A Loss and a Great Day on the Court 14

Too Tough an Opponent

Larry Turville got the best of me today 6-3, 6-0. It was one of the finest matches I have ever played on a clay court. Did I mention that Larry had a 105 match winning streak on clay two years ago and that he has only lost twice on clay in the last 7 years?

The best matches are always those that are contested between two fierce competitors of similar levels. Today was one of those matches. Only two left standing. Feature court. Feature match. Spectators and players showing up to watch a battle. I know that I have evolved as a competitor on days like this. I want to be there. I feel no fear. No nervousness. I am playing one of the best senior players in the World and I know that I belong there.

I was excited about the challenge to be tough physically to deal with a guy who is the best clay court player ever in senior tennis, certain that I would be pushed to my physical limits. I love that about competing. I knew that the rallies would be punishing, lasting 15 shots or more over and over again. They were. From the first point well into the last game. We both spent extra time after points recovering.

I knew that I would need to be tough mentally, digging deeply to think positive thoughts, to maintain focus and to have strong conviction in my choices. Larry was winning most of the longer rallies so I needed to leave the security of my baseline game and find my way to the net…and to be more aggressive earlier in the points. I needed to evaluate the risk vs. reward of getting out of my comfort zone. He forced me to do it and I welcomed the opportunity. I love that about competing.

I looked forward to, over and over again, igniting only the hope filled emotions that would keep me optimistic, excited and eager to battle despite the disappointments of missed opportunities and his relentless consistency. To be happy and smiling throughout regardless of how the score was playing out. I love that about competing.

I was eager to keep the spirit flame burning despite giving it all and coming up short. Throughout the match I could fell how I love the competition as much as I love the winning. I kept finding within me the persistence, perseverance, the willingness to fight for each and every shot. I played free with my spirit flowing through every cell of my body. I smiled often at Larry after he did something great. I smiled internally at myself, point after point, as I was proud of how I played. I love that about competition.

At the end, after my last shot went wide, Larry and I met at the net, both victorious, even though he got the win. We congratulated each other for how we pushed each other for two hours, barely noticing the crowd. Once again we were both lucky to have bonded and become closer as friends and competitors. And we both talked, in the locker room of our mutual respect. Another day. Maybe a different result. But, we both hope, not a different experience.

Crazy that this tournament felt to me like another comeback. A comeback from a temporary loss of belief in my game. I am relieved that I have my mission to refer to as it always inspires me to get out there and play. Despite knowing who I am, despite knowing that if I can just be Bob all will be ok, I am still amazed that I can find my game and walk off the court proud. I love to compete. What a gift that this game has and continues to give me.

For all of you who have been following and sending notes of support, advice and encouragement, I thank you. This includes all of my new friends that have come on board as a result of the extraordinary PJ Simmons and Tennis Congress. I love to share these experiences with you. The tournaments, for me, continue to be about the playing and the writing as I continue to live the best stories of my life.

Thanks to my practice partners Jimmy Malhame, Jeff Snow, Corey Parr, Howard Dorman, Todd Ehren, Adam Rosen, Ronnie Kahn and Brian Hoffarth. You guys push me when I feel like hanging it up from time to time. Thanks to my massage team of Estrella Caban and Janet Luengas as this body of mine continues to get off your tables ready to work out for another day. Phil Wharton, your extraordinary stretching program has made me feel twenty years younger since I committed to your work.

Jody and Amy, you have been there from the start as my little girls, now sharing my stories with your children. Your texts and calls never go unnoticed.

And, Jo Ann. You are with me all the time, loving me, taking care of me, pushing me, making sure I am doing the right thing to continue to bring my best. I love to play in front of you. Your joy, your presence, your honesty and your love keep it all in perspective about what is truly important.

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14 thoughts on “A Loss and a Great Day on the Court

  • Sharon Moskowitz

    The win may not have been on the scoreboard, but it certainly sounds as if it were within your very being! A job obviously to be proud of! Xxx Sharon

  • ed wolfarth

    You can learn so much from losing. The fact that you were able to compete at such a high level against an extraordinary opponent and come out with an experience only top competitors know of, is a gift. Congratulations and thanks for sharing……..Ed

  • Irwin Shorr

    Bob — I wish I could have been there to watch the match (Zimbabwe is a bit of a weekend jaunt to Florida), but I was there briefly while reading your words. From your description of the match, I could see your free flowing swings, your gazelle-like movement, your poise and stature during as well as between points, your focus, your joy of being right where you were, living in that moment–EACH moment, because you are well aware that each of those moments is precious and not repeatable.

    The depth, quality and passion of your writing are indicators of the depth, quality and passion of your life and character. Your connection with those you surround yourself with, your friends, your colleagues, your family as well as your love and bonding with Jo Ann is palpable and laudable. You live your life with commitment and consistency while ‘maintaining patience’ and ‘thinking forward’. You continue to bring out the best in yourself and strive for more, like an accomplished singer who doesn’t look at a high note as unattainable, but rather sees himself higher than the note, where it is within reach and attainable.

    Your artistry on the court is matched by your artistry of pen that brings us into your world where you allow us not only to observe, but also to participate. You inspire all of us who know you and read your writings to want to be better ourselves, not just to be passive bystanders, wishing for something not attainable in our own lives. Thank you for your openness, your sharing, your revelations of who you are — you inspire our lives by living your own.

  • Suzanne Kingsbury

    Bob, I love this post so much. I just read a few in the row because I’ve been offline and missed them, and I felt a high after reading them. You are such an inspiration. Your ability to find the win everywhere and to “love” your opponent, to have an incredible optimism about competition no matter what can translate over and over and over again to writing, work, family, whatever we approach in our lives. I feel so lucky to know you. So lucky to get to read your writing on this blog and to follow your amazing journey into these competitions!! xxxooo, Suzanne.

  • Laura Jacobs

    You inspire me to deepen my commitment to my mission and love it
    As if my life depends on it – because it does
    Congratulations on your WIN you live your mission -great match point.

  • tom rosenthal

    Congratulations on the win! I have often reflected about the unusual difficulty, maybe impossibility, of a tennis match being a venue for meditation. Remaining equanimous, not being attached to an outcome, winning or losing, seems impossible when the entire point of being there is to be the “best” you can be, not just to “be”, to be the victor not the loser, instead of just ‘being”? Buddha suggests that the cause of all human suffering is aversion, and attraction or, in tennis terms, fear of losing, desire for winning.
    Reading your beautiful account of your final match shows that competing can indeed be a mediation. I didn’t think it was possible. Congratulations and love.