Watching My Game Marinate 11

Marinating My Game

One week away from my first match of the 2015 season. It will also be my first tournament match since last May as a torn calf in August cut short my last season. I ended up having to withdraw from the National Grass and Senior Davis Cup last fall.

Preparing for the first event in a new season is like a plane taking off. I’ve packed my bags and they and I have what I need for the trip. The doors close. I strap myself in, anticipating the new destination. The engines start up. Taxi out to the runway. Start moving slowly, accelerating and then, soon enough, being at full speed, flying. My destination is, once again, bringing my best Bob to the game.

In years past my experience has been one of about a month of bouncing around and finding my way by narrowing my focus, eliminating excess, sharpening my saw, sanding the stone. Each time on the court, a little better. And by the time I am a week away, my game is clean and clear. I know which Bob I will be on the court.

This year has been different. I have learned a few new steps in this dance called tennis. My work with the team at Courtsense opened my eyes to some corrections that I needed to make. I had gotten lazy in my groundstroke preparation. I had lost a little in footwork and recovery to the center of the court. Maybe I had lost a step, something about which I may have been in denial. So as I have been preparing I have been working on those details and some tactical adjustments to offset the possible lost step. Footwork. Recovering to the center of the court more quickly. Making a higher percentage of service returns as I do in doubles. Hitting more postponing shots when I am in the corners. Being more opportunistic on short balls. Shortening points by going for more winners. Avoiding going for winners when the opportunity for success is not there. Staying aggressive into only high percentage areas of the court. Hitting less cross court backhands to avoid being pulled off the court to my own backhand.

Wow. A lot. So what has been different? My game is all over the place. Working on a lot, trying to find which Bob will show up. So my practice sessions have been volatile. One day great. The next day so so. Each time on the court trying to eliminate what doesn’t belong. So that I can find my game. It has been tricky because I am on the fence between low risk consistency and higher risk aggressiveness. This conflict is a challenge, which I welcome.

I win most of my matches by being more consistent than my opponents. My movement is better than most in my age group and there are few shots that I cannot get to. When I play within myself I will make very few errors and winning is most often the result. My losses are most often to those who can out steady me. Against them, if I am hot and making my attacking shots I can win. If I am missing too much I lose. This is the challenge. To find that balance between attacking and defending.

So I continue to experiment, playing many different players, most much younger than me. Players who I can stay with by being consistent but struggle to beat without attacking.

So as I play practice matches I have some conflict. I want to be competitive. I want to win. I want to stay in process. My focus is challenged as I find myself randomly switching from one way to the other.

A bad practice session, though, is helpful as I read the riot act to myself to maintain more mental discipline. To engage my greatest weapon: FOCUS.

And during the process of getting ready to compete, I remind myself to maintain patience with myself. The fact that I have found my game through eliminating unnecessary parts may be a story of the past. I have changed. Now, I see, that finding Bob has a lot to do with throwing a lot of new ideas into a big pot. Stirring the pot. Turning the heat down low and letting it all marinate. In the end it will be what it is. A new me. A better version.

I guess it is no coincidence that I have been telling my clients to gather lots of information and then to step away. To meditate. To contemplate. To go into right brain. It is there that the answers lie. It is there that all of the pieces change from being just random information to the answer to the question, what am I going to do?

In the end, it all comes down to processing the info and then letting it all go as the higher mind will know what to do with it all. Being relaxed. Being free of worry or fear. Trusting.

I love working on my game.

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