National Clay Court Championships: A Chance to Reboot My Game 9


It has been 9 months since my last tournament. Nearly two years since the last National. Now, I am two days away from the National Clay Championships. New Orleans Tennis Club founded in 1876, the oldest tennis club in the country. It will be great to be back in the mix. The first day buzz of seeing players who I have been competing with for over 30 years. First practice on the clay in the humid south tomorrow. Pumped for feeling the dirt under my tennis shoes.

I moved from NY to Boulder, Colorado in June and have been playing a new form of tennis. It is called playing at altitude. It has been an experience of newness and discovery. So much about the game is different from what I have come to know instinctively.

It has been an experience of shoshin (beginner’s mind) as I have been slowly adjusting to how quickly the ball arrives, how much deeper it comes than I have always been able to read and how much higher the bounce. My deeply habituated backswing and positioning is, basically, wrong at altitude. On top of that, my own shots are affected in the same way, going faster and farther than my normal expectation. Where I have been accurate to give or take five feet, I see shots landing 15-20 feet away from my target.

For the first month I was able to laugh at it all. I was in a sweet state of acceptance about relearning something that I already knew. I appreciated the newness of tennis. I was free of concern about winning or what others expected of me. I was happy.

Despite finding ways to win in team matches, by the end of July impatience and frustration kicked in. Enough already. This relearning has gone on too long. I should have this down already. I entered an unhappy phase on the court. I started to try hard. Too hard. I didn’t like my time on the court. It was that whole result thing that was taking over. What are these new tennis friends thinking about me?

Thankfully I caught it. Too much future and past tripping going on. Too much worry. No presence. Time to reboot back to presence. That is where I need to be and where I like to be. So I went back to listening to the birds. Looking around and seeing the beauty of the mountains around me. Feeling the ball. Focusing on my split step. Accepting the isness of my current tennis state. And life on the court became sweet again. My mind opened up to the solutions that were waiting for my present mind.

I went to Tucson to teach at Tennis Congress and, while there, got some input about altitude playing from Emilio Sanchez, Joe Dinoffer and Gordon Uehling. And I played there at a lower altitude and the game slowed down for me.

I became energized. I began to look forward to my trip to the National Clay. Less concerns about how I would do and more interest in how my tennis will be after this latest of my regular layoffs. No fear of outcomes.

I will show up and just do what it takes to just be Bob on the court.

That player, Bob, is found in my tennis mission:

To be an extraordinary competitor who plays, in competition, at the high end of my skill and talent. To love the competition more than I love to win and to accept whatever the outcome with dignity and class. To compete in the moment, avoiding past and future tripping. To compete for each point. To compete with effortless effort. To be non judgmental of myself. To enjoy myself. To be enthusiastic. To be forgiving of myself for my inability to achieve perfection. To see the perceived pressure moments as the sweetest moments. To have every match be an experience where I grow as a player and a person.

That is going to be a good challenge.

I am up for it. Psyched.

PS Thanks to my new Boulder tennis buddies who have been helping me get ready:
Theo Mandel , Kendall Chitambar, Pat Perrin, Andy Chernaik, Neil Kearney, Luis Garza, Reed Martin, Ed Schroback, Peter Braun and Bill Marshall


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9 thoughts on “National Clay Court Championships: A Chance to Reboot My Game

  • Dexter Godbey

    Bob – Good Luck at at the Clays. Though I don’t know you personally, I feel like I do because my mixed partner (and business partner), Birgitte, was lucky enough to have met and learned much from you at the Tennis Congress. I have the same focus on process over results as you (I learned it form Coach John Wooden at UCLA) and appreciate the clarity of your expression of it.

    Again, good luck and keep those of us living vicariously updated as you go along.

    Best…

    Dexter

  • Harriet Werner

    All the best of luck to you Bob in the Clay matches. I’m so proud of all of your accomplishments. Thanks for always keeping us posted.

  • ed schroback

    Nationals are the highest competition in amateur tennis and right where you belong Bob..Just play your game and represent; Colorado..Glad i played a small part in your preparation..sincerely, Ed

  • Jim Benge

    Best of luck to you this weekend. As always, I enjoyed visiting with you while at USTC. My teammate Bill Cohan will be competing there in the 65’s.
    Best,
    Jim Benge

  • Abbi

    Enjoy sliding on the clay…. Bend your knees and smile.
    LETSGOMETS
    They were mental midgets last night!
    Good luck
    Abbi

  • Rafi Oved

    I like to join to your tennis subscription .
    I like to play on clay court
    I am 5:0
    Thanks
    I was recommended by Mark Ehren
    Thanks