Slipping and Sliding: A Return to the Dirt 12


Big time rain on my arrival in New Orleans was going to put a kink into my plans to get a day of practice on the dirt courts (clay) at sea level.

I had already been feeling that I might have underprepared, physically, for the tournament. Although I had been practicing in Boulder, it had been mostly on hard courts. As I came into the last week before the tournament I had cancelled a few practice sessions thinking that getting on the dirt for one day would be better than more hard court play. So my training fell to hiking the mountains and biking the canyons.

I felt, though, that my mental and emotional training was really strong. Since the move to Boulder I have been excited about every moment of every day. And I am feeling so happy. I can’t imagine a better mindset for going into a competition.

I have always believed that if my life is good, my tennis will be good
.

So I arrived excited, happy and eager to observe the state of my tennis. Winning is always important to me but it is far from the only thing. I want to play well.

My match was at 10 but I really wanted to hit a few balls to see what playing at sea level on the dirt would feel like. So many people have told me that it is very different. Many of these people also have told me that I would have no trouble adjusting. I don’t, generally, like to believe what others say about me and what I can do. Not wanting to take that for granted, I showed up at 7:30 and got on the court with a couple of players.

My first six forehands went straight into the net. I made a pretty obvious adjustment: hit the ball higher over the net. That worked and I found that, despite feeling like the ball would sail out, it stayed in. Relief. Just need to remember to hit it higher. I would rather not have to think when playing but I guess, for today, I will have to, as my instinct would keep the ball lower.

I figured a few practice serves would be a good move. Couldn’t believe that I hit the first four directly into the net. Correction: hit up, use more spin and forget about flat serves for a while. It worked.

Enough pre-match warmup. I will have to see if I can work it out in the match when someone on the other side is trying to make it difficult for me.

Big positive as I warmed up and started playing was that I was so focused on getting that ball over on each shot that my focus was great. Each ball. Hey, that is what I am supposed to do. Today my focus was amazing. I won the first set 6-0 and broke his serve in the first game of the second set. I noticed the clock on the clubhouse. The first seven games, including the five minute warm up, took less than 30 minutes.

I thought, wow, I can win this match in 45 minutes. So much for my focus. I dropped the next two games and went down 0-30 on my next serve game.

STOP! Get rid of these thoughts about score. I observed the thoughts I was having and they floated away, just as I tell my clients. Be the observer, thoughts dissipate and you are back in the present. In focus. The next five games I was locked in. Match over. 6-0, 6-2.

I am glad that I lost my focus today. I am glad that I, once again, became aware of how thoughts of the future interfere. I am more prepared for tomorrow, likely a tougher match.

I love this game and how it forces me to keep it together. That helps me in everything that I do.


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12 thoughts on “Slipping and Sliding: A Return to the Dirt

  • Michael Smolens

    Good first day Bob – keep up the focus

    Could not find the URL with the tournament draw in it – can you post the link at your leisure.

    Michael

  • Rob polishook

    Bob-

    Quintessential More than an athlete comment: “I believe if my life is good, my tennis will be good.”
    You are “more than an athlete” bringing who you are (the person) to what your doing (the tennis player). Like a fine gumbo let that simmer and see what happens next. I trust good things!

    Enjoy the big easy-

    Play proud!

    Rob

  • Ted Murray

    Thanks for sharing the importance of the awareness of where your focus is. Making adjustments is a huge part of the game. You are a master at it, and I know it will carry you through the rest of the tournament. Sending you energy from Boulder.

  • Luis

    Way to go Bob! Tough adjustment. Mile high to sea level ( actually I believe the Big Easy is below sea level), then clay on top of that. Quite a challenge. No surprise you were up to it. Keep it going!

    Luis

  • Dexter Godbey

    Awesome, Bob. Congratulations and than thanks for sharing what’s going on in your mind and with your body and game. It’s helpful for those of us with less experience and good to know that the top players are going through much of the same things we are – just at a different level.

    I also love when my life is good my tennis is good and couldn’t agree more.

    Keep up the good work and keep your focus on the process over the result.

    Best…

    Dexter

  • doug miller

    I’m at the 55 Hard Courts, Indian Wells. I was down 3-6, 1-4…beginning to create excuses to justify the loss. I started to feel my feet, observe the breeze, listen to the things around me…got back to the now. Won the next 5 games…new balls, 3rd set. Down 0-2 I realized I’m in too good of physical shape to lose. Eventually pulled out a 6-3 3rd set win. 3 hours and 12 minutes…long time to learn a lesson in life. Thanks Bob for your help!

  • doug miller

    I’m at the 55 Hard Courts, Indian Wells. I was down 3-6, 1-4…beginning to create excuses to justify the loss. I started to feel my feet, observe the breeze, listen to the things around me…got back to the now. Won the next 5 games…new balls, 3rd set. Down 0-2 I realized I’m in too good of physical shape to lose. Eventually pulled out a 6-3 3rd set win. 3 hours and 12 minutes…long time to learn a lesson in life. Thanks Bob for your help!