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.
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!