Sunday, August 30, 2009

Open preview: Well, or not.

No U.S. Open preview this year. I can't. Princeton was a nightmare, and I can't even bring myself to do it. But I will listen to your picks while I recover. For the record, I'm thinking Dementieva and Murray. Eh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

LEAGUE WATCH: Oh, hello, New Jersey. How are you?

Right now, I'm sitting in the lobby of a Howard Johnson hotel at 8:44 a.m., blogging and watching the rain fall. Yeah, it's not supposed to be raining, but it is, and (I guess) sectionals will go on anyway.
While I'm waiting for my 11 a.m. start indoors, I suppose I have some time to catch LEAGUE WATCH up. When last we left, I was preparing for the playoffs. Which went well. I'll tell you about it.
Do you know what you get for winning your flight in the Allegheny Mountain District? You get an 8:30 a.m. start for your first playoff match. Hey, thanks. Where will I hang this?
Anyway, once again, I was awake at 6:30 in the morning to play tennis. And with not nearly enough sleep. (Ever know you have to wake up earlier and are so paranoid about it that you keep waking yourself up and when you do fall asleep, you dream that you overslept. Yeah.) I set up a coffee IV and left the house to hopefully kick some ass.
Of course, the rest of my team was there with bells on and we hit the courts to warm up. I'm spraying balls all over the place and I hit 20 serves before I got one of them in. Not exaggerating. Worst. Warmup. Ever. I was playing second doubles that morning and hitting with my partner, and she was being very cool, but I could tell she was terrified. Anyway, we hit the court and found a tough team awaiting us. Great. Couldn't wait 'til the second round, huh? Anyway, one definitely appeared to be stronger, with a flat and hard forehand and serve to match. The first warmup ball I hit to the other girl went to her backhand at the net and it went two courts over. Paydirt, I thought. So we picked up a 4-1 lead picking on that backhand and something bad happened. She got better at hitting it. Now both of them were playing well and getting EV-erything back. So a little nip here, a little tuck there, and before you know it, we're at 6-all. My partner and I ran away with it and on our way to start the second set, she said two words to me in a deadly serious tone: "No more." That is, no more games, no more mistakes -- it was time to assert our dominance. Her tone kind of scared me, and we went out to a 3-0 lead. At the next changeover, it was 3-2. Then they were up 4-2. My partner and I couldn't find a weakness anymore and we still weren't prepared for some of the shots that came back to us.
Manwhile, throughout our entire battle, I had been peeking up to see how the rest of the team was doing, but not to closely. Was a bit preoccupied. I knew we'd won our second singles match with ease and our third doubles match was wrapping up in our favor right next to us. We had just lost our first doubles and on first singles, they were locked in a tough second set.
When we switched sides, I looked up to where spectators would be and there were a couple of my teammates, giving me the thumbs-up and gushing. I returned the gesture. Hell, yeah, we can do it! And thanks for believing in us! What can I say? It was early. I had no idea what they were saying.
They did it again the next time we switched, and now we were down 5-6. I was locked in, and I looked up again and found surprisingly little team interest in our righteous struggle. But I did get the thumbs-up again, and this time, I realized we won the match! It didn't matter what happened in our match -- we were already through! Sweet!
But. I didn't really want to lose, and neither did my trusty partner. We did lose the second set 7-5, and ran up to take a break. I ran into supportive teammates and a hopeful future opponent -- my sister-in-law. She was playing in the opposite half of the draw and if her team advanced, I wanted to play her. I think I've gone over BallGate here in detail, but I was motivated. Plus, she was moving soon, and it would be my last chance to take her down. But, hey, still love her.
Back to the match. We were now joined by an umpire and we got started. It was more of the same. 2-all. 4-all. 6-all. 8-all. I thought it was about to be 10-all when I threw up a weak lob right at the net person. She dumped it into the net. Victory was ours!
Our team won, 4-1. We merely had to wait for our next opponents. We went to lunch to bask in our victory and returned to see the conclusion of the other half. My sister-in-law looked a lot better than I remembered out on court. She was poaching and forcing errors. Her partner? Eh. They were locked in a second-set tiebreaker against the other team from our division, a team (if this is possible) made up entirely of slicers. I don't think anyone on that team was capable of hitting with any topspin. Anyhow, my SIL double-faults twice in the tiebreaker and her team loses, which meant her team lost in the playoffs. Sigh. Maybe some other time ...
Well, at least our next opponents were familiar to us. We had won the last matchup against them, but I had lost a terrible singles match against some old dumpy lady I should have beaten. Speaking of, she was now my opponent in third doubles -- and half of the same team that had just beaten my sister-in-law. I had my same partner, and I was ready for some revenge. We had the perfect balance against this team -- I hit deep shots with plenty of topspin, and my partner had the cutting slice and aggressive net play. We beat them 6-1, 6-1 and notched one win for the good guys. Plus, no one beats Naf twice in a row. That's actually not true. At least that lady didn't!
As a result of our lengthy match earlier, we had set the next matches back, and so our second singles player wasn't even on court yet. The first singles match was a tussle, and our first singles team made it a valiant fight, but lost in straight sets. Soon the second dubs finished up with a win for us, which left us up 2-1 with one match being played and another yet to start. So, our second singles player began to freak out a bit, and we all began to watch the other singles match with much interest. They had split sets and were playing a back-and-forth tiebreaker. The umpire had joined them, as he did for all stupid tiebreakers. And it was sort of a good thing he was there.
At around 13-12 or something like that in favor of our girl, she served to her opponent. The receiver said in response, "I think that's out." Our teammate looked up to the umpire for confirmation, and he said, "That's good. Game, set, match." Whoa. Now, to this day, we still go back and forth as to if that ball was out. Half of us said yes, half said no. It didn't matter. We still screamed like idiots because WE WERE GOING TO PRINCETON!!! I did feel bad for the other girl, who stormed off. Later, the umpire would say that not only did he see the ball in, but admitted that the flimsiness of the call influenced his decision as well. If you're not sure, he said, it's in. Count that a lesson, league warriors.
We ended up winning our match 4-1, which leaves us here in rainy New Jersey. I'm about to start my second cup of coffee and head out to meet my team. We don't know what awaits us, as far as opponents or surface. I hope hope hope it's not har-tru. Yeah, I know it's good on the body.
Off to battle. Woo!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More evidence that women's tennis needs help

Right now, Kim Clijsters is three points from taking down Marion "Candy" Bartoli in Cincinnati in her first match back. Yes, you can be a female professional tennis player right now (and fresh off a tournament win) and still lose to a woman who just had a baby. Look, Chris Evert could get back into the top 20 right now. True story.
Seriously, it's great to see Kim back. Vote in the poll.