First match back

The warm up started with that all too familiar feeling.  Heavy, lethargic legs, sweaty palms and a sudden inability to think straight – I was tight. While it was quite a rush to feel this way again having not played a match in what’s felt like forever, I unfortunately had the immediate problem of getting through the warm up without whiffing (completely missing) the ball and then attempting to win the match. Luckily towards the end of the warm up, through excessive bouncing around, I managed to get myself going.

I was playing against Brennan Faith, a big serving left hander from Southern California. Having not played a left hander in a long time this in itself brought up a whole new set of challenges. I had decided going into the match that if I won the toss I would elect to receive. I’ve done this quite a lot in the past as I’ve always felt like that first game is your best opportunity to break serve, as your opponent’s head isn’t quite in the game and his shots aren’t dialed in. Plus, I knew starting out I would be a little tight. My plan worked and I broke serve fairly easily. I made a lot of returns and hit the ball to big targets. My basic game plan was to be as solid as possible. I wanted to try to control my urges to go for flashy shots and simply try to be consistent while still being aggressive. For example, make a lot of first serves, hit a lot of returns up the middle, and try to be aggressive to a big target. This way I knew I wouldn’t be asking too much of myself and I’d give myself a little room for error and the inevitable tightness.

I held serve to go up 2-0 and from that point on we both held serve until I was up 5-3. I had been holding serve fairly easily, I hadn’t quite broken since that first game but I was getting closer and closer. I felt like if I just stepped up my intensity just a little bit and got my returns a little deeper I would get the break. That’s exactly what happened. He got a little tight, I hit some great returns, and I won the first set 6-3.

This gave me the opportunity to start the second set serving and maintain my momentum. The first game got a little closer than I would’ve liked, as I felt him really step up his intensity in search of that early break. I managed to tough out the hold though, 1-0. The next game he served really well, and to be honest I returned poorly. I shook it off as that was the first game I felt I had really given away and not made him work for. I gathered myself and kept going. The rest of the set continued on serve, however I felt like I was really making him work for his holds, while I held fairly easily. Finally at 4-3 I had a break point. This was my opportunity to break, serve it out, and get out of there with a win under my belt. He aced me out wide, but I wasn’t impressed. For the rest of the game we went back and forth, as it felt like this was a defining moment in the match. If I could get the break it would be all over, but if he held he might find his second wind and make a comeback. I wasn’t about to let that happen. I dug deep and got myself another break point. He went for a big flat serve up the middle, I read it, and managed to get a racquet on it. Somehow it crept over the net taking him by surprise and I had the break, 5-3. I played a confident service game and held serve to close it out without a problem.

I won the match 6-3 6-3. It was a solid performance considering the situation. I felt like I played very well in parts and average in others, but what I was most happy with was my ability to maintain a good level of intensity throughout the match. I play again this evening at 6pm against the No. 1 seed, followed by doubles at 7:30pm. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for reading!

- Matt

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