In my previous blog entry I stated my plan for my return to competitive tennis. Well this is how it went down...
My internet scouting did seem accurate as my opponent appeared to lack the consistency of a top level 3.5 player but he did have solid technique that would warrant a move up from 3.0. In the first set I extended his main draw losing streak to 17 games. My ground strokes lacked any steam so I was just happy with high net clearance. I did apologize for my pushing at the 3-0 changeover as I just was not "feeling" the ball well. My opponent had two break points at 4-0 but I was able to hang on for that game. My 2nd serve was really keeping me afloat that first set as my first decided to play hide n' seek throughout the match. After 5-0 we trade holds for the first set, 6-1.
Towards the tail end of the 1st set my opponent shows another reason why he is ready for 3.5, he changes tactics. He realized that he can't beat beat from the back of the court and my high looping shots had plenty of net clearance but had been landing a little short. My opponent started coming off of the these shots but allowed me to slip into my "lazy counter-puncher" mode and zing some winners past him. He did not deviate from this new-found strategy in the 2nd set and held then broke for a 2-0 lead. I break back to keep it at 1-2. We then "held breaks" to 3-4. It is a demoralizing feeling to know that you are breaking to stay even in terms of service but you are still down in terms of match score. I finally hold to even things up at 4-4. Now the real match begins, my opponent holds then I hold at 15. My opponent gets a little tight and I get the break for 6-5. My 1st serve is a kicker out wide that my opponent hooks back with tons of spin I came in behind my serve but the ball still crosses in front of me and I'm helpless to do anything but watch. Luckily it lands about an inch out! I say to myself, that was the match right there!" At 40-15 I serve an ace out wide! GSM 7-5
Towards the end of the match my ground strokes gained depth and were finding the mark, my opponent saw this and said, "thanks for letting me warm you up for your next match." Nice humility, but he is definitely ready for prime time 3.5 play in Chicago. Now my strategy is shot to hell. Lots of energy expended and my opponent will not the be showing up until the the scheduled time of the next match. All I can do is refuel and try to get a scouting report from my guy Jaime. Jaime says the guy is tough, (great :-( ) fast, and his forehand is better than his backhand.My internet scouting shows that he has played 3.5, 4.0, and Open. He lost his Open matches 6-2,6-2 and 1-6, 6-1, 1-6. The latter seems to indicate that the Open was just being nice to him. I see my opponent in the stands and he is slightly smaller in stature and build than I am, so physical intimidation there all I can do is just wait until we are called...
In the warm-up I see Jaime is the right. The guy has a cannon for a forehand but he has a one handed backhand he hits mainly with slice and is consistent but attack-able. He serves with pace and spin so I know I have my work cut out for me. I win the toss and elect to serve. The high loopy junk will not work here, as he smacks forehands all over the place for the break. He then holds and I change things up and give him a steady diet of serves to the backhand with an occasional bomb to the forehand. Also firing forehands from the backcourt and attempting slice deep and smack my topspin backhand whenever possible. We hold serves and he makes the early break stand up for the set. 4-6
The 2nd set start with holds to 2-2. He breaks me in a sloppy service game. We trade holds for 3-4 and we get 30-30 set up by one of patented spinning backhand volleys. I get him to float a weak backhand slice that I am going to send into the cheap seats! With visions of a rare break point dancing in my head, I hit down so hard on the ball it lands on my side of the court and there goes my chance to even things up. My opponent then serves it out and breaks me for the match. GSM 3-6
This was the first time in a long time that after a loss I don't feel so bad. I did not play the perfect match but I played well enough to be satisfied by my effort and tactics. Even though I am still sore two days later I know I want that feeling of competition again and will be making my return to USTA league tennis again in 2013. My game has not slipped as badly as I thought. I do know how I want to play this game and I need to improve my cardiovascular shape if I am going to do it.