July 27, 2010
Had a wonderful weekend this past week at the Pacific Northwest Championships at the Tacoma Lawn & Tennis Center. The beautiful event is the second longest running open tournament in the United States, in its 119th year.
From the way the courts are set up you feel like you are playing at a pro event. As you walk in, there is stadium seating on your right cascading down to six courts, all in a row, with sponsor banners everywhere, lining the fences on the court and the seating behind them. On your left is a beautiful green grass lawn, with a hospitality tent for food and drinks, a player’s tent, tables for spectators to sit at, and two brand new cars being shown off by the title sponsor of the event.
The club is nestled right into the heart of the old Tacoma residential area, surrounded by gorgeous old homes and just a couple blocks from the water, and has such a classic, rustic feel to it. It is maintained to perfection, and you can tell that the TLTC takes pride in their historic event.
As for the tennis, I had another good week on the courts. When the draw came out I knew I was going to have a tough road ahead of me, but like I mentioned last week I knew how important it was to stay focused on the one match that was directly in front of me, and try to refrain from looking ahead. I was seeded fifth in the main draw, and first round I faced a qualifier, Geoff Hernandez, a tough counter-puncher and clean ball striker who wears the purple of the University of Portland Pilots. The 6-2 6-1 score was not indicative of the challenge of the match, but nonetheless it put me in the round of 16.
Two Boise State players loomed ahead of me in the next two rounds on Friday. First up in the round of 16 was Filipp Pogostkin, the reigning WAC Freshman of the Year and an extremely tough and talented player out of the Seattle area. I knew I was going to have to play a very disciplined and solid match, because I knew Filipp’s capability to get hot and start hitting every shot in the book. When you play someone with that type of game you can’t let the way they are playing get in your head and bother you. Sometimes they will come up with great shots and other times they will miss. You must play percentage tennis with them and force them to beat you with the low percentage shot. If they can beat you doing it then “too good”, but you’ve forced them to beat you when the odds are not in their favor. Fortunately, I played a disciplined and smart match for most part, and won in three sets.
Next up that afternoon in the quarterfinals was Luke Shields, a two-time All-American for the Broncos and an excellent player with a big forehand and great hands around the net. Coming out I knew he was a bit hobbled from a tough match earlier in the day, which turned out to be a big mistake. Whenever your opponent is hurt, cramping, or whatever it is that might affect their level of play, you cannot fixate on it. You must maintain your focus on your game plan and not assume anything about your opponent. I thought I would just be able to run him around a little bit in the beginning and then maybe he would throw in the towel, but that kind of thought only turned out to be destructive. Luckily, I won the first set 6-4, but then he seemed to only get stronger as the match progressed and he took the second 6-3. I tried to regroup but still remained fixated on trying to perhaps expose his fatigue, but to Luke’s credit he never made it evident. We held serve all the way through the third, and after I served out of a jam at 4-4, down 0-40 and triple break point, I ended up breaking him to win the match 6-4 in the third.
After the long day on Friday my Saturday morning semifinal awaited against the number one seed Roman Borvanov, a very experienced touring pro who has reached the top 300 and now sits currently at 645 in the world. He’s a very solid baseliner who takes control of points extremely well and forces you to play a great match to beat him. I knew I was going to have to take a little bit more risk than usual in order to keep him off the baseline and dictating play in order to have a chance. He came out strong in the first set, and was serving for the first set at 5-4 when he threw in a couple mistakes and gave me a some chances. I took them, broke back, sustained my level of play and won the first set in a tiebreaker. I continued to ride the momentum into the second set, playing aggressive and serving big, trying to give him little rhythm and opportunity to dictate the play of the match. I got my break in the second set at 3-2, and reached 5-4 where I had the chance to serve for the match. To Roman’s credit, he played his best game of the match up until that point, broke me, and kept up his increased level of play which led him to a second set victory in a tiebreaker.
At this point, we had filled the stands and the local crowd was getting into the match, cheering loudly after every point. The other semifinal that was going on next to us was just finishing, and so everyone huddled over to watch our third and final set. With the crowd growing above and the tension rising, Roman kept up his high level of play early on in the third and got off to a 4-0 lead. We played a long deuce game on my serve, and I ended up holding after what seemed like a half hour of going back and forth from deuce, and I let out a huge “Come on!”, half-kidding with the crowd at 4-1 down in the third, but also trying to rally myself and turn the negative energy that had built up inside me early on in the third into positive energy, trying to keep the fight going as long as possible. We proceeded to hold serve for the rest of the match, and he finished me off 6-2 in the third, but not after a long, tough fight, a three and a half hour battle. The TLTC crowd made it a special moment for me, giving us both a standing ovation following the last point of the match, along with another standing ovation as I walked off the court, exhausted and defeated after the grueling match in the summer heat. I had given it my all, which is all you can ask for I guess, and it felt really nice to know that it was recognized and appreciated by the people there watching. I was told later in the day by tournament staff that it was one of the loudest crowds they had ever seen at that tournament in all the years they had worked there. I want to thank everyone in Tacoma for the beautiful event and the wonderful support, and it will be a match that I will learn and grow from, and remember for a long time.
I’ve been resting for the past 36 hours, letting the body and mind recover from the tough weekend. My muscles were sore and all the emotion that goes into competing had drained me, but today I start preparing for the next tournament that starts this Thursday, the adidas Open Championships in Portland, OR. I will be getting in two hits today, each of which will be about an hour and a half long, and a 20 mile bike ride to loosen up the muscles and get blood flowing again. Tomorrow will consist of one longer practice session, and then tournament play begins Thursday night for me with our first round doubles match, followed by two singles matches on Friday. Hopefully I can keep up my level of play and continue the success into the weekend!