Saturday, May 09, 2020

TWA and Notions: How to Make a Pattern

Cocktail optional, but I think we all could use a drink.

Our tennis courts are open again in my corner of Florida, which is great. But I don't really feel ready to test the facility yet. Honestly, there are too many people walking around without masks and trying to crowd me in grocery stores, and I don't want to test public waters yet. League play allegedly resumes next month. Let's say that's true. That gives me about four weeks to finish my Martina knockoff dress. How's that going? Glad you asked.
I said in my previous post that I had attempted to recreate this dress before. I dug out my sewing box with the fabric I had left and a book I'd bought about the basics of sewing. I'd forgotten that I had also gotten a pattern-making book from the library and made copies of all the relevant chapters so I could return the book. When I looked all of this over, I realized why I had stopped. 

First, these books might as well have been written in Sanskrit. They couldn't have made the text bigger, or included some white space? This is like reading an economics textbook. 

Oh, and the thing that probably sent me screaming from the machine the first time were all these numbers. It's just like Tom Hanks said, "There's no math in sewing!"
Unlike the 1970s, when I'm sure these books were written, there is now YouTube, where I felt sure I could learn how to make a pattern without math-ing. 
But it turns out I was wrong. There is no way around calculations to make your pattern, just as there is no way to go without measuring your dimensions. There's been a lot of stress-eating of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches around here and also popcorn and cookie thins. So wrapping a measuring tape around my waist is, yeah, fraught.
Anyway, I went to YouTube University and found two fine instructors who gave me some tips before I busted out the scissors. The first one is from The Last Stitch, where I learned that you can digitize your patterns? One great idea she offered was using your best-fitting clothes when drafting patterns in addition to your dimensions. That is probably going to be very important here because while I love the look of Martina's dress, I do not think that playing in a dress that narrow and short will be very comfortable for me. My thighs are a little bigger than hers (and not all muscle), so some length adjustments will be needed there.  
Unfortunately, Johanna also recommended using a textbook to learn more about the basics. Which might be a good idea because one of Johanna's other tips was that "Ease matters," and I had no idea what she meant. Cart before the horse much? 
Still, I really wanted to get started, just to get something down on paper -- the lovely pattern paper I purchased online. So I cut out a piece and got started with the next video.
And I learned yet another lesson right off the top: supplies needed include a "set square" and "pattern master?!??" What are those? Looks like another online visit to Joann Fabrics is in order.
More math here, unfortunately, but Kim's video helps explain the whys behind the pattern calculations although I'm not going to pretend I'd be able to explain it to anyone else at this time.
I also learned the importance of ease, which is basically making sure that when you put on your dress, you can move around in it. Helpful thing to know. Even without those supplies, I was able to get something down on paper, although it wasn't much.

Like I said, not much. This is far from complete, but I needed a break from all those numerals. But I have officially gone much further than ever in this process, which makes me think I might actually swing this! (Pun discovered in editing process, and it stays.) I also have the material I'm going to use for my first pass at this project, too! No, it's not the original material. Not only have I been unable to find it, but I'm pretty convinced I'm going to need a second pass at this dress and would hate to do it on hard-to-find material. I like what I did pick out, which you'll hopefully see in my next post.
It might even be cut.
It might even be cut correctly.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

On Pause

At the beginning of 2020, I set a list of goals. Ten of them. Some were around my writing, some around fitness, and of course around tennis. My goal for tennis was to get better at it. How to determine if I was getting better? My league matches. I set out to win 60 percent of my league matches for the year. I'd use my club's ball machine to work on my strokes.
My last match before everything stopped was on March 12 and it was on the road. One-hour-away- on-the-road. And for my goals, it was somewhat important. I'd had a spotty start to the season to say the least, but my match the previous week was a great win for me. I'd started out the first set with a 3-0 lead, squandered it, came back to win the first set, then gone down 0-3 in the second set, came back to tie it and win that set, too. I felt like my head was finally becoming an asset. I came in at 2-4, and if I could just get a win, it'd show some progress, would show that I could build towards being consistent.
In this last match, I won a tight first set against an opponent I sensed was a lot like me -- aggressive, but error-prone. Her husband sat on the outside of the fence of our court and every time she played on that side, she told him how terrible she was. When I played on that side, he was quiet, but he was also coughing and not covering his mouth. They'd just detected coronavirus for the first time in this county days ago, and when I wasn't trying to figure out how to get some comfortable distance (literally and figuratively, which is the first time I've accurately used this term) between me and my opponent, I was wondering if people just ... didn't watch the news.
Anyway, after the first set, my opponent asked for a court change, and in fact, half the lights were out on the court. We moved, and I get out to a 1-0 lead, a 2-0 lead. 3-0. Then her aggressiveness started paying off and I miscalculated. See, the first set had taken probably an hour and I saw her misfire, but also hit great shots. She made way more errors than great shots. I figured, later in this second set, that she would fall back into missing her shots if I could just keep the points going, so I worked on defense and on shots where I had clear opportunities, I took the foot off the gas. Like I said, I miscalculated. She won the second set in a tiebreak. The match tiebreak was more of the same, except I'd finally shamed myself ("Hit the ball, you f#*^*&# p$*#*!") into going for my shots, but I was missing now. As for my opponent, she finished off the match with two forehands up the line that she had not even previously attempted. 11-9. After the match, she was very complimentary and I had to admit it was one of the better singles matches I'd played in a long time. We'd been at it for at least 2.5 hours and physically, I felt good. I felt terrible inside and if you play league tennis, you know those drives home can be exhilarating or they can be very long. Mine was very long and now our season was over, but another one was about to start -- both in my county and the neighboring county. There'd be plenty of time to work on my match record.
Remember when you thought there'd be plenty of time? It turns out that you were right. I was right. Except that it turns out that there's plenty of time for us to work on the things that matter, and it turns out that that list is pretty short when life hits pause. Leaving the house is a calculation. Do I really need to? What if I have it? What if someone at the grocery has it? Last weekend, a friend of mine sent out a desperate group text asking if anyone wanted to play tennis -- a text I had sent out myself two weeks earlier and she had been the taker. I looked at my phone, saw that text, and went through about fourteen phases of emotion:
It's a pandemic, (name here). Are you crazy? 
You can social distance on a tennis court ... 
What if everyone says yes? That's four of us. Too many maybe ...
I really do want to play some tennis. Did I ever pick up my racquet from the pro who was supposed to string it before all this started? No?
Can you play in a mask? 
We're supposed to stay home! 
After all that, I just put the phone back down without responding and went back to stress-eating chocolate chip cookie thins.
Here's where I've landed. I have to take care of myself, my family and my community. I can't change anything outside of that. All I can do is try to keep us safe and healthy and disinfect the hell out of every doorknob and light switch in this house. And part of that means tennis is also on pause for a while.
Fortunately for me, there are about one million tennis matches to watch on YouTube. One of them reminded me of something I had wanted to do for a while.

First of all, this is a great match. Chris Evert v. Martina Navratilova. Wimbledon. 1978. The rally that starts at 9:58 is just perfect, especially the look on Chrissie's face when it's over.
Another noteworthy point was this one, when Chrissie beans Martina at the net. Just look at this exchange.

I want to point out that Serena could hit Venus like that and wouldn't bat an eye -- and they're sisters.
No judgment here. I am just saying.
The first time I saw this match was probably about four years ago and I was taken by Martina's dress.

I'm thinking it's the collar that makes it pop, but I am not a fashionista so I don't know any technical terms for why I wanted that dress, but I did. I couldn't find it on eBay, Etsy, Amazon, nowhere. I decided then that I could make the dress myself! This might be out of left field to you, but I do have a sewing history. I learned how to sew so I could make my own wedding dress. It was my first completed project. And pretty much my last. I had dabbled in making some tennis clothes with mixed results. Including this top, which was a good idea perhaps, but which ended up looking more like a Denise Huxtable Gordon Gartrelle-knockoff creation:

Then I had kids and I stopped sewing.
I'd been working on a bookshelf/bench project for my kids' room, which required me to make a covering for the bench, which led me to Joann Fabrics, where they convinced me to download the app for 60 percent off my purchase, at which point I received daily e-mails and notifications about discounted fabric, which is about the time things went sideways and I was spending copious amounts of time at home.
Call it the perfect storm. Because due to my lack of tennis playing, I was falling asleep watching matches and woke up to the Navratilova/Evert classic, and I noticed the dress again. Hmm, I thought. I do have a discount from Joann and if I pay online, they'll bring it to my car. Hmm. Is this the time to say yes to Martina's dress?
I didn't realize how far I'd gotten with this dress idea several years ago until I finally unpacked my sewing patterns, books and fabric to get ready for this undertaking. (One thing I'd found was that I'd cut a pattern for a Strawberry Shortcake onesie for my daughter and never sewed it. She's, uh, no longer able to wear it.) Apparently, I'd realized that I would need a pattern and began looking into how to make my own. I found the instructions in a library book, copied the pages, stuck it in one of my sewing book and basically put it in a box and moved on. So I need pattern paper. And then I need to learn how make a pattern. And the governor just called a 30-day shutdown (about three weeks too late). So I guess I have time.
What else can I say? Watch this space? I'll share photos, videos and posts about my progress. It'll be fun?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Five Slams is Not the Problem Here

I haven't been on retirement watch for Maria Sharapova. I'm honestly trying to gird myself for Venus Williams'.
I wasn't that surprised, though, that Sharapova turned in her papers this week. And in the back of my head, I knew about the debate that would ensue upon her retirement and how it would mess with my blood pressure. And I knew I should have stayed off Twitter during this time, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have seen this Nike tribute ad:

Mistakes. OK. 
Let's see what the news has to say about this.

Ah, complicated? Are we gonna get honest here?

Five slams is not a small amount of Slams, Matt. It's actually pretty impressive especially when you consider that she has at least one of each major. She has two French Open titles. Two! Know how many Venus has? That's not what's "complicated" here.
Yeah, we're about to talk about the doping ban. Because it's a big deal. I read the whole ITF report, if you'll remember, and it was fairly damning. There's also the fact, which is only now sinking in for me, that this report revealed that she'd been taking a drug she didn't need for 10 years. That would start us, then, at 2006, the year she won her second slam. That means that most of those five Slams were won while she was taking meldonium. When she returned from her ban, she could barely crack the second week of a major.
Now that is complicated.
There is this sort of internal wrestling match that tends to ensue when we talk about Sharapova's career. I've tried to insert other names into that Washington Post headline above, another person's photo, to see if we would be so shy about discussing her drug ban in frank terms. Rafa Nadal (who's been dogged by these rumors anyway)? Serena Williams? I can't help but think this conversation would be different if we put in another athlete's name. If it were Nadal or Serena, there'd be nothing "complicated" about it -- they cheated.
Sharapova was assisted in keeping her nose above this fray by supportive sponsors, including Head, which -- I mean, if you ever rob a bank or commit some crime, please get sponsored by Head first. That way, you can get the support that Head gave Sharapova after her ban. Even this whitewashing effort by Nike in this retirement ad is ... a lot. She was taking a banned substance and got caught and ... mistakes? MISTAKES?
Of course Matt mentioned the ban in his story. Everyone does. It should be in the headline because it was significant and it might have been a major part of what made her successful as a player. This is a part of the ITF report that I can't unsee:

Did she call him as he advised? Another thought just popping into my head these years later.
I feel kind of bad writing this and I don't know why. I'm not making this report up. Maybe it's because I do want to remember Sharapova for being a badass on court. I know we can't call what she and Serena had a rivalry, but one thing they both had was this ability to clamp down mentally in a match and will their way to victory, even when it didn't look good. This thread about her shading her opponents is precious and I love it.

Isn't she back in Poland already? Oh my god. Even when she went after Serena after that Rolling Stone profile and went off on Serena dating her coach my goodness that is what we look for here at Tennis with ATTITUDE. The ATTITUDE.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

We Really Having the Australian Open, Huh: Did Not Turn Out Bad.

This tournament has had more plot twists than usual, and let's face it, the Australian Open always comes out wonky.
But Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka both out early? Coco Gauff beating Osaka, then losing to Sofia Kenin?
Let's just unpack it all now, shall we?

A(nother) star is born
Congratulations to Sofia Kenin, who played one hell of a tournament. And she did it not with power, but persistence. I mean, she beat Gauff, who everyone (me included) thought could win after Serena and Osaka went out in early rounds. Then Kenin beat the No. 1 player in the world and home favorite and THEN she beat Garbine Muguruza who also beat a few strong favorites (Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, and Simona Halep) to get to the final, after having lost the first set and having nearly been broken early in the third! (Oh, watch this. This is what I'm talking about.) And with this Kenin result, and with other younger players coming out and up, like Osaka, like Andreescu -- did Muguruza miss her window for Grand Slam dominance? That might be a crazy thing to say, considering she just advanced to a Slam final again. But this result reminds me of the Andy Roddick loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009 and what it meant for Roddick. He never had a sniff again at a Slam final. Then he just got crowded out of the top echelon. Who knows with Muguruza. She's still young and has a great game, but between she and Karolina Pliskova, I'm wondering.

OK, maybe this isn't fair
Congrats again to Kenin ... pending her MAGA background check.
I'm sorry, I am just gun shy because some young Americans trying to assert themselves in the game also had to scrub their social media clean because it was full of offensive comments aimed at gay people. Others openly advocated for the current president to come to see him win Wimbledon (as ifffff).
Of course, you can believe whatever you want. You can believe wind causes cancer. You can believe that you have the best words. You can even ask everyone to believe that you are innocent of bribery even though you won't provide evidence of that innocence or allow anyone else in the know to testify. I can believe that if you support that nonsense, I'll be rooting for your opponent every time. I'll also be wicked-laughing at every one of your blown match points against an injured Roger Federer and noting with interest that at the net, Roger didn't seem that impressed with you.
And as an American fan, I'm still a bit miffed with the USTA failing to address the Sandgren situation when it happened. So again, I'm gun shy.

This Olympic selection process is gonna be ... fraught, yes?
I'm guessing that one of the few reasons that Venus Williams is still on tour is to get another bite at Olympic glory. Serena Williams, although in a better position, is probably thinking the same thing. Now, Serena isn't even the No. 1 American -- it's Kenin. Then there's Gauff -- and Madison Keys. And Alison Riske. Also Sloane Stephens. Pretty sure there are only four slots and this weekend's Fed Cup tie against Latvia will feature Serena, Kenin, Riske and Gauff as singles players, and playing a Fed Cup tie is a requirement to qualify for the Olympics. This will be very interesting to watch through the summer.
Geesh, Danielle Collins, too.

There's a Thiem here
OK, I am feeling sorry for Dominic Thiem and I barely know him. OK, I don't know him at all, but let's focus, all right?
Thiem is as ready for a major as Kenin was and yet he came up empty again against Mr. Houdini Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic will go down as one of the best that ever was, and Thiem alluded to this moment in tennis, playing in a time where three of the best of all time are playing at the same time. The good thing for Thiem is that Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic have to quit at some point during his career.
Of the Big Three, Djokovic does seem as if he's the least revered. I only say that because no one seems to like Djokovic much. The crowd reactions to him are, uh,  ... not what they are for Federer. (I don't endorse the clickbaity headline -- just the video.) Did anyone else hear the crowd in the last game? They were pushing *hard* for Thiem. Ultimately, of course, it doesn't matter if the crowd likes him or not because he figures out how to get it done either way. But in this win, and its aftermath, I detected something a little different from Djokovic -- humility. No overt gesturing to the crowd, the kind he usually does that all but cries out, "Like me! Like meeeee!!!!"

Doubles is where it's at
Early on in the mixed doubles, there was a 10-minute "conversation" that grew in intensity involving all four players on the court: Jamie Murray, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Barbora Strycova and Marcelo Melo. Here is the condensed version. There's a lot of versions of this argument online and most of them involve Strycova being called a hothead. First, she was not the only one involved in this dispute. Second, she was right! Hi! And it took 10 minutes because Murray and Mattek-Sands decided they didn't like that their challenge call was a hindrance. All I'm saying is Strycova is always right, so why bother?
Murray and Mattek-Sands made it to the final where they lost to a woman who won this tournament last year (?) and a guy who I'll refer to now on as "almost Chris Pine":

So close -- especially if you squint and close the one eye.
There are worse things to almost be, Nikola Mektic. Like almost Australian Open mixed doubles champs. Mektic and his partner Barbora Krejcikova ran the super tiebreaker and looked like they will probably play together again at some point.

And Bethanie and Jamie ... are gonna need a minute.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

We Really Having the Aussie Open, Huh: No, I'm Not Watching Venus v. Gauff Live

Does anyone else remember that movie, "The Day Before Tomorrow?" I remember watching it and finding it a bit unrealistic, even for a sci-fi movie. It starts with everything going sideways, right out the chute. (Also starts and ends with Jake Gyllenhaal, but that's not the point, which is rare from me.) Anyway, the thing that seemed ridiculous was that all of a sudden, the world was melting down and yet, everyone seemed off guard. I just mention this now because we're playing the Australian Open and people having trouble breathing because of these raging wildfires and we're ... just playing the Australian Open. Maybe this is what we're going to do before everything goes truly sideways.
So, yeah, switching gears. Here are the draws. 

Some notes:
1. If Coco Gauff can beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon, what will she do at the Slam where Venus routinely underperforms? I don't want to know, not right away. 
2. Philipp Kohlschreiber is still out here, fam.
3. I am fascinated by this Ernests Gulbis/ Felix Auger-Aliassime matchup in the first round. 
4. Same with Daniil Medvedev v. Frances Tiafoe. I am picking Medvedev, but barely. 
5. It was funny, filling out the men's draw. I'd gone through it, thinking Nadal has shockingly little pushback to get to the semis and wondering who was missing. Then I went to the next page, and all of a sudden, there's Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Denis Shapovalov, Stefanos Tsitsipas, heck, even Grigor Dimitrov. Back half loaded much?
6. Whatever happened to Daria Kasatkina?
7. I think Petra Kvitova has a nice shot at a deep run here, but her first round against Katerina Siniakova could be a rough one. 
8. Aryna Sabalenka v. Carla Suarez Navarro?! 
9. It's nice to see Serena Williams break the title drought. But yikeys, does she have a bad draw. Johanna Konta. Dayana Yastremka, old nemesis Sofia Kenin and other old nemesis Sloane Stephens? 
10. Why can you never print a normal-sized draw for the Australian Open?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: So Long Hastavista Sayonara Peace-Out and the Like

I'm coming in under the limbo broom -- might ... hit ... send ... before ... midnight ...


So before I get into the 2019 yearbook, let's take a quick look at the 2018 yearbook, in which I, for the first time, attempted to predict the winners of the majors this year. How did I do?

Who Will Win in 2019? This is a new feature in which I will attempt to predict all the Slam champions right now! Stop laughing. This is hard! OK, here I go:

Australia: Kiki Bertens, Novak Djokovic
French Open: Sloane Stephens, Rafael Nadal
Wimbledon: Aryna Sabalenka, Roger Federer
U.S. Open: Serena Williams (unless she retired because she was pregnant), Djokovic

Hard indeed. In real life:
Australia: Naomi Osaka, Djokovic
French Open: Ash Barty, Nadal
Wimbledon: Simona Halep, Djokovic
U.S. Open: Bianca Andreescu, Nadal

Will I try this again later in this post? Absolutely!

Now, from the top:

Head of the Class: For the men, I'm going with Nadal. It was a minor miracle that he finished the season uninjured (well, for him -- just the one hip injury). But then he messed around and won two majors, the summer and Davis Cup, plus a major final and semifinal showing. I'm not just saying this because of his ass -- he had an awesome season.
The women? Not as easy to choose just one. So I won't! I will say that I look forward to another decade of watching Barty, Halep, Petra Kvitova (please?), Andreescu and Osaka duking it out on court. I'm expecting two decades from the last two. (Do y'all think Pliskova can win a slam? Because I'm thinking no these days ...)

Most Inspiring Player: I have to go with Hsieh Su-wei. For this category, I'm thinking about players who are not loaded with all the standard tools you'd expect for success, and yet. I'm thinking about a player who makes me want to go rent out the ball machine at my courts. That's Hseih for me. She is everything I wish I were as a player -- patient, strategic, able to use a full court, confident. Think I'm kidding? Watch this, then drop and give me 20:

Most Popular: Coco Gauff, and man, I wish it wasn't so. I get it. When you're good, you're good. People talk about the players who are good, the ones who beat Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon and then makes a nice run at the Open, where Osaka thrust her into the spotlight after a devastating loss. I'm not blaming Osaka, or anyone else. I just think about Jennifer Capriati and even about how Venus herself was treated when she was Coco's age ... and it makes me anxious. It makes me hope the media have actually learned something, that her family remains vigilant against, well, life. She's 15. I just worry about her. I'm glad she's popular. Really. But I'm anxious over here.

Most Likely to Succeed: I'm going to live on the edge and say Daniil Medvedev. I don't know how tennis' answer to Gumby does it, but damned if he doesn't keep doing it. I thought he was pretty close to success at the U.S. Open final but openly admit I was rooting hard against him. But in 2020? Hard for me to see him come out of it without a major title.

Most Likely to Succeed ... at Something Other than Tennis: Caroline Wozniacki, I guess. Y'all think she's coming back Down Under to wipe the smile off Halep's face again?

Nah, but still. We'll miss Wozniacki retrieving ball after ball after ball, only to win a match and you, the spectator, are sitting there asking yourself how she actually did that. (Just me? OK.)

That Student Who Snoozes Through the School Year, But Aces the Final Exam: I'm sorry, but Djokovic. Please explain how he managed to win that final against Federer at Wimbledon. He almost ended the year at No. 1, and his year overall was, well, scratchy.

Who Will Win in 2020?
I ain't scared!
Australia: Andreescu, Medvedev
Roland Garros: Halep, Nadal
Wimbledon: Serena (!), Federer (!!)
U.S. Open: Andreescu, Tsitsipas

Least Likely to Post Regularly in 2020: Yeah, that'd be me. I love tennis and everything about it. I love writing about tennis. This post was going to be short, and then I just got sucked in. But I've been thinking a lot about the goals I want to accomplish next year (tomorrow) and most of it involves getting paid to write. I, uh, do this for free. I know, shocking. But the reality is that I don't have the time or energy to do both well. I'll still post for majors and whenever I have anything else to say. But I'll always be watching. Feel free to hit me up on Facebook and Twitter between posts!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

League Watch: On My Own

I knew that when I decided to appeal my rating from 4.0 to 3.5, I would get more opportunities to play league matches, and like Elizabeth Warren, I had a plan for that. I wanted to start playing singles again and in case you didn't know, making yourself available for singles will make you the most popular player in said league. When my appeal was granted, I made it onto a team and just like that, I was about to play my first league singles match in *checks Tennislink* FIVE YEARS.
It's like riding a bike, I told myself. You know how to do it, so just jump right on. My first opponent was someone I'd never met, but from the time we started hitting, I knew this was going to be a tough match. At least I thought so. My opponent was consistent on both sides, decent mover, okay serve while warming up, but once the match started, I was facing little resistance. I wasn't happy with my own play, though. I was hitting a lot of framed shots that stayed in and I felt uncomfortable even after winning the first set. I worried that if she raised her level and I kept framing everything, it wouldn't end well for me.
What do you call it when you're a negative psychic, when you can only predict the bad things about to happen to you? Because, yeah, she raised her level and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't raise mine. And just as quickly as I won the first set, she won the second. Unfortunately, in Florida, that means a third-set tiebreaker.
I hate third-set tiebreakers. Why have a tiebreaker in place of a set when you can have a quick round of "Rock/Paper/Scissors?" Maybe a round of "What Number am I Thinking Of?" Not only are these tiebreaks dumb, but I do not do well with them. Need I remind you of my second stint at sectionals during a rain-delayed weekend? I'm sure the fact that they're dumb and that I don't fare well in them are not related, by the way. Not. At. All.
So, anyway, we get into this tiebreaker and I'm trying to convince myself that I love third-set tiebreakers, live for 'em, even. I didn't have to worry too much -- my opponent started with a double-fault and a few quick errors. I thought she might have been nervous, so I committed to hitting low-risk topspin deep into the court. But of course, she came back to tighten the situation and by now, all our teams are standing around watching us because we were one of the last matches. Still, I hung on somehow and won the match. It felt good. It was hot and it had been a physical match and I was glad to know I was still able to do this.
I won my second match, too, and then that just about did it for me in my region. The captain didn't play me until halfway through the season and I couldn't play the last two matches. Central Florida is just not it for league junkies like me. I knew that if I wanted to keep playing, I'd have to travel. Fortunately, I'm located smack dab in the middle of Tampa and Orlando, so, at maximum, we're talking about an hour both ways. And who doesn't love podcasts?
I found a team which featured a lot of the people I've played with before and I told the captain I wanted to play singles. Oh, did I mention that this was an 18-and-over team and that I'm quite far from 18? My first opponent, though? I would have carded her if I could. She was also accompanied by her coach or dad who sat courtside and who I had to see at each changeover. Later, he was joined by a spectator who had a glass of wine. Yeah, it was that kind of club.
Anyway, I jumped out to a 2-0 lead and was serving well, I thought. I felt pretty good for about 10 minutes. Then I began spraying errors all over the court. And I can even tell you when it started -- the stinkin' drop shot. I do not have a reliable drop shot. I just can't gauge the distance well and it ends up on my side of the net or it's a lob that lands just inside the service line. And I told myself to stop hitting them, but I noticed my opponent wasn't a great mover, and when I'd pull her wide, the dropper would be the smart move IF I WERE CAPABLE OF HITTING THEM. And so that problem just threw my whole game into a tailspin. Oh, also, these courts were har-tru (that's basically everything out here) and they were the worst -- dry, dusty and almost impossible to move through. I'm not making excuses.
I lost in the longest, most-agonizing pair of 6-3 sets I have ever played, and when it was over, I was very tired, and the next day, I was quite sore.
I didn't like losing, but I thought I had better stuff in me and told myself that I just needed to get the errors down. And in my second singles match, I did -- at the beginning. I was playing another young, fit player and my groundstrokes were working well. I was hitting my shots and I thought she seemed resigned that she wouldn't be able to track everything down. I won the first set and then in the second, things got complicated. It wasn't that complicated. My opponent just stopped hitting the ball -- she began poking everything in, and instead of coming in to the net like a smart person would, I just sat at the baseline, keeping these points going. I don't have a lot of confidence at the net, although in singles, you don't need to be super-precise. Which is something I probably should have told myself in that night as I was losing the second set. In the match tiebreak, I never could get on top -- I think I threw in a double fault early, and I never really recovered. Losing that one made me think that maybe I couldn't keep up with these young'uns. Until I woke up the next morning and felt ... nothing. No pain, no creaking. That made me feel good -- I thought that the only thing that I needed to worry about was my head. Well, that's easy, I told myself.
The next match was against the type of player I'd normally like, hard hitter, nice serve, lots of pace. I was able to run and retrieve a lot, but when the last shot of the rally came, it was always to her advantage. In both sets, she lost her service game to win the set and both times, I failed to put pressure on her with my serve. I couldn't see in the match what I was doing wrong or how to fix it, but on the drive home, I asked myself how many times she was able to monopolize on my short returns. A lot. What I needed was not just the energy to cope with these players, but also the ability to think through strategy on the court. And I used to be able to do this. At least I thought I was.
After an unsuccessful foray into doubles (although again, it felt as if my game was locking into place), I got another chance at singles. My opponent was another ball poker and I told myself, "That's it -- you're getting into the net and you're not going to stop." And yet, when the set got tight, where was I? Yup, at the baseline, hitting bad-idea drop shots. After she won the first set, I got mad and I told myself -- verbally this time, and loudly -- to press into the court and end these points. And to my own surprise, I did. I won the second set 6-2 and then came my absolute favorite tiebreaker! Yay. Something weird happened during this tiebreak, though. I could sense myself getting nervous and I tried to talk myself down, and to simply breathe. But as soon as the point started, I committed myself to the strategy, to press into the court and to not stop, even if I missed a shot and before I knew it, the tiebreak was over and I had won it.
I wasn't overly joyful about the win because I felt it should have never gotten to the tiebreak situation. But it meant something to pull out ahead in a situation like that. Maybe it's the beginning of a reversal of fortune, the beginning of me settling down into singles again. But one lesson I've definitely learned is that you can be nervous in competition. You have to recognize it and cast it aside to do what you need to do to win.
Easy, right. Yeah. OK.