Location: San Francisco State
Conditions: Outdoors, cold, misty
Doubles or Singles Played: Doubles
Match Result: 6-3 7-5 Loss
Season Record: 2-5
Match Notes: We played our last match of the season in what most of us felt was also some of the worst weather of the season. It was cold, gray, and misty: a typical San Francisco summer day. Fortunately there was little wind, so conditions were plausible for decent play.
I’d hoped to end the season on a winning high note, but it didn’t work out that way. There was much to learn from this match for the off-season, positive takeaways of good play as well as a handful of points that will replay in my mind, (begging for a different outcome that will never happen.)
Qui, one of our co-captains, was my partner for this match. We hadn’t played together this season, but I’ve known Qui long enough to know how solid he is. He’s a lefty with solid technique and timing on his strokes. He’s got an excellent lob and great hands at the net. He’s also one of the best competitors I’ve seen.
I knew we’d be fine, and we were for the most part. We played well, and fought hard when our back was up against it. But we ultimately lost the match because we didn’t win the points that mattered.
For my part, I played well when nothing was on the line. (Not counting my one Sharapova service game of 3 double faults and an unforced error). When I needed to come up with the goods on crucial game/break points, I played tentative tennis that really cost us.
The moment I won’t forget occurred at 5 games all, 30-all in the second set on Qui’s serve. We’d battled back from 3-5 and were in position to take the lead. I had a chance to end the point on one of two back-to-back overheads. I hit the first and almost missed the outside of the sideline. They didn’t call it out, but the call could easily have gone against us.
The guy closest to the first shot scrambled and sent up a high defensive lob. With the close call on the first overhead still in my head, I got tentative. Instead of letting the lob bounce for an easier shot, I took it out of the air and hit an overly safe shot that the “good” guy hit for a strong groundie to win the point.
Now facing break point, I had a chance to put away a volley winner on a service return. Instead of staying calm to hit the shot with a clear head, I thought “Don’t blow this one too” – and I sent the ball into the net. After the break, our opponents went on to serve out the next game for the win. We were sent packing from a match that should have gone to a match tiebreak because I’d missed two huge opportunities with tentative ball-striking.
It sucked, but I’m not alone in this regard. The challenge of every sport, not just tennis, is to rise to the occasion by staying calm and relaxed so that there’s no tightness in the execution of your technique.
As Rafa said after his victory over Fabio Fognini at this year’s French Open, “If I can calm down I will play better; otherwise I can go back to Majorca and go fishing.” I’m not out fishing, but you get the point.
Now it’s time to share the positives. The first is that I played within myself didn’t overplay my forehand and/or serve. That’s a good thing for someone like me who often feels the pressure to go for big shots that I don’t need when the situation gets tense.
Another positive was my ability to shake off a horrendous call. I got hooked badly on a second serve that should have been an ace. My opponent looked at his partner, and said “I think it was out. What do you think?” The partner had turned away from us, but I later found out from our captain that he said it looked in to him. I looked at my opponent again and he said “I think I saw it wide.”
Okay. If you’re gonna make a bad call, at least do it with a semblance of conviction! Also, rule of thumb is that if you can’t agree with your partner then you concede the point…which he didn’t. I got steamed, and was ripe for a service break, but steadied the ship, I held serve to prove the point that you can’t beat me even if you cheat.
On another note, there were two moments that caught the attention of my inner “Roving Umpire”
The first occurred as I went to hit a second serve to the “bad call” opponent. After I started my motion, he ran to grab a ball at the side of the court. After putting it into his pocket, he set up to receive serve as though nothing happened. I said “First serve, right?” He started to protest but his partner agreed. A deliberately interrupted motion in the middle of a second serve clearly warranted a first serve.
The second was something I didn’t call, but could have. This same guy would toss the second ball from his pocket toward the back fence after making first serve. It never adversely affected a point, so I never called him out for what it was: a hindrance. It would be the same if the ball accidentally fell out of his pocket. First time a warning, second time the loss of a point, etc. Ask Andy Murray!
Finally, I had one last “Bonehead” moment at the end of the first set after missing a shot. I swiped the ground in anger with my racquet, and struck my leg with the butt of the grip. I hit the top of the shin muscle so hard that it bruised the surrounding area, also hurting the muscle to the point of pain when walking (after I cooled down). I gotta stop hurting myself …
Thoughts on the 2013 Season
Even though my final record was 2-5, I consider this season a success. My primary concern for the season was avoiding injuries; and I succeeded. The changes I made in terms of supplements and pre-/post-match gym work made a discernible difference. I’d still hurt for a day or so after matches, but was never incapacitated. The only injuries I had were self-inflicted, and completely avoidable. I guess that’s my work for next season.
It was also a success in terms of my mental game. In past years, I’ve struggled mightily to sustain a good positive mental state throughout the match. This season, I felt calmer overall, and more in control. I still need to do a better job of controlling my mental game on big points, but that’s something that even the pros find difficult to manage. So I’m in good company.
The most important aspect of this season, as always, was to have a good time. And I did. I was a part of a great group of guys who had fun and supported one another. For me, that’s the point of the USTA season. That and the post-season party. J
See you next year.
I have a few Italian friends (i.e. Italian from Italy) and have always loved their expressiveness. So when I heard that there were USGO participants from Italy, I did my best to grab one of them for my player interview series.
Today’s player Interview features Paolo De Angelis from Rome. Paolo made the decision to play in the USGO because it was voted the GLTA’s Best Large Tournament for 2012. Timing is everything, however, and mine wasn’t the best since our interview came on the heels of a first-round loss in singles. Even so, he was gracious in defeat and was glad he made the trip.
This translation is courtesy of Bing Translator, and I hope it’s correct: È stato un piacere incontrare e parlare con voi, Paolo. Grazie per il vostro tempo e la generosità. (It was a pleasure meeting and talking with you, Paolo. Thanks for your time and generosity.)
Note: The off-camera voice is a friend of Paolo’s who was on hand for any necessary translations. Paolo was worried about his English, but he was great. It’d be a very different story, however, if the interview shoe was on the other foot and I had to speak Italian…
Question: The poundage on my new stringing feels too tight. Is there a way that I can get my strings to loosen besides just hitting with them and suffering through the initial “ick” feeling?
Answer: There isn’t a lot you can do to immediately loosen the tension on your strings. It’s not recommended, but you can try standing on your racquet’s string bed after laying it on a flat surface. Don’t bounce on it, just apply a few seconds of steady pressure with your foot! Many frames can withstand that pressure, and it might solve your problem. Unfortunately, the best answer is to hit with it and let the strings relax. If you’re very unhappy and the tension really becomes an issue with your game, work with your stringer to see what arrangements can be made for a restringing.
(SFTF Note: String modifications, or string mods as many call them, aren’t talked about a lot in tennis. However, more people than you’d ever suspect have tried various tricks to make an unhappy string job become a little more playable before “throwing in the towel” with a restringing. Unfortunately, the sad fact for most string mods is that they only offer temporary relief at best, and severely decrease string life.
Check out my experience with the black version of Wilson’s NXT strings, and the string modification via emery board I tried in order to compensate for my unhappiness with them.)
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Send it via email or tweet for “Ask Marla”, a (hopefully) weekly (or biweekly) question-and-answer with Marla Reid of San Francisco’s City Racquet Shop.
About Marla Reid
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(Unpublished accompaniment to my earlier string review on the Wilson NXT “black” strings. 3/11/2012)
In a previous piece, I gave my impressions of the new Wilson NXT 17g “black” strings after having two racquets re-strung with this variant. If you’re a fan of the animated series “Family Guy”, you will appreciate my next reference. In the words of Peter Griffin, “I don’t very much care for these strings. I say good day to you sir”.
I’d find it difficult to recommend these strings for anyone with a game like mine. Whatever gains you might make in terms of longer string life, you pay for with a dramatic offset in loss in topspin, control and feel.
Since I was unwilling to pay for new strings so soon after stringing, I tried some string modification by using an emery board to wear down the black coating. The hope was that I regain the lost feel and control by wearing down the slick coating. I lightly rubbed, so as not to damage the strings. The rubbing was too light, however, and didn’t make much of a difference in the string’s playability.
My second attempt was more robust. My strings got a full mani/pedi this time, as I made sure that every applicable ball-facing surface around the sweet spot was rubbed by the emery board. My next hit ended quickly in disappointment, as both sets of strings broke within the first 15 minutes.
This experiment turned out to be a total bust! Each modified set lasted less than two weeks (3 hits). I take full responsibility for the shortened string life, since the second attempt clearly damaged/weakened the strings. But it was a risk I was willing to take with racquets that felt unplayable.
I got both restrung: one with the regular “natural” Wilson NXT 17g at 58 pounds, and the other with Wilson Stamina 17g at 60. As I was paying, another patron came in for a re-stringing; coincidentally, because of broken Wilson NXT black strings (16g).
Surprisingly, his strings lasted only two weeks – and with no mods. His game was a lot like mine i.e. baseliner with heavy topspin who also found the black coating difficult in terms of feel and ball control. Before meeting him, I was certain that mine would have lasted at least 5 more weeks without the emery board intervention. Afterward, I realized that maybe they would have broken anyway.
Wilson, you have a great string with the “natural” NXT. Please don’t change it!
Now that the king and queen of clay have been crowned in Paris, the tennis world turns its’ attention to the famed grass courts of London.
London is also the home of Jonathan South and Patrick Holzen, tournament directors for the Tennis London International Championships, and the featured players in today’s USGO player interview video.
Partners in crime for the past 15 years, Jonathan and Patrick were extremely gracious with their time as we discussed topics ranging from the USGO and their own GLTA tournament to the gay marriage debate going on right now in Parliament.
I had a wonderful time with them, and hope that comes across in the video. (Hopefully they had a great time with the interview too.)
(For more information on the Tennis London International Championships, here’s a link to the their tournament website: http://tennislondon.com/tournament/)