Yikes! Serve/volleyers two days in a row! This morning was the Payne Park, Sarasota singles finals vs. #1 seeded Barry Shollenberger.
Like my semi’s opponent, Barry had a real good first serve and first volley. But my challenge was: he also had a very good second serve kicker and an excellent forehand down the line return of serve.
I won the toss and from Brad Gilbert (“Winning Ugly”), I chose to receive; and broke him at love. On the changeover, he commented, “That was a good choice you made!”
But he was able to break me back for 1-1. After several service holds I was serving 3-4, game point for me. I hit a good, deep serve to his backhand and came in behind the ball, as he just stuck his racquet out to get the ball back over the net. It ended up having some weird spin on it, bounced into my body, and I blew the game point.
He went on to break me in that game and serve out the first set for 6-3. He also broke my serve the first game of the second set and then he held serve… winning five consecutive games.
I said to myself, “I am NOT going away this easily!” So, I really worked hard to get in a high percentage of first serves to his backhand (so he couldn’t run around and attack my first or second serve with his excellent forehand). And I was able to hold serve; and “stop the bleeding.”
With Barry serving up a break at 2-1, I figured I had to do something different or he was going to continue winning. So I REALLY step in and attacked his first and second serves.
That put enough pressure on him that I was able to break to bring us back to 2-2. I held to go 3-2. I broke again to go 4-2. (“If you think the momentum is on your side, it is.” Jeff Greenwald). I held to go 5-2. And broke him again to complete the six-game run at 6-2!
He took the allowed 10-minute break and got us a new can of balls for the third set, which I started serving. I came back from love-40 to hold; but the new balls invigorated his serve again and HE ran off another five games!
I was serving to stay in the match at 1-5 and spoke to myself, “Win this game just for the pride of not letting him run out six games for the victory.” So I did and made him serve it out at 5-2.
Funny thing about the pressure of serving for the championship… I was able to attack and break serve for 3-5. And then I continued and was able to once again stay in it and hold serve to make him try to serve it out again at 5-4.
It was a deuce game; but he did hold on for the 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory; and said to me afterwards, “I hope I NEVER have to play you again!” And I responded, “And if I never see that forehand down the line again, it will be too soon!”
One of the local fans watching came up to us afterwards and said that was the best match he had seen in 15 years.
And do you know what I was feeling during that third and deciding set? Happiness. I was just happy to be out there doing something I love to do and having a great match. Enjoy playing… that is what it is all about. (But, i AM done with the tournaments for this season!)
For the link to the tournament site, click HERE.
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