Tacoma and Portland

Andy practices in the Portland Rose Garden

July 29, Tacoma, WA

In the past week, I’ve made my way up to Washington, and currently I’m competing in the Pacific Northwest Championships in Tacoma, at the beautiful Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club. Lots of good players from all over the world were drawn to the $20,000 prize, and because of that it has been the first tournament on this circuit that I haven’t been seeded at. In every tournament, they will rank (or seed) the top players and space them out in the draw so that they don’t have to play each other in the early rounds. The disadvantage of not being seeded is that you run into the top players early on in the tournament instead of in the quarters, semis, or finals where you can make money and your game starts to find its rhythm as you play a few matches.

This happened to me this week, as I ran into Boise State’s number one player, Damian Hume, in the second round. The speedy South African came out hot, putting the pressure on me to be aggressive and counterpunching effectively. After he took the first set 6-2, I settled into the match, and started to find my rhythm. I started serving better, getting more comfortable in rallies, and started coming forward to the net to finish off points. Against a tough, counterpunching baseliner, it’s crucial to be patient with groundstrokes, not overhit, and come forward at the right times to use your volleys to finish the point. Hume and I started having better points in the second set, and it was even for most of the set. I was serving at 4-5, 30-15, when two unfortunate bounces off the net gave him a 30-40 lead in the game and a match point. Down match point, I played a strong point, approached the net to his backhand, and hit a good volley into his forehand side. Hume scampered over and hit a running forehand pass down the line, and the match was his. Just like that! Three points earlier I was in control of my service game, ready to hold and take the set to 5-all. A couple of unlucky breaks and a great forehand pass later and the match was over. It all seemed to happen too fast! Oh well…

Now that I’m out of singles, my focus goes to the doubles court. Charlie Cutler and I will be battling it out in the men’s draw, and Leona Matzenauer, fellow TW-er Suzie Matzenauer’s mom, and I will try our hand at the mixed. It’s going to be a fun weekend filled with some good doubles, at a beautiful club surrounded by great people. I’m looking forward to it! I really hope to do some damage in both the draws!

My last week was spent in Portland getting ready for this tournament in Tacoma. Portland is a beautiful city, tucked into the hills right on the banks of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. It’s known for being the Greenest City in the country, with people using bike lanes all over town, and a great public transportation system that everyone uses. The downtown area is new and hip, with lots of great restaurants, shops, and bars to explore. The hills behind the city are covered in dark green trees, and offer incredible sweeping views of the city, the rivers, and the majestic Mount Hood in the distance. One of the coolest practices I’ve had all summer was on a court in the famous Portland Rose Garden, in the hills overlooking the city. It was a hot, clear day, and people were out enjoying the garden and the beautiful weather. The court we played on was right in the middle of the garden, with the fences all covered in vines and the colorful flowers all around. We had a great time taking in our beautiful surroundings and grooving our strokes for a couple hours. Good times in Portland!

Stay tuned as I become a doubles specialist for the weekend here in Tacoma. After this, I have the last tournament of the circuit, the Washington State Open, at the beautiful Seattle Tennis Club right on the banks of Lake Washington. Thanks for reading!

AG

The Oregon Coast

Andy discovers the soft sand of the Oregon beaches

July 20, 2011

Seaside, OR

This week is a much needed break from competition, having played seven tournaments in the last seven weeks. In my free time I decided to take a road trip out to my buddy’s beach cabin along the Oregon Coast by myself for a few days. I’ve grown to love the quiet, rugged coast of the Pacific Northwest, and wanted to take the opportunity to explore the area with my days off.

The drive west from Salem was your typical, yet breathtaking adventure through the beautiful backcountry that dominates the Oregon landscape. Small, two-lane highways navigate their way through lush forests and rolling hills with tall, green trees looming as far as the eyes can see. Tiny buildings litter the roads, either a local general store or your neighborhood bait shop, with miles of dense woods in between. You drive through little town after little town, amounting to little more than 2 blocks of storefront and a few old, wooden cottages.

The Oregon Coast is often overshadowed by its big brother to the south. The California Coast has the glitz and glamour, from the majestic beauty of Big Sur to the “Beach Boy summers” envisioned between Malibu and San Diego. It has the fame, the weather, and with it, the people and industry. People from all over the world flock to the beaches in Southern California to see if it looks just like it does in the movies, then they rent a motorhome, and drive up the hallowed Highway 1. Rarely do they make it all the way north through the Redwoods and into the state of Oregon.

The Oregon Coast isn’t the California Coast. The weather is brutal and cold, with temperatures rarely reaching the 60s even in the summer time. It’s cloudy and foggy most of the time, and the entire scenery blends together into a dullish grey wash. Instead of calm, sandy beaches, its jagged, rocky coastline, battered by rough ocean waters. However, the monotonous bluish-grey tint and rough coastline suggest an air of solitude and tranquility. Because of the brutal weather and violent seas, it’s a tough place to live. So instead of your heavily visited surf towns in California, you get small fishing villages that offer quaint and cozy places to stay for those seeking a little more seclusion and serenity.

Half of the locals look like descendents of Tom Sawyer, the other half descendents of Willie Nelson, but everyone is real, whole-hearted, and welcoming. The contrast of people blend together with a common distain for mainstream culture and large crowds of people. Back when people wanted to move away from a growing country, they moved west and they moved north. And this is where they ended up. It’s a collective energy of people seeking isolation and solitude, where people generally keep to themselves and just slowly live life, soaking up the beauty in the lands around them.

When sun creeps through the clouds, it lights up the coast with a vibrant energy. The monotonous grey color transforms into a contrast of deep colors. The water reflects a deep blue, set against lush green forests and grasslands. This time of year, the clearings between the groves of trees are a mix of soft brown and green, seemingly confused about whether it’s spring or summer, just like the weather they reside in. Today was one of those sunny days when everything seemed alive, so I decided to drive a few miles to a beach that you could drive your car onto. Families were all over, picnicking and letting their kids run crazy on the endless sand beach. I decided to find a somewhat isolated section of beach, park my car, and read my book all day, as the waves crashed less than 20 yards in front of me and the occasional screams of happy, playful children interrupted the steady roar of the rumbling sea.

I could tell by the cooling temperatures and lowering sun that it was getting late, so I got ready to head back. I started my car and hit the gas, but my tires just spun. I hit the gas harder and thrashed at the steering wheel, only to make my tires spin more and send sand flying everywhere. I got out and looked under the car, and observed the sand come up to within inches of the drivetrain underneath my car. I suddenly realized I was stuck, burried in the sand.

Despite a working cell phone and help being just a 10-minute jog away, I grew as concerned as one could be considering their options. Ultimately, I didn’t want the solitude of my solo vacation corrupted by the need to use my cell phone to call for help. I got out of the car, got on my hands and knees, and began digging. I dug frantically for 10 minutes, in front of each tire and under the car, trying to harden the sand so that my car wouldn’t keep sinking and had something to grab a hold of. I got back in the car and tried again. I hit the gas hard. My car gave a hopeful jolt forward, but continued to spin in place, kicking up more sand than before. I got out, got back on my hands and knees, and started digging in.

This process continued for the better part of an hour, with me digging until I thought adequate, getting back in the car, spinning the tires, only to be most stuck and buried deeper than before. Finally, after digging for another 20 minutes, with all the sand from under the car shoveled out and packed down hard in front of the wheels, I hit the gas one more time, and after a couple jerks, my Jeep broke free. A huge relief swept over me, and I drove home in silence. The voices that you develop in your head after spending three days by yourself sat dormant, embarrassed and frustrated, like an annoyed couple, sitting next to each other in a car blaming each other for being so air-headed as to get the car stuck on a beach. Needless to say, I was relieved and felt pretty stupid at the same time.

And about now you might be asking, “How could you get stuck with a Jeep? Couldn’t you just use the 4-wheel drive?” Well, no. I get a lot of crap from my friends in the Northwest for having the only Jeep within 500 miles to NOT be equipped with 4-wheel drive. They walk away muttering, “stupid, soft Californian…”

AG

Salem Summer Classic

Suzie and Andy

July 18, 2011

Salem, OR

It’s been another weekend of great tennis, great people, and great atmosphere here at the Salem Summer Classic. My friends John Devorss and Tim Layman did an incredible job directing the tournament, treating players like kings and adapting to the inclement weather over the couple days. The players were provided with a trainer, a masseuse, and meals everyday. We were met once again with undying support from club members who are eager to show their appreciation for the quality tennis. Once again a member of the club housed me, and I want to thank Mark for the great hospitality and allowing me to stay in his home for the week.

Tennis-wise, I posted some good results this weekend, but was still a little disappointed in “what could have been” if I would have capitalized on some more opportunities. In the singles draw, I defeated my doubles partner Trevor Dobson in the quarterfinals in straight sets, and then faced off with George Jecminek for the second time this summer. Because of the rain, the match was moved inside, and George used the quick, indoor conditions to his advantage by blasting his serves and forehands all match. I battled tough, but in the end George had a little too much game for me, taking the match 6-3 6-7 6-2.

In the doubles draw, Trevor and I squeaked through a close one in the quarterfinals, taking out the Oregon Ducks’ team of Alex Cornelissen and Michael Schaffer, 5-7 6-1 10-8. The sun peaked through Saturday afternoon, dried the courts for a brief bit, and we moved back outside for the semifinal, taking on the Boise State team of Vicente Joli and Stephen Robertson. We toughed out a close first set, lost a close second, and headed to a 10-point tiebreaker once again to decide the third set and the match. Unfortunately, I did not play my best tennis in the tiebreak, and we were ousted by the eventual champions 6-7 6-3 10-6.

However, I did have mixed doubles success, winning the draw with good friend and fellow TW-er Suzie Matzenauer. Our toughest test was in our semifinal, when we took on local Curt Wheeler and U of O standout Julia Metzger. We started out hot, jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the first set, when all of the sudden our opponents caught fire! Curt was leaping and flying all around the court, Julia started serving huge and ripping the ball from the baseline, and they battled back to steal the first set 7-5. Suzie and I quickly settled down and took the second set 6-2, although we had to play some great tennis to do so. I got a lucky break at 8-7 in the third set super tiebreak when I shanked a backhand off my frame, over a leaping Curt Wheeler and landing just inside the baseline to give us a 9-7 lead. I hit a big out-wide serve and the match was ours, 5-7 6-2 10-7. We continued to ride our momentum into the finals, where both Suzie and I played lights-out tennis and defeated Craig Pierce and Sanja Lemes 6-2 6-1.

After the long weekend of tennis I decided I need a little break. I’m going out to the Oregon Coast once again to lay low and recover at my buddy’s beach house in Seaside, where I’ll spend a couple days relaxing, reading, and playing my guitar. After that it will be just doubles this coming weekend with my good friend Charlie Cutler, as we try our luck at the adidas Irvington Open in downtown Portland. The two biggest tournaments of the summer follow that, when I head to Washington for the Tacoma Lawn Championships and the Washington State Open in Tacoma and Seattle respectively. Stay tuned for updates as I give my body and mind a bit of a rest, and prepare for the climax of the summer circuit in the coming weeks…Thanks for reading!

AG