Tennis Diary

Running commentary on my tennis exploits.

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Maybe Agassi Is On To Something

It used to be that I had tons of problems against people in really good shape from some other sport. (In Canada: hockey or squash; in the US: soccer, cycling, or basketball.) I would get impatient with the ball coming back so much, and hit low-percentage shots. Lately I've been borrowing a page from Andre Agassi and staying focused the whole match to grind my opponents down, particularly on hot days. The one who's been beating me lately, I looked up on the Internet, and found he's a marathon runner in his spare time. I'll get him though.

The Family That Plays Together...

Lotus and I had been practicing together for several months, doing some drills for me and some drills for her. She had her first match against another beginner, and won 6-0, 6-0. Then a rematch, also 6-0, 6-0. Statistically, she's doing way better than me.

Always a Bridesmaid  
The last 4 seasons in the local league, I've made the finals 3 times (always losing to a different person), and the semifinals once (losing to the same guy who had previously beaten me in the finals. Think I just need to find the right state of mind to win that last match.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Beating the Heat

It used to be that I had trouble in long matches on hot days. Now I tend to win those matches, with my opponents coming out the worse for wear. Key points:

  • Lots of water. I take 2 quarts to each match.
  • Something for energy. I take either a banana or two, or some "Clif Shots" mini-meals.
  • Light cotton shirt. I have one in particular that is much thinner than the typical heavy "trade show" or "tourist" t-shirt that everyone accumulates.
  • Several shirts. Any time the shirt gets sweaty enough for me to notice, I change. Don't wait until between sets to change, it's better to play those last few games with a fresh shirt to close out the set.
  • Baseball cap. I tilt it a little, depending on which side the sun is on, to shade my face better.
  • Know where the shade is. If there's a patch of shade on the court, from trees or the fence or whatever, make the most of it on changeovers, between points, etc.
  • Make your opponent run more than you do...

Long time since I posted anything here. To recap:

Picked up my game and made the Division 1 finals the last two seasons I played.
Missed one season, after paying for a year in advance, because I didn't realize I still had to send in an application each time.
Started doing training sessions with my girlfriend. She hits me balls for drills, and I coach her and run her through some drills of her own.
Lots and lots of broken strings on the Head S10, and experimenting with different string tensions. (Still like it though.)

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Last "season" (July-August) was pretty much a washout. I went 1-5, with the only win being a forfeit. I noticed I was tiring towards the end of the longer matches, so I lost several close ones in the 3rd set. That spurred me back into a new fitness & workout routine -- jogging and upper-body work. Must have worked, because I won the first September match handily, including plenty of down-the-line and even inside-out backhand passing shots.

I got myself a new racquet, Head Intelligence S10. I decided on it after demoing several Head models, only to find out that they were discontinued. So I got one mail-order, but didn't know what tension had been in the demo. I ordered it strung near the bottom of the recommended range. In my first match, the ball was sailing, so I had the strings cut out and new ones put in at the top of the tension range. (First time I ever had strings replaced to fix the tension.) Next, I found I was working too hard to get the ball over and catching the tape a lot. So once more into the breach, another string job right with middling tension. Third time's the charm! This time, the serves were finding the box and my shots were catching the baseline.

I also adopted a little bit of strategy from Sampras in the US Open final. Usually I rely a lot on keeping my opponent guessing, hitting side-to-side and disguising the direction of the shot. But this time I decided ahead of time which high-percentage shots to go for, being consistently aggressive and accepting a certain number of errors. That worked really well, forcing my opponent to hit harder than he was comfortable with and getting me a bunch of winners and forcing a number of errors.

Saturday, June 15, 2002
I played my last two matches of the "season". (Each season is a quarter, the next one starts in July.)

First up was one of the top NorCal juniors. His trained strokes were like a blast from the past. I do much better against someone with good form and consistent power and spin. I got off to a fast start (elected to receive, broke him the first game) and hung on to win the first set in a tiebreaker. I coasted in the second set hoping to wear him out a little. I was up 2-0 in the third set but lost 6-2. Had some good stretch volleys, but didn't do enough with the heavy topspin shots right at my feet when I rushed in.

The last match was a nice confidence-booster, a 6-3, 6-2 win that left me with a 2-4 record this season. My first serve really clicked -- it was halfway through the second set before I missed 2 first serves. This time I had the whole left-hander thing figured out, and kept him off balance and away from the net. It was a very hot afternoon, and I started getting a little sluggish towards the end, until 5-2 when I stepped it up to finish it off. (Should have done that for the last 3-4 games though.)

I started out the season a few steps slow, but in the last few training sessions the feet are starting to move again. (Even though the 20 lbs still need to go!)

Today I found that the climbing gym that's been under construction just around the corner from work is finally open:

Not a tennis factoid, but could help with fitness if I could get back to climbing regularly. (Was just starting to have success with the 5.10 routes when I left Toronto.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
After a mid-season break, I played another close match. Unfortunately, I lost, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. To make matters worse, I loaned my opponent my spare racquet after he broke a string!

I was using more of a flat / Eastern forehand, with a "McEnroe style" of short backswing and taking the ball very early. This worked OK on the forehand. I got in some good service returns and passing shots. On the backhand, I seemed to lose some control, with a lot of down-the-line slices going wide.

In the third, he really found the range and was hitting winners from both sides. I didn't think I slowed down much, but I did start to lose some control on the forehand. (Back to the gym, eh.) I've had a number of matches over the years where my opponent seems to get a lot more confident in the final set; I'll have to find a way around that, some kind of glare or fist pumping. His girlfriend showed up to watch early in the second set, that always introduces a new psychological element. He was getting a bit upset early on, then he calmed down after she arrived.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Played my first right-hander in this league. But just my luck, another soccer player! I ran him back and forth, all over the court, but still lost badly. Too many bad decisions on 30-all points. I managed OK in the heat. Sore knees the next couple of days though. (Time for some more chondroitin sulfate?)

Sunday, May 05, 2002
Started running out of socks. I always wear Thor-Lo's for tennis. Found 'em at $6.75 each at Holabird mail-order.

This week I played my first matches in the Northern California Community Tennis Leagues. They have sections all over, but I didn't know about them until moving to Berkeley.

First up was Brian, a left-hander with a lot of action on his serve. I hadn't played a competitive match in more than a year, so it took me a while to get used to the lefty spin. I lost the first set 6-3. In the second, my ball control started to come back and I ran him back and forth, with some dropshots thrown in. I won the second 6-1. We decided in advance to play a tiebreaker instead of a third set (him: recovering from injuries; me: playing another match 2 days later). I won the tiebreaker 7-3.

The same weekend, I played Philippe, another(!) left-hander. He turned out to be a soccer player, and even at noon on a really hot day I couldn't wear him out. I ran him all over, but my forehand timing started to desert me, and I lost 6-4, 6-4. But I'm happy that I didn't get worn out either, even at 20 pounds over my "fighting weight".

Lotus has been drilling me on the courts near our place, and that has definitely helped my timing. In both matches though, I stopped hitting any topspin backhands and relied entirely on slice. Doesn't matter how much I practice topspin backhands, I always chicken out in matches.