Wednesday, July 09, 2008

LEAGUE WATCH: Special deluxe edition, Part II

It just doesn't feel right to wrap up my itty-bitty tournament results just days after the Fed-Nadal classic, but popular demand dictates. (Ahem, Van.)
So, at last League Watch, I was coming off a four-match day, ending with a not-that-disappointing loss in the women's doubles final. My partner and I were just happy to beat the second-seeded team (barely) in the semifinals.
The next day -- Sunday -- I had only two matches. First up: the women's B-level (3.5 USTA rating) singles final. My opponent was quite familiar to me; she'd beaten me twice last summer. The second time I'd played her, I had opened up a 4-0 lead in the second set and about twenty minutes later, lost it. About two minutes after that, the match was over. Total meltdown on my part. And although I felt as though I'd improved since last year, I was still not terribly confident. Remember my four-match marathon? Well, my first match was singles, and it was against a real pusher, which was exactly the style of my finals opponent. So my expectations were not too great when we took to the court for warmups -- under overcast skies. As we were wrapping up, it began (of course) to rain, and we had to drive over to a nearby indoor court. On my way over, I felt that I was in better shape during the warmup. My strokes were more solid and I sensed she was trying for power early, but missing her shots. By the time we really started the match, my expectations had crept up a bit. I was thinking I could WIN! If I come into the net, take care of the weak stuff, mix up my shots, use my speed ...
... actually do any of those things. All it took was for me to get lobbed once, and that was it for the net attack. I sat back there and waited for these weak high balls, and inevitably made an error. It wasn't my game. I tried drop shots, but stayed back, hoping she wouldn't get to them. At first, she had a bit of trouble, but I went too often and early to that well, and it wasn't long before she had plenty of time. Bottom line: I was far too tentative. I played not to lose, and isn't it funny that when you play that way, you always lose? At least I do. An hour later, I (mercifully) hit my last forehand error to wrap up a 6-1, 6-0 blowout. We shook hands, exchanged niceties, and my husband (bless him) instantly went to take the court for our mixed doubles final, which was to take place immediately after my singles match. I wasn't quite ready yet. I was busy doing something I've never done after losing a match before: I cried. (No, this doesn't exactly go with the Tennis With Attitude theme. Try to stay with me.) Don't get me wrong -- I've probably lost dozens and dozens of matches in my day, here was a situation where I knew what to do to win, but failed because of fear. Had I played my best, or even well, I would have been able to keep up head up. But I didn't. So I cried. I didn't get upset in front of the organizers, but they wanted me to take a 20 minute break before the mixed doubles final, but I refused, trying not to wait in front of them. "No," I told them. "I need to get this out of my system now."
I grabbed my stuff and watched our opponents warm up with my husband. I couldn't even stop my eyes from watering, and I didn't quite trust myself holding a racquet. Maybe I needed that break after all. Finally, I just stopped trying to hold it back, and just let it all go into my towel. Discreetly. Sheesh. I can't let our opponents watch me freaking out. They, by the way, looked like solid players. The guy had a fairly solid forehand, and the girl didn't seem at all intimidated by my husband's pace. I hoped it would be tough, so I could play well, and prove that I could do something right.
Talk about a warmup being no reflection of a match. The guy was clearly far too jacked up, and he couldn't keep more than one groundstroke in play. The woman was the calmer player, but didn't adjust to my husband's poaching, or my solid returns (for a change). My husband and I pretty much had our way in this final, and we cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win. Woo! Our second tournament win in a year (after an ahemahemahem-year drought)! The sting from the singles loss was dullened after our win. As much as I wanted that singles win, I learned that victory is definitely better when it's shared. I might be becoming more of a doubles fan. Well, especially if I keep losing in singles.
Funny story: The wife of the late mayor of Pittsburgh presented the trophies to the winners and runners-up. First, she gave me the runner-up trophy, and said something very general, like, "Good playing" or something. Then, she presented my man and I our mixed-doubles trophies:

and she says to me: "You must be very good!" Ha! Clearly has never seen me play.
Finally, she gave me my runner-up women's doubles trophy, and when she saw me approaching again, she just stared. I said, "I only entered three events. This is it for me!"

Anyway, it took me a few days not to define this tournament by my butt-kicking in singles. It occurred to me at long last that if you can enter three events and come in first or second in all three, you're not all bad. I've still got a lot of work to do, and I really don't have a lot of time to tweak my game. There's another tournament coming up (only playing two events this time) and on Saturday, my USTA league has a super-important match against the first-place team in our division (we're second). In my doubles league on Friday, my partner and I are up against the undefeated team in our division (again, we're second. Man, that's becoming quite the theme with me. Now that I think about it, I'm the second child of four, too.). I'm loving the league life, and despite the setbacks, I feel like I'm achieving what I had hoped to, which was adjusting to match pressure. Slow, but sure. Right? Hopefully, it's not just the slow part.


yogahz said...

Naf - we must play alike. Those lobber/pushers are the bane of my 3.5 life too. Give me a hard hitting power match and I am so good. Give me a scrambler who lobs everything back to the service line and I am so bad.

Congratulations on your results - great job. Your trophy case must be getting crowded. We put the latest trophy on the mantle and put away the old ones. (That's my husband, my son and me).

Thanks for the tournament result summary. There's no shame in crying - there are a lot of emotions kept in check while playing a match. Crying into your towel is a good way to let it out. Beating your opponents 1 & 1 is even better!

Naf said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one, yogahz. Just wait 'til I figure those lobbers out. Watch out! I just found out my nemesis has also entered the singles draw of my tournament. So have a bunch of college players. Bring me the collegiates, that's what I say ...
I don't have enough trophies to put away any old ones. Hopefully, that'll change this year.
You wouldn't happen to be in W. Pa., would you?

yogahz said...

(This might be a double post).

No - I'm not in Western PA but I grew up in State College (PSU grad).

My Dad's from Pittsburgh.

I'm in Seattle.

van said...

And I'm in Brooklyn!

Hey Naf! Sorry I'm just now responding to this post I feel was dedicated to me! : )

Those lobbers are something else; I feel like I've been losing to them since high school. Sorry about that loss, but three finals makes for a pretty good event, to say the least! Hope you're out there kicking butt this weekend!

Naf said...

Yogahz, sorry for the delay. Guess we won't be hitting anytime soon.
And Van: Half my family's in Brooklyn! Where were (are) you? They're in E. Flatbush.