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.
October 22, 2010
After waiting four days to get on the court due to a number of rain delays, my doubles partner Gary Sacks and I lost in the first round of the Calabasas Challenger 6-3, 6-2 to the No. 4 seeds, Rik de Voest of South Africa and fellow American Bobby Reynolds. Both de Voest and Reynolds are former top 50 in the world players, and their exceptional skill and experience showed on Thursday night. They executed doubles fundamentals extremely well, making a lot of well placed first serves and a high percentage of returns, while being very solid around the net and making very few volley errors. By playing solid, high-percentage doubles, they put the pressure on us to come up with “something special,” forcing us to overplay a lot of shots and make unnecessary errors. The result was a routine straight-set victory for the more experienced team and a great learning experience for Gary and me.
I took a lot away from the match, both things that I did well and can build on and other weaknesses that were exposed by the seasoned veterans that I will need to work on to succeed at a higher level. Let’s start with the positives…
I’m continuing to see that my return of serve, which has been a strength of mine my entire life, is holding up as a strength at every level I play. I’m able to defend against strong first serves while also attack second serves, and yesterday my return was one of the things I did well that bothered my opponents. Secondly, my serve is continuing to improve, and I served pretty well yesterday, hitting my spots and making a high percentage of first serves. I’m going to need to keep working on serving smarter and to the right spots at the right time to set up points around the other strengths of my game.
On the other hand, my net game was exposed last night, and I made way too many errors around the net. What I’m noticing about all the good doubles players whom I’m running into is they make very few errors around the net. When the ball is drilled at them or they have to make a tough first volley off a return of serve, they play a smart, solid volley, usually through the middle of the court so the opposing team has no angles to work with. They also make quick aggressive moves around the net and play the ball to the right spot at the right time. Last night, I learned that I need to be more solid with my volleys and not to try to do too much with the ball when I’m making an aggressive move or when the ball is ripped hard at me. I made too many unforced errors on my first volley as well as when my partner and I were up at the net, and those free points were the main reason why we lost. I’m learning that it’s not necessarily the ability to come up with unbelievable shots that sets players apart, but just the ability to play the smart, solid shots consistently under pressure that makes the difference.
Overall, the match was a good learning experience, and I was able to take much away from it and have things to work on for the near future. I’m a rookie on the tour, and rookies have to take their lumps and go through these learning experiences. It’s what makes the veterans players experienced. I’ve been in a lot of new situations, and as I go through them I’m learning and becoming better at knowing how to handle them and succeed. Tthe key thing I must remember is that I’m in these new situations because I’m playing at a level I’ve never played at before, and if I wasn’t improving or doing well, I’d just be playing in tournaments and be in situations that I’ve seen a thousand times. So these type of matches are to be expected, and all I can do is look at them in a positive light and grow from them. The next time I’m in a main draw of a Challenger I’ll be more comfortable and have a little better idea about how to handle it.
So now I can finally get ready for Laos and Thailand. I’m taking today (Friday) off from tennis, but I’m still going on a run along the beach this afternoon to keep the body loose. I’ll practice over the weekend, and on Monday, and then head to the airport Monday night for my 18-hour flight to Bangkok! Thanks for reading!
October 21, 2010
My entire life has been in a rain delay over the past few days. I was scheduled to play my first round doubles match in the Calabasas Challenger on Monday night, but due to all the rain that we’ve been getting in the Los Angeles area over the past few days, my match kept getting postponed. Day after day I waited, all with my Wednesday night flight to Thailand looming ahead in the very near future. But the weather would not cooperate, and my match continued to get pushed back all the way until tonight (Thursday night), forcing me to reschedule my flight to Thailand until next week. The opportunity to play in the main draw of this Challenger is something I just don’t want to miss. There are players in the top 500 in the world that struggle to get into Challenger events, and the chance to get some valuable ATP points is something I can’t let myself pass up.
So the past few days have been a little bit hectic, not knowing when the weather would let up and trying to rearrange all my travel plans to Thailand. It was frustrating just sitting and waiting, knowing there is nothing I can do but wait as the weather held my fate in its hands. I tried my best to stay active and loose, getting in stretching sessions every day and squeezing in a run on the beach between the torrential downpours on Tuesday. Once the rain let up and the courts were somewhat dry, I hit the courts yesterday afternoon for a couple hours. That was my first hit since my singles match in the qualifying on Sunday.
Today I will get in a good stretch in the morning and a warm up hit sometime during the day, while mentally preparing for the match tonight. I’m really excited to play! My partner Gary Sacks is playing in front of his hometown fans at the club he grew up and is also coming off a big win last night in the singles draw over former top-100 player Cecil Mamiit. I believe we have a good chance tonight if we can do the basics well, keep the first serve percentages high and make a lot of high-quality returns, and use the energy of Gary’s hometown fans to our advantage. Should be a lot of fun and a great experience!
Stay tuned for results from tonight, or follow all the action on procircuit.usta.com. Thanks for reading!