My Favorite Tournament


National Grass Court Championships

Every fall I get the opportunity to experience playing on a grass tennis court. My memories of playing on the grass started when I was 37 when I got to play at Forest Hills. Never having set foot on a grass court I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that when I played that tournament in  1985, I would find a surface that suited my game perfectly. I walked on the grass and felt a connection that launched me into levels I never dreamed of achieving. The grass suited my skills. I felt totally at home on it. Others complained of the difficulty maintaining footing, the bad bounces, the low bounce, challenge in changing direction. For me, each of those challenges seemed made for my style. 

I had my first great win against a top Eastern player, Joe Bouquin, at that tournament. It opened my belief that I could play with the top players. I had found the equalizer and started to get good results. Three years later I had won my first National title, the 35 and over Grass. Less than a year later I had won the National 40 and over Grass. Over the years I had most of my best wins on this surface, including the World Championships and seven more National singles titles.

I come into this year’s event defending the 70 and over singles and doubles titles. 

And this is why I had so much difficulty beginning to write. I usually begin to write about a tournament nearly a month before it starts. I write about my training, about what I am focused on, the details of my game and my mental state begins to come together. Writing has always been my best pre tournament training. I get a sense of where I am at in my process.

But this time I couldn’t get myself to write until tonight, the night before my opening matches. I would start to write but didn’t like where I was at. I didn’t like the thoughts that were rolling around my brain. 

Thoughts of pressure to repeat my past successes. Feelings of overconfidence based on the past. I couldn’t shake them. I felt that writing about them might make them more powerful.

But as I wrote about these thoughts tonight I am reminded that thoughts are not truths. They are more often just manifestations of my emotions. Worry. Fear. Doubt. Worry that I might lose. Fear that I won’t play well. Doubt in my own ability. Yes, I feel those emotions.

I write and it allows me to challenge these thoughts. It frees me up from being controlled by the thoughts. I see the thoughts as the chaos of my mind. Not true. Just random. I think to myself, tonight, “Of all the thoughts that are in my consciousness, look at the ones that I have chosen to focus on. What about that thoughts of how well I have prepared. The work on and off the court that has brought met to a level of readiness to compete.” 

By writing I can see that I have a choice about where to put my focus. 

Tonight I choose to focus on my feelings of belief in myself. I can truly feel that my effort to compete with all I have is more important than the results. I can think of my mental strength that I have honed for so many years. I can bring my attention to my process. 

I can choose to commit to my mission as I have done for so many years. This mission has been good to me for when i am executing my mission I always walk away from the court knowing I have won.

My mission has remained the same for many years: 

To play, in competition, at the high end of my skill and talent. To love the competition more than I love to win and to accept whatever the outcome with dignity and class. To compete in the moment, avoiding past and future tripping. To compete for each point. To compete with effortless effort. To be non judgmental of myself. To enjoy myself. To be enthusiastic. To be forgiving of myself for my inability to achieve perfection. To see the perceived pressure moments as the sweetest moments. To have every match be an experience where I grow as a player and a person. 

I am ready. 

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