Naples/ Ft. Myers Challenge

This weekend, Tom McCune and I were invited to represent Naples’ 65-year-olds in this 30th annual two-city, Naples-Ft. Myers Challenge, which was played all day Saturday at Pelican Marsh in Naples. They played singles (for the Juniors and at the lower adult ages) and doubles at 35 and above, up to the 70s.

We drew the tough team of Larry Albritton and Mike Melnik (who won the 60s division last year), starting about noon in front of about 30 spectators. Our fans didn’t have much to cheer about for the first ten games – Larry and Mike won nine of them … for a 1-6, 0-3 lead!

The games were close; but we just couldn’t hold serve (our only game was a service break). The picture was bleak; but we tried to stay positive … and I repeated my new mantra of “just focus on this next point.”

I served very well in that eleventh game + Tom was aggressive at the net; so we got on board in the second set. Then “MO” seemed to move to our side … we got EVERYTHING back; and they started missing a few.

We were able to bring it back to 4-4, with Mike serving at love-30. But they got their game together and won something like seven of the next eight points… so Tom was serving 4-5, 15-40 (two match points).

Somehow (?) we won the next four points and that game. Larry held… I held… and we went into a second set tie breaker.

Tom and I got a good jump, taking a 5-2 lead; but gave it back to 5-5. We then closed out the tiebreaker, winning the next two points.

At one set apiece, we played a first-to-ten Champions Tiebreaker. We took a “commanding” 7-3 lead … only to give it back to be at 8-8, Tom serving. We won his deuce-court point, switched sides; and Mike served to me at 8-9 match point for us.

We won it and the match!

A friend who left when we were down 1-6, 0-3 asked, “What did you do differently?” We were more aggressive, got more serves to their backhand, and as another friend said, “You were very steady under pressure late in the match; and they looked a little tired and they made more errors. And it doesn’t take much to turn the tide in a close match”.

All I can say for myself is that I tried to stay focused… figuratively and literally. Two of the techniques from my favorite little tennis book are, in tense situations:

1) Look at something close to you and focus on that object. I stared at my string dampener and then looked up to play the next point.
2) Smile. DeDe was in the audience watching; and I would look over at her smiling face and I would smile back, which relaxed me.

Other matches:
• in the 70s, Dick Valentine and Matt Davie won on a walkover
• in the 60s, teaching pros, Spike Gonzales and Doug Welsh won the first set 6-2; but then lost 6-3, 10-6
• And nationally-ranked 60s player Larry Turville (who “played down” an age group last January to beat Roscoe Tanner) played down “slightly” at this event … in the 35s!
• At the end of the day, the final team score was Naples 15 and Ft. Myers 13!

P.S. Did you happen to watch the incredible semifinals in Paris on Saturday? In the first match, Soderling saved three match points (one was an open-court forehand down the line that Llodra hit in the net) to win 6-7, 7-5, 7-6.
And in the other, Federer was NOT The Master, squandering FIVE match points to lose in three tiebreaks, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6!

2 thoughts on “Naples/ Ft. Myers Challenge

  1. Excellent result, George. You are right about the two “tricks” of focusing on something close and smiling. Without realizing this was suggested in a book, I have done the same things myself, intuitively, for a long time in close matches. Personally, I like holding the ball close to my face just before serving where I stare at the fuzz and try to notice all of the imperfections in the label. It helps me concentrate. I also like to crack a joke now and then with the opposing team to break the tension. It usually puts them off, thus undermining THEIR concentration, while simultaneously relaxing me and helping my own concentration. Another trick that I have found is to keep reciting to myself “the ball is a grapefruit” under my breath. It sounds strange, I know, but the idea is that if I can trick myself into believing the ball really IS as large as a grapefruit, I figure I cannot possible miss it, or misshit. It often works!

  2. Great job Geo. Easy to say ‘I am going to focus’ but as we said very difficult to apply. Way to go!!

    Kenny – tks for the tune-up! geo

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