Showtime as Matches Begin


Showtime as Matches Begin

9:00AM Houston. First singles match today at 10:30. Doubles at 3:00. Waking up on the morning of day 1 of a National is a unique feeling. There is a bit of an unknowing feeling. All the practice and preparation has been completed. Today will be show time. Hitting the first balls in the warmup with my opponent can be an indicator of how things will play out. Am I nervous? Am I relaxed? Am I excited? Am I flat? Once play starts, a lot of the automatic kicks in and the feelings of the first few shots can dissipate. The who I am takes over. Nervousness and doubt are replaced by the comfort zone I have, over the years, expanded to takes over.

Will finish writing about today after the matches are over. But I have a few minutes to mention that yesterday’s practice was special. Besides hitting some singles with my doubles partner, Brian Cheney, we played a couple of sets of doubles against Jim Parker and his partner. Although I have hit with Jim a few times over the years (he is in the next age group up) this was the first time I played against him. What a treat. Jim is the GOAT senior tennis player. He has won more gold balls than any other male player in history. Not sure of the actual number but it is around 150. And the number don’t tell the story. At 76 years old his game is that of a player 20 years younger. Besides hitting shots that most people don’t and can’t hit, the variety of his selections make him as difficult to read as anyone I have ever played. It was a treat. Add to that the number of gold balls Brian has and there I was, playing in the midst of over 250 National Championships. Rarefied air. Pretty cool.

Well, I was super dialed in when I hit the court today. Everything was clicking. From the outset I felt that it was a match that I would win as my opponent was struggling with my pace, spin, location and my court coverage on his shots. The challenge for me was to play every point with intensity. I needed to find my inner Rafa. Nadal plays every point as if his opponent is stealing food off his table if they win a point. My mentality is that the fate of the universe depends on my focus and commitment. By me bringing this way of thinking to the match I am showing my opponent the ultimate respect. I will give you all I have got but never give you a point. You deserve my best and I will make every effort to bring it. I will not take you for granted just because I will win. No, I will win or lose every single point with full effort.

I won 6-0, 6-0. People think that winning by that score is easy. No. In some ways it is harder than winning by a closer score. It is hard to avoid cruising. It is hard to avoid the complacency that can follow a 6-0 first set. It is hard to care about each ball. It is hard to focus when it feels less than necessary. It is hard to make very few errors. It is hard to respect my opponent when I know the probable outcome. The best in every field do the hard thing. They choose to make the small stuff matter. 

Last night in an  Indian Wells men’s match, Nishioka was leading Auger-Aliassime 5-1 in the 3rd set. Although Nishioka won the match it took him a bunch of match points and a tiebreaker in which he was two points away from losing. In tennis, no lead is big enough. There is no clock that ends the game. You must do the work to cross the finish line. 

My focus on each ball today will be helpful for me tomorrow as each day the matches get tougher. 

Cheney and I won our first round of doubles 6-2, 6-2. Not having played a match together since last year, we spent time getting used to each other again. 

All in all a very good day.

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