Newk told a motivational story about when he was coaching Australian Davis Cup and Todd Woodbridge was playing singles against a Japanese player (in Japan) who was ranked 250th in the world… so Todd “should easily win this match”; but found himself down two sets and a break, with the home crowd going wild.
Newk had 60 seconds on the changeover and told Todd, “Before this match, all 6,000 people here AND your opponent were sure you were going to beat him. Now all 6,000 people here and your opponent think he will beat you! So all the pressure has shifted from you to him. Just go out there and break his serve ONCE, and I guarantee you will win this match.” Todd did.
Then we started the “Championship Thursday” matches against the Newk’s Kangaroos, needing to beat them to win the championships (if we did, both team’s would have a 2-1 record; but we would have beaten them head-to-head, the first tie breaker).
There were some really incredible matchups and matches. Due to court limitations, some of us started at 9 am, and others when those first matches completed. Our #1 and #2 singles matches were some of those delayed starts; so in the Battle of the Titans at #3, we had our Rambo Rennells vs. Newk’s Willy Hoffmann (with his eight-year singles winning streak on the line). Rambo’s strategy was to attack, attack, attack to take away Willy’s great slice game. And the strategy worked for a relatively quick, straight set victory.
I, on the other hand, got into an Epic Struggle with veteran Marty Judge. Before the match, I got four scouting reports: two said avoid his steady backhand and play to his forehand; the other two said his forehand is good, play to his backhand. And all said I should play my steady game and run him.
After the match, Marty told me he has been taking lessons and really working on his forehand… and it showed. He played great, ran down almost everything I threw at him and he was serving 5-1 for the first set, with John Newcombe sitting by the court watching and cheering him on.
I thought about the story Newk had just told that morning about the Japanese Davis Cupper and wondered what was now going through Marty’s mind. I stayed focused, worked hard for every point and was able to break him at love.
We crossed over at 2-5 and I served a love game. Now the pressure was squarely on Marty’s shoulders; and I was able to break him again. I served at 4-5 and held. Marty was now serving at 5-5, with the Big MO on my side. At 30-30, he missed his first serve and I was ready to attack his soft second; but as he was starting his service motion, Rambo chased an errant ball from his court onto ours. We stopped and I gave him another first serve. He won that point and then that game.
So I am now serving at 5-6 to stay in the set and find myself down love-30. And say to myself, I didn’t work this hard to get back to this point and blow it now. So I came back to hold serve and bring it to a first set tiebreaker.
I played solidly and completed the comeback for a first set 7-6 victory.
In the second set, Marty did not give up … he kept running down balls and was up a break with me serving 2-4. But the running play was starting to wear him down. The only thing I felt was pain in two big toes that were now injured from jamming my feet, running side to side to retrieve everything I could.
A long story slightly shortened, I was able to win the last four games for a 7-6, 6-4 comeback victory in JUST UNDER THREE HOURS OF PLAY.
And after we finished, there was still another match going on… the Wanker’s Jim Baumgartner vs. the Kangaroos’ Phil Shapiro lasted ten minutes longer in split set 10 pointer that Phil won.
I showered and grabbed a sandwich to watch courtside; because we were trailing six matches to seven, with one match still being played. Our Bill Macom won at #2 in a long, split set 10 point tiebreaker to tie all the morning’s matches at 7-7
In the afternoon doubles matches, there were seven to be played. Newk “slightly reconfigured his lineup” to move Willy Hoffmann down from #2 (where he would have played Rambo and me) and moved Phil Shapiro up from #4 to be, in his own words, “the sacrificial lamb.”
At the top four courts, we split two and two: #1 losing; Rambo and me winning 6-3, 6-3 over Marty Judge and The Sacrificial Lamb; Willy teamed with Howard Dorman to win at #3; and the Wankers won at #4.As it turned out the whole week came down to the lowest ranked match on court # SEVEN … where Newk’s sheep-hearding friend Angus Deane and his partner squeaked out a ten-pointer after splitting sets to give Newk and his Kangaroos their first championship in 19 YEARS! (so you have to feel happy for him).
The Dunnies beat the Musclemen that day; so the final, in one of the most balanced matches ever was:
• Newk’s Kangaroos: 3-0
• Emmo/Reissen Wankers: 1-2
• Davo/Case Musclemen: 1-2
• Stockton/Woodforde (defending Champs) Dunnies: 1-2
THE SHOT OF THE DAY: after all that, I chatted with DeDe on the phone and told her I was debating whether to back out on the courts for Emmo’s nightly clinic or sit on my balcony with a beer and watch it. She encouraged me to go, and I did. I only lasted for about 20 minutes and was trying to quietly sneak off the court and go back to my room and have a beer. Emmo saw me FROM A COURT AND A HALF AWAY and winged a ball at me, knocking the racquet out of my hand – to the cheers of the 10 others still doing the clinic!
After Happy Hour that included fresh shrimp from the Gulf and dinner of fish and lamp chops (yes, we did eat very well all week long), there was the Awards Ceremonies. As Steve Contardi said, “This will be the longest awards presentation you will ever see!” There were thanks all around to the Legends who made our week wonderful, the great ranch staff of young pros and in the kitchen, and to Steve Contardi and his whole family who arranged it all. Then there were plaques and pictures for people who won all their singles, all their doubles, Rookie of the Year, MVPs, and several special awards including inductees into the Fantasy Camp Hall of Fame (Jimmy Miller and Jason, the asst trainer). The official ending to a truly fantastic Fantasy Week of tennis with the Legends was Roy Emerson leading all the Aussies in their rendition of “Waltzing Matilda.”
Friday morning, we will have two hours of morning drills; and then Willy and I will SouthWest Air back to Pelican Bay (and I will get ready for doubles on Saturday morning).