First Win of the Season 6


Game Time

My match was scheduled for today at 9AM. I love playing early. Years of giving early morning tennis lessons trained me in being alert on the court right after getting up so, for me, the earlier the better. Of course, I always try spin things in a positive way, so if I have a later match, that is fine too. I get more time to sleep in, stretch and prepare. Whatever the situation, it is always helpful to find the good in it so as to have the best possible mindset for competing. It is hard enough as it is, so starting off negatively is a bad move. For years I have been writing my gratitudes as way to always know that life is good no matter what is thrown at me.

Today, in the round of 16, I played someone who I had played in singles once before. He has been ranked in the top 10 many times and he had no preconceived notions about playing me. In fact, the last time we played I escaped with a 7-6 in the third set win. So he and I both knew that this would be a competitive match. Despite knowing how important it is to treat each match as a tough one, there are times when you just feel certain about the likely outcome. That wasn’t the case today.

I started playing cleanly with a clear strategy to play to his backhand on most shots and got off to a 4-1 lead. I was not missing and was forcing him into errors. I slipped up mentally when I thought that this was going to be pretty routine. In a blink it was 4-4. During the three games that he got back into the match I started to revert back to where I was during practice earlier in the month, getting negative and over exaggerating my errors. Jo Ann was watching and was encouraging me to stay calm. I wasn’t agitated but I was confused by the errors. Well, tennis is a game of identifying what is going on and problem solving. I took my time between points and thought about why. Why errors now? I realized a couple of things. Firstly, I had gotten a little tight, being in my first match in five months. Even though I had been playing well, a little doubt crept in. OK. So I can deal with that. Stop overplaying. Stop rushing the point. Let the play come to me. I also realized that the court was very damp and that the balls had picked up a lot of the moisture. When that happens the ball gets heavy. Heavy enough so that some shots don’t make it over the net or land shorter than intended. So into the net errors and attempts to keep the ball deep turned into long errors. Got it. I can correct that. Let me turn the negative into a positive. Keep the ball short in the court and draw him in. That worked. No more errors. No more overplaying. I got the first set, 6-4.

Once I had that set in hand, I felt much more relaxed and I rolled from there, winning the second set 6-0. I really found my rhythm in the second set. I had good balance between when to defend and when to attack. I played aggressively to conservative areas of the court, taking chances but hedging risk by not going to close to the lines. I played patiently and opportunistically. Overall a good first match of the year. A little wiggle and a good job recentering myself. It felt good. I know I can play better and that is what I need to do in a tournament. Play better and better as the matches goes on.

The high point of the match was a small seemingly insignificant moment. Serving at 4-4, deuce, I missed my first serve and the ball rolled to the adjacent court. The player on the next court rolled the ball back just as I was about to hit a second serve. My opponent, though it would be to his disadvantage, especially at such a key moment, told me to take a first serve over because of the distraction and break in rhythm. Tough and classy decision by him. Pleased to say that, despite wanting the first serve, an advantage to me, I moved the ball and hit a second serve. Hard choice. Good choice. Both of us, after the match, commented that this is one of the reasons we love to compete. It forces you to make choices to be a good person over the desire to gain a competitive advantage. Best point of the match.

Quarterfinals tomorrow. Heavy rain tonight.


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6 thoughts on “First Win of the Season

  • mel di giacomo

    YOU PROBABLY DON’T REMEMBER,BUT DURING ONE OF YOUR MATCHES @ CURTAIN BLUFF YOU HIT A LOB AT AN IN OPPORTUNE TIME.YOU GLANCED AT THE SIDELINE WHERE I WAS SHOOTING.I WHISPERED, SOTTO FOCE, “DON’T DO THAT.”
    THERE’S MY CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT IN TENNIS.FACE IT ROBBIE LAD,WHEN EVER YOU DO SOMETHING FOOLISH ON THE TENNIS COURT [I CAN’T SPEAK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.YOU’LL HAVE TO TAKE THAT UP WITH MY WIFE DIANA.SHE A PSYCHOLOGIST.] MY LITTLE VOICE WILL SUGGEST HOW TO HANDLE ANY SITUATION ON THE COURT.A LITTLE KNOWN SECRET IS THAT MARTINA’S MANY TRIUMPHS WERE DUE TO HER LOOKING TO THE PHOTOGRAPHERS SECTION AND HEARING,AGAIN SOTTO VOCE,”DON’T BE SILLY GIRL,AH COME ON BRAT OR BRILLIANT,KEEP HER COMING IN AND PASS HER WITH YOUR BLISTERING ONE HAND BACKHAND.”IF YOU LOOK AT CHRIS’ RACKET,YOU’LL SEE A SILHOUETTE OF CHRIS ON THE THROAT.WILSON BOUGHT THAT PHOTO FROM ME.YOU PROBABLY DON’T NOTICE CHRIS HOLDING HER RACKET UP TO HER EAR WHILE I SUGGEST HOW SHE SHOULD PLAY AND OPPONENT.”
    NO ONE EVER NOTICED.MANY A CHAMPION SHIP WAS A RESULT OF THE COURT SIDE COACHING.I REMEMBER WHEN BILLIE JEAN WAS AT THE TOP OF HER GAME.DURING PRACTICE, CHRIS CONSULTED HER RECKET AND ASKED,”HOW DO I PLAY HER?” “PRAY THAT SHE MISSES THE BUS TO FOREST HILLS.” WAS THE RACKETS CLEVER REPLY.
    DON’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS,ELSE I’LL BE FORCED TO DESIST IN COACHING YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS.

    IL MAESTRO BELLO

  • Karin

    I enjoyed reading about your thought process during your match. You were calm and did a good evaluation at 4-4. I can learn from that! Thanks for posting, Bob