Tennisopolis : Tennis Social Network

Sunday February 26th at 2 PM, I am going to set another personal record with my friend Christoph Vogt. We are going to play 90 games in one day. We do things like this to test our will, our stamina, and how crazy we are. At 33 and 45 years old, we're supposed to be over these crazy ideas. But in our case, we're just beginning.

But before I blog about that match, I'll bring up our first trip into insanity. 87 games.

Here's a little backstory. I'm pretty much a low 3.5 player who basically had to move up because there aren't enough 3.0s in tournament play. After years and years and years(like near 17 years) of playing the exact same brand of tennis, which consisted of lots of hustling, running, pushing, very few mistakes, and frustrating my opponents while simultaneously having ZERO weapons in my arsenal, I decided that I wanted to learn the game at 32 years old. This meant that, after an embarrassing butt kicking in a consolation round of a tournament in Conyers, GA, I had to take time off and truly train for this. That meant no court time whatsoever, no hitting, no anything. I had to get in even better shape than I already was in(which included learning how to run long distances), and totally change my old style around.

That meant hitting shots properly. That meant learning to construct points. Basically, everything I never did before. If you've ever walked into a Trig class straight from Arithmetic, that's basically a good comparison.

So long story short, I learned all of this little by little and played a tiny Christmas tournament in Marietta. It was the first time I was on a court of any kind in five months. I lost both matches, but I got some games and had some good shots, so while I wanted to win that one pretty badly(and I was dejected, no doubt), it was good experience in hindsight.

Now comes the story of Christoph Vogt.

Before I bring that up, let me tell you a little about him. He's basically me, only twelve years older. We're both criminally competitive individuals that love to top our own selves, and challenge ourselves every single day. For example, if he ever called and said he hit 500 balls that day, I'd go for 1000. He'd go for 1001, I'd go for 2000...and so on. He'll roller blade 50 miles a day, I'll do 300-400 pushups a day sometimes if I feel like it. We're the types that know that age is the only reason we don't try to go higher in the tennis world because we'd aim for the highest realm otherwise, no matter the obstacle. We're really good friends because very few others understand us, and even more think we're insane(I've heard that I'm mentally ill more than once, haha). It's the link we'll always have.

So our competitiveness naturally goes over to the tennis court. One problem...he's 4.0 and close to 4.5, while I'm an early 3.5, so he wipes the court with me regularly. No matter, I still challenge him at least once a week on average, and still talk trash that I'm going to bagel him. We played our first match July of 2011 in a tournament in Marietta, GA. I pretty much knew him already because he's an actor like I am, so we sort of knew each other's names. Anyway, he beat me 6-0 6-1, and that should've been the end of it, but I caught his attention. I had food poisoning the week before, and I was still really sick going into the match, and it was really hot. I stood no chance, and was still chasing everything down that I could. He told me he wasn't used to people hustling after his drop shots, and his passing shots, and he was happy to see that. We promised we'd play again.

And we did...a couple more times. Same result really, although I got a couple 6-2s in between. Then I took time off the court and started training. Even worse, I had personal problems that got my attention, so between all that, Christoph and I didn't speak for months. Long story short, we got back in the groove and started playing again, and he noticed that my game had changed. We decided those best two out of three sets were boring as hell, and we had to change that.

Now comes the 87 game story.

We're on the phone and trying to think about how we can spice things up. First it was 3 out of 5...nah, everyone does that. 4 out of 7? Ok, that sounds doable. Then he brought up, in passing, that he once played 86 games in one tournament, and that was his record. I said mine was 42, so I was impressed.

Then I came up with the craziest, goofiest idea ever.

"Christoph, how about we beat the record...just you and I. 87 games."

Now normally, someone would think I needed a strait jacket. But this is Christoph we're talking about. He just said "Ok, but I don't think you'll make it".

It was a Tuesday at 10 AM. We get on the court and make one arrangement. Every ten games, we take a break. I bring a dozen bananas and a lot of water with me, knowing that this match was going to be the greatest test I've ever had, physically and mentally.

Here's a few notes from that match.

1. I start out with a 2-0 lead. He takes the next six games. I take the next two, and he takes the next five. After I take a game to make it 11-5, he would proceed to take the next 42 games. Now when I said this was a physical and mental test, the mental part is when you just cannot finish someone out. When about twenty of those games, I had him at advantage, or like 40-15, and couldn't finish him. I threw fits, cussed, slammed my racket into the net I don't know how many times, and just flat out got frustrated. But I never even thought of quitting. Not once. I had the goal of 87 games, and I made the challenge, and I was going to finish it.

2. I brought all those bananas and brought all that water, and it didn't matter. By game 45, my left calf cramped up and stayed cramped all match. By game 79, both cramped up. Basically, I was still hustling after everything, but I couldn't walk anymore, if that makes any sense.

3. By game 65, Christoph knew we were going to finish, and he told me to not worry about the score because I did something few have ever been able to do. That was cool of him to say.

4. Some basketball players saw me put on my display of anger and started mocking me. It looked like Chris wanted to have a few words with him, but I called him over and said "They are losers man...leave them be. We're doing something that they never will". We ignored them from there on out.

5. We outlasted six different tennis matches, two soccer practices, and three basketball games. 6 hours and 24 minutes.

6. Oh yeah, he won 78-9. I told you he's at a far better level than I am right now, and I know that. I just know that, with him, I'm earning every point and game I get. He gives me ZILCH, and I like it that way.

So after the match, while we were limping to my truck, we already started talking about the next record. I originally thought we should do it when we became famous and we could raise money for charity, but I'm someone that just loves to challenge myself. I had to do it.

"Hey Christoph, let's do 90".

"Ok, but I'm going to beat you 90-0 in two hours".

"Bullshit. You won't even get an ace off me".

And it starts again. Next time we'll probably go for 95, but let's get this over with first.

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Comment by Joe B. (BP, CA) on February 26, 2012 at 12:58pm

I rally for 2.5 hours, and I'm usually toast afterwards.  90 games would have me in a hospital for a month!  Best of luck to both of you, make sure you stay hydrated.

Comment by Tim Prapong on February 26, 2012 at 12:41pm

Hey, do it, man! There's two guys on here who hit for I forget, many hours as a rally. No score or track of points. Just one long uninterrupted rally. Mark knows him.

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