In tennis (and I suppose in life too) plans will only get you so far. The problem is, the other guys make plans too, and sometimes theirs work better than yours do. Adam and I lost our Mountainside match in a supertiebreaker, and I’m still pissed off two weeks later because I got outplayed mentally by Richard King. In past years, that would have been an embarrassing admission, because Richard was a big banger who didn’t put a lot of thought into his game. However, he married into the Joslin family and began to spend more time on the court as a teaching pro, and his mental game has made a significant jump. He seemed to have three basic strategies against us: be active at the net, chip and charge against my serve, and go at Adam with heavy strokes when possible. He did all three of these things extremely well. We couldn’t have scripted the beginning of the match any better, though, as I hit some good returns and a couple of perfect lobs to get an opening-game break. We were on the verge of consolidating with Adam serving at 40-15, but he hit a couple of careless shots and just like that, we were back even. The rest of the set was all Mountainside and ended 6-2. King took my serve early and crashed the net behind some nice chipped backhands, and he’s an immovable object once he gets up there. I missed too many first serves and failed to hit my spots with the ones I did make. Adam’s groundstrokes went off the boil. The two Richards were rolling and playing with confidence. It was just ugly. At any level of the game, if you go a whole set of doubles without your team holding serve, you’re not going to experience much success.
I’m proud of the fact that we kept fighting and were able to turn the match around in the second set. We broke King midway through the set and made it stand up for a 6-4 win. Adam and I got each other pumped up, and we mixed up our serves and formations better. I started giving King body serves to take away the angle on his chip, and we had some success with the Australian formation on Atherley. And the Mountainside guys’ level dropped just enough to crack the door open for us. Unfortunately I slammed it shut on myself before the supertiebreaker started when I said (out loud to Adam!): “oh geez, it’s gonna be tough to win a tiebreaker with our serves against theirs.” Now technically speaking, what I said was true: they both have great serves and we both have mediocre serves, and in a shortened format that’s a huge advantage for them. It just wasn’t the right way to approach that situation. We had the momentum and we had been returning well and serving well enough, and I let that all slip away with a negative comment which hurt not only my confidence level but Adam’s too. A few years ago, I liked my chances in a supertiebreaker against anyone because I knew I had the mental toughness to pull through. My physical game is almost back to what it was then, but the mental game obviously has much farther to go. It won’t come as a big surprise that we went down 4-0 in the breaker. I got hot at the net, though, and we made a big surge to go in front 7-5. We were THISCLOSE to a huge win, but it wasn’t to be. The Richards boomed some huge serves and we dropped a couple of tough points on Adam’s serve, and before we knew it we were walking off at 7-10.
At least our team came through with a big 3-2 win. Jeff and Todd barely broke a sweat at 3 dubs, Jeff Hannum -who’s really playing well-came up with an impressive straight set win over Ted Mastin at 1 singles, and Rick Paquin stole one (there’s just no other word for it) against young Dan Bruzga at #2. Dan has all the talent in the world but he shot himself in the foot with a ton of unforced errors after winning the first set easily. Give Rick credit, he’s a competitor and fought hard to take an 11-9 supertiebreak win. Chris and Jerry lost the other doubles to Glenn and B; they really should have won the first set and after they let that get away, the second went quickly. So we still don’t have a real dominant number 1 doubles team, but I think whoever we put out there can be competitive against anyone. Our first order of business is getting into the playoffs, though, and we still haven’t locked that up. With Rick’s win we basically eliminated Mountainside, but we also have to finish ahead of either Concord or YMCA to make districts, and it won’t be easy. There are some other matches to be played this weekend and their results will determine how many courts we need in our finale vs Concord, but right now it looks like we’ll probably need a straight-up win. That won’t be easy, because Concord has better singles players than Mountainside and their top two doubles are excellent. But if we go in to the match with a playoff-level intensity, we’ve got a shot.
I’ve been practicing about three times a week since, but we got snowed out of our A-1 match last weekend by the biggest blizzard to hit NH in years. There was over two feet of snow here at the coast and just as much if not more inland. Parts of MA and CT were shut down for days. We missed one day of work here (a Friday) but by Monday it was pretty much business as usual. If I can figure out how to get pictures posted on here, I’ll try to put up some of the storm. I got to try out my new skis last Sunday and I had a great time. I went up to the trails at the nature center in Rye, which go really close to the water. It was a beautiful sight, there was a ton of snow, and I surprisingly remembered a lot of my ski technique (one embarrassing face plant notwithstanding). It had been about seven or eight years since I had skied, but on Sunday I was out there for maybe three hours and had so much fun. I need to do more of that! It certainly beats running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. I went again early this morning with my friend Maura and a couple of her friends. Maura’s really spunky and can do just about any athletic activity known to man. One of her friends was a steady skier and the other more of a beginner, but the trails there aren’t super challenging so it was ok for everyone. The bad part was that we had had a couple of warm days and lots of the snow had melted, which made following the track difficult. There were a few too many icy patches and even some bare spots, but it was a fun way to start the day. My skis came with a pass for some free skiing (one day at each of three different areas) but it has to be used this winter. So my next step up will probably be to go to a ski area and try my luck there.