A learning experience

A learning experience : Today’s singles match was against Hank Irvine, a former pro tour player from Rhodesia (“Not up there with Newcombe, Roche, and those guys,” 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 “he was NOT going to beat me on drop shots!”; 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:

  • “If I had your forehand, I would beat all these guys out here; but you need to come in behind it!” 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.  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!”  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 ‘read’ 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 didn’t think I did, he said I started playing more conservative baseline tennis at the end.
  • Oh by the way, on the drop shots… 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.

5 thoughts on “A learning experience

  1. George – You have shown me (and others, too) that with desire, one can become an excellent player. Your analysis is full of intelligence and is important to your further development. Keep it up!

  2. George…you’re still going strong and learning/benefiting from playing at that level…congrats!
    Bob Dahlhausen

  3. Did you see Federer-Gonzales? What struck me was that Federer won so many points with the classical formula that you mentioned: hit deep to your oppenet’s backahand, look for the opening to come to net, and hit the winning volley.

    Roche desrves “coach of the year award” and Federer “student of the year award”.
    A Federer confident at net volleying (sneaking up quickly, decisively, like a cat) will be even more unbeatable!

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