I experienced something this weekend that I don’t remember ever experiencing in my 20+ years of playing tennis – I won a match in a sanctioned tennis tournament.
I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid. I played for my high school team for three years and won my fair share of matches there, as well as a round or two in the state qualifiers one or two years. I would call it a reasonably successful (and very enjoyable) career as a high school player.
But for whatever reason, every time I’d enter a USTA tournament on my own in the summer months I would lose…badly. I mean, 6-0, 6-0 lose. Maybe I’d win one game in the entire match from time to time but that was it.
Looking back, I don’t know if it was just because I would draw a really good player or because I wasn’t mentally tough enough to grit out points with those guys. Something tells me the latter at least had something to with it but whatever it was, I have memories of just getting pounded at these tournaments.
So I decided to enter a tournament this weekend. To say I was apprehensive about it would be an understatement. I’m a firm believer in letting the past be the past, but I’d be lying if I said my previous track record at these things wasn’t in the back of my mind.
Still, when I got out there I felt good and to make things better, I was hitting my shots. Like, playing out of my mind hitting shots. Ripping winners left and right. Putting the ball right where I wanted it. I won the first set 6-1. Even that was an accomplishment for me, based on my previous tournament record but I had my mind set on winning a match. So naturally, that’s when things started to go downhill for a bit.
I went down by several games in the second set. My shots started going long instead of landing where I wanted them to. I got a little frustrated. As a younger player, this would have been the end for me. My demeanor on the court and my level of patience both left a lot to be desired.
But for some reason I was able to right the ship this time. Started hitting winners again. Kept going. Won the set 6-4 after being down 4-1 and, as a result, won the match! I was ecstatic. That was my goal for the tournament, to win a match.
The next match was the next morning. A night to rest up and think strategy for the next day. I was pretty tired after the first match but feeling good about getting to play again.
Turns out it was almost a carbon copy of the first one. I won the first set and hit mostly good shots in that set, then went down 4-1 in the second set. And just like the first match, ended up winning that set 6-4 and another match in the process. Woohoo!
That meant I was in the finals. The finals! A completely foreign land for me in tennis matches. I’ve always been a good player, I’ve just never been able to put it together in tournaments. But this time was different. It was a lot of work but it was a lot of fun.
The finals match was a back-and-forth affair. Lots of running around. I was exhausted. My legs were shot and I was on pure adrenaline mode about midway through it. My opponent played a good match. I played decent enough to make it close, but ended up falling 6-4, then 7-6 in a tiebreaker second set.
At least I made him earn it 🙂
It was a great experience and despite the fact that my entire body hurts as I’m typing this today, I feel great about it. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love so much and also to have been able to really compete the way I know I’m capable of competing the past two days. It was an awesome weekend on the courts.