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With three OTA open-level tournaments under my belt and a playing schedule that has me on the court four to five times a week, I was beginning to feel a little anxious
I started this blog as an opportunity to return to a high level of athletic competition in a new sport and to get an inside look at the lower rungs on the ladder of Canadian tennis. Six episodes in, I feel confident that I have achieved my original goal, but my anxiety was due to a lack of tangible results.
I’m a competitive person (the understatement of the year for those who know me). Through my first three tournaments, I was like a fish out of water, navigating the ins and outs of tournament tennis, operating with a ‘happy to be here’ mentality.
However, losing in the first round of my previous three tournaments was starting to wear on me. I didn’t have the expectation of winning any tournaments (I’m competitive, but still realistic), but I was starting to get worried that I was going to be winless throughout the conclusion of this series.
Second Serve: All about that grass
And, as I mention in the above video, it’s the fourth tournament where the rankings really start to separate the haves from the have-nots. Only three tournament results count toward your national ranking. So, you can play in a tournament every week, but only the top three results are combined to make your national ranking.
With three tournaments (and three first-round losses), I wasn’t going to advance much further up the Canadian leaderboard without some victories under my belt. I’ve had decent upward mobility after each tournament, but there was a very good chance that movement would stagnate with another defeat in the first round.
It was with that nugget weighing on my mind that I decided to get a full warm-up session in before my first-round match Friday night in Thornhill. I did the same before the grass-court tournament and I felt the extra preparation really helped my game.
My parents came to the tournament as my support system, so I visited them in Oshawa the night before my match. We went to some local courts earlier in the afternoon for the aforementioned warm-up. I conscripted my Dad as my hitting partner, but his arthritis was acting up.
Second Serve: A tournament final (unofficially)
(Quick aside: I’ve mentioned before how supportive everyone in the tennis community has been of Second Serve and that continued in Oshawa)
On the court next to us was an instructor named Eva, waiting for her client to arrive. I told her about the blog and my dad’s limited movement and asked her if she wanted to hit for a few minutes. Not only did she hit with me, but when her client Chantal showed up, she had Chantal and I hit together for 15 minutes.
It was exactly what I needed to get my body primed for my match that was now just a couple of hours away (Thanks to both Eva and Chantal for the assistance!).
We drove to Thornhill Park Tennis Club where I found out that my first-round opponent was Luke Kuzio, ranked 248th in Canada, not that far away from my 359. This might be my best opportunity to win a match, I said to myself as we shook hands.
Second Serve: Time for a montage
Here we go!
Then I promptly lost the first two games of the match.
But I steadied my nerves and really started to play well. I had the advantage in fitness and conditioning, so I tried to make the rallies as long as possible to force my opponent to make mistakes.
And the strategy worked, as I won the first set 7-5. I was one set away from victory. Obviously, I would continue my strong play and breeze through the second set.
Second Serve: Progress in tournament #2
My biggest mental block in tennis is letting my game slip when I have a lead. My mind starts to wander, I start looking ahead to my next match, I get tight and my mechanics falter. That’s exactly what happened in Thornhill.
My level of play dropped, his picked up and he crushed me in the second set 6-3. Rather than wanting to win, I was scared to lose, knowing that there was a chance this would be the closest I’d get to a win in open-level play.
I gave myself a pep talk between the second and third set, thinking (perhaps hoping) that he wouldn’t be able to maintain his level of play and knowing that I could play better.
And that’s what happened. Our match time went well over two hours, I played even better than I did in the first set and I won the decider 6-3. No more bagel for me! I am officially a match winner.
I didn’t get off the court until 10 p.m. My parents and I went for a quick dinner and celebratory beer. I got back to my place just after midnight, had a shower and then tried to fall asleep. My next match was scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Saturday morning.
Second Serve: A visit to Tennis Canada
Typically, after I play, I do 20 minutes of stretching and recovery exercises to reduce the risk of soreness the next day. I skipped the stretching after my match to go to bed quicker. Problem #1.
In every tournament thus far, my match has started later than my scheduled time (at least 45 minutes late). Therefore, I decided to give myself an extra hour of sleep to get to the court right at 10:15 a.m. where I could then go through my pre-match stretching routine. As luck would have it, my match actually was ready to start on time, so I had to go right onto the court. Problem #2.
My opponent was 17-year-old Michael Pawlowicz, ranked 111th in the country. Problem #3.
Yes, Problem #1 and Problem #2 impacted my game (my groin felt like it was going to tear off the bone), but it didn’t matter as Michael was just too good. I had three game points and a few deuce games, but he crushed me 6-0, 6-0. The silver lining is that he made it to the semi-finals of the tournament where he lost to the eventual champion.
Making it to the round of 16 got me 45.36 points, bringing my total to 120.56, good for 321st in the country. The updated leaderboard has Denis Shapovalov a mere 924,879 points ahead of me.
I’ve scheduled three serving lessons before my next tournament begins on August 20 in Brampton. If I can finally hone in on an effective serve, that would definitely help in continuing my climb up the leaderboard.
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