass court sneakers that are helpful in these conditions. They have little nubs on the bottoms. Mine were in the car back at the hotel thirty round trip minutes away with our semifinal due to start in 20 minutes. Carol went back to get them while Kirk and I played hide and seek with our opponents. Kirk would go and look for me and then I would show up and try to find him. Our opponents were cool with waiting and I had them in time to start.
“Physically I was feeling very beat up. Two long days on the hardcourts with no hardcourt preparation took its toll. I was so stiff that during the warmup I wondered how I was going to be able to bend and change direction. Somehow, though, once the match started, the pain was gone. We played a tightly contested three set match but ended up coming in second. The score was 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Tomorrow we play off for third place and a bronze ball. We are determined. What we won today was an incredible bonding as a team. Kirk and I have matured as a team over the last week in a way that is rare and special. Our support of each other, the way we enjoy each other on the court, the way in which we complement each other makes us a team with great strength. We truly felt that we won and lost this week as a team. Just another gem that I get to walk away with by playing these tournaments.”
“Many people sent me emails letting me know how badly they feel that I lost in the quarters. I appreciate your feelings. For me, however, this has been a successful tournament. Winning any matches in a National is hard. Winning a National is harder still. I appreciate each win that I get. Although I go into every National with the belief that I will go all the way, I know that anything can happen on any day. Each time I go out to play it is a truth that I will come away with a win or a loss. I am happy to be playing. I am blessed to be able to play. ”
“The morning after a tough loss, especially when my hopes were so high, is strange. I woke up early and the first thoughts that crossed my mind were the realization that my run here in the singles is over. I hadn’t lost a match on the grass here or anywhere for two years. My thinking mind understands that nothing goes on forever. My emotional mind is disappointed. Yesterday’s match replayed in my mind as I lay in bed. Missed opportunities are magnified. What could I have done differently? How could I have regained the momentum that carried me through the week and first half of this match? I pride myself so much on my focus and mental toughness and that is what let me down just that little bit at a couple of key moments. It is interesting. It was never about my shots or my strategy. It was simply a few rogue thoughts about winning that contributed to my loss. I wonder if the burden of trying to defend my title, to win a second consecutive National, to win two in one year to be undefeated and #1 for the year created a little crack in my mental foundation. I had never been in this position before. As wi th anything, having been there, done that has its advantages. I am eager to create this chance for myself again.”
“I have relearned that setting big goals is worthwhile even though coming up short is disappointing. I have relearned that setting big goals motivates me like nothing else. These goals create an internal energy and desire that drives me to do whatever it takes to succeed. I am reminded that the drive for succeeding far outweights the disappointment. I am sure that within a few days I will, once again, set new and higher goals than ever before. I have tasted what it is like to be right at the very apex of this sport and will not stop trying until I get there. The challenge is what it is all about and the journey always proves to be memorable. These experiences help me grow as a player and as a person and I look forward to many more.”
“Indoor hardcourts again today for the quarterfinals. My match against Walthall is thought of as the match of the tournament and lived up to the hype. He won 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. It was a monumental match. He served and volleyed every point and was rock solid. It was clear from the start that every point would be fiercely contested. I was fortunate to win the first set tiebreaker when Pancho got a little tight. Second set I got an early break but it was not going to be easy to hold it with the each point was fought for. I hit a bad patch at 3-2, didn’t realize as I was serving that game that I gad gotten a little ahead of myself, thinking about winning the match. Oh, that future tripping is such a trap. I did it in a few matches last month and won them anyway so I didn’t learn enough from the lapses. It won’t happen again because I will remember that when I am up a service break after winning a first set and I drop the first point on a service game I will stop and reorganize. Today I didn’t take charge until the set had gotten away from me. The third set started off as a nightmare. I dropped serve, almost won his next game but he escaped. I barely managed to get to 2-1. He then fought off every charge that I made and took a 5-1 lead. I knew at that moment that my new task was to fight like a warrior. To be the champion that I want to be for myself I would show no quit. I fought so hard and held, broke and held serve toput him in a position to serve for the match 5-4. After being down 30-0 I made some under major pressure passing shots and got to 30-40. I missed a shot by an inch that would have made the score 5-5. Instead he managed to serve it out for the win. What a great victory for him. What a great match for me to participate in. I was proud of my effort. My goal of being #1is still there for me although now, instead of being done with tournaments for the year, I may be on my way to Florida in October to play the National Clay. Now I need to consider if I want to put myself through the preparation and physical pain again. (I probably will end up doing it.)”
“An hour break, just enough time to put my disappointment behind me and back on the court to play the quarters of the doubles against the #4 seeds. Coincidentally, both of my opponents have been my doubles partners in the past. In fact I am undefeated with both of them. Kirk kept checking with me to see how my spirit was. It is always hard to get up after a match like my singles. Well, we did great winning in straight sets. It took a lot of focus to do it, but I did, and now I am in the semis of the doubles against the #1 team in the nation. I am excited about still being in the running for a gold, silver or bronze ball but even more so that I am doing it with Kirk, who has never been in a position to win one. I will play my heart out tomorrow no matter how sore to help Kirk get a ball.”
8/28 After the Doubles on Wednesday night
“Played Nash and Beautyman tonight. Kirk and I played our best ever match. We were unseeded and beat a really strong team 6-3, 6-2. First of all Nash is 6′ 7″ and a totally amazing doubles player. Beautyman is very solid. I was in a zone. The whole game is unfolding in front of me in slower motion than ever before. I can hit shots and read returns in a completely manageable time. I feel easy. I feel calm. Kirk told me that my confidence is affecting my opponents… opponents are on their heels when I am hitting my shots. ”
Quarterfinals of singles and doubles on Thursday.
“Got up this morning to rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. That’s the forecast for the next couple of days. Tournament committee decided that, in order to finish the tournament we would be moving indoors onto hardcourts. Another year this might have thrown me for a loop, but I am playing so well that I feel like it doesn’t matter. Between the two tournaments, singles and doubles, there are 32 matches to play today and the club has only four indoor courts. All of the players were forced to hang around until their match was called. I got to the club for my 10AM match and didn’t get on until 2. It was a challenge to stay relaxed and focused and to eat at the right time. Well I played one of my greatest matches ever, beating the #9 seed 6-0, 6-0. I was on every ball…totally intense. I wasn’t going to give one point away. Even in the last game of the match, he got an ad and I fought like a barnyard dog to get the point back. I was so focused. Other players were stunned at the outcome. To me, I know that I just have continued to play as I have bee n for the last few weeks. Tomorrow I play Pancho Walthall. He was a top player for Rice University many years ago and beat me like a drum 27 years ago, before I was really into competition. I am eager and ready. Probably will be indoors again. Kirk and I have our doubles match scheduled for this evening, time to be announced. It will be tough. Right now it feels like I am the only one who can defeat me and I am committed to not allowing that to happen.”09-Aug
I am so aware of my game. Almost every ball that I hit during a lesson resonates through my body and mind. Each one is a totally separate experience from all the others. I don’t recall being this highly sensitized to so many shots. It feels great. I enjoy each shot. While this is going on my teaching feels stronger than ever. I am talking with students about simplicity and clarity on the court.
“When I practiced on the grass today I felt that I could be on every single ball…that I could get a swing on every single bal l that came to my side of the court. I was a little off to think I could get every single one, but I came close. Lost my rhythm for a while on my serve. It was lock a mind block. I started to use Roddick’s service motion…toss first, then everything else follows. It felt good but I am mystified by what happened. Where did my serve go?”
“Practiced the inside out forehand service return from the deuce side. Made it the first time I tried it. It was terrific. After that, it was ridiculous…I didn’t want to take a chance because I wanted to win the point. That is so silly. I am practicing. Next time I will be committed to working that shot into my game. The one other time that I stepped around on that side I tried to go up the line and overhit it Need to remember that inside out is the best place to hit it.”
“I was hitting my backhand much harder today, both on returns and pass attempts. I am around early and well grounded. It felt real solid and secure. Keep working on this. Additional pace will be nice to have if I need it. It also feels very freeing to go for the shot fearlessly.”
“This tournament is always played at several mainline Philly clubs. The main site is Germantown Cricket Club , Philadelphia Cricket Club and Merion Cricket Club. I played at Merion today. It is spectacular. Probably about 80 years old, there is a huge porch overlooking 24 grass courts, six across and 4 deep. There is also a croquet court and several women were actually playing. The grass is perfect. Flat, green, seemingly unplayed on. More than a few players commented on how it doesn’t get much better than this.”
“My match went well against a stocky lefthander from Connecticut. I came out of the gate quickly and broke his serve. Rushed a bit in my first serve game because I was thinking about how quickly I could get off the court. How ridiculous. Lost my serve and then got down to work. He had one of those kind of soft short second serves that I had a little trouble with because I wasn’t moving up to it. As a result of me missing a bunch of returns he held a couple of games before I adjusted and got on a roll. I also stopped trying so hard to serve to his backhand. I was overadjusting too much for his being left hand ed and it took me out of my game a bit. I also adjusted that. I won 6-3,6-0. I definitely played many more points with focus than I did yesterday.”
Tomorrow I play a much stronger player. I will continue to be on each ball and will stay focused on each shot. Right now the game feels very simple. Get to the ball. Hit it to their left or right or over their head.
“Tomorrow I will also start to focus on my pre- serve rituals. I plan on taking more time to get clear on how much spin, pace and what location. ”
“Won in doubles today also and tomorrow play against the same guy I play in singles and his partner, Dave Nash. Dave is a good friend and he and I played doubles together and were semifinalists at the National Indoors this March. ”
“Got to Germantown for my 10:00 match at about 9:15. Saw more of my closer friends on th e practice courts. Everyone tuning up for matches. I got a good 20 minute hit in and felt find. My neck is hurting from pulling it Sunday while waiting to play (I guess I am feeling some pressure.) Otherwise I am ready. I played a very solid player from Maryland and started very focused winning the first set 6-0. I played every single shot. I gave him no room to breathe. I got a little busy watching other matches during the first game of the second set and he held serve. Just like that I was in a match. I managed a service break when he served at 2-2 and kep thinking after holding to 4-2 that the match was over. My head was in the wrong place. I played too loosely on his service games and he held a couple of more times. No problems for me serving it out at 5-4, but it was a lesson in loss of focus. Tomorrow I will raise my focus considerably. I will play every point as if it is the most important.”
“Arrived in Philly around noon. Over to Germantown Cricket Club to register for the tournament and to get some practice. It is so special to arrive at the club and to see all of the energy of a National. Sign desk, player packets, seeing all of the players. There are two events going on at the same time, the 45s and the 50s. I so much enjoy seeing all of the players who I have met over the years. Many of us met during while competing in the 35s starting in 1983. Many of the players who were tops then are still at the top. A whole other group, including me have worked their ways to the top. All of us share a special bond. We welcome the newer players who have just started to compete and encour age them to become regulars. Many of my closest friends have come from these events. We, of course, talk a lot of tennis, but we also share whatever is going on in our lives. Each year brings updates on spouses, jobs, children, health and future goals. I feel blessed to be part of the whole experience. ”
“I feel very solid walking into this event. I feel, for the first time ever in a National, that I am the man to beat. After so many years of playing I feel that I have truly earned the respect of the other players. Although I have had a bit of the respect over the years, I never felt deserving until this year. It is just another sign of my feeling ok with my game and my competitive spirit. Its funny how when you are desperate for something, as I was for validation from others, it never seems to be there. When you finally get it, you don’t even need it anymore because the only validationthat matters comes from within.”
“Practiced for final time before leaving today. Played with Cykeman again and played clean and solid. My best showing yet. My game is in the best place it has ever been going into an event. Went for a massage and actually felt badly afterwards. Sore lower back. When I get up on Saturday I will see how it feels and, regardless, take it easy. Will probably take an anti inflammatory. I am relaxed and eager. ”
“I saw the draw and I am seeded #1, which is very exciting, at least until the first ball is hit. At that point it means nothing. I looked forward in the tournament and see some difficult opponents in my path. One player, Pancho Walthall, who used to be a player for Trinity, beat me almost 30 years ago in the first round of the Antigua Open. I had been invited to play the tournament because I knew they organizer of the event. It was in 1975 and the seeds were Gene Scott, Walthalll, Vitas G. and Gene Mayer. Panch o beat me in the opening match on the feature court. I lost love and love in about 30 minutes. It was embarrassing. I haven’t heard his name since but once a good player always a good player. At this point I am probably a little too focused on him. Those thoughts will dissipate as I get closer to starting on Monday.”
“Played with Cykeman today. He is a Californian, 45’s, very good, and a semifinalist in the grass a couple of years ago. Very physical. Powerful shots and very fast. I played so solid with him. Except for his aces I was putting all the returns back. Lobbed great over the backhand side when I was in trouble. Missed a few volleys that were shoulder height. Need to move to those ‘easy’ ones or they become misses. Tried a topspin forehand running lob. Smart shot. Should definitely mix it in during practice and matches. I served much better…higher percentage first serves, when I slowed down a little. I also took my time to get really clear on location. I was definite in my decisions on location. Really helped. I lost two baseline rallies by letting him get in before me. Don’t get comfortable staying back against a good player. They will come in and I will have to defend with pass and lob more than I need to. I am really happy that I got this workout today. I realize again that the level of my game is good enough just as it is.”
While hitting in my lessons today I noticed that my slice backhand is disappearing.
“With all of my talk about how I am goaled in on winning this tournament and being undisputed #1, about how I am up for the challenge of dealing with thoughts about winning and extrinsic rewards…I really know thatI am not very hooked into all that. I am just acting like that. In fact, I know clearly that my goal is to bring the game that I have been playing over the last year to Philly. To play good tennis. To be relaxed whether I am under pressure or not. To enjoy myself. This is what is important to me.”
“Practiced today with 22 yr. old Phil who practiced with me before the indoors. He stayed back most of the time so I got a v áery different look. This is what Zan tried to do last year unsuccessfully. I realized today that I can get to any ball on the grass hit from the baseline. If it comes to my backhand I can hit a nasty slice down the line or cross court. If it comes to my forehand I can spank it just about anywhere. I got to see a pretty tough kick serve. I feel a bit like Mac. on my high backhand service returns, shoulder around, racket out in front and jumping straight up will tyring to hit it flat. Phil passed me big a few times that I thought he wasn’t going to get to a ball. I was standing at the service line enjoying the volley I just made and then did not close in. About the fifth time I closed and cut off two passes. ”
My backhand is improving every day. I feel confident that I can get around early on almost any serve to my backhand. Today on the clay I stood way inside the baseline and did this against a very fine server who I am coaching. I have so much time on the shot. I BELIEVE that I can come over every backhand.
I am not being pressed enough in practice. This is likely to change on Thursday and Friday when I player from San Francisco arrives. He will hit big. I look forward to it.
I feel so good with my game. I am still playing within myself. I get to everything. I get everything back in the court. I serve well on the big points. I WILL CLOSE OUT MY LEADS WITHOUT A SLIP OF CONCENTRATION. WHEN I SENSE THE END IS NEAR I WILL PLAY WITH MORE FOCUS AND INTENSITY.
“A weekend away from the courts, I figured I would be eager to play today. Got onto the courts at Forest Hills which is such a special experience. All of the greats of the past played here. i guess that Sampras and Agassi are the end of the American great players to compete here. I get to play on the same courts and use the same locker room. It provides a good perspective on my game. I am pretty good in my little world. So many levels above me.”
Again I felt very confident on the grass. I am swinging at backhand returns and only chipping occasionally. I will nail down my plan on that before I get to Philly. I don’t want to play too spontaneously. I must remember that I have choices about what I am going to do and in I must be diligent in making my choices. I am serving well again. Nice tempo. Good toss (Joe Perez told me I am losing 15 mph on my second serve when my toss is too far to the right.) I am staying up on it for a long time. I love the serve up the T. I am getting away from too many serves out wide to the backhand on the ad side. This is a good thing and another on my list of making choices.
I was lax on a lot of volleys today. Setting the point up well and then being loosed mentally. I was a bit playful on the court and it manifested itself with these volley errors.
“I played some games with Andy Udis. He is very unorthodox and his serve is a lot like Rich Causey’s. I lost to Causey a few years ago in Philly because I couldn’t make returns off the very low, no bounce side slice. I didn’t return Andy’s too well today. I will practice these tomorrow.”
I am so excited about this tournament. I can’t wait to get there and put it on the line.
“Closed on our new house yesterday. What a surreal day. Today I realized that one of the challenges for me is to pack, do things at the new house and get ready for the Nationals which start in 9 days. Of course work and life in general as well. Practiced today with Kirk. We talked about how we are able to help each other at the same time as knowing that we may be facing each other in any tournament, including next weeks. It feels good to give to him knowing that it may make him better, even as my opponent. Sportsmanship means so much in the game. I truly feel that I am repaying Kirk for teaching me so much about sportsmanship through the last 20 years.Tennis is so typically a selfish game. It feels good to be selfless.”
“I refound my serve today, tossed the ball more in front and used a more fluid motion. I moved it around very well, started going into the body more frequently and used the heavy low slice to the backhand on the ad side. Tried the run around forehand return a bunch. A couple of times it forced double faults. That feels lousy during practice even though I know I forced it a bit. Nevertheless I made two inside out beauties and will keep working on it. I realized on returns that I can be very relaxed and, as long as I move to the ball I can get a very good full backhand swing at the ball. I want to keep working on the inside out backhand return from the ad side. It is very deceptive and good to try every now and then, especially on a 15-30 or 30-40 point. ”
Hit lots of overheads today and felt a big improvement in my movement and consistency.
“Next practice session I am going to move to the net, after serving, with much more intens ity. I am playing with too much confidence and complacency. Remember, your first match could be against a great player! Be ready. Don’t think too far ahead. Get you head right. Get your game right. Do that and everything will be fine.”
“Got a call today from Elie Boukhier, a teammate from the Perry Cup this year. He is coming to Philly and has never played on a grass court. He is a great competitor but will be easy pickings for a decent player who has some experience on the grass. He told me that Zan Guerry is coming back so I am sure that Zan will be looking for me for payback.”
I am concerned that I am not playing enough less that 2 weeks before the tournament starts so I am going to hit some volleys and overheads this afternoon. A short workout that will focus only on the volley and overhead. It is also some good hot weather training as it is over 90 degrees today.
I am most happy with the fact that I have relaxed into my game. I feel that the game that I play is good enough to be competitive at the level I am competing at. I am no longer feeling that I have to do more with each ball…that I have to hit harder each time or farther away from my opponent. Th is allows me to play within myself in a way that makes it easy to play the game. I am more relaxed about the entire playing experience.
“Just back from working out. Very hot. Hit a few ground strokes. Not really relevant because the clay that I was hitting on is so different than the grass. No bounce on the grass to speak of. Hustled up to the net and worked for about 1/2 hour on overheads with some volleys mixed in. I made a high percentage of my shots although I am way to casual to play a serious match. Well, I have some time to get more intense. Also hit some serve and volley. Couldn’t get a serve over the net for a while. Started to think about the way Roddick serves. First he tosses and then the rest all follows. I sort of serve that way. Image of him is helpful. It improves my rhythm. I was very tired and hot after this workout and it was only about 45 minutes. I am in far better shape to play a match than to do drills. Am I in shape enough to play singles and doubles for a bunch of days in a row? I am having some second thoughts about playing doubles. If I am doing well in the singles I might not want to play doubles. I better clarify this in my mind and then talk to Kirk about it. I want to do the right thing. I agreed with MacEnroe being ticked off at Graf when she pulled out of the mixed at Wimbledon.”
“Played with Kirk at Piping Rock for about an hour. I feel very large on the court. Need to keep working on going for my backhand, getting grounded on it. Having my shoulder around early. All very important for me to have going well so that I can execute when I get the chance off the second ball. Continued to serve well with good variation in spin and location. I am using a long slow start to my service motion, extending up high and then accelerating through the stroke. I will also work on remembering to take my time before all service points. I gain nothing by rushing and it is a sign to me of nervousness or overconfidence. Neither of those are my friends in competition.”
Need to put time into volley-overhead exercises. Somebody I play will have a good lob volley and I need to be ready. Have to continue going for the flat backhand return to two different locations. Also want to develop the deuce side inside out forehand return. This can be very disconcerting to my opponents. Hey let them ace me up the middle if th ey can. They can have 2 or 3 of those a match in exchange for the intimidation factor.
I want to keep working hard while teaching to stay fit and light on my feet. I want to exercise my forearm and shoulder and quads and calves with weights. I also want to take it very easy so as to be 100% healthy for this tournament. I am in a daily struggle of how to maintain this balance between exercise and rest. Playing 2-3 times a week for the next two weeks doesn’t feel like quite enough.