This weekend was the annual Friendship Cup, played this year at the fabulous Mont Tremblant resort (almost two hours north of Montreal). It matched men and women’s teams of 34 New England men and 17 women vs. 34 Quebec men and 17 women in age groups from 40 to 80.
The Drive Up
… Was taxing to say the least. DeDe and I left Thursday morning to get in early enough to rest and have a practice session on Friday. But it rained most of the way up … And getting stuck in horrendous traffic going thru Montreal made the drive a long six hours! And then it rained all day Friday, canceling out any opportunity to practice.
The format is that everyone plays singles on Saturday and then pairs up for doubles on Sunday. Based on my Florida tournament success, I was slotted in at #1 in the 70 singles… with Bill Simonton at 2, Whitey Joslin at 3, and George Lynch (playing down an age group) at 4. And on Sunday, Whitey and I were scheduled at #1 doubles.
My Singles Match
The rain finally stopped early morning on Saturday, allowing the first singles matches (old guys first!) to get started at 10 a.m. My opponent was their #1 Ali Bacha (#1 in Quebec and #3 in all of Canada), who asked me going out to the courts, “you just up from the 65s?” I told him no, I had actually just turned 71 last week.
Don’t judge a book by its cover… I had made the assumption that my “youth” would make the difference, and that false presumption was furthered by not seeing anything during warm up that could hurt me. But what I didn’t see was La Drop Shot! Ali’s was as good as anyone I have ever faced, including Joe Bachmann and Graham Primrose!
In the first set, a full 75% of the points he won involved a killer drop shot. He whipped through his “younger” opponent 6-1. And after winning that set point on another drop shot, he said somewhat sheepishly, “I’m sorry.” I replied, “Don’t be sorry. If you have a weapon like that, use it!”
The Second Set
Even though he also had excellent passing shots and lob volleys, I was committed that I was NOT going to lose this match on his drop shots. So I served and volleyed more, stood inside the baseline on all rallies (looking for the drop shot), and came to the net behind offensive forehands as much as possible.
At about 3-3, I looked over at Bill Simonton on the next court after another killer drop shot; and he said, “Just hang in there with him… His face is all red and he is tiring.”
With all that it was much closer, but he broke me at 4-4 and was serving match point at 5-4. I survived that point, won that game and held serve. Getting the early edge in the next game I said to myself with his serving to me 15-30 in the ad court, “This is my match point!” Telling myself that if I won that point I would win the game, that set, and then the next one.
I did and I did. In the third set, he starting tiring some and he said afterwards that my standing inside the baseline made his drop shots even more difficult, and he missed more. So I survived the 2 hour 20 minute match 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
On the next court, Bill Simonton cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory; and our #1 75 player, tournament-tough Nick Ourusoff finished quickly with a 6-4, 6-0 victory. But Whitey Joslin found himself in a real war, splitting sets and going down in a (full) third set tiebreaker.
Over all, the Old Guys gave the team an early lead… Winning 3 of 4 in both the 70s and 75s and 1 of 2 in the 80s. And at the end of the day, we had a slight (one victory) lead at 18-16. And the U.S. women also led by one match, 8-6.
Doubles on Sunday
Whitey Joslin and I teamed up vs. their #1 70s team of Ali and Jay ___. After a shaky start with me strangely missing forehand service returns, we settled down for a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 win. When DeDe hit the road for our five-hour drive back to Sunapee, our team had won five of six doubles matches; so I hope/assume we were victorious.
A super event (to which I hope to be invited to again)!
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