There is Nothing Like Playing for the USA 161

Yesterday was one of the most exciting days in my many years of playing competitive tennis. After an 11 year hiatus I was once again participating in the International World Senior Tennis Championships (aka Senior Davis Cup.) Four players from each age group are selected to compete for one week against other countries . Representing the USA is special. Wearing our USA warmups our team of 40 Americans (five age groups of men and women) marched into the ATP Tour Stadium in Umag, Croatia as part of 700 players from over 30 countries.

The pride that is felt by so many of us vibrates as we all wait to be called, by country, into the Stadium. Some of the players have played many times as the games are played by age groups from the 35 and over to the 85 and over. I have been fortunate to have played 9 times between the 50s and 65s. But I hadn’t played since 2007 when my life was going through some tough changes. I am a different person and player now, more mature as a competitor and, for sure, a more complete player. 

This time I have been selected to be the #1 player for our team. This means that I will play the top selected player from each country in our draw. I welcome the chance to help the team bring the Cup home to the USA.
The format is one in which we are in a group of four countries. There are six groups and the winner of each group advances to the quarterfinals for a knockout tournament. We need to win, each day at least two matches to win our group. Our team of four plays two singles matches and one doubles. If we split the singles it all comes down to the dubs. So the singles players have a load of pressure to get at least a split.
My preparation has been as it has been over the last few years. I do everything I can to show up for a tournament having done whatever I can do to have no regrets. I train hard on the court, as always, playing many sets against a variety of players of different ages, styles and personalities. I play on different courts at different times of the day. I play serving into the sun and with the sun at my back. I work out in the gym to build strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. I eat right. Drink right. Sleep right. In the ramp up I try to do everything I do with focus, surround myself with positivity and stay free of mental anguish. I write regularly to increase my awareness of where I am at mentally. I avoid multitasking as it is the opposite of what I need when I compete. I get clear on why I am playing, making sure that it is aligned with my values. I never like to play a tournament and, win or lose, without turning over every stone. Never to have a regret or thought like “I should have done more than I did.” And this is every more important when competing as part of the USA team.

Today we kicked it off by playing the Australians in our first match. Geoff Moore started us off at #2 singles with a strong win. I went on the court feeling relaxed and confident because of all the work I had done. I am different from my first cup match in 1999, at team that Geoff was on. Twenty years ago I was edgy, uncertain of my level and lacking in confidence. I didn’t even know what confidence was. Today I was sure of my game and myself, emotionally neutral, playing to feel satisfied with myself, always trying to improve rather than prove. I am the player and person I have trained to be for so many years. That is who showed up as I beat the top Aussie player 6-1, 6-0. Geoff and I clinched the first win for us. Our team still played the doubles as we need to be ready and the practice was no less important as Brent Abel, our team captain, and Steve Gottlieb, playing his first cup match, shook out the nerves and won in three sets. Tomorrow we play Italy. 

What a blast.

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