My doubles partner Ibrahim and I at the Yonex Cup.
Friday night brought the challenge of the quarterfinals of the doubles draw. My partner Ibrahim and I were set to play Rylan Rizza and Peter Lucassen, both good players and both still in the singles tournament. I had been pretty sore all day. To be honest after my long singles and doubles matches on Thursday night I felt as if I had been hit by a bus. When my feet hit the ground on Friday morning I was a little concerned about my match that night. I did, however, have the whole day to try to recover which I took full advantage of. I iced and stretched multiple times, rubbed muscle cream into my quads, hips and knees, and tried every trick in the book to loosen up. Thankfully it was Day 2 of the Masters golf tournament, so that kept me occupied for most of the day as I laid on the floor in my living room trying to expedite the healing process. By mid-afternoon I felt pretty good. I felt I was ready for another tough match that evening.
Thursday night’s match turned out to be a real battle. I started the match well. I felt confident and ready to cause a big upset. Again, I was fortunate to be in good serving form. The match went on serve until 4-4. I had been holding fairly easily and had created a couple of good chances to break. I held at love at 4-3 and knew that this was the moment to step up. I made a few deep returns and really put pressure on his backhand, coming into the net a few times and finishing the points with a volley, something I’ve always liked to do. These tactics worked and I had the break. I held to close out the set 6-4.
Winning the first set in such simple fashion took me by surprise and I started the second a little off my game. I sprayed a few balls in the opening game but then managed to regain my composure and hold in the second game of the set. The second set turned out to be a very frustrating one for me. I continued to hold serve easily and created many opportunities to break. I started every one of his service games up 0-30 but then I would miss a few returns, he would hit a few good serves and the game would be over. However, I tried to stick to my game plan and felt that a break was just around the corner. We went back and forth and finally at 5-5 I had 3 break points, and I thought it was my moment. Unfortunately he played a few good points, I got a little tentative and again he escaped with a hold. At 6-5 I suddenly felt the pressure. I hadn’t lost my serve in two days but all of a sudden I was a bit tight. I started the game with a double fault, which was not good. I managed to pick myself up and get the game back to deuce. Unfortunately, playing a no-ad scoring format meant that I had a point to take it a tiebreak and he had a point for the set. I hit a good kick serve right into his body, he tried to run around it and hit it up the line, but he completely miss-hit it and hit a frame winner inside out. I was not happy but I knew it was my mental lapse that had put me in that position in the first place.
The warm up started with that all too familiar feeling. Heavy, lethargic legs, sweaty palms and a sudden inability to think straight – I was tight. While it was quite a rush to feel this way again having not played a match in what’s felt like forever, I unfortunately had the immediate problem of getting through the warm up without whiffing (completely missing) the ball and then attempting to win the match. Luckily towards the end of the warm up, through excessive bouncing around, I managed to get myself going.
I was playing against Brennan Faith, a big serving left hander from Southern California. Having not played a left hander in a long time this in itself brought up a whole new set of challenges. I had decided going into the match that if I won the toss I would elect to receive. I’ve done this quite a lot in the past as I’ve always felt like that first game is your best opportunity to break serve, as your opponent’s head isn’t quite in the game and his shots aren’t dialed in. Plus, I knew starting out I would be a little tight. My plan worked and I broke serve fairly easily. I made a lot of returns and hit the ball to big targets. My basic game plan was to be as solid as possible. I wanted to try to control my urges to go for flashy shots and simply try to be consistent while still being aggressive. For example, make a lot of first serves, hit a lot of returns up the middle, and try to be aggressive to a big target. This way I knew I wouldn’t be asking too much of myself and I’d give myself a little room for error and the inevitable tightness.