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Archive for the ‘USTA’ Category

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles: Match #4 versus Presidio YMCA

(Fourth match in the documentation of my 2013 USTA Adult League season)


With Eddie after the match

Date: 5/5/2013
Location: San Francisco State University
Conditions: 60-65, overcast and windy
Doubles or Singles Played: Doubles
Personal Match Result: 6-3 6-2 Win
Team Match Result: 2-3 Loss
Personal Season Record: 2-2

Match Notes: After the slice and dice nightmare of last weekend at SFTC, I made a return to winning ways in today’s doubles match with my partner Eddie. Conditions were mostly fine in spite of a few sprinkles. Temperature was pretty mild, and the early winds died down as the match progressed.

I played doubles with my buddy Eddie, a tricky lefty who hits with almost as much spin as Rafa (j/k, but only slightly). He’s solid on both sides with lefty spin and an ability to work crafty angles.  He’s also aggressive at the net (which makes my life easier when serving). With his strong lefty game and my pace, we’re a formidable team if we execute well.

Our opponents were decent players.  One had great hands at the net and came in whenever possible.  The other was okay from the baseline with a strong serve, but prone to to mishits if pressured.  It was a little hard to gauge how we would match up at first, but I felt pretty good about our chances.

After falling behind 1-3, we pretty much steamrolled through the match. Between my pace and Eddie’s spin, they had a difficult time with our groundstrokes. And though the one guy had great hands on his volleys, there’s not much he could do if we hit at his feet or passed him.

Mentally I stayed calm/relaxed throughout, and all aspects of my game felt good.  FH crosscourt returns were blazing, down the line were untouchable, BH slice was on, and the serve was working well. My only blip, and it was a big one, was a horrific service game to start the second set. I “pulled a Maria”, double-faulting 4 times to give them a one game headstart.

What can I say? Since shoulder surgery, it occasionally happens. Eddie didn’t walk off the court in disgust, though, so I knew we’d be okay.
I understand, Maria, really I do!

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles: Match #3 versus SFTC (or “Let Me Count the Ways I Hate Slice and Dice Tennis”)

(Third match in the documentation of my 2013 USTA Adult League season)

Date: 4/28/2013
Location: San Francisco Tennis Club
Conditions: Indoors
Doubles or Singles Played: Singles
Personal Match Result: 6-2 6-1 Loss
Team Match Result: 1-4 Loss
Personal Season Record: 1-2

Match Notes: Indoor conditions were at SFTC fine. It was a warm day in SF, so indoors was a little warm and humid.  But that had no bearing on my match, which I can only refer to as a “Slice and Dice” tennis nightmare.

Physically, I felt fine. Mentally, I was miserable after the first few games. I kept telling myself to keep positive, but it was tough because I hate playing matches like this. Always have, and probably always will. I know I shouldn’t joke about gun violence, but all I could think was “Someone please shoot me” with each passing game.

Almost every one of my opponent’s shots landed short, with little to moderate pace and tons of spin. This applied to his serve as well as his groundstrokes. I shanked short balls all over the court, struggling to find a consistent rhythm on my ground game. He wasn’t a bad guy, but his Cuisinart game (and some tight calls on balls before they landed) annoyed and frustrated me from start to finish. I hit a couple of nice shots and service returns, but not enough to get anything going or change the outcome.

Though I was miserable dealing with his unorthodox game, I won’t resort to saying, “I wish he would play ‘real’ tennis” like I’ve heard others say in the same situation. It’s not my opponent’s job to hit balls that are easy for me to tee off on. It’s my job to adapt my game to the situation. I just wish I’d had the patience to do that.

Going forward, I’m sticking with doubles. I realize that dealing with opponents like this one is part of the challenge for singles, but it’s a challenge that holds little interest for me these days. Singles will now be relegated to the practice courts with friends.

The one positive I did take from this match was a successful demo of the new Graphene Head Speed Pro. I started the match with it, but switched back to my regular (and more familiar) Head Speed MP 315 after falling behind 2-5 in the first set. (I should note that I won fewer games with my ‘familiar’ racquet after the switch.) It felt good.  Stay tuned for the racquet review later this week.

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles: Match #2 versus GLTF (A)

Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation (GLTF) logo

Date: 4/20/2013
Location: San Francisco State University (GLTF Home Courts)
Conditions: Upper 60’s, sunny, no wind
Doubles or Singles Played: Doubles
Personal Match Result: 6-1 6-4 Loss
Team Match Result: 1-4 Loss
Personal Season Record: 1-1
Team Season Record: 0-3

San Francisco State University tennis courts

Match Notes: Conditions were excellent, with sunny skies, mild temperatures, and no wind. Our match was against one of the two 4.0 “sister” teams being fielded by the GLTF (Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation).

My partner for doubles was Leo, an excellent player who reads the court well and is great at picking on opponent weaknesses. We’d played successful practice sets before and had paired well. However, we were gonna have our hands full at #1 doubles against fellow GLTF’ers, Rick and Derek. I’ve known these guys for years, so I knew what to expect: a tough match.

Rick and Derek are great players with solid serves, solid volleys, and great ground games that can hurt you from either the forehand or backhand side. To make matters more challenging, they’ve played doubles together for years and are a very successful team. Leo and I are solid as well, but don’t have the same level of pace and consistency on a stroke per stroke basis. We needed for them to have an off day, and we needed to play cleanly.

I played the Ad court, which is okay because my best strokes (inside-out forehand/crosscourt backhand) are well-suited to that side. We won the toss, chose to serve, and things got complicated quickly. I was broken in the very first game, which also included a shanked backhand return winner on the sideline about a foot from the net post, and a self-inflicted blow to the knee with the butt of my handle when I unsuccessfully tried to sidestep AND hit a slice on a ball that came blasting back right at my feet. Yeah, it was one of “those” days.

The first set went by quickly. We didn’t play badly; we just didn’t play clean enough on a point-by-point basis to put them under any significant pressure. And since starting with two service breaks can put you in a hole very quickly, the first set was lost before we could get anything going. The second set was better, but only because we mounted a comeback from 0-4 to get back on serve at 4-5 before doing down 6-4.

Losses are never fun, but this wasn’t necessarily a “bad loss” because we lost to two strong (and deserving) players who are starting to have success even at the 4.5 level. Our good shots came back with interest, and they always seemed to have an answer for our best. I could’ve served better, and there were a few too many unforced errors for my liking, but other than that I played a solid and fairly relaxed match.

That’s the goal these days.  Stay relaxed, embrace the tension of the moment with a deep breath (to relax the shoulders and arm), and try not to “press” on my shots, regardless of the match situation or level of my opponent.

And maybe next time I’ll pass on Miley’s “Party in the USA” as my pre-match jam.

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles: Match #1 versus California Tennis Club

ctc-logoDate: 4/3/2013

Location: California Tennis Club

Conditions: Cold, with temps around in upper 50’s, and strong winds.

Doubles or Singles Played: Doubles

Personal Match Result: 6-2 6-2 Win

Team Match Result: 2-3 Loss

Match Notes: These were some of the toughest conditions in which I’ve ever played, with cold temps, fog, and strong crosswinds. After a difficult warm-up, it was clear that percentage tennis was going to be the key to any win.  Play balls down the center for a higher margin of safety, keep the feet moving and be prepared for bad bounces and, if possible, finish points at the net to avoid ugly baseline rallies.

I played doubles with my good buddy, Chris. We both have strong serves and solid ground games. His strongest shot is his backhand (totally sweet), and mine is my forehand. With me in the deuce court and him the ad court, we are pretty formidable and can do some damage.  Additionally, his long arms and great volley technique make him tough to pass at the net.

Our opponents were solid, but lacked weapons to hurt us. They won the toss and decided to receive: a bad strategic move on their part. I started things off with a hold, and they played catch-up the entire match. I knew we had a good chance to win, but remembered to keep focused on the point at hand because matches can turn quickly if you don’t.

Other than one bad service game with 4 double faults, the only noteworthy incident came early in the match.  I hit a serve that one of my opponents returned into the net.  A second later, he said, “I think that was a let.” Players often try to get a point replayed via let calls. You’re not allowed second chances after the point’s already over, and I told him that.  Fortunately for him, Chris added “I think it could have been a let”. I relayed my concern on late calls, and asked for more timely calls in the future.

I mention it because bad calls and other examples of gamesmanship can commonly throw off a player’s concentration. I once had an opponent call a clear ace “out” in a tight third set. His partner couldn’t confirm or deny the call because he was too close to it. It was so blatantly bad that I lost my temper/composure for several minutes. The opponent “generously” gave me a first serve, but the damage was already done.  Still fuming, I was broken and they went on to win the match.

I learned from that incident that bad calls, an unfortunate but common part of USTA play, will derail me if I don’t immediately address the situation as best as I can, then let it go afterward. Putting my mental tennis lessons into play, I let go of this particular late call (which had no ill intent), won the point, and held serve.  There were no other issues with calls.

This victory was huge for me! It was my first at the 4.0 level since June 2010. Through two Adult Leagues and a Combo season, my record was a dismal 0-20: one less than Vince Spadea’s 0-21 losing streak!

It felt good to break the streak and start the season on a positive note.

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles

My Tennis Bag

I’m a big proponent of sharing my personal experiences for the purpose of helping others. To that end, I will chronicle my 2013 USTA league experiences with that purpose in mind, In writing about my personal match struggles, physical and/or mental, as well as my triumphs, my goal is to help others who are also struggling realize that their struggles are common. I’ll also share solutions, tips, and tricks that work for me in the hope that they will do the same for others.

My match reports will contain opponent, date, location, weather conditions, match result (personal and team), and match notes. In order to provide the best context for these reports, I’ll list all relevant information on me, my game, and my idiosyncrasies in this initial post. Any changes in my physical status or relevant equipment issues will be mentioned as needed.

Without further ado, here’s all you’ll ever need to know about me and my game.

Level: 4.0

Plays: Right-handed, equal preference for singles or doubles

Racquet: Head Speed MP 315

Strings: NXT 16 and Stamina 17 (hybrid), 52 pounds.

Age: 49

Physical Status: I ‘m a former professional dancer with damage to my joints and connective tissue. Had shoulder surgery to remove bone spurs 6 years ago, and knee surgery to remove damaged patellar cartilage 4 years ago. Both surgeries were on my (dominant) right side, and I still do some of the rehab exercises to help maintain strength in the surrounding muscles, and to help guard against future injury/surgery.

I’ve adjusted my diet to help manage joint inflammation and pain instead of turning to massive doses of ibuprofen.  Additionally, I take two supplements (All Flex and AminoSculpt liquid collagen). The changes have helped significantly, but I still occasionally take ibuprofen to help with post-match pain and inflammation.

On match days I drink Cytomax (a good source of slow-release carbs) to help sustain my energy and electrolytes.  It also aids my post-match recovery.

Technical Game: I have a strong topspin forehand, and a competent two-handed backhand that has become more reliable over the years. I’ll also hit one-handers and slices as needed. Net game is solid but unspectacular.

Mental Game: My mental game has gotten better as I’ve learned to relax and stay positive on the court (though some of my friends might disagree with that assessment). Like many, I sometimes get too keyed up, anxious, or negative when playing.  I’ve worked hard to learn techniques from mental tennis books on the (like Tennis: Winning the Mental Match) to better understand match stress and the ways it can affect my game.

Privacy disclaimer: I’ve learned from past experience that even when I think I’m writing only about myself, I need to respect the privacy and identity of others. To that end, anyone mentioned in these reports has given permission for use of their name, or has authorized a suitable “nom de tennis”.

And now, on with the 2013 4.0 Adult Season!

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