There was a smell of dry leaves in the air outside, and new plastic inside the freshly-bubbled courts of the Prospect Park Tennis Center. The green grit of Har-Tru crunched under my sneakers as I spun out of the revolving door and onto resurfaced courts now free of divets. I walked out to Court 3, my Thursday morning destiny for the next 28 weeks.
The 2013-2014 Indoor Tennis Season is underway. Haters, I'm dedicating it to vanquishing not just my Worthy Opponents Tam Thompson, Surinder Singh, Henry Strozier and Nelson Simon, but my Tennis Hate.
I'm going to be stronger! Fitter! More composed! Hit more powerful forehands with a single wave of my arm! I will say only nice, sweet things on the court like "gosh" and "good shot!" and "gee whiz, that's a great drop shot." I will not swear, damn it, I will not swear. I swear!
Well, sh*t, I fell short.
My beloved Mark and I, playing together for the first time in months, lost to Surinder and Tam, 6-1, 0-6, 7-4 (tiebreak).
We had plenty of opportunities to take the tiebreak. During one point, with Tam and Surinder at net, Mark hit an excellent defensive lob, high enough to get over Skyscraper Singh and near the deuce court baseline. I was expecting the point to be over right then and there.
Ah, but that's future tripping, as performance coach Bob Litwin likes to say. I was already thinking about the next point, and not the one I was still playing. Surinder, his back to the net, hit behind and up on the ball, putting it back in play. It soared toward me in the ad court at net. An easy put-away. I was thinking cross-court angle, at Tam's feet.
That's what I thought. What I did was send the ball in the exact opposite direction, back at Surinder....and wide. I had taken my eye off the ball to see if Tam and Surinder and the court were still there. For some reason, I thought I might have accidentally teleported myself into some other time-space continuum.
After shanking that ball, I wished that were true.
Here's what I loved about our first match this winter season. We had a strong second set. We were close in the tie-break. We know what we have to do next time, and that is cut down on our own errors. We had 'em in the crosshairs several times, but let them get away because of simple things like not staying with the ball and taking mental bathroom breaks. In the middle of a point.
What are your tennis goals for the next 28 weeks?
I also held my serve. Yes, Haters, you read that right. I practiced scanning my body for tension before starting my service motion. It helped me relax and get physically present on the court, not in my head. I focused on hitting the slice serve that I learned during the US Tennis Congress, zeroing in on that 2:00 spot on the ball and swring the racquet through to 7:00. It didn't always have the Mariano Rivera cutter curving action I long for, but at least I tried it, and in the heat of a match, no less.
So, a noble start. How about you? What was your first indoor season match like? What are your goals for the next 28 weeks? Let's work on this together.