I just got back from a National Open tournament in Reston, Virginia and had a great time! I was able to win the tournament after playing 5 matches, and enjoyed my first visit to that area. The goal, besides simply winning, was to get several good matches in as well as some confidence before heading into the rest of the tougher tournaments of the season. After a long weekend in Virginia, I came out with a National Open title, some prize money, and some national ranking points, so hopefully it will not be an issue getting into Futures tournament draws.
This tournament reminded me of how difficult the travel life of a serious tennis player can be. I was up at 3:30 am for our early flight out on Thursday, and was not really able to get much sleep before the alarm went off. Once in Reston, our hotel room would not be ready for a couple hours, so I tried to sleep very uncomfortably on a hotel chair and coffee table, and ended up getting a sore back in the process. When our room was finally ready, I went straight to the bed and zonked out for most of the day aside from a bit of time on the practice courts. My plan was to have my dad feed me a couple drills, but with limited access to balls, he ended up hitting with me (even though he has not played tennis in probably 10 years, which was the last time he hit with me!). Surprisingly, the old man still has some game and did pretty well, though I do have to hit every ball to his forehand (I did hit one hard flat forehand of mine at him which he whiffed and was pretty funny)! Luckily, a couple local players agreed to do some 2 on 1s with me once my dad’s elbow began to give out. After my hit, it was dinner and basically time for lights out.
My first match did not start until 7:30pm on Friday, so besides getting lunch I was more or less confined to the room, watching TV and playing a handheld video game until 6pm when I had arranged to hit with one of the local tournament players. Feeling a little better, but still drowsy and stiff, I had a decent 20 minute warmup with a college player from Boston College and soon enough it was match time. I came out of the gate pretty ugly, making many bad and uncharacteristic errors. The courts were extremely slow, and my opponent was a fast, fit grinder. Fortunately, I was controlling the points and took the first set 6-3 despite playing well below par. The second set went a little better, but I was still feeling not quite myself physically but won 6-2 — a win is a win and I knew I would play better as the weekend went on.
The forecast looked pretty grim with rain scheduled for all day Saturday and Sunday. I knew I would be playing a pretty good player Saturday morning and wasn’t sure what to expect. I started the match off very nervous and still making some unforced errors, but was focused and was winning the close games. I finally started playing decent and things were going my way. At 6-1, 3-0 it got too slippery, and we had to move the match to a private indoor court which was great for me since I play indoors all winter and that meant a faster court. I loosened up and found my groove to close out the match 6-0. The quarterfinal matches ended up being suspended until Sunday, which worried me, as I was going to be disappointed if I would have to default just to catch our plane (which was scheduled for Sunday evening). At this point, from what I could tell, the final was planned to be played Monday.
I woke up Sunday to a crummy, wet day. I was hoping to get one match in, but would be lucky to get a second one in. Based on his record and from watching, the quarterfinal match was going to be a true test as this guy was athletic, had some pop on his shots and did not play defensive like my first two opponents. We ended up getting an indoor court pretty early, and were only allowed a 5 minute warmup, with a 3rd set to be a 10 point tiebreak. I started the match serving, and with the short warmup, I came out just a little off and ended up getting broken. I played a decent 2nd game to break back, and settled into the match playing fine, but was a little nervous and tight. After getting my forehand going, I got out to a 5-2 lead, but my opponent was good and hung in there and broke me during a shaky service game at 5-3 (despite a couple set points); he then held and he brought it to 5-5. The next 2 games were relatively close, but I played stingy and took the set 7-5. I loosened up and started to play very well and he folded a bit as I took the second set 6-0! Turns out he has had a close 3 set match with a current ATP #400-something, as well as a decent battle with a current #100-something, so I feel it was a nice win.
With what I considered the toughest match out of the way, I felt a huge load off my shoulders and knew I would play really well the rest of the way, it was just a matter of the weather and indoor court access, which was out of my control. Luckily, the referee and director were going to try to finish the tournament that day, as scheduled (in part due to them knowing my flight was that evening, which was really nice of them). The indoor court was free to use for the semifinals, which we got started after a quick lunch (the other semi-final had a default due to a player choosing to leave for another commitment). This allowed for the other finalist to be fresh, but I knew 3 matches in one day shouldn’t be a problem for my fitness, and I was happy as a pig in mud!
Feeling loose and confident (as well as battling time to some extent), I had my foot on the gas pedal and was playing good tennis. My opponent was hitting a big ball, so I was playing more defense than usual. While not giving him anything easy to rip, I cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win. And somehow it magically cleared up outside and the sun was out, which meant we would be playing the final outdoors in 20 minutes!
I had not counted on necessarily playing 2 matches, much less all 3! We played the final and I continued playing well. This time against a grinder who covered the court well and hit very loopy topspin strokes which played right into my liking as I was able to play aggressive and flatten out every ball, going for lines, and keeping the points short I ended up getting a 6-0, 6-0 win to clinch the title. I really enjoyed this event — one thing that stood out to me was how friendly everyone was, including the players. Everyone I played had great sportsmanship and attitudes, and nearly every single player I watched was the same. I have never seen anything quite like it to be honest.
Next weekend, I am playing a high level tournament at my home club that I teach at which should attract some good players. I will be playing both singles and doubles. It is an invitational, so it will have a qualifier, and a main draw of only 8 (as opposed to the round of 64 in Virginia). I will update a little bit every day during the event and possibly get some video footage. Stay tuned and thanks again for your support!