I feel good on this third day; but the weather forecast was ‘spot on’… chilly, with a huge north wind. Before the morning matches, Emmo and Marty gave the clinic on the return of serve:
• The grip: spread your fingers out along the handle; not all bunched up at the bottom
• So you can better control the head of the racquet, which is key
• If facing someone with a big first serve, Emmo suggests using the Continental grip for both forehand and backhand
• But on the second serve, you have time to change grips
• Most important thing is … early preparation
• Stand with your knees bent, with the weight on the balls of your feet
• When the serve is hit to either side of you, don’t move sideways; move TOWARD the ball
• If you’re having some trouble with your return, play it down the middle until you get comfortable
• Early in a doubles match, hit your return down the line to slow down potential poachers
• If your opponent has a big serve, don’t be afraid to stand back to give yourself more time
• Take a short back swing and take the ball early, on the rise
• On the other hand, when your opponent is serving soft/short second serves, start by standing halfway to the service line … and move forward from there
• Opponents hate playing against someone who gets all their returns of serve back in play, and in a good location
• “Move feet and watch the ball!”
Our team played against the Dick Stockton/Marc Woodforde defending champ Dunnies (while Newk’s Kangaroos played the Owen Davidson/Ross Case Muscleman). Marty asked me if I was willing to play my match on the clay courts; because my opponent had bad knees and requested it. I thought about it (for about one second!) and said “SURE!!”
My opponent at #4 singles was a 59-year-old rookie Hutch Hutchinson from Reading, Pennsylvania. During warm-up, I could see he was tall, with good reach, and an excellent all-around game, and a strong serve. My strategy (hope) was to use my wits and the wind to my best advantage. It also helped me to have 28-Grand Slam winner, Roy Emerson wandering around the back of my court, chatting with me; and the rookie wondering what he is telling me to do.
Some things that Emmo told me + the ones I figured out myself about playing in what was a “ten to fifteen foot wind” (i.e. that is how much the ball would move on a softer shot) …
• Before every single point, I visualized the direction of the wind with an imaginary arrow on the court
• Serving into the huge wind, you could hit almost as hard as you wanted, and it would not go long.
• And mix that serve up with a soft spin that would virtually die before getting to the returner
• Use the lob, both into and with the wind
• Hit the drop shot into the wind
• When returning serve with the wind behind the server, just block the ball back in play (and half the time the wind will play tricks with what should have been an easy sitter for him)
• On hitting groundstrokes, do NOT plant your feet … stay on the balls of your feet, ready to move; because the ball will not be where you think it is
With all this wisdom swirling through my own head, I was able to win a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 (against a superior player). And when I came off the court, opposing Captain, Dick Stockton said, “You played a great match! George, you are just too damn smart!” (made me smile).
Our team won the 1-6 singles matches on the way to a 11-3 morning lead. Newk’s team also led after the morning 9-5.
Before lunch, there was a juniors exhibition match, with two 72-lb 13 year old boys hitting the crap out of their groundstrokes. I feel confident that if I played either one of them, I would lose easily.
In the afternoon matches, I played #2 doubles with Rambo Rennells vs. a good team of Lee Goldberg and Charles McArdle (who I teamed with last year; but was one half of the team I beat in 2009’s tie breaking 10-point tie breaker to help our Wanker team win the championships).
Rambo and I played great for a set and a half … serving with a commanding (?) 6-2, 3-0 (two service break) lead. But somehow we managed to blow it, losing 6 of the next 8 games, and found ourselves serving to stay in the set at 5-6. We did and brought it to a 7-point set tie break, which we won by being more aggressive at the end.
THE MATCH OF THE DAY: was the Duinnies’ Ed Tunic and “Baby Doc” Robert Eden vs. our Phil Rockwell and Jim ___. Our guys won the first set and were serving for the match at 5-2 … when the wheels came off. They lost that set 7-5 and went into a 10-point match tie breaker. That went on and on and on … till our guys completed the collapse, missing a high lob in the strong wind at 15-13. (let’s hope that loss doesn’t come back to bite us at the end of the week).
Our team ended up splitting all the doubles; so we held on to win the day comfortably, 15-7 – as did Newk’s Kangaroos over the Musclemen.
Then for my THIRD match of the day, I played my Fantasy doubles at 5 p.m. with Ross Case vs. Davo Davidson and Marty Judge. The first game I served, I asked Ross loudly, “Where should I serve Davo?” (who is a lefty, returning from the ad court). He said, equally loudly, “Not wide to his great forehand. Better be down the middle to his backhand.” So I did … and ACED him off the center line (which got me an award after dinner).
I played well; but Marty and Davo played better… so they beat us 6-3.
Dinner was Italian night, followed by another Legend panel discussion, with each Legend talking about their favorite Wimbledon match played. Well, off to bed and a night’s rest (with two bottles of water on my night stand) getting for round two of the team singles and doubles matches on Wednesday vs. the Davo/Case Musclemen.