Archive for July, 2010

Flex League Tennis

Friday, July 30th, 2010

In order to try to improve my tennis game, I joined a men’s singles flex league at the 3.5 level. At the time that I joined, I was a true 3.5, and if I am being honest, I feel that as a singles player I am still at the 3.5 level. However, during the course of the 4.0 men’s league in Tracy that just ended, I had some pretty good results against some solid doubles teams, and I was bumped up. To think that a year ago at this time, I was moving up from a 2.5 rating to 3.0 rating! In November 09, I rated myself up from a 3.0 to a 3.5, and then in July ‘10, the USTA sends me a letter telling me that I am now rated at 4.0. I only wish that my consistency was up to that of a 4.0 player. I digress. So I am playing flex league for the opportunity to improve game in ways that playing doubles cannot. Unfortunately, I am also learning that either I am getting old (fact) or that if you are feeling like you might be on the verge of a physical ailment, playing singles will pretty much ensure that you will have a physical ailment.
Several weeks prior to the start of flex singles, my knee was swelling externally. I would ice it after playing, and even started to wear a neoprene sleeve during play to help press-out or prevent external inflammation. It seemed to be working just fine up until my first singles match. I believe that the cool air combined with my chasing down every shot contributed to my injuring my knee. –I later learned that I have a torn lateral meniscus and will at some point have surgery to fix this.
The doctor that performed my first two knee surgeries suggested that I take some time off from tennis. Of course I didn’t listen, and thought that I would alter my style to sort of meet his request half way. I reduced my play by roughly two nights a week –down to 2-3 times per week. I felt that it was working and even managed to get in a complete singles match the following week, but the week after that I was up 1 set to 0 and leading the second set when my knee told me that it has had enough. I almost could not walk off the court at that point and I offered to concede the match. My opponent said that he did not want the win and that we should finish the match sometime in the future…wow!
So this issue with my knee bummed me out for several reasons. In addition to being damaged goods, the guys on our 4.0 team (well some of them) indicated that they wanted me in the lineup for the playoff match against Escalon. These playoffs determined who would be playing post season, and Escalon was in first place, while Tracy was in second at the end of the season. Escalon is a very solid team, and I would not be surprised if a good portion of their team gets bumped up to 4.5 for next year. They have several guys that are at the level of the Tracy area 4.5s, but I’m not saying this as a complaint, rather as an observation. Anyway, our match was a tight one, and quite contrasting in styles. Our opponents were very steady and consistent, while we were much more dangerous in that we tended to hit more aggressively and powerfully, especially our serves. Their net play was better than ours, and for that the blame falls on me alone. I have been practicing my net play every single chance I get, and while I have made great strides in my net play, I was still the weakest net player on the court that day.
The good news was that I was able to play mostly pain free, and I had actually at one point not played any tennis or hit any balls for as many as 3 weeks leading up to that match. I only started the week prior, and at that, tried to limit my hitting and running. Suffering the most was and is my backhand. That part of the two handed motion where I weight transfer to my right foot and turn (twist) is what is bothering me the most. I have a two handed backhand, and prior to my knee bothering me really felt that my backhand was my more stable shot. That is certainly not the case right now, and I look forward to the day when I can swing out on my backhand without something in the back of my mind playing tricks on me, and causing me to back off. I do not have much power on my backhand, especially compared with my forehand, but I am seriously missing the consistency. –I have even questioned whether or not I should continue to play BH side on the doubles court, but that is my spot, so have been playing there regardless. I have a match this weekend (at home) for the 8.5 combo men’s team, and expect that I will be playing BH again…I only hope that I get the opportunity to hit some balls before then.
I played two flex matches this week, both on Tuesday in order to make up for the 5 weeks that I have pushed off playing singles. My first match was during lunch in Walnut Creek and 15 minutes into the match, I thought I was a goner. My opponent, Chris, is a lefty with decent movement on his serve…just enough movement to keep me from taking the offensive when he was serving, plus my first serve was not on. Playing southpaws is always tough if you do not get to face them on a regular basis. Their spins are always the exact opposite of what you are expecting -or used to seeing, plus if they are smart enough to develop some spin on their serves, it sometimes can take an entire match just to get the hang getting strings to ball on serve receive. In this case, it took me the first set. He cleared me off the court 6-2 in short order. His serves possibly frustrated me into making service errors myself, so I started to back off of my 1st serve, and focused on throwing different spins at him, and it seemed to work. I held all my serves, and he held all his, and I managed to win the tie break at 7-5. Third set was played as a tie break to 10 and I was up 8-2 or 9-2 and managed to win at 11-8. It is scored as a 1-0 third set win, but it was close. And it was not that I felt that I disintegrated when I was up, he just made more shots than me to crawl back into the game. Good match.
Second match of the day was at 6PM in Pleasanton, and I was playing a guy named Danny, and he had me worried. Short court warmup revealed that I did NOT want him coming to the net…he looked so comfortable with volleys, and had great footwork as well. When we backed up for baseline hitting, I was not feeling any better as he had a great swing, on both sides. At that point, I was telling myself to just try to hit smart balls, and run him when possible as I did not see myself beating him in baseline rallies. I also knew that I would need big serves. I managed to win the toss, so I elected to serve and I believe that is what saved me. I was able to throw a lot of different serves at him and possibly spooked him (I don’t know) out of his game. The final score I thought was 6-4, 6-3, but he posted to the website that it was 6-2, 6-2. Regardless, it was NOT a blowout by any means, and I was still trying just as hard when serving for the match -as I did not want him to get on a roll. I could tell that Danny was angry that he lost, and even today, I feel lucky that I came away with two wins that day. We stayed around and hit for another hour, and my initial assessment remains…he is a better player than me. My keys were that I hit short to him, to bring him inside the baseline, and then I would try to hit at his feet to keep him from coming in to the net. He tended to hit deep when hitting from inside the court, which is exactly what I do as well, so I guess that you could say that I played him as if I was playing against myself. It is amazing what the first couple of minutes of a match can do for the outcome. My serve set the rhythm in my favor, and I am glad that he did not try to fight his way to the net. I do not feel that I would have had as much luck if I had to try and pass him…
I will schedule more matches for next week, and will try to catch the Isner-Fish match that I recorded last weekend at some point (meaning the next few nights)…

Talk about not getting with the program

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

That is the best title that I could come up with…sad.
I recently updated my index page for based upon feedback from a guy I just met this week. I was scheduled to play flex league Tennis here in the Tri-valley area (Bay Area), but due to tearing my meniscus I was basically unable to play for more than a month. I got pretty far behind schedule for my matches, but everyone in my flight have been pretty good about it.
I am playing in a mens’ flex league at the 3.5 level -since the flex league season began, I have been moved up to a 4.0 rating based upon some doubles performances that I have had… Getting back into the flex league after more than a month off, my lunch time opponent that I played against yesterday (I scheduled 2 matches, lunch and evening) mentioned that he visited my site and asked if I would like any feedback. “Of course” was my response, so he basically cleaned up the text on the front page. I sent him a pair of briefs for the help -actually, I was sending them to him regardless as he sounded interested, and I could use all the interest I can get. BTW -I beat him in 3 sets, and am happy as I seriously thought that I was going to get pounded. He beat me the first set 6-2! The next two sets were both tiebreaks which I squeaked by. I remember thinking going into the 3rd set that win or lose, this was a fun match. Maybe I am actually starting to mature??? J/K I am still competitive, but seriously not too concerned with my singles skills as I am not sure how long my body will hold up to singles competition. It is partly due to my competitive nature that I feel will ultimately do in my body, as I tend to play each point too hard. I am starting to realize that at 45, I really need to play more intelligently and not run myself ragged -even though that is fun in itself and is a good portion of the reasoning behind my picking up tennis in 2009 in the first place. The best way to preserve my body I have found is to avoid single competition and stick to doubles…but singles is the truest test on a tennis court that there is.
Anyway, in summary, sport has once again provided the motivation to get around to updating my site and trying to take this underwear project more seriously. The desire is there on my part, but in streaks…I don’t want to make excuses, but I do have a lot of them (excuses that is).