A Winning Day Despite a Loss and, Today, a Chance for a Gold Ball 14


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I played a long time friend, Michael Beautyman, in the quarterfinals on the hottest, most humid day of the week.

The short story is that he got the better of me 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. Nearly 3 1/2 hours of lengthy rallies with major momentum swings throughout. In the end his fitness was better than mine. He crossed the finish line standing as I crawled across. Kudos to him.

The story that I am feeling is that I won. I won in so many ways that the results faded quickly.

Over the years I have learned to redefine winning to include the way I play, the effort that I give, the attitude I maintain, the responsibility I take, the appreciation for my opponent, how I react after the match, the way I am with the one who has defeated me and the resilience with which I bounce back.

I know that, when I play, it is always 50-50 in terms of outcome as we are all players in, roughly, the same level. I know that if I have ways of winning and competing that I can control, I have the best chance at getting the one part of which I have little control: the score.

Yesterday I won on so many fronts that I had no regrets about missed opportunities that are always there in a long match against an equal. Sure, I missed some shots I might have made but I also made many shots I might have missed, so no regrets.

The biggest challenge for me came in the second set. After winning the first set playing neutral, steady tennis, taking very little risk, Michael started to play better in that style than me. When playing neutral it is difficult to change style to being more aggressive. I got sucked into continuing to play neutral as he pulled away to a 4-0 lead in the second.

Throughout out that 4 games I kept telling myself to step it up, to take chances. I was playing a losing game. Despite feeling exhausted from the long rallies, I finally took my own advice and started to attack. I ran around backhands and crunched forehands, almost carelessly. And I kept it up. It took a lot of pushing back against a story that was in my mind: play safe, you can work your way back into this match. I kept the better story going and, amazingly, won 5 games in a row as I was on fire.

Serving for the match, I had a great chance to win the first point, which would have set the tone. But I missed an open court forehand, being aggressive. I stayed aggressive but the shots were not finding the right spots on the court and Michael toughed it out, won the set and cruised to win the third set and match.

No regrets. I stayed with what had gotten me back into the match and my comeback was one of my best ever. The fact that I couldn’t maintain it for six straight games. Well, that is the game of tennis.

The best part of the experience was how we were with each other after the handshake. We hugged, appreciating the experience.

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We talked and he said to me:

“I always read your blogs but, knowing that we might play this week, I didn’t read them this time.”

“I didn’t write about you. I rarely write about my opponents. I write about where I am at and my message to myself, this week, was ‘when I am happy in my life, my tennis is good.’”

He reminded me that, a few years ago, I had told him that, at a time when his life was not where he wanted it to be but that he said that he always remembered it. He fell in love with a great woman and his life is so good now. And his tennis better than ever. He redefined winning.

That was his best weapon and how he fought off the victory that I seemed destined to grab. I am so happy for my friend that he has found what I found. Many of my opponents have said that I have always had an unfair advantage because of the relationship I had with Carol and that I now have with Jo Ann. Angels on my shoulders.

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When my life is good, my tennis is good.

One hour later I dragged myself out of a chair, feeling sore, stiff and tired and,with partner Les Buck, won the semis of the doubles.

So after over five hours of brutal tennis it was a terrific tennis day. A singles loss that was a win. A doubles win that has Les and I playing today for the National Championship. A chance for a gold ball, emblamatic of winning a US National.


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