Khon Kaen Futures #1

Khon Kaen courts.

Khon Kaen courts.

March 29, 2011

The first tournament of the three-week circuit in Khon Kaen, Thailand has started and finished for me. After a first round win in the singles qualifying over fellow American Amrit Narasimhan, I was ousted in the final round by Frenchman Thibault Venturino. The following day my partner Matt Simpson and I competed in the main draw of the doubles event, and lost in the first round to the #3 seed, Rupesh Roy of India and his partner Chris Rungkat of Indonesia in a match-tiebreaker for the third set.

I felt good about the singles competition, meeting my performance goals (being strong mentally and serving a high first-serve percentage) and improving with every match I play. In the first round against Narasimhan, I was broken in the first game of the match, broke back a few games later, and exchanged holds until late in the set. I squeaked out a tough hold to go up 6-5 in the first, and then managed to break my big serving opponent in the next game, taking the first set 7-5. The next set held a similar theme, as I was broken once again in the first game of the set, immediately broke back in the next game, and exchanged holds until late in the set. I buckled down in the eighth game of the set to get another break of serve, and held my serve to close out the second set 6-3 and take the match.

My biggest priority going into the match was my mental toughness, playing each point focused and tough and not letting previous points affect me, and it turned out to be the key in the match. If I got down early in one of my service games, instead of getting frustrated and throwing away an additional loose point to put me in a deep hole in the game, I slowed down between points, focused in, and played a tough point. In my return games, I was getting aced frequently by my big serving opponent and was not getting many looks at returns. Instead of getting frustrated, I stayed patient, waited for my opportunities, and took advantage of them at crucial moments in the match. This was a big win for me, not only putting my first singles win of 2011 on the board, but in the manner I got the victory, with good patience, focus, and mental toughness.

In the next round, I faced a tough opponent in Frenchman, Venturino. I struggled early in the first set, getting impatient in rallies and making far too many unforced errors, and dropped the first set 6-2. Like the previous day, I didn’t let the shaky start bother me, and I came out tougher in the second set, making more balls and being more aggressive and assertive in my service games. We held all the way through the second set until I was broken at 4-5 to drop the match, 6-2 6-4.

My doubles partner, Matt.

My doubles partner, Matt.

In the doubles, my first serve percentage was dreadfully low in the first set, which cost us two breaks of serve and the set, 2-6. In the second set, my partner and I both returned more effectively, breaking Roy’s serve twice, and I righted the ship in my service games as we took the second set 6-3. As is the rule with all doubles matches now on the pro tour, we played a deciding 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Matt and I made a couple crucial errors early in the breaker, which we never could recover from, and dropped the tiebreak 10-4. The match was equally a confidence builder and a disappointment, as we by no means played our best tennis, but still had our chances to win the match against a very good and experienced team. With the no-ad scoring and the match tiebreaker for the third set, anything can happen in doubles at the pro level, and matches can turn very suddenly. You have to be ready to take advantage of opportunities, as they come and go quickly, and play high-percentage tennis on the crucial points to put pressure on your opponents to come up with the goods. Unfortunately Roy and Rungkat did this a little bit better than us, and that was ultimately the difference in the match.

Following the busy Monday where I played my doubles match and practiced for an additional three hours, I took a day off today from tennis. I had been feeling rushed ever since I had started traveling almost a week ago, constantly being on a schedule and a slave to time as I constantly have to be aware of what time I’m going to sleep, waking up, eating, practicing, and playing my matches.My  body and mind become the main priority; fine tuning it so that I’m feeling my best when I need to compete. When I’m not competing, I must find a balance of making physical gains (on and off court training, stretching, doing what I need to do to be fit and fresh) and also staying fresh and rested mentally in order to be sharp in matches. When I eat, when I sleep, when I practice – everything has to be calculated and well-timed.

So the day off today was nice, relaxing, and much needed. I still stayed active with a tough gym workout this afternoon, but the rest of the day has been very low-key, sleeping in, spending time in Starbucks on the internet, and giving me the chance to plug away at the book I’m currently reading. Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll look to practice twice a day, once early in the morning before players start warming up for their matches and once following the conclusion of the day’s matches, all while hitting the gym in the middle of the day. I’ll then taper Friday, practicing once, and prepare for the next tournament, which starts Saturday. The positive aspect of the early exit from the tournament this week is that it enables me to put in extra practice time on the court and go hard in the gym.

Stay tuned for updates from Thailand as I train and prepare for next week. Thanks for reading!

-AG

After two days of traveling…I’ve arrived!

Andy in Khon Kaen, Thailand

Andy in Khon Kaen, Thailand

March 26, 2011

Khon Kaen, Thailand

After over 36 hours of traveling I have finally reached my final destination of Khon Kaen, in the northeast of Thailand. My day and a half of travel was exhausting, taking 5 flights and waiting over 12 hours in an airport, 10 of which were spent in Bangkok waiting for my last flight. I arrived late Thursday night, met with my roommate/doubles partner for the three weeks (New Zealander Matt Simpson) and crashed the instant I laid down in bed.

I practiced twice yesterday (Friday) in order to adjust to the humidity of the Thai summer. The dense, wet air makes you sweat a ton and makes breathing sometimes a bit of a struggle, but each day I spend here I am getting more and more accustomed to the change in weather. I’m pounding tons of water and electrolyte-replacement drinks because the most important thing in a climate like this is to stay hydrated. As soon as you get dehydrated on the court your energy is zapped, your muscles stop working, and you can even get heat exhaustion and collapse. So it’s lots and lots of water for me!

Feels nice to be back in Thailand and around this beautiful, easy-going culture. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles because of how happy, welcoming, and relaxed the people are. It is the only country in Asia to never be under foreign reign, and because of that you can feel the history and originality of the culture and the national pride of the people. It is important to “save face” in public for the Thais, and it is looked down upon to raise your voice, make a scene, and create a confrontation in front of people. They are care-free and relaxed. They drive like no one is around and walk like they have nowhere to go. And of course the food is absolutely incredible…personally my favorite cuisine in the entire world.

When I’m not on the court, eating, or sleeping, I’ve been spending my time walking the streets, reading my books, and watching BBC and soccer with Thai announcers on TV. This morning I woke up and hit the gym early to get in a light workout, did a number on the hotel’s buffet breakfast to fuel up for the day, all in preparation for my first round qualifying match this afternoon. I haven’t seen the draw yet, so my focus for the match is to keep a high first-serve percentage and play each point tough, regardless of what happened in the previous point. I don’t want the past or the future to affect the point I’m playing in the present.

Stay tuned for updates from the first of three Futures in Khon Kaen, Thailand…thanks for reading!!

-AG

Got Grap?

As far as I’m concerned, Yonex Super Grap lives up to its name.

No, not the grap part. I’m not even sure what grap is? I’m talking about the super part. Super Grap is simply a super grip. Not only does it absorb sweat well, it offers some nice tack and is pretty durable for an overgrip.

Plenty of grips have come along to imitate Super Grap, such as Wilson Pro Overgrip, but Super Grap will always be the original, and in my opinion is still the best.

It offers just the right amount of thickness for an overgrip. There’s enough material for some cushioning and comfort, yet not so much that I lose bevel feel. Super Grap over a leather grip is about as good as it gets for racquet feel for me. As tennis players, we feel everything through our hands first, and that feel of a Super Grap over a leather grip immediately improves the feel I get from any racquet.

There’s pretty much only one scenario that has me straying from Super Grap as my first choice. When I’m playing in really hot, humid weather, nothing beats the absorption of a Tournagrip. I used to be a Tournagrip guy through and through, but once I discovered Super Grap, I was converted for all but the hottest and stickiest days.

Super Grap doesn’t just impress on the performance front, it also offers visual appeal with the large variety of colors available. Depending on my mood, I can throw on a bright, contrasting grip, or go darker or more tonal. As I write this we have 9 different color options of Super Grap available. With so many color choices, I’m going to have to buy some more racquets just to keep up!

Cheers,

Chris.