Marc VanDam and I teamed up for the Naples Bath & Tennis doubles championship over the last two weekends, completing last night in front of about 50 Friday Night Happy Hour Participants (45 of who were cheering for our opponents).
We had a first round bye and played our previous match last weekend against a very solid team of Greg McConnell and Rich Whales. With my partner being young (38), speedy, and sometimes over-anxious, my job was to keep him focused and playing under control. We both did and won 6-3, 6-2.
Our opponents in last nightâ€™s finals ended up being club owners 52-year-old Craig Bouchard (who beat me in the singles finals) and his business partner Craig Sheffield â€“ a senior (73) tennis player, who starred at Duke during his younger years. To get to the finals, they beat the very solid — and younger — team of Hal Atzigen and Bobb Reeder in a third set tie breaker.
Based on what we knew, our plan for the match was:
. Not beat ourselves with stupid mistakes
. Take away their lob game by standing slightly back
. Take away Craigâ€™s strong return game by playing Australian against him
. Play under control with a â€œmounting offenseâ€
We played the first eight games all holding serve; so I had the balls in my hand at 4-4. If we lost this game, the strong-serving Craig would have the balls leading 5-4.
So I said to Marc the first two points of the game were critical and I needed to get a high percentage of first serves in. I got all in and we won a love game.
The pressure then turned on the other team, now serving at 4-5. Again, the first two points were critical: Craig double faulted the first and we won the second on my return; and went on the break to win the first set.
We had the momentum and won the first four games, with Marc now serving at 4-0â€¦ then things started to change.
We both played a very poor game to lose his serve. They then served and held a fairly easy game. The momentum was turning; so with me serving at 4-2, I reminded Marc again about the first two points of this game — which we proceeded to lose!
If we lost that game, we would have blown a 4-0 lead and been back on serve. With the partisan crowd pulling for our opponents, we somehow struggled and came back to win that game! That broke their mental backs; so we also broke the last service game to finish out the championships 6-4, 6-2.