John Newcombe Fantasy Tennis – Tuesday, Day 3

The morning temperature was 44 with a wind chill of 39 to start the day; but did warm up nicely. Before the morning matches, Emmo and Brian gave a clinic on return of serve:

  • Don’t always stand in the same place to return. As you would move around your serve, move around your return positioning.
  • If your opponent has been pulling you wide, at least let him see you standing where he wants to serve you – even if you move back to your normal position.
  • And on second serve, move in; so that you are not running in to hit a short serve.
  • Try to pick up clues as to where he will serve you: does he toss to one side for a certain serve? Move his feet to change the angle of his body?
  • Think about where you want to return before he serves: with one plan for your forehand and one if it goes to your backhand.
  • Take a short backswing on returns, using the server’s pace to get the ball back.

For the morning singles match, this year I was moved up to #4 (from #6). I would think I am the only “over 60” player in the top four slots of any of the teams; which means any opponent I face will probably be in his forties.

And I did play a young guy from California, Rick Morgan, who is on the Musclemen – the team coached by Owen Davidson, Ross Case, and Rick Leach that has won it all for the last two years. On paper, his age and solid game made him the favorite.

I played “OK”, got back a lot of balls; but couldn’t put enough pressure on him to win. One indicative point: I got back three consecutive side-to-side gets, got my racquet on his last overhead; but lost the point. To which he exclaimed, “Don’t you know when to quit?!” He ended up winning 6-3, 6-3.

Our team as a whole was down in the morning round 11-8 and will need strong doubles in the afternoon (all doubles) to beat last year’s team champions.

In the afternoon, the coaches made an interesting move: they moved our #1 player, lefty Jimmy Miller DOWN to play #2 with me. Essentially giving up the #1 doubles; but counting on Jimmy being strong enough to carry me.

At the start of the match, I told Jimmy, “If I were them, I would play all the balls to me! I will try to hold my own; but you try not to overcompensate for the few balls that come your way.”

The opposition was Rick Morgan (from the morning singles) and their #3 player, also in his forties. And they did try to play as much as possible to me; and I mostly was able to hold my own.

They broke me early in the first set; but we were able to break back, break again, and serve it out for a 6-4 first set. Emmo came over to coach us, saying “Jump on them early.” We were able to break them to be up with their serving at 2-4 and add out to Jimmy in the add court. I thought to myself: we win this game and Jimmy is serving 5-2 for the match.

But not to be. Rick put in a real strong serve to win the point and then go on to win the game. Then they broke us with Jimmy serving to tie it at 4-4; hold and then break me to win the second set.

We then played a first-to-ten Super Tiebreaker for the match. At one time during the tie break I am serving at 5-6 and “casually” hit a solid serve deep to the corner of the box to win the point. As we’re changing over at 6-6, Emmo looks at me and smiles; and I respond, saying, “Emmo, this is only a tennis match; it’s not like it’s cancer surgery!” (An experience he and I shared earlier this year).

We continue playing well and take an 8-9 advantage, with Jimmy serving. Since this is the old fashioned tie break formula, he is now serving into the sun and confides in me, “I am having trouble seeing the ball on the toss; so I am just going to spin it in.” I told him, “I will throw a fake at the net and see if I can draw the fire.” He does. I do. They do. And the return of serve goes into the net in front of me for the match for us.

The team had to win seven out of ten of the afternoon’s doubles matches; but won six out of ten and just lose the day 15 matches to 14 matches.

Then for my third tennis event of the day, I teamed with Aussie doubles champ Mark Woodforde against lefty California tennis writer, Joel Drucker and ‘savvy’ Dick Stockton. The one-set match was close – and a lot of fun trash talking; but swung on Joel’s excellent returns of my serves (although he could hardly touch Woody’s great lefty kick serve) and his great vollies – even crushing one into Woody’s stomach.

As the sun set on a long day of really good tennis, Joel and Dick beat us 7-5; and Stockton yelled at me, “Put THAT on your blog!” Well Dickie, here it is!

Right now, I feel OK and am off to what is left of happy hour. Dinner was Italian night, followed by a brief speech by me on the subject of prostate health. The highlights were:

  • Unlike most campers, I am not a doctor; just a patient.
  • But there is an acronym that is critical for you to know: it is for the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level in your blood.
  • As I now understand it, the normal/acceptable range is anything up to 4.0 – and up to 6.0 for men over 60. But as I learned, it is not the number that is important; but the change in the number.
  • A friend of mine’s PSA was measured at 1.5 … but the year before, he had been just a .75; so he had doubled – and had Prostate cancer.
  • Just after camp last year, my annual physical blood test showed my PSA was 5.0; but the year before it was 2.0.
  • My doctor ordered an immediate biopsy, which I learned on December 13th showed had prostate cancer. I have also learned that I joined a growing club of men in the same situation.
  • Coincidentally, that was two days before our esteemed leader, Roy Emerson, was in New York having his prostate removed via the new, DaVinci robot-aided surgery.
  • As it turns out, Jack Valenti is not at camp because he ‘joined our club’ six weeks ago with the same surgery.
  • And our Andy Hallock had his done in June; and Kenny Munson had the “radical” surgery last year.
  • Well, I have formed another club, with another acronym. This one is for the: Prostate Eliminating, Cancer Killing, Erection Recovering surgery club.
  • And the acronym is? PECKER.
  • It is only fitting that our natural leader, and the first of us to have it – Roy Emerson – should be named our “National PeckerHead”.
  • And I nominate Andy Hallock to be “The Ohio PeckerHead” and Ken Munson to be “The Radical Peckerhead.”
  • Go home and have your PSA checked!

Following my little piece, another Legend panel discussion with Woody, Brian Gottfried, Dick Stockton, and Aussie legend Mal Anderson talked about their favorite matches. Well, off to bed and a night’s rest for round two of the team matches.

3 thoughts on “John Newcombe Fantasy Tennis – Tuesday, Day 3

  1. George, I usually read your e-mails without comment, but I have to say this weeks are enjoyable. I hope you don’t have any phony’s(pecker heads of New York) there with you….. GO SOX!!

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