My trusty green Honda CRV didn’t suddenly morph into a DeLorean. “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis is still an oldie instead of a current top 10 hit. And I certainly didn’t regrow my shaggy 1987 hair, however much I might have wanted to. But when I stepped onto the scale today and topped out at 190, I was almost back to my high school self in one very important way. Ok, so I was 180 back in the day, but you get the point: the D-train is on the verge of shedding its caboose! I’m continuing to work hard and starting to see and feel some positive results. Although some icy road conditions this week caused me to skip two gym workouts, I did get to play tennis three times. I practiced with Ed Lee without injuring myself, and am getting through my matches with more energy. It paid off today, as Jeff and I rallied after being two breaks down in the third set to win an A-1 matchup at Westford by one game.
I have to admit that being bumped down to a 4.0 has made a big difference in my mindset. It has given me a realistic short-term goal that I feel I can achieve with continued improvement. To be completely honest, I’m not going to work out more at the gym or practice my tennis harder just so I can hike the AT something like ten years from now, but reaching the 4.0 sectionals (and even nationals: why not!) this summer is a much nearer horizon. And we have a home match tomorrow against Mountainside which if we take care of business can bring the first big step in that journey- reaching the district playoffs- significantly closer. Like anything worthwhile, it’s not going to come easy. Mountainside’s 1 and 2 doubles are among the best in the league, and Adam and I are playing at 1 this time. Mountainside’s two teams are very different and we have the challenge of mentally preparing for both. Richard King and Richard Atherley are big servers who play the net aggressively. If we face them, we have to serve down the middle a lot (their weaker sides) with a high percentage of first serves. We also would likely play two-back when returning their serves to take some pressure off the returner. Finally we have to make them volley as both of us can outvolley both of them. That might mean hitting a hard backhand down the line return from the deuce court rather than worrying about going crosscourt. And it will surely mean keeping some points alive when they are on the offensive. But I’ve been playing with more confidence lately and feel like I can execute those strategies. Adam and I talk a lot and we aren’t afraid to try some unorthodox tactics to give us a better chance. Plus I’ve practiced against pace a lot lately and done ok. A tougher matchup for us would probably be against Glenn McKune and B Manning. Originally from Zimbabwe, Glenn is a longtime teaching pro who is probably even more consistent than me and has great hands at the net. I’ve had a lot of trouble with him in the past. B is another veteran who I’ve done better against. He hits a flat ball which is easier to volley (I like to volley) and he has some issues with his overhead (I like to lob too). He’s a really good guy: even though it’s strange that he calls himself by just one letter instead of an actual name, he’s about 60 years old so I guess he has it figured out by now. If we face them, I think we have to take more chances with our returns, try to put more pace on them rather than just try to get them back, because you can’t outplay Glenn at the touch game. We also have to focus on B and try to break down his game and his confidence. Either way I have to play with no fear and try to grow from the experience. The rest of our team is significantly better than the rest of their team and if we can win our match (we play before all the others) it will give our teammates a big lift. As my old buddy Dave Blais used to tell me: “cut off the head, and the body follows”. We get to deal with the head tomorrow morning and we have to relish the assignment and just go for it. Let’s hope we can make it happen.