Today, I turned the corner. Huge, huge day.
I played the Men’s Opens down in Plantation today. It is sort of like one step below the futures qualifying. In the first round, I was lucky, as the player I was supposed to play didn’t show, and I got a walkover. That first match would have been at 12:30. As it was, I got a walkover. I decided to go watch the players I would be playing in the next round, and studied them both.
Then as I had several hours to burn, I hit the gym to work some wrist muscles, then came back, watched some matches, stretched and warmed up, and got ready for my 4:30 match.
In the first set, I served the first game. It was a long, several deuce game, I saved a break point, and eventually held. That set the tone for the match. He held for 1-1, but then 2 double faults doomed me in the 1-1 game as I gave the break. He holds for 3-1, I hold for 2-3. He again holds for 4-2, I hold myself for 3-4. I was serving especially well today, I really think that the wrist exercises I did earlier in the day really helped. He holds for 5-3, and at 3-5, 2 more double faults again contribute to my giving away of the break, and the set, 3-6.
I head to the bathroom after the set, and come back and break him to open the second set. Unfortunately, I again gave away the break for 1-1. He holds for 2-1, I hold for 2-2. He holds for 3-2, I hold for 3-3. He holds for 4-3, he breaks me and serves for the match at 6-3, 5-3.
As he serves for the match, I talk to myself in my head. “Well, even if he holds here, 6 games is a great performance at this level.” Then, my mind said: “Fuck that shit, I am done with moral victories.”
I end up breaking him at 15 to get it back on serve at 4-5. This 4-5 game was mega epic. I believe I saved 1 match point, at 4-5, 30-40, but he thinks I also saved 1 or 2 more ad out match points. Whatever the case, I stared down the barrel of the gun and lived to tell the tale. My mentality when down match point? Get that serve in play. On the forehand, hit it with everything you’ve gone through and have no fear. I won that game with big serving and no fear forehand winners.
At 5-5, he seemed shook. A few doubles, and I think I broke him to 15 or even love. Too bad I messed it up at 6-5, donated the break back, and now we in a tiebreak. He holds for 1-0. I double fault for 0-2. I hold for 1-2. He holds for 3-1. I break for 2-3. I double fault for 2-4. I hold for 3-4. He holds for 5-3, he holds for 6-3. 3 more match points to stare down. My mindset? Just hold your serves here, make him serve it out. First serve, forehand, forcing error, 4-6. Another first serve, another forehand attack, no fear down match point, 5-6. At 6-5, I don’t remember exactly how I won the point, but I think he made an error, for 6-6, 3 more match points saved in a row. My mindset the whole tiebreak was not to be satisfied. Want more, take it, it is here. This is all you got for another week if you lose. Another week of agony, of despair, of sleepless nights, fuck that. Take this shit, it is yours.
He holds for 7-6, and he gets yet another match point. I think on this one I hit a great serve and he missed the return, for 7-7. Then at 7-7, I play a strong point, approaching the net, and I get an easy forehand volley down the line, he is way out of court, open, clear as day, and I miss it well long. It was at this point that I thought, for a split second, that I might lose the match. Then I just focused on getting the return into play. At 8-7, his 5th match point in the tiebreaker alone, and his 6-8th match point overall depending on what really happened in the 4-5 game, he hits a good serve to my backhand, and I step in, take the one handed topspin backhand return on the rise, and nail it deep into the backhand corner. He is able to get the ball back, but I finish with the forehand, to save yet another match point. At 8-8, we had a great rally on his serve, I eventually got into hitting my forehand inside out to his backhand and eventually he made the error. At 9-8 now on my own serve, we have a great rally, I move into the net, stick a volley down the line, he throws up a lob, I hit the overhead, he gets the overhead, throws up another one, and this one I make no mistake, crushing into the corner for the winner, the set, and a huge primal yell from myself.
So we split sets here, and this means we get a new can of balls, and a few minutes rest. As I head to get the new balls and take my bathroom break, I reflect on my level of play, tell myself that the work is not done yet, that I must do more, not to be satisfied with where I am. There was still a third set to be played. The match started at 4:30 in the afternoon, and the first set was in the late afternoon, setting sun. As the second set wore on, the sun continued to set, and nightfall began. The flood lights kicked on, and as the sun finished setting, the moon was now visible. This day-night transition took place right during the peak climaxing moments of the second set, and by the time I got the new can of balls for the third set, the night had totally set in.
We got going in the third set, he had a shirt change, but I saw his mentality going downhill. Some more “puta madre” from him, smacking balls into the fence, and I knew that if I stayed the course, kept serving well, I should win this. I am good enough. But he breaks me to start the third, and I rebound to break him back. That 2nd game was huge. If he had held there for 2-0, I don’t know if I would have come back. As it was, I held for 2-1, he holds for 2-2, I miss a break point. I hold for 3-2, he holds for 3-3, and I miss 2 break points there. I try to stay the course, but he breaks me for 4-3. I keep telling myself to keep fighting, it ain’t over. I get the break back for 4-4. At 4-4, we have a several deuce game and I eventually hold for 5-4. He struck back with a solid hold for 5-5.
This game I was ruthless, holding after a few deuces, backhand winners, forehand winners, serving winners, closing points at the net, I had to do it all in this game to hold for 6-5. At 5-6, he missed the first serve, but hit an ace on the 2nd serve. He twisted me up. The serve went in the air one way, landed and spun the other way. It was part shank, part on the line, and I slipped and fell on the clay. “Are you okay?” he calls out. “Yeah. Good serve.” I say. I wipe myself off with a towel. At this point, all the other matches are done except ours and another one. The other courts are getting watered, it is do or die time. He has 15-0, but I get to 15-15. He gets 30-15, but I get back to 30-30. He hits a 2nd serve, I step in and hit a great forehand deep down the middle and force an error. At 30-40, match point for me, I dig in to return. He misses the first serve. I step in a few steps, and mentally I am so into it, and I am so ready to take it, to claim it, to seize what is mine….
He ends up hitting a double fault, and my celebration is thus less explosive than it would be had I won the final point on an epic rally or something. I just look up to the sky, smile, and fist pump like a mofo. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can’t tell you the feeling. It is just validation. Validation of my training, validation of my preparation, of everything I’ve gone through, this kind of match can turn your whole life around. Perhaps as the sun set in that 2nd set, a part of my life’s sun set as well. And now is the beginning of my true career.
We finished the match at 8, so 3.5 hour match. I play 9 am tomorrow, vs. the 3 seed, so I kinda gotta go to bed right now. Let’s see what’s going on.