Last summer, I went out and watched one of my husband's doubles matches and watched as his partner sliced and diced their opponents into frustration and defeat. I said to myself, "Man, I'd never want to play against that tricky bastard."
So guess who's standing across the net from me on my first league match of the season earlier this month? That guy. Along with his partner, who probably beat me in my first league match in Florida. I looked at my partner and said, "This is gonna be a lot like work, isn't it?"
At least he was honest with me. "Yeah. We'll just do our best."
PLOT TWIST: We beat them. It wasn't easy and it seemed as though each game went to deuce, but we won. How? I thought you'd never ask.
This was a morning match, so I wasn't expecting much of my brain, but it delivered in a couple key ways. First, as I warmed up with the slicer-and-dicer, I realized that the best way to deal with his game was to be aggressive at the net. Once those balls bounced, who the hell knew where it was going to land? This sounds easy and like a good solid idea -- until I reminded myself that I'm actually a pretty poor net player. My partner, on the other hand, liked returning those funky shots with some junk of his own, so he stayed back. It worked out, I think, because we both played different styles and it probably shook things up. I also poached successfully early on, which is usually a good time to get your opponent nervous.
Our dual approach shook them up enough that we built up a pretty good lead in the first set. The only thing that could derail us was me making bad shot choices, which can always happen. I don't know. I get this thing sometimes when I start trying drop shots. I hit about 1 in 100 of them. Five of 100 actually make it to the other side of the court. But I am persistent. Well, during the match, I hit another failed dropper, and I told myself out loud: "Stop doing that!" And I did! This might not sound like much, but I actually listened to myself. This was a huge mental step for me.
Anyway, we won, which was a huge confidence boost and one that we'd need going into our next match.
The following weekend, we played the third line of doubles against the top team in our division. And they didn't come to play games. To ensure at least one win, they flipped their lineup, meaning we got their best team and line 1 got their worst. So we had our hands full. I knew the woman -- one of the best doubles players in the league. I didn't know her partner, who, during the first game of the match, hit a forehand so hard that I had no idea if it was in or out and I watching the baseline specifically for that purpose.
So it was a handful, but we built a 4-1 lead early. A lot of that was due in part to our ability to isolate the woman, who was having an off day so far. But then her partner, aware that this was about to go sideways for them, got really active at the net and just crushed nearly everything he touched and we lost that lead and set pretty quickly.
We fought hard, but in the end, it wasn't to be. Still, I enjoyed the whole match -- more than the one we won, even. The quality of the opponent was better and even though we lost, I felt like I didn't wither to the challenge, as I had done last year in league play. I missed some key shots toward the end, but overall, I felt pretty good out there.
How good? Good enough maybe to mark the return of my inner Scrappy.