A learning experience : Todayâ€™s singles match was against Hank Irvine, a former pro tour player from Rhodesia (â€œNot up there with Newcombe, Roche, and those guys,â€ according to Hank); but a very solid player none the less.
Having played him last year and getting reports this year, I was reminded of his great touch with balls in the corners and devastating drop shots. Knowing I was over-matched, I told DeDe (my #1 fan) that â€œhe was NOT going to beat me on drop shots!â€; and that I was going to hit out as much as I could.
Well, I was very happy with the first set and not as happy with the second one.
He won in straight sets; but in the first I was able to break him twice and had break points in two other service games. A critical one missed: with Hank serving 4-3, add out, he served to my backhand and came in behind the serve. I had been going mostly cross court; so I decided to go up the line, where there appeared to be an opening; but there he stood to volley away the winner.
He saved the game and went on to win 6-3, 6-1 in about an hour and a half of pretty good tennis.
Afterwards, he was nice enough to share his insights on our match and how to improve:
- â€œIf I had your forehand, I would beat all these guys out here; but you need to come in behind it!â€ He survived several long baseline rallies with his precision floaters within inches of the deep corners; but had I closed in, perhaps could have cut them off.
- He said i missed a couple of returns of serve because i was worried about his coming in behind his serve, which he did frequently enough to worry me.Â And on the subject of coming to the net: “sure you passed me several times; but i say you to pass me FOUR TIMES in game to beat me … and you won’t!”Â So come to the net and put the pressure on the other guy to pass you more than he doesn’t.
- He was able to â€˜readâ€™ my backhand to know if I was going cross court or down the line (that is how he won that critical break point). He said I need to develop the same stroke for those two shots, and just change the contact point: out in front for cross court and a little farther back for down the line.
- And add the lob off the backhand side as a third option.
- My serve was very good; but I need to serve hard the whole match and come in behind some of them to make the opponent think about it.
- And even though I didnâ€™t think I did, he said I started playing more conservative baseline tennis at the end.
- Oh by the way, on the drop shotsâ€¦ he only won only one drop shot point.
Doubles: After the singles, Steve Feldhaus and I waited around for an open court and our first round doubles match against two Naples friends, Bob Dilworth and George Morton. I was not tired and my leg did not bother me at all. Their good play bothered us both and they were able to outlast us under the lights at 7-5, 6-4,
The silver lining is: tomorrow is now a day of relaxation. And then to get ready for the last of the four January tournaments starting Monday.