Going into the match I kept thinking what a great opportunity this is. Looking back, I think this hurt me.
I started the match surprisingly tight even though I had no reason to be so. I was the clear underdog playing against Ashley Hewitt, a player currently ranked inside the top 500 in the world. However, for some reason I felt the pressure. It could’ve been because I knew that while one ATP point was great, another win and a couple more points would be ideal and an opportunity that I might theoretically not have for a few weeks, as you never know what can happen in the qualifying rounds. Negative much? My word, terrible.
With that said, I was feeling very confident. I said to my doubles partner, Dean O’Brien, before the match while we were warming up that it’s amazing what a few wins can do for one’s confidence. All of a sudden I felt solid, consistent, and powerful. It’s a funny game, tennis. It is just outrageous how mental it is and how much your mental approach, inner thoughts and confidence can affect your performance.
I started the match out pretty well with an easy hold. Hewitt had a big forehand and an overall rock solid baseline game. I knew that if I wanted to be competitive I had to get into the net. Unfortunately I felt a little sore and beat up from the previous few days. There’s nothing quite like tournament stiffness and I had a bad case of the tight hammies and hips. The problem with this for me is that tight hamstrings, hips, and glutes inevitably lead to knee pain.
Sadly enough this time was no different, and as the match got started I felt some serious tightness in my right knee and the old faithful sharp pain that follows. I really struggled to get myself going. Shot-wise however, I felt as if I was hitting the ball perfectly off both wings. I was just finding it very difficult to maintain offensive court positions against such a strong, steady player. Things never really clicked and I lost the match 6-3 6-3.
All in all it was a great week for me. In my first Futures tournament I was able to do exactly what I set out to and get my first ATP point. This one little point will help me immensely in the coming weeks as it will enable me to get into the qualifying of almost every tournament. With regards to my game I really learned a lot. It was great to watch so many great players play and practice and it really helped me to begin to figure out what elements are important in a match. While technique differs greatly, there’s something that all of these top players do very well and that’s move and get themselves into balanced, correct positions. As you get higher and higher up the totem pole of tennis, the game becomes less a game of brute strength and power and more a game of strategy, movement and finesse. Therefore, if you don’t move well and you don’t consistently get yourself in good balanced positions, you can’t make the clean contact that you need to be competitive at this level.
So it’s been a week of highs and lows and a lot of learning. With more weeks and more experience I can only get better. I’m really looking forward to England and getting my game back on the grass.