Playing a Retriever

dogWhether you call them baseliners, retrievers, pushers or $#@!%! … they are the players who can run all day and just get everything you hit back in play – usually with not much pace on their shots. I (and Hank Irvine) played one today.

The last tournament match I played vs. Jay Bortner was two years ago in Sarasota, where I beat him “easily” 6-3, 6-3 … but it took one hour and forty-five minutes!

His Game

Jay hits a slice forehand and a slice backhand. He can serve hard and well, which he does sometimes; while the other times he will just “start the point” by putting a soft serve in the box.

At the start of the first set, with two friends watching, I was in total control and took a “commanding” 4-0 lead. My two friends said to themselves, “Well, this won’t take long” and left.

But They Were Wrong.

While I concentrated on hitting to his weaker backhand, Jay then went mostly to the “blooper” (not quite as high as a Moonball) and was able to throw me off my game. While they were all long struggles, he was able to win FIVE consecutive games and I found myself serving 4-5 to stay in the set.

“What did you do about it?”

This solid coaching advice in my book (from former tour player Hank Irvine) got me to change my game and come to the net as much as possible to take his balls in the air.

I was able to hold serve to 5-5; and we each held to go to a first set tiebreaker. I felt the MO was back on my side… and it was. I took the breaker 7-1.

Second Set

The first set was over an hour long, with lots of running; and I was more “mentally tired” than physically. Jay took and early break lead and was serving at 2-1, 40-love; and I somehow was able to regroup and turn it around to take that game … AND 5 of the last 6 games for a 7-6, 6-3 (2 hours) victory.

The “lessons”? Be patient. Don’t for too much too soon; but don’t get trapped into playing their game. And take the high ones in the air and come to the net.

Strange Point

Jay was serving late in the second set at 3-4, 15-40 and I lost that critical break point because my new FitBit watch (got for Christmas) buzzed to tell me that I was crossing my goal of 10,000 steps for the day!

Hank Irvine

After my match, I watched the end of #6 seeded Hank Irvine struggle with a similar player: Dave Spilseth (retired airline pilot from Minnesota). Dave took the first set easily at 6-1; but Hank turned it around and was up 4-1 in the second.

But Spilseth is a “human backboard” and just got everything back to bring it to a second set tiebreaker. It was a grueling affair; but the backboard outlasted the shot-maker 12-10 in the breaker for a straight set victory.

Congrats to Dave and to local pro Larry Albritton who also upset Hank’s doubles partner, #4 seeded Evert Jonsson in two tough sets.

Tmw i play #2 seeded (Fred Drilling is #1) Peter Peczley from Hungary — one of the top players in the world in our age group. For the full draws and results, just click HERE

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2 thoughts on “Playing a Retriever

  1. Well done my friend…get some rest and just totally enjoy yourself tomorrow

    Be Well…b

  2. Well done, George. Yes, players like the you just beat indeed pose distinct challenges. An opponent who is fast, steady and smart is to me at heart simply this: a tennis player. You were smart and tenacious enough to accept that and fight your way to victory. But those who disparage that kind of opponent are sadly deluded. As I wrote years ago, what’s pace got do with it?

    Joel – Yes, each style presents its own unique challenge. We “disparage” that style just like we do have to play those darn lefties! thanks, george

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