Super Senior Grand Prix: Naples Bath & Tennis

Super Senior Grand Prix: Naples Bath & Tennis

This week’s tournament is the Grandaddy of them all! Several hundred players fly in from all over the world to compete in this National Category II (ITF Sanctioned) event. The 60 singles has 45 entries and the 65’s have almost double that number.

My first singles match was on Tuesday (bye in the first round) against Charles Van Middlesworth, a teaching pro from Baltimore/Ft. Myers, Florida. My pre-match intelligence reports had conflicting messages: my doubles partner beat him the week before in Ft. Myers 6-2, 6-4 and said “you should have no problem with him!” (usually the kiss of death); but he won his first round match the day before in three sets against a guy who beat me last year (also in three sets).

During the warm-up, I assessed his game as ‘your basic retriever’… runs very well and has solid, steady groundstrokes; but not any real weapon. My strategy was to push him side to side and take the offense against his backhand. It worked early on; but he started making backhand cross court passing shots; so I switched to hitting to his forehand, which seemed to break down under pressure.

While all the points and games were close, the score wasn’t. I won 6-1, 6-0 – but it took an hour and a half!

Then my second round singles match was on Wednesday against Donald McCormick, the #4 seed, who flew in from Vancouver for the tournament. During the warmup, I saw that he had very good stokes off both sides and a good serve. My strategy was to try to avoid rallying with this stronger player; but to be more aggressive and go for more on the serve and groundstrokes.

In the exact reverse of the day before, the points and games were all close; but the score wasn’t: he beat me 6-1, 6-0 in an hour and a half. The biggest difference in our games? He made the big shots to win the big points, and I did not.

He also didn’t say a word on any of the changeovers, but after the match was extremely talkative and said…

* he came out the day before to scout me

* decided HIS game plan was to keep the ball away from my forehand and play to my backhand, which he said “couldn’t hurt him.”

* That I was not rotating my shoulders enough to get good pop on that shot

* he is seeded because he has a world ranking (didn’t say what it was)

* And that he played on the pro tour; when he was 19, ‘got creamed’ by Roy Emerson

* And won the World Grasscourt 45 championship

After two bananas and a 20-minute break, Tom McCune and I hit the doubles court against Naples Bath and Tennis George Morton and North Carolinian Mike Fenster. We were on ‘the show court,’ with about 50 people watching (49 of whom rooting for the other team).

Tom and I were up a break in the first set; but lost the last four games to drop the set 6-3. In the second set, we decided to play as much as possible to the weaker guy (Fenster) AND to be much more aggressive crossing during the points. It worked and resulted in a 6-1 easy second set.

After the 10-minute break, we carried the momentum into the third set breaking twice, with me serving at 3-0. Somehow we lost that game. They held. And the momentum (and crowd) had clearly changed. Tom and I regrouped, regained the offense (by moving a lot) and closed out the victory 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Our second round match was against the #4 seeds, Evert Jonsson and Stephen Lunsford, both now living in Florida. And it was a ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda” match that ALMOST saw a repeat of our come-from-behind match the day before…

In the first set, we were up a break and serving a 4-3; and proceeded to lose the next three games.

In the second set we started steamrolling them and they were serving 0-4, 15-40, when the wheels came off. They started returning serve much better and we lost the momentum. But we still had a couple of set points, serving at 5-4. Didn’t convert them and went to a tiebreaker, which we lost 7-5.

Very disappointing not to have won that second set – to see what would have happened in the third set.

Well, next week is tournament #3 at Cambier Park: both singles and doubles again. To be continued…