Stumbling Across the Finish Line 20

Firstly, about last night’s doubles. Les Buck and I were playing together for the first time. We are both experienced players and doubles is pretty straightforward so we figured we would meld quickly. I suppose we were a little too loose about it as we hadn’t clarified some important details. I had thought that he was a finisher and that I would be the set up guy. He thought the same I was the finisher and he would be the set up guy. So neither of us really took charge until the third set.

Never take anything for granted. Assumptions are generally ineffective.

What was good about the match is that we fought through adversity and won. That is always better than an easy match where we learn very little about each other.

That adversity definitely helped me in my singles match today.

I started off playing about as well as I can play. I was on fire. Everything I tried worked. The first set ended quickly, 6-0. On the break between sets, I thought that this kind of set is a good/bad. Obviously good because I played well and won. Bad because it is often hard to maintain the level. Also, my opponent is, very likely, thinking that I can’t play any better and he can. The player who gets crushed early is dangerous as they feel they have nothing to lose and will change their game. The player who wins easy never changes their game.

I had a short conversation with myself about maintaining my focus. I listened for the birds as a way to get into the present, which is where I need to be to have a chance of playing my best. But thoughts of winning had rooted and I was just a tiny bit off game in the first game of the second set. My opponent started off a little bit more positive.

That is the kind of difference that can turn a romp into a battle.

And so it was. I was in a match. Having won the first set is irrelevant once the second set starts. He was more proactive. I was just a little more reactive.

He found an opening in my game by serving more to my forehand and I just couldn’t find the return. It was there in the first set. My mind entered a state of confusion. I kept working on better stories: I am a master of patience. I am at my best when I am just Bob. Winning is nice, playing well is nicer. I feel no fear. I am relaxed.

The stories, as is often the case, kept me in a good space for competing. The challenge is to manage to get the good stories to win out over the voice of the old stories, the ones of doubt, nervousness, trying too hard.

I found a way with the stories to grab a lead despite feeling some struggle. I was up 4-3, serving, and missed a couple of makable shots. Old story: I am feeling tired. Last night’s doubles match took a lot out of me. Those stories sabotaged my game and then it was 4-4.

New and better story: I love when it is close. The tougher it is the tougher I compete. 5-4 mine.

Bad story: One more game and I win this match. That created some additional tension as does any thought of future results.

New story: I am fearless. Two quick points for me.

Bad story: Okay, just two more points and I get a win. Two quick points for him.

Better story: I go for it under pressure. Point for me, match point.

Bad story: I’ve got it now. Double fault, missed forehand, missed volley. Game point for him to get to 5-5.

Better story: NOW. Be Bob. An aggressive fearless move to the net and overhead. Match point. Big serve, big forehand. 6-4 match over.

I escaped with the win. Never know what might have happened if we got to a third set.

I love the challenges of managing my stories.

Tomorrow quarterfinals of the singles and doubles.

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20 thoughts on “Stumbling Across the Finish Line

  • Ed Schroback

    Great going Bob, after a tough late afternoon doubles match yesterday you kept up your stellar play. today.That 2nd set sounds heart thumping..As we all know the score never indicates what really happens in a set or match..he had you break point for 5-5 but you prevailed MENTALLY..

  • Dexter Godbey

    Yay! Great work and I’m learning form your stories of your stories. Thanks.

    I was hoping you’d be playing singles against my friend from Southern California, Jim Upton, tomorrow, but he lost to Beautyman as I’m sure you know.

    Good luck! Keep the stories comin’.


  • Harriet Werner

    Kudos to you Bob on your doubles match and singles. I can visualize you on the court through your exciting, vivid writing! Keep going in the next round!

  • Marian

    Going into a doubles match this weekend playing with someone I haven’t played with before…..negative thoughts are rampant….your stories help me recognize that I have already planned an embarrassing loss…..working on re-writing the story. It will be what I make it.

  • Sharon Moskowitz

    I have to say as I read your stories I go up and down right along with you! My own good news is when I’m in a game, I often remember what your thoughts were as you wrote them and it helps encourage me to try and find a similar action! Thanks Bob! And good work on your victory on the court and in your control over your mind!!! xox Sharon

  • Carl morris

    Good story and accurate. I was there and the match went just as bob said BUT I had a different conversation going. It was, however, very complimentary to bob’s.

    In summary, if I had known bob’s tennis resume, I would not have been so surprised by the quality of his play on the first set. I’ve only been in a tree like his a few times and it sure feels good. Everything he hit and the structure of every point was flawless. I told myself, hopefully, that if I hang in there his game may come down some and I maintained a logically unreal optimism at start of second set.

    Confidence returned as we played fairly even to 4-4, then I realized he was getting tired. I decided I would win the match if I could squeak out this set. I think Bob had concerns along this line too, but Bob’s depth of experience allowed him to hone his concentration and it all came down to a couple of key points at the end, over his taking the win or going to 5-5. I left out my inner thoughts but it’s likely they were similar to bob’s. I’m 65. That was over a month ago. Who knows.

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