Today’s semi-finals singles match was vs. #2 seeded Barry Shollenberger, who is a strong serve/volley net rusher. Before leaving for this tournament, I had asked some of my tennis buddies how to play someone who charges the net all the time – if I should get that far.
The advice was mixed:
• Stand Your Ground – I normally am fairly aggressive in my return of serve positioning, standing on the inside of the baseline. So, one choice was to do this.
• Stand In and Attack – The second choice was to start 3-4 feet inside the baseline and try to attack the serve. The benefit of this strategy is that it takes some time away from the onrushing server.
• Stand Back and Lob – The third way to play this kind of opponent is to stand 3-4 feet behind the baseline and “let the play develop in front of you.”
• Mix It Up – This strategy says: don’t give him a consistent look; but mix it up.
My plan was to really mix it up; but Barry’s serve is so strong, he was able to ace me wide or down the middle, if I stood back too far. So on his powerful first serve, I started in my normal position; and tried as best I could to get the serve at least back in play.
But on his second serve, I stood in 3-4 feet inside the baseline and really tried to attack and put the pressure on him.
The match started with the temp below 60 and a 15-20 mile an hour wind out of the north (the bottom edge of the storm system smashing the mid Atlantic and north east). He started serving and I started FLAWLESSLY and he felt the pressure, missing several key shots… so, I won the first four games.
Barry then stopped missing (but I still played flawlessly): he held serve to make it 4-1; then I served a very good game; but he made great shots to make it 4-2. He served another strong game to have us switch at 4-3.
I was able to regain control and hold serve; and he also did. So we switched with me serving 5-4 for the first set. “Focus, Focus, Focus!” I was able to hold serve.
The Second Set
He started serving and I was able to put pressure on him again and break serve. Then we switched sides and I played my first bad game… I had NOT MADE ONE UNFORCED ERROR up to that point; but made two and threw in two double faults – and STILL could have won that game; but didn’t.
But his MO was short-lived… I was able to break again and changed sides serving 2-1.
I held/ he held for 3-2.
I held/ he held for 4-3.
I held/ he held for 5-4.
One of the tennis books has a key point: do not indulge yourself in “story thinking” (what happens if you win this game, what happened in the last game, what will happen tomorrow if you win, etc).
But rather, force yourself into “Action Thinking”… where are you going to serve? What will you do after his return?
And this is what I did to hold serve and have the upset victory 6-4, 6-4 in just under two hours of solid tennis.
The best compliment anybody can give me about my tennis, is not that I run very well, or that my strokes are good, or that I get a lot of balls back in play.
The greatest thing someone could say is what Barry (one of the nicest players on the tournament circuit) said to me as we shook hands… “Very cerebral.”
Tomorrow’s finals is vs. #1 seeded Peter Peczely of Hungary, who dispatched his opponent 0 and 0 in less than an hour. Coach Kinyon or Fred… any advice on how to play him?? If so, send me an email quick!!
The tournament link is HERE
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