Day 3: Tough Loss

tonlarsI woke up again this morning hoping that my leg would hold up to give me a chance to compete. After a decent warmup, I felt as ready as possible given the circumstances.

My opponent was a very good young player who has committed to play for Virginia next year. He seemed flashy at first, playing quick and going for shots. I had a scouting report from a friend and thought it might be pretty accurate.

I started off the way I typically do — a little nervous, tight, yet focused. We were both striking the ball well and making aggressive plays, as well as unforced errors. He had a pretty good serve, and we kept holding til 5-5. I was playing fairly solid, and again pleased with how my leg was feeling. I even was running hard after tough shots and making defensive plays, which I hadn’t been able to do for about a week. Still uncomfortable and with the leg in my mind, I noticed that my footwork was hesitant at times. I was able to make some clutch plays to break and hold for a 7-5 win.

The 2nd set was very similar, and I really thought I would, and should pull out the win. Unfortunately, toward the end of the 2nd set I completely fell apart. I sailed and shanked forehands out to lose the second 6-4. I couldn’t believe what happened and was frustrated with the choke after many opportunities.

I still had the 3rd set and knew if I could just start hitting close to normal that I could do it. But my serve was struggling, and I was beginning to live on a second serve and donated some double faults. I broke to start the 3rd, lost my own serve, and this repeated again for 2-2. The wheels came off some more as I went down 5-2. I couldn’t believe it slipped away.

He began to start playing much better and figuring out a better game plan as I had been more consistent than him for the most part, and instead of going for shots he was grinding it out. No doubt he recognized that I was making some bad errors. He also made good use of the drop-shot to test my leg further. At that point, possibly because I knew I may lose, I started to relax quite a bit and also felt like I was hitting much cleaner. As a result, we were having some long points, and I finished with some forehand winners that felt familiar. Where had that been the last 2 hours? I came back to 3-5 and had a close game for 4-5 but ended up losing it 3-6 after going on 3 hours.

I’m pretty disappointed with the loss, and though he played well it was really my match to win that got away. I’m frustrated that I had to deal with an injury this week, but that wasn’t really an excuse for this individual match and more related to how we played. I guess you can only try to learn, get re-motivated and move on to the next event. Some days you’re at your best, some days you just don’t have it, and most days are somewhere in between.

BUT, we won our doubles and will have a tough quarterfinal tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we can win and extend our tournament! Should be fun!

Tony

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