The Match That I Was Destined to Play 3


I am rarely stuck for what to write so I will start with that and see where it takes me. After a tough semifinal against one of our best ball strikers, in which things got a little contentious, I was looking forward to playing my buddy and doubles partner. I knew that it would be a nice experience, win or lose. Before I get to that I am sure that you will want to know about the semi.


One of the best and most difficult parts of tennis competition is the one thing that builds character more than any other. While playing we need to make all the calls of in or out on our opponents’ shots. Many of us, over the years of playing have progressed from”calling them tight” to welcoming the experience of needing to be 100% certain on our calls. If you don’t SEE it clearly out, that shot is good. No questions asked. We become better people for having to do the hard thing. I take great pride in making the hard calls against myself I will not make a call that has the slightest doubt. Friday, on a key point, 1-1 in the second set tiebraker, I called my opponent’s near the line drop shot out. He got upset at the call saying the ball landed “smack on the middle of the line.” The chair umpire agreed with my call. But that was not the end for me. I needed to question my own certainty. I was sure. My opponent is a long time friend and I felt badly. I needed to do the right thing, not, in this case what would satisfy him. I scanned my inner self. I could tell from how I was feeling that my call was the right call. No doubt. No guilt. No should. After the match ended we worked it out. And, incidentally, I won the match 6-4, 7-6.


We were scheduled to play the finals of the doubles for the coveted gold ball about one hour after completing the singles (what the heck, don’t they know we are over 70?) Unfortunately, one of our opponents injured himself in his semi against Cheney and he defaulted the final. An unfortunate ending to a great tournament for us. A win without playing is not so rewarding. That said, I remember when I had yet to win any match in a 35 and over national tournaments and was waiting to play against a seed at the 35 Clay. The tournament director told me that my opponent had gone to the wrong facility and was going to be late by an hour. I was entitled to a default but it was up to me to accept the default or play him. I struggled because I so desperate to get a win that even a default felt like a victory. My inner voice was cheering. I spoke to one of the more recognized top players to get confirmation that I should go with the rules and take the default. He said to me what I didn’t want to hear. “Did you come here to play tennis or to just artificially advance in the draw.” Gulp. Embarrassed I rejected the default. My first lesson in playing is better than a win without hitting a ball.


With one gold ball in hand and a minimum silver, I looked forward to another match with Brian. We had dinner together and agreed to warm each other up the following morning. Friends and fierce opponents. 


I had two flight reservations to return home for after the finals. One at 1:30 and the other at 6:00. This is usually a bad idea especially when I am eager to get home. Our match was scheduled for 9AM. A three set match would mean missing the earlier flight. Mentally I checked the box on not letting that slip in to my match, especially when my oldest friend called me out on it, somehow knowing I was eager get back home. Interesting that this very thing is what led to my focus being as deep as it has ever been in a big match. I was so determined to avoid thoughts of the time that I dialed in point after point, taking my time to set the point I was about to play. 


Never looking at the clock became a point by point ritual that opened the door to the present moment. Being up or down in the game disappeared from my consciousness. Point by point the match felt like a dream to me. I could not have played better. It was the best I have ever played. It felt like the match I was destined to play when I first decided to compete in senior tennis. It was a match that I had no excuse for winning. I won 6-2, 6-0. I won because of all the work for so many years and because of who I had become as a player. I was just Bob and that was good enough. 


And I made the earlier flight. 


Post script: Those of you who read my book know that in 2010, at a tough time in my life, I was told by a hip surgeon the because I needed revision surgery on my hip, it was unlikely that I would be able to play singles again, much less singles and doubles for six consecutive days. I didn’t believe him as I wrote a new story about recovery, training, determination. Nine years later I have won seven more gold balls including three tournaments where I have won the singles and doubles. Just a message to all of you that if you don’t like the story you are hearing or telling yourself, you can always write a new one. It may even be completely fiction, but it can still be one that you can move towards, step by step. Hey, what do you have to lose? 




I am rarely stuck for what to write so I will start with that and see where it takes me. After a tough semifinal against one of our best ball strikers, in which things got a little contentious, I was looking forward to playing my buddy and doubles partner. I knew that it would be a nice experience,
win or lose. Before I get to that I am sure that you will want to know
about the semi.

One of the best and most difficult parts of tennis competition is the one
thing that builds character more than any other. While playing we need
to make all the calls of in or out on our opponents’ shots. Many of us, over the years of playing have progressed from”calling them tight” to
welcoming the experience of needing to be 100% certain on our calls. If
you don’t SEE it clearly out, that shot is good. No questions asked. We
become better people for having to do the hard thing. I take great pride in making the hard calls against myself I will not make a call that has the
slightest doubt. Friday, on a key point, 1-1 in the second set tiebraker, I
called my opponent’s near the line drop shot out. He got upset at the call
saying the ball landed “smack on the middle of the line.” The chair
umpire agreed with my call. But that was not the end for me. I needed to question my own certainty. I was sure. My opponent is a long time friend and I felt badly. I needed to do the right thing, not, in this case what
would satisfy him. I scanned my inner self. I could tell from how I was
feeling that my call was the right call. No doubt. No guilt. No should. After the match ended we worked it out. And, incidentally, I won the match 6-4, 7-6.
We were scheduled to play the finals of the doubles for the coveted gold ball about one hour after completing the singles (what the heck, don’t they know we are over 70?) Unfortunately, one of our opponents injured himself in his semi against Cheney and he defaulted the final. An unfortunate ending to a great tournament for us. A win without playing is not so rewarding. That said, I remember when I had yet to win any match in a 35 and over national tournaments and was waiting to play against a seed at the 35 Clay. The tournament director told me that my opponent had gone to the wrong facility and was going to be late by an hour. I was entitled to a default but it was up to me to accept the default or play him. I struggled because I so desperate to get a win that even a default felt like a victory. My inner voice was cheering. I spoke to one of the more recognized top players to get confirmation that I should go with the rules and take the default. He said to me what I didn’t want to hear. “Did you come here to play tennis or to just artificially advance in the draw.” Gulp. Embarrassed I rejected the default. My first lesson in playing is better than a win without hitting a ball.
With one gold ball in hand and a minimum silver, I looked forward to another match with Brian. We had dinner together and agreed to warm each other up the following morning. Friends and fierce opponents. 
I had two flight reservations to return home for after the finals. One at 1:30 and the other at 6:00. This is usually a bad idea especially when I am eager to get home. Our match was scheduled for 9AM. A three set match would mean missing the earlier flight. Mentally I checked the box on not letting that slip in to my match, especially when my oldest friend called me out on it, somehow knowing I was eager get back home. Interesting that this very thing is what led to my focus being as deep as it has ever been in a big match. I was so determined to avoid thoughts of the time that I dialed in point after point, taking my time to set the point I was about to play. 
Never looking at the clock became a point by point ritual that opened the door to the present moment. Being up or down in the game disappeared from my consciousness. Point by point the match felt like a dream to me. I could not have played better. It was the best I have ever played. It felt like the match I was destined to play when I first decided to compete in senior tennis. It was a match that I had no excuse for winning. I won 6-2, 6-0. I won because of all the work for so many years and because of who I had become as a player. I was just Bob and that was good enough. 

And I made the earlier flight. 

Post script: Those of you who read my book know that in 2010, at a tough time in my life, I was told by a hip surgeon the because I needed revision surgery on my hip, it was unlikely that I would be able to play singles again, much less singles and doubles for six consecutive days. I didn’t believe him as I wrote a new story about recovery, training, determination. Nine years later I have won seven more gold balls including three tournaments where I have won the singles and doubles. Just a message to all of you that if you don’t like the story you are hearing or telling yourself, you can always write a new one. It may even be completely fiction, but it can still be one that you can move towards, step by step. Hey, what do you have to lose? 

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