Dangerous Tennis

With Harvey Ahitow and my cooling towel
With Harvey Ahitow and my cooling towel
After testing my shoulder yesterday with some cross court doubles with good friend Spike Gonzales, today was a stiffer – and actually dangerous – test in the next round of Naples City singles tournament.

Solid Opponent/ Brutal Heat

My shoulder was fine after last week’s cortisone shot; but playing 2 hours and 10 minutes in the brutal heat was the biggest challenge. Today’s singles opponent was Harvey Ahitow, who beat solid-playing Dick McNaughton in the first round. Harvey had a good serve, great forehand, and ran OK; but his backhand was his weakness.

First Set

The heat warning was there right from the start: I was dripping after the ten minute warm-up. But I started fast and Harvey missed shots; so I found myself with a commanding 5-0 lead. He picked up his game and I got a little complacent and lost two games; but served it out for 6-2.

Second Set

Even though the score was lopsided, the points and games were long and the set lasted about 45 minutes. With the heat index probably in the high 90s, I started to feel it sucking the life out of me; and we exchanged a couple of service breaks to go to 3-3.

At this point, I was really dragging (and he looked better off than I felt) and was actually concerned that I couldn’t finish the match – especially with the prospect of Fred Drilling looming in the winner’s future. I briefly considered forfeiting, but just chose to go for winners and not to run for any shots.

I was serving at 4-5 and really sucking wind; and debated tanking that game and set in order to move into the ten-point deciding tiebreaker. But I went for winners and held my serve easily.

I said to myself, “well if I can somehow now break his serve, maybe I could actually serve it out at 6-5.” I did break his serve and wondered if I had anything left to serve it out.

When Tired…

A late friend of mine once said, “When you are tired, serve as hard as you can.” First point: ace down the middle. Then three more strong serves and the set and match were mine, 6-2, 7-5.


Thankfully, the muscle cramps did not start till I pulled into my driveway 20 minutes later. Whirlpool, water, pickle juice and rest seem to cured them.

It was a tournament victory; but not sure it was smart. Your thoughts on playing in the heat??

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6 thoughts on “Dangerous Tennis

  1. My favorite self-comment: If I’m hurting this bad, he must be as well!
    Also, when it’s really hot, I try to make sure I get all first serves in. I avoid the extra effort it takes to hit an offensive first serve and then have to double up serves with seconds. (It seemed to work yesterday?)

    Spike, but he felt better than i did (and said so afterwards)! And yes, i like the first serve concept. thanks, george

  2. George,
    Try some oxygen next time. You will recover very fast.

    Guy, in a can? This reminds me of the Winder Bill story and the adverse ruling: FAC Comment III.E-2: A player who receives an injection (other than an insulin injection), IV infusion, or supplemental oxygen during a rest period shall be defaulted. However, there is no penalty for these actions during a suspension of play in which the Referee allows the players to leave the tournament area. george

  3. George-
    I find that taking salt tablets before and during the match really helps…..also I take potassium pills before the match.
    My stamina in the heat is now much better.
    If you sweat a lot, this is the best means of keeping your electrolytes up, I’ve found.

    John, i sweat PROFUSELY, leaving a drip puddle on changeovers! And i eat a banana, take electrolyte pills (from Newk’s camp), and drink on every changeover. Nothing seems to help. Remember the problems Pat Rafter had? That is me. thanks, george

  4. I just dropped a note to Ron St. John. I told him I used to play Spike Gonzales in the Western New York Invitational in Jamestown, NY. And then there he was in your email update! Please give him my best! We will get down there one of these days!
    PS – Ron played on the high school team I coached in Geneva, OH.

    Arnold, will do. george

  5. When I was in my teens, I routinely took salt tablets when I played tennis in hot and humid conditions. It seemed to help, but without a point of comparison I was never sure how much. But as I got older I recall reading a number of pieces advising against taking salt during athletic events. Something to do with high blood pressure issues and the fact that, supposedly, there is already enough sodium in our regular diets. The newer advice suggested that, at most, a diluted sports drink, like Gatorade and water, should be enough. So, I stopped taking the pills and reverted to a 50/50 Gatorade to water mix on the court. Yet, as I get older, I seem to have more and more trouble playing in extreme heat and humidity. Even though I always drink a LOT of water and Gatorade on the court, I nearly collapsed several times last October at Tennis Fantasies from this, and two or three years back I lost a 60+ men’s singles semi final that was played in blazing sunlight at 99 degrees and virtual saturation humidity. In that match, I actually won the first set easily, 6-1, and I was coasting at 4-1 up a break in the second set when I hit the wall from the heat and humidity. I literally could not move at all and wound up losing 1-6, 4-6, 0-6 trying to close out the match by trying to hit winners while standing in one spot (unsuccessfully, of course). Somehow, the heat and humidity did not affect my opponent as much as me. So, now I read posts here suggesting that it IS ok to be taking electrolyte (or salt) pills during a match. Can someone with a medical degree (or maybe Larry Starr, our trainer extraordinaire) advise on the actual health consequences and pros and cons of this? If it is safe to take such pills, and they do work, I might try going back to them. But not at putting myself at risk of more severe health issues.

    Marty, i take the electrolyte pills that Larry gives out at camp: Medilyte; and they really help. Available online. george

  6. I believe the key is hydrating the night before. I try to just sip a mouthful every few minutes even when I feel hydrated. I have had few heat problems, but the downside is more trips to the bathroom

    Hugh, Andre Agassi said that he used to drink until he peed clear and light! thanks, george

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