This weekend, I tested both the new gut strings and my injured shoulder at the annual doubles tournament in New London, New Hampshire. B. Manning and I teamed up in the very tough 4.0-5.0 (any age) division; while I played in the over 60, 4.0-5.0 with Bob Wilkie (who bought in Pelican Bay last winter).
Bob Wilkie and I had our first Seniors match Friday afternoon on clay courts at a local country club. We played a solid 4.0 team; but were able to control the net and won the match in straight sets. (And most importantly – no shoulder pain. Which I iced on the drive home with the pack brought in a cooler).
After the match, they had a “hit the target” contest. They put a cone in the service box location of your choice (I picked down the middle in the add court); and you had eight chances to hit it on the fly. I did it on the last ball… and won a bottle of wine.
Since Bob is an unknown quantity at this tournament, he and I were not seeded. And our second round (semi’s) match was scheduled for ‘bright and early’ Saturday morning at 8:30 am against the #2 seeds: Whitey Joslin and Tom Diehl (one of the top senior doubles teams in New England).
I iced three times on Friday and a friend gave me a prescription-strength dose of Ibuprofen that I took at night and with breakfast. I told Bob we needed him to control the net and save me any awkward shots that might injure the shoulder.
And he did just that… he controlled the net with his long and lanky frame, penetrating volleys, and solid overheads. We had a great match and were fortunate to get off the courts with another straight set victory.
I then hopped in my truck, put an ice pack on my shoulder and drove over to Colby College’s hard courts to immediately play with B. in the Open division.
Our opponents had won their first round match on Friday easily (B and I had a bye). They were a 53-year-old, hard-hitting righty in the deuce court and a 37-year-old, Bollettieri-trained lefty in the ad court.
The first set was all on serve; but turned on one of my service games, losing after being up 40-15. And that was it for the first set.
In the second, they started hitting harder and the balls stayed in; so they won that set easily.
So the bad news was: we lost.
The good news was: we lost
(and I didn’t have to play a THIRD match on Saturday!).
So Sunday at 9 am, back on the soft courts for the finals of the 60’s against the #1 seeds: Glen McEwen (teaching pro at the local indoor club) and my practice-partner, nationally-ranked Nick Ourusoff.
The first set: Solid tennis, with the first ten games all on serve (maybe without even a break point). At 5-5, we broke Nick’s serve and Bob served out the set for 7-5.
The second set: They raised their game – especially on low, cross court returns of serve; and broke us twice to take the set 6-2.
Third set: Glen starting serving for them and held easily. Then I served the second and monster-long game (maybe a dozen deuces?); but eventually got broken. But we were able to break back, hold serve, and break them again. So I served with us up a break at 3-2. They broke us again for 3-3. They held for 3-4. But then broke us to take a commanding 5-3 lead, with the pro serving for the match.
Bob and I dug deep and were able to break Glen at 15-40. Then I had to serve after more than two and half hours of tennis – having lost my serve the last two times. Somehow, with lots of good movement at the net, we were able to hold my serve to bring it to 5-5.
We broke Nick and Bob served for the match at 6-5. Unfortunately, we went down 0-30. Bob then served a series of solid points, which we won to take the match 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 in 2 hours 45 minutes.
The Gut Strings? Well, first of all, I had virtually no shoulder pain over the weekend. Then, the strings really felt GREAT on touch shots. As Steve Contardi said, “but on the rare occasions you hit the ball in the middle of the racquet, it really flies.”
The shoulder? Well, between the pills, the ice, and the strings… I was able to play without pain the whole match. Even though it didn’t hurt, I am still committed to taking one full week off next from tennis.
And just to remind me that was the right decision, as I loaded my tennis bag in my truck after the match, there was a shooting pain in my shoulder. Mother Nature talking to me.