In the Groove 9

In the Groove

Today was the quarterfinals of the singles and the semifinals of the doubles. My singles opponent had upset a seed earlier this week and won a bunch of matches to get to this round. A bigger than expected mental challenge for me was that I couldn’t easily get out of my mind that I was on a four consecutive 6-0 set streak. I woke up to the thought that it would be pretty cool to keep my game and focus at the kind of level that could lead to more of the same. This is not good stuff to think about. Way to result oriented. I needed to quiet the part of my brain that was chewing on these thoughts. I needed to re-enter the process. To do the things on the court that lead me to being a difficult opponent to win points against. To play within myself, to avoid unnecessary errors, to play high percentage. To play point by point. Shot by shot. This is what I seem to have found in my game over the last six months. I do this and I am tough to beat. 

Regardless of knowing this I was nervous at the beginning of the match. In fact, my warm up with my opponent was not good. I have always like to “win the warm up.” To make no errors and to run down each shot he hits. It is a message to my opponents that they are going to have to do a lot of good to get points from me.

Today though I was missing forehands, backhands, volleys. I was struggling to get balls to him when he was warming up his volley. I was also dealing with a nasty slippery grip and couldn’t decide if I wanted to stick with the racket I liked or to change to one with a grip that was newer. Basically, I was in a distracted state. Had to find the mental pathway to focus.

I got clear that my job was to pay attention to my game. Not results. Not my grip. Not my streak. I found my way back and won the first set 6-0. One glitch as I thought, after the set, “now just keep it together and another 6-0 set will happen.” And in a blink I hit two double faults and dropped my serve. Thankfully the pressure was off and I ran 6 games to win the match 6-0, 6-1. Tomorrow it gets tougher as I play a very strong player from Louisiana. He will hit big. I will use my speed to run his shots down and I will make him hit lots of winners. I will keep my error count low. I am psyched for a battle.

The doubles today was a high point as Brian and I defeated our good friends, senior Davis Cup teammates and three time World Champions Neal Newman and Larry Turville. Great match. Very close. High level. Brian and  I played really well individually and as a team. Our rhythm was good. Our support of each other was as it always is…unqualified. We win and lost every point as a team. No judgment. No criticism. Just encouragement and solid input. Doubles final tomorrow.

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