Ok, so obviously I’ve been a big-time slacker with this blog lately, as this is my first post for 2013. The good news is I’ve actually stuck (so far) with the changes I was trying to incorporate into my fitness routine. Admittedly it’s not going to strike fear into the hearts of a Navy SEAL, but 2-3 workout days and 2-3 tennis days per week are starting to make a difference. My weight has dropped to just below 195 and I’m starting to feel more energy and less fatigue when I play. I still need more strength and flexibility in my leg muscles, as I can’t sustain a strong singles hitting session with lots of lateral movement the way I used to. My shoulder strength is still not what it should be either. But I have to take progress where I find it. I hope this work pays off down the road at the summer team playoffs and individual tournaments. Last summer when I ended up reaching the final at the one tournament I played, at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, I lost five or six toenails in the earlier rounds and just couldn’t move, and as a result let a winnable title slip away. I don’t want to make the same mistake again at the much more important USTA playoffs.
My 4.0 team debut was an inauspicious one, as Jeff Siegel and I dropped a hard-fought match to Dana Lavoie and Mike Delaney (yes, that Mike Delaney…) at the Goffstown Y just after New Year’s. Dana’s big serve and heavy forehand and Mike’s laser-beam backhands and fast hands at the net were a little bit too much to overcome and we lost 4-6, 6-3, 3-10 in a supertiebreaker. I served adequately and had some great volleys, but Jeff and I didn’t communicate very well and I played a miserable supertiebreaker, missing returns and smashing an attempted poach into the back curtain on the fly. If we see these guys in post season play I will need to attack the middle more as that’s where both guys’ weaker strokes are, make my volleys more compact to counter their pace, go at Dana hard and low at the net, and maybe approach behind some shorter balls to make them hit on the run (as long as the short balls don’t sit up too much). And I’ll have to talk much more on the out balls and middle balls and really pinch the middle to take that part of the court away. Trying to get a better start than 1-5 in the first 20 minutes would probably also be a good idea. Anyway, I was disappointed but not discouraged- we came very close to beating a team that had won all its previous matches by wide margins, and we (I, for sure) still have a lot of room to get better. The bad part was that our team lost 1-4, as the Y brought a strong singles lineup while our captain sat our best player, Ed Lee, ostensibly to preserve his rating for the districts. We bounced back this past Saturday with a 4-1 win at the last place River Valley Club (Lebanon) to stay in the midst of a four-team playoff chase- we have to finish first or second to qualify. The match was most notable for the River Valley’s carpeted courts, which reminded me of the Kimball School auditorium floor circa 1980. Luckily we won one of the singles matches by default and that opened up a practice court, so I got used to the carpet’s idiosyncracies: low balls skidded while high balls (including my serve, sadly) sat up begging to be hit for what seemed like an eternity. Adam Hirshan and I had little trouble with our opponents at #2, winning 6-2, 6-2 after making a couple of adjustments (staying two-back against the guy whose first and second serve both came in at full force, and using Australian formation against his partner who had an uncanny ability to hit an inside-out forehand return to the crosscourt alley in seeming defiance of the laws of physics). Todd Toler, who was teamed with Jeff, hits with a much bigger swing than Adam and me, and consequently he had more trouble with the surface en route to a straight-sets loss, but we kicked butt in the other two non-defaulted matches as Jeff Hannum (singles) and Chris McCallum/Mark Lande (doubles) just had too much power for their opponents. I was just happy to break into the win column and feel like I contributed something to a much-needed team victory.
I was talking to a friend the other day and she mentioned how much she liked to ski on some cross-country trails near her house, and it got me to thinking: why don’t I do more of that myself? I like the exercise and the scenery and I was on my high school team, but I don’t even own a pair of skis anymore after several moves in recent years. So I went onto LLBean.com and got a relatively basic ski package for a very reasonable price, with three free day passes at XC areas thrown in. They should arrive in the next few days and hopefully help my winter fitness (and more importantly winter enjoyment!) go up a level…..then it will be up to me to get off my butt and make the most of them!