Thursday, December 18, 2014

On-court antics: Season on the brink

Sometimes, you can spend weeks, or even months, talking about something -- something that might or might not happen. But then it happens. And you are so tired of talking about it that now, you're just over it.
That's what our playoffs were like for 8.0 mixed. Once our league coordinator decided it wasn't a good idea to restart the season the day after the regular season ended, it was time to get the wheels of inevitability going. Our team made it through the first round last weekend with nary a bump, except that everyone on our court had some form of Ebola swine flu. It wasn't so bad, except the constant pressure on my chest and feeling like I couldn't breathe after some points. But we're all OK now. 
Our next opponent: Team Shenanigans. You know how some people are competitive at tennis while still recognizing that this is still really recreational, while others give people free club membership for their facility to lure them off of another team? Yeah. Team Shenanigans. So for the last two weeks, knowing that the members of this team were also largely on the 9.0 mixed team and that both of those teams were scheduled to play at the same time, we speculated about who would show up where and if that could help us. Especially because we're talking about some very dominant male players here. One of them is a former D-1 all-star and HE IS RATED A 4.0. I am rated a 4.0 and I just started playing tennis about a decade ago. About three days before the match, I checked out. I couldn't talk about it anymore. I just wanted to play. 
I'm not gonna lie -- I felt great during warm-ups. My whole team looked great. Even as one of their biggest dogs walked into our building, I thought: "Whichever one of us gets him, we can swing it. I mean, look at us!"
And then, during the match, I looked at them. By the time my court had finished warmups, that 4.0 college guy? He was up 5-0 on our teammates on line three. On line two, where the best teams from each side met, they were locked in a tight first set, but it looked like Team Shenanigan's big dog was starting to find his game. And on my court? We were down 5-1 in about four and a half minutes. And we drew the easiest team, which was still pretty effing tough. I'd played them both before and had a good record against the guy and not so good against the woman, although the one time I had beaten her was in mixed dubs. So I felt OK about our chances, even though we were down. We made a couple of adjustments, including pulling me off the net, and we got it back to 5-4. So I'm standing at the service line and I thought: "OK. All I have to do is hold serve here and we've got ourselves a set here."
Can I give you some advice? NEVER THINK THAT THOUGHT. NEVER DO IT!!!! I double-faulted three straight times. Three!!! I don't even remember being nervous. But I don't know what I was thinking, either. 
In an effort to avoid my own body after it malfunctioned on me, I looked around again, hoping for a sign. And I got one. The third line was already playing a fun set. In the next court over, Big Dog and his "3.5" partner were cruising. In fact, within minutes, our team was down 5-0 on both courts within minutes. I stood at the line again, this time, just hoping to avoid a bagel. I told my partner, "Four aces right here, and then let's get into it." He was like, "OK." He probably thought I was drinking cold medicine straight again.
It wasn't four aces, but we did get that game, but it was all over very soon after that. What a bummer. The worse part about the matches where there's a chance to win is going over all the stuff you did wrong as you're trying to fall asleep that night. 
Who double faults three times in a game, you stupid idiot? This isn't singles -- keep the ball low! Slicing? Are you nuts? You have to learn to volley. Why's my partner in no-man's land, and why am I letting him live there? This skirt is old and needs to go in the trash. 
So, it's over until next fall. There's a chance I can play another 9.0 match, and 7.0 still rages on for a few more weeks. It'll be that and a ton of net practice between now and the spring. 
So what's the takeaway here? Welp, no sectionals for us. My husband's team lost in a heartbreaker the next day, and unfortunately, it looks like all roads go through Team Shenanigans, which goes to show you that all you have to do is buy some club memberships for college players, and you can run rec tennis in your region. I have some talent I'm lining up, and I feel like the offer for the public courts and the port-o-potty next to it (free of charge and no wait for the potty) is going to draw the guys in like, well, like stink bugs to a port-o-potty in the summer.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

On-court antics: How I learned to stop worrying and love 8.0 playoffs

The 8.0 mixed doubles season out here has been ... interesting. There has been a lack of urgency because all eight teams make the playoffs. At the same time, it's also a good idea to jockey for position in some way -- because if you can grab home court advantage, well, that's ideal.
That's what my team had in mind for the last regular season match. Win, and you move into the second slot and have at least two playoff matches at your house. (The final is at a neutral location.) Lose, and you drop to fourth, and what would be a very tough first-round match against a team we barely beat during the regular season.
In situations like this, then, you hate to have to play an important match with someone you've never played with before. UNLESS you ended up with my partner. I had the talk with him, you know, about me. And the net. And our complicated relationship. I ask him: "So, how do you feel at the net? If I start with the serve, you're probably better off up there than I am."
He says: "I feel OK up there. You can serve."
I often wonder if people have different meanings for words than I do. Because when someone says, "I feel OK," I think, "So not great." But this guy was not OK at the net. He was pretty great up there. For a big guy, he moved quickly at the net and intercepted stuff I figured I'd have to get for him. I actually had time to learn a lot about volley preparation back there.
So, besides for a temporary hiccup I had in the second set, during which time I had a bout with nerves that I had to literally curse myself out to shake, we won in straight sets.
That made the whole match score 1-1, with our team down a set and a break by the time we were done. We held on, though, and our team won the match, 7-5 in the third.
So yay! We secured one home-court slot on the last night of the regular season! (My husband's team had the other. I know what you're going to say. It's what everyone says. "Why aren't you playing on the same team as your husband?" If you're very good, one day I will explain it. But we have to focus.) Time to plan for being in the driver's seat during the playoffs! Right? Right! Wait, what? Not right??
Everything was awesome until around 9 a.m. the next morning, a Sunday, when our league coordinator dropped something of a bomb: A proposal to extend the season by three matches, so that we could play more and give captains an opportunity to qualify more players for sectionals, should they advance. He put it to a vote by the team captains that would be tallied in five days.
Now naturally, this would be a vote that would run something like 6-2, then, with the 'no' votes belonging to my husband and my team captain. Well, who else wouldn't jump at the chance to improve their playoff position, right? Heck, if this was proposed before the season started, or maybe two matches in, I might have supported it. But the fact that it surfaced the morning after the season had officially ended (according to our apparently archaic online schedule set back in September), smelled like shenanigans. And in league tennis in these parts, when you smell shenanigans, there's this one team captain who is usually cooking it.
He shall remain nameless here, but through some sleuthing, it was discovered that this guy had told another team captain he intended to ask the league coordinator to help him out by changing match dates so he could get his best lineups out there. Many of his players also play for the 9.0 team, and he needed some accommodations so he could send beefed-up lines to both places.
Well, once this was discovered and made known to the other captains, it got real "Dynasty" up in here. While emailed accusations of just about anything tennis-related you could think of were being hurled about, there was one person who was mysteriously absent -- the league coordinator. Finally, on Monday night, he materialized to tell us that the plan was off the table.
So, for now, until the next insane proposal, my team will play at home this weekend, as will my husband's. What's the lesson here? Twofold: 1. Look, you don't mess with USTA people and their league tennis. You just don't. 2. If you are hired to do a job, do the job. Don't put stupid ideas up for a vote. Squash them, because that is your job.
That said, here's to an all-TWA face-off for sectionals!