Second Serve: Progress in tournament #2

Second Serve – Progress in Tournament #2
Global News Weather Specialist Mike Arsenault has joined Tennis Canada. Here is episode 3 of his tennis blog - Second Serve.

The Friday morning before the beginning of my tournament in London, I was regretting my decision to sign up. For a couple of reasons.

First, I co-hosted The Morning Show on Global all week long, which meant waking up at 4 a.m. each and every day. The lack of sleep was catching up to me. I could barely keep my eyes open on my walk home after work and I immediately laid down for a two-hour nap.

Still tired, I got in my car and then got stuck in early rush hour traffic in downtown Toronto. This was just the beginning of my three-plus hour drive to London and the Greenhills Golf and Country Club.

READ MORE: Second Serve: A visit to Tennis Canada

And I had a lot of time to think on that drive. Mostly about my concern that the serving prep I did since my first tournament wasn’t nearly enough to overhaul my technique.

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I’ve barely been able to play once a week since the end of the outdoor season and that’s just not enough reps to completely remake a shot. I’m seeing progress, but my confidence is still lacking on my serve.

I had hoped to get daily work in on my vacation to South Padre Island, Texas, but Mother Nature had other plans. I only got on the court three times, but one was a serving lesson with a local pro.

The lesson definitely helped in terms of drills to work on my toss and exactly where I should be striking the ball. He told me to picture a clock and to hit my first serve at 11 a.m. and my second serve at 1 p.m.

The pro also said my focus should be on perfecting my second serve (hey, that’s the name of the blog!) to ensure I can get it in play without thinking and eliminate the free points I’m giving away on double faults.

The day after my lesson, I was on court for an hour just serving over and over again on my own. As I was leaving, a guy came up to me asking about my game. It turns out that he was the saxophone player for the band that played at the resort the night before.

His name was Seth and he told me that he used to be a really good junior tennis player (“45 years ago,” in his words). I asked if he wanted to hit that afternoon and he said yes. So, the two of us ended up hitting for about an hour and then I went to see Seth play with Rick K and the All Nighters that night.

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Seth had some nice things to say about my game and gave me a couple of serve pointers, too. Commentary on my serve has now gone international!

I felt like I did make some progress on my serve in terms of my toss and the correct contact point. However, when I got back from Texas, I only had six days until the start of the tournament and I was working the morning show all week.

Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence as I pulled up to the courts on Friday night. I was tired and stiff. I felt like the Tin Man, getting out of the car.

I was there an hour before my match. I signed up at the registration desk and was informed my opponent was already there. Would I want to start early?

Not a chance in hell.

I didn’t say that, although I wanted to. There’s no way I was getting on the court with a teenager after a three-hour drive and no warm-up. I needed some time to stretch.

Twenty-five minutes later I was ready to go (I told you I stretch for a long time). We were sent to a back court. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the match–that’s covered in the video above–but I was very happy with how I played for the most part.

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I was aggressive, went for winners, and played with a confidence that was lacking in the first tournament. And my serve actually wasn’t terrible for the middle part of the match. My hard work was paying off.

Unfortunately, I just ran out of gas. Not fitness or cardiovascular-wise, but tennis-wise. My wind and my legs felt good, but I just couldn’t sustain the level of play needed to win.

I lost 6-2, 6-4. A funny (well, funny now) moment happened after we shook hands. My opponent’s father (who had been watching from the side of the court) came up to me and shook my hand as well.

He looked me in the eye and said, “Good game, sir.”

READ MORE: Second Serve: Starting from the bottom

Oof. I’m pretty sure he was being genuine, but I have never felt older than in that moment.

I went from winning two games in my first tournament to six in this one. That’s progress! So, where’s my ranking?

I received 28.54 points, bringing my total to 75.20, good for 465th in the country through two tournaments.

As I mentioned above, since the outdoor season ended, I’ve only been able to get on court once a week and for just an hour at a time. And against opponents who aren’t as fit and strong as my tournament opponents.

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So, once my match went past an hour, and then toward 90 minutes, my shots lost their sharpness and my serve mechanics left me. I need to get more game action and play some longer sessions. That will happen once the outdoor season starts again.

Therefore I’m going to take the next six weeks to continue to dial in my form on all shots, especially my serve, and push a little bit harder in the gym with an eye toward playing my third tournament early in May.

There is lots of work to be done. And I can’t wait to get back outside!