This weekend, I partnered with B. Manning in a 4.0-5.0 (any age) hard court doubles tournament at Colby Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire.
I have played in the tournament each of the thirteen years it has been run â€“ and actually won it twice in the early years, before the young guns have come out to play. Since then, we havenâ€™t gotten much past the first or second round.
This year, we drew the number two seeds (two teaching pros) in the first round: Whitey Joslin, a ranked and veteran 65 doubles player; and Scott Haralson, a 40ish pro, who just relocated from NY to Boston.
In the first set, we traded breaks; and I was not serving well. We lost my serve at 4-4, with two double faults â€“ and all four balls going into the net. Then I could hear the voice of Fred Stolle from Tennis Camp, telling me, â€œTry watching the ball hit your racquet on the serve. You can’t; but it will help you keep your head up.”
I did and it did; and my serving problem went away. They served for the first set at 5-4; but we were able to break Whiteyâ€™s serveâ€¦ only to lose the next to games and the set 7-5.
In the second set, we both played very well, especially returning serve. They were serving at 3-4 and struggling, when I said to B, â€œwe break and then I serve out the set;â€ which we did.
We took a short break to get new balls to start the third set; and started by breaking Whitey. I served the second game, and while I served OK, we didnâ€™t play well and lost a very sloppy game. They served a very strong game at 1-1 and had the Mo back as we changed over.
But B served a solid game; and we held to go 2-2; and then we both returned very well to break Whitey again and go up 3-2. I served well and held to go 4-2; and with Scott serving, we jumped to a 15-40 lead to try to get the critical â€œinsurance break.â€
But he came up with two excellent serves to get it back to deuce. I thought: it will be bad Mo if they hold and we change over serving at 4-3, with the potential of their raising their game a notch to get it back to 4-4. It would be much better to break and cross over with a nice 5-2 third set lead.
B wins the deuce point; but we lose my add point. Then B returns serve well (which he did all day), gives us another add point; and I remember Roy Emerson saying, â€œshow your opponent your forehand in a big situation.â€ So I stand in the add court alley on his second serve, which he dumps into the net!
B then serves out his game for a nice upset victory, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Sundayâ€™s semi finals were against a younger team of Richard King, the 40ish head fitness trainer at the local health and racquet club and his 30ish lefty partner Fred ____. Both were very fit, strong, and quick; but the lefty was stronger than the righty; so our plan was to be steadier than they were and push more balls at the weaker player.
A good plan that we had trouble executing: they must have read Joel Druckerâ€™s current piece on the Tennis Channel website (www.thetennischannel.com) about giving your opponents different looksâ€¦ they poached, played Australian, and crossed a lot.
B and I never really got our game together in the first set, losing 6-2. We both didnâ€™t play as well (especially return of serve) as the day before; but had our chances to break back with the lefty struggling to hold serve for the match at 5-3. But again, they changed up with BOTH players staying back on his serve; and we just didnâ€™t react fast enough to break back onto serve; and lost the match 6-2, 6-3.