Just wanted to let you guys know how the semi-finals of the US Open National Playoffs went for me. The way I saw it, almost all of the pressure was on him to win since he was the top seed. I have been surprised with how well I have been playing recently, and it was time to just let it all hang out and do everything I could. At the same time, I was enjoying the tournament with such a fun setting.
My opponent, Jeff Dadamo, was a #1 player at Texas A&M, and was able to win the NCAA doubles title with Austin Kraijeck. On tour, he has won a few doubles titles, as well as being ranked in the top 500 for singles. I watched him play his match the other day, and he looked good. He plays a very aggressive game, with a huge serve. Whenever he gets a chance, he will go big on the shot. He has a one-handed backhand that he is content to chip a lot, but is capable of hitting big on that wing as well. To make matters worse, he is a lefty. I knew I would be able to be in the match with him based on groundstrokes, but the keys to having a chance to win would be returning serve, playing defense, and managing my own service games with smart play.
We were the 4th match on with a later start time than the first 2 days. After watching some of the Cinicnatti tournament on TV, we went in for a late lunch and again saw all kinds of top WTA players, like Wickmayer, Errani, Kvitova, Wozniacki, Hantuchova and more. It was starting to rain on and off throughout the afternoon, and I was uncertain of what the plans were going to be for our match. I was just hoping that they at least would not push the match back to Monday, and play indoors if possible. Because of the weather situation, the tournament referee came up to us and actually was looking to put us on court early while match #3 was being played. This caught me a little off guard but was not too much of an issue. I did the same routine as the day before by just doing a physical warm-up rather than a hit, and my energy level was definitely getting better from eating better food and getting sleep. One minor issue I had to deal with was sleeping on my neck funny, which resulted in a pretty bad neck pain, but I told myself that it was better than having an ankle or leg injury and I would be able to play through it.
We got on court to warmup and I was not feeling or hitting quite as well as the last 2 days, but I was determined to work hard anyway. The match did not get off to a great start for me unfortunately, as he was bombing serves in and then pretty much going for winners on anything, and making them. On my own serve, we got into some longer points that I was winning, but he also went for return winners on second serves and connected on a couple. Before I knew it, I was down 30-40 and lost serve to go down 2-0 as the rain started to come down hard enough for us to stop play and head back to the facilities. Definitely a bit of a deflating start!
We were delayed for about 45 minutes, and I knew it was going to be tough to battle a really tough opponent and not quite feeling 100%, but I was going to do the best I could. When we got called back out, we got moved to the bigger grandstand court, and that got me a bit more excited to play again! For the rest of the first set, we both kept holding serve with him being very dominant on his serve games, and I was able to win enough rallies and play smart on my end and finish the first set losing 6-3. Somehow, I was going to need to get a break to have a chance. Looking back, I needed to change my return strategy a bit to figure something out that worked better. Standing further back, cutting off the out-wide on the ad side, moving better while his toss was in the air are all things I know I will work to improve for next time.
The second set was very similar. I was just not quite hitting as well as I had been and I was making more errors than I would like. It was not bad, but I was just not quite all there. After getting in an early hole, we both kept holding serve until I got broke again at 3-5 at the very end to lose 6-3. His ace count was 12, if I recall, which also doesn’t include all of the forced errors or 2nd ball attacks he came up with. He definitely had a very forcing aggressive game centered around the serve, return, and 2nd ball. These are the things you need to be great at to be a touring professional at that level. The biggest things for me will be the serve and return to work on this year. As far as everything else, there are only very small improvements that can be made to continue to hold up well against the top players. As the tournament season winds down, I have some ideas on how to make these improvements and put more time into doing so.
Overall, it was again a really fun ride to play at the US Open National Playoffs. It is certainly the most fun experience I have ever been a part of, since the matches were professionally ran. Full lines crew, ball kids, people to watch, and being around the WTA players make it special. The prospect of getting to Flushing Meadows doesn’t hurt either! I have a few more good tournaments to play this fall that I will share with you guys, as well as my plans and progress toward training hard this year.
I thank you all so much again for your kind words and support, it really helps make it all worth while.