“You did WHAT?”

My tennis friends (and my wife DeDe) were shaking their heads when I came off the court after my second-round match with #9 seeded Noble Hendrix and I told them what happened.

First Set

Noble, a very nice retired orthopedic surgeon from NC, had beaten me in a close match (6-4, 6-3) at the first tournament; so I came in with a strategy of giving him some softer pace and moving him around. Buuuuut, I found myself in a deep hole with him serving at 5-1.

I said “the heck with that strategy” and decided to play the game I like to play… hitting out, going for shots, and using “controlled aggression.” I then broke him to go 5-2. Held serve to go 5-3. Broke him for 5-4. Held for 5-5. Broke him to go up 6-5.

But then, that little run stopped and he was able to break me to bring it to a first set tiebreaker, which he held on to win 7-5. That first set took one and a half hours!

Second Set

The first four games of the second set were long 5-7 deuce point games; but I continued to pound the ball, attacking his serve and going deep crosscourt. We ran each other side to side for another HOUR; but I was able to dominate and took the second set at 6-2.

The Path Not Taken

During the last game (in which I broke his serve), I decided that was enough singles for the day! We had battled for 2.5 hours… It was 3:30 and I had a doubles match scheduled for 4:30.

No, I wasn’t too tired; and I wasn’t injured. But I felt, if I HAD played another one-hour set, and then played a tough doubles match, that there was a tournament-ending injury in my future. So I said, “I will do you a favor and retire, so we can both play our doubles matches and you can move on (vs. a very strong Steve Gottlieb in the next round).”

So after our tough doubles match (which we lost 7-5, 6-4) I went home looking forward to “Hot tub and cold beer.” Took two Advil before going to bed … and feel fine this morning — and happy with my “mature” (?) decision.

How would have I felt otherwise? We will never know. What would YOU have done?

For full results of all the matches at Sterling Oaks, click HERE.

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12 thoughts on ““You did WHAT?”

  1. George,
    I’m with you! I appreciate the good match we had yesterday. You played well. Getting a good competitive workout and knowing ones limit to avoid injury is the smart course. I believe our goal is to play well without play limiting injuries into our 90″s and to do this we will have to recognize the risk of impending injury and take a rest to be consistent with our long range goals. Hank and others have done this well and to their advantage. To me, no match is as important as our continued ability to play the next match with our friends in good health. I look forward to our next match.
    Best, Noble

    Noble, thanks! (maybe next time i can win in TWO, and not have that decision!) george

  2. George, When you enter singles and dubs this situation often occurs. You did the right thing and I am sure your doubles partner appreciated it. Jack

    Jack, yes, he said it put the pressure on him to play well! hope to see you sometime soon. george

  3. George, don’t look back. How might you feel if you had won your doubles match.

    Gary, it wasn’t a factor of “winning” as much as feeling well enough to play well, which i think we did (Paul and Rick just played a little bit better). thanks, george

  4. Love this story and admire your ability to put your health and enjoyment before your ego! Thank you for sharing!

    Beth, we “live to fight another day.” love, george

  5. I am not going to tell you what I would have done, but I will tell you what Donald Long would have done. The Donald and I played the 70s singles at World Tennis where we split sets after playing for well over two grueling hours under the noon sun with no breeze. The one area where I consider myself to be above average is in conditioning and, although I was tired, I thought that I could outlast Don in the third set. Not so. Don may have been tired as well, but he actually played better and crushed me in the third set 6-2. Flash forward one week to Naples and Bath where I had to play Don again. He beat me 2 and 1 but he did say that it was hard work and we did have some long grueling points. After our match he rushed off as he was also playing singles in the 65s, plus he had a doubles match in the afternoon. Don is my age and my thinking is “if he can do it, I should be able to do it”.

    Dave, but didn’t he retire in one of the subsequent matches? And, he said that he had lost 10 pounds that week.thanks, george

  6. George,
    Next time – offer to flip a coin. He might be thinking the same thing and might have taken you up on it. A possible 50% chance is better than a 0% chance if you “ask for the order”. Sales 101…. Rambo

    Rambo, i thought about suggesting a ten-pointer; but one of Noble’s strengths is his conditioning. thanks, george

  7. *Very* interesting blog post today. Makes *perfect* sense to me, but can see why others might be stunned. Not that easy a call. . .

    I *would* question, though, whether playing exceptionally long matches really leads to that much increase in the chances for injury – *especially* if you aren’t tired or cramping. Wonder what Noble (a *very* nice guy) would say about it. (For some reason, I thought he was a neurologist). However, leaving enough in the tank to play fairly well in the dubs is certainly a consideration for your doubles partner, but he knows the deal going in.

    I actually did the same on a hot day at the end of the first set once, having just won a first set tie-break against my doubles partner, with whom I was to play doubles right after that match. The doubles was of *much* more interest to me than the singles, especially considering that I wasn’t supposed to beat him in singles. 

    Clay court singles, especially for us old guys, has *way* too much masochism built into it – especially when the participants are closely matched. Maybe conceding the match could be seen as *another* touch of masochism.  Just kidding. 

    In the past couple of years, I’ve watched two singles matches that lasted four and a half and five hours. AAMOF, one was where Noble hangs out in the summertime. An ambulance carried one participant off in one of the matches, and one of the participants in the five hour match (who played a doubles match that day afterwards), didn’t play another tournament for six months or so. It *certainly* didn’t look like anybody was having any “fun” during those matches. Gotta sometimes wonder just “what” we’re trying to prove. *Very* interesting subject. . .

    Kevin, I would suggest tournaments change and in SENIOR SINGLES play two sets and a ten pointer. (like the pro slams should play fifth set tiebreaker and not kill the players with marathon matches). thanks, george

  8. George, I just played a long singles (3 sets) this afternoon, which I managed to win (got off the court at around 4:00pm) then played a long doubles match, which I and my partner, Jim Rauch, lost 5-7, 7-5, 13-11. Towards the end of the match (we didn’t start until 5:30 and got off the court at 7:45), I was tired and it showed in my play during the tie-breaker. And, during and after the doubles, I felt some aching pain in my right shoulder and neck muscles. This morning I am still tired, despite having done my exercises religiously this morning (I am camping out!).

    I hope to get in a session with the physical therapist this morning before I play my singles against Hill Griffin in this afternoon. And, there will be consolation doubles to follow.

    I have retired when I sustain an injury during a match. And once, being injured, I planned to retire, and after playing a few games, I did so.

    I think you wisely exercised your own thoughtful judgment!


    Nick, take care and “Listen to your body.” george

  9. George, I did the same thing in the Longboat 55 singles in December. In the Round of 16, I won an hour long first set against the #10 player in the country. It was a very humid day and I was spent. I knew it was going to take another 2 hours to finish the match and truthfully, he was still an 80% favorite to win in 3 because he is an outstanding player and super fit. Actually it was an easy decision to retire. I was ageing up to 60s in 3 weeks and there was no way I was risking a 3-6 month injury, nothing is worse than being totally out of the sport. Subsequently we won 2 good dubs matches, reached the semis, and finished 3rd in dubs. Good decision and good outcomes.

    Bob, agree… it is that potential of long-term injury that we all need to be wary of. Thanks, george

  10. I have mixed emotions about this scenario. I have seen on the senior women’s tennis circuit over the years women who sign up for too many events, or more than they can handle, so sacrifice one event for the other (not finish a singles match so they will have something left for doubles, and vice vesre). They do this for a variety of reasons, but one, they say, is so that their opponent will have to opportunity to go on to the next round when they know they may not be able to play the next round, win or lose. My feeling has always been that maybe players are signing up for more events than they can handle. I realize that extenuating circumstances may come up, but If you’re not ready to play potentially two (or more) 3-set matches a day, maybe you should just sign up for one event whereby it would be more likely that you would be able to finish what you started.

    Lynn. Valid points! Thanks. George

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