Wednesday, August 20, 2008

LEAGUE WATCH: Tournament watch

I have a theory about my successful tennis season. I got a job I actually like in February, and that very same weekend, my husband and I won our first tournament together. It's been all good from there.
My husband and I split up (on the tennis court, OK?) briefly, and thought we'd have a real chance to win an open tournament if we "partnered up" -- playing with someone better than us.
He lost in the first round.
I lost in the final. Oh, yes, it was another third-set tiebreaker.
Anyway, we decided to join forces again at the site of our first victory -- Akron, OH, the Rubber Capital of the World. (I wonder if there's a Glue Capital of the World. If there is, they should play a softball tournament.) First, we scored a bye, which was nice, except that left us at only two matches to play. We actually knew our first-round opponents from our last visit to the area. The guy was apparently a Division I hockey player, and if you can imagine a guy waiting for a serve like a goalie protecting his turf, there you have him. His wife seemed nervous, as she did before, and you got the vibe that she'd be a problem if she'd just relax. Our last match against them was memorable. I was slightly hopeful when we showed up to find that the guy was playing a singles match. Not so hopeful when he crushed the guy he was playing, 6-0 in the second set.
We exchanged niceties and got going. The strategy was simple: Hit to the girl. Sounds easy, right? Well, I played some very dumb tennis to start with. I couldn't return the guy's serve, and when I was, I hit it right back at him! My husband observed this for about three games, then laid into me. Something about "Are you crazy?" which seems to be his common refrain when he addresses me. I wonder why. Anyway, as the set, then the match, began to get away from our opponents, the husband began to poach. How early? Bounce-before-serve early. Anyway, we took turns going down the line for a game, and it was enought to get him a bit panicked. It wasn't always pretty, but we eked past them in two sets, and prepared for the next bout.
In the final, we took on another married couple, and a different sort of situation: The woman was rated a 4.0 and her husband was a 3.0. They were both solid enough, and because we had watched them play their semifinal, we thought we'd be able to attack the woman's serve. But no. No cream puff here. Her serve was solid, and it surprised us at first. But we dealt with that. Althought the first set was 6-2, we had a bunch of tough games, and it was the beginning of the second set when my husband suggested that I serve to her forehand. Most players are taught to serve to the backhand, because it's usually the weaker wing. But I didn't even realize this lady's backhand was very good. Don't you just love it when you have revelations about your opponent halfway through a match? After that adjustment, and some unbelievable net play from my man, we wrapped up the match a lot easier than we started it.
So, we're shaking hands at the net, and the woman asks us what our USTA ratings are, and we tell them we're 3.5s. She rolls her eyes, and basically tells us we didn't belong in the draw (because we were too good). This vexed me greatly. I've improved a lot in the last year, but I don't think I'm dominating in my league. Just the thought that someone thought we were sandbagging sort of killed the immediate buzz of victory. Then I thought to myself: "We do belong in the draw. Maybe they didn't." You know what I mean. So there.
Another thing that temporarily killed the buzz was our lack of a shiny, happy trophy. The organizers told us the mixed doubles trophies hadn't yet been delivered. (OK, I'm a girl, and I like shiny bling. Is there anything wrong with that?)
Our trophy? In the mail. Must be Pony Express, because we don't have it yet.
On a real League Watch note, I'm off to Princeton, N.J. for regionals tomorrow. Matches begin on Friday. I will be updating, so keep an eye out!


Anonymous said...

you hit down the line?!? i'm the one hitting down the line! are you crazy?

your wasbund

yogahz said...

Congratulations! Bling is good - last time we got a paper coupon for $$ at a sports store. So not shiny. (My favorite trophy is a bobble head where the head is a big tennis ball wearing a headband.)

I've almost never won a league match or tournament without getting the post-handshake eye roll. Or better, the reason why they lost (didn't sleep, hurt elbow/knee, never played with this partner before). I've never heard anyone say "you played better then me".

Good luck at regionals. Remember - one point at a time.

van said...

Hey Naf, what's up? Yeah, that sore loser bit always sucks. I never understand it. Congrats on another win, though, and good luck at the regionals!

Naf said...

Thanks, yogahz! I want your bobblehead trophy. Now that's cool. Last year, when I was losing all my league matches, I got the post-match handshake and a thorough explanation of how they beat me. I'm still trying to decide if that's worse than the sour grapes thing. Whatever happened to a quick handshake?
Van, thanks for the well-wishes. My regionals report is upcoming. Are you going to join a league next season?