Saturday, 30 October 2010

My first tennis matchplay


So I played my first matchplay today down at Sutton tennis academy. Thought I'd record it here for reference later.

I'd been playing badly all week so I wasn't very confident going in. My shots lacked rhythmn and my serve was a nightmare. I kept double faulting. The week before I had been playing so well and I was really confused. On Friday realised I'd been tossing the ball really low. Tossing a little higher and I instantly served better.

As for my shots I'd been really patient and aiming at the hit zones of the guys I'd been playing. Allowing them to play good shots against me and forcing me to work on my footwork. Last week I stopped that. I started to try to win points outright, so the rallies we shorter, neither of us got a rhythm and we play badly.

So I was a little nervous going in. Getting a rhythmn on my shots is one thing but if I'm doubling faulting atleast once each service game then it's really hard to win a set. You're bound to lose atleast one service game this way and that can be enough to lose the set.
It was also a long drive down. I guessed it would take about 2 hours but given the road works that are on basically the whole route and the fact that it was the first time driving there it ended up being about 3 hours. So my bum was a little sore by the time I arrived, thankfully about 45 minutes early since I'd left about 11:40.

Normally I wouldn't mention this but it's worth remembering for next time cos I'm not used to playing a match after such a long drive. And I need to figure out the best way to handle it. Having a few warm up games might help but I didn't want to tire myself out.

When the match started I was a little nervous. I could feel my heart racing and was a little tense. Thankfully I managed to get my second serves in and my opponent didn't take too much advantage. I managed to win the first service game so got off on a good footing. I won the first set mainly because I kept my focus. I got very few first serves in. I couldn't find a rhythmn on it at all but my second serve was fine. I think I made just 2-3 double faults. I was broken once or twice but then broke my opponent several times. Kind of normal for the 9.2 level I'm playing.

My opponent was basically a pusher. He had no big shots to hurt me with but he was VERY consistent. I found that if I got into a long rally and didn’t attack him then he’d win out. But I generally won when he came to then net, I love a target. I also found he wasn’t that great on the move but I didn’t really exploit this enough. I kind of settled into baseline rallies a little too much. I found that whilst he never put any shot back very hard he often dropped them quite short or very high but generally with little pace. This is actually hard to attack. Atleast I find it hard. In the first set I think I was more patient. I didn’t try to win the point directly. I moved him around and quite often found a winning shot or made him miss  

The funny thin is that while I won the first set, neither of us could find a first serve. The second set was different because we both started finding our first serve. Me more than him. The problem was that it then gave him a consistent shot to hit and he started returning well. I often find this problem when I hit my serving stride. A serve with pace can easily get returned with pace. Many of my serves weren’t return and I even got an ace. He left me so much space on his right side I couldn’t miss.

I remember when starting the second set feeling really happy to have won the first. I felt I could relax and play my game more. Go for my shots. Bad move. Other competitions I’ve played only do 2 sets. So you either win or draw. I’d forgotten this competition plays a championship tie break so I still needed to win the second set.

I was starting to get a feel for the court, player and ball. Each were different than I’m used to. Indoors I find spin has more of an effect that outside. The balls seemed to bounce differently, but that’s probably cos they were fresh out of the tin and not 500 years old and bald . I also don’t play anyone like this guy so I was certainly winging it.

So I started swinging more freely. Against a pusher this isn’t the best move. In hindsight I should have started moving my feet better. Reason being that I was often slightly out of position when I played my shots. It was a small amount but it matters when you hit hard. It magnifies any mistake and throws your technique off. As is usual for me I tried to power my way through (I’ve been working on this, and get in better position, be more patient, yada yada yada but I am who I am and I did what I do and I paid for it). I should have taken the advantage I’d gained to explore my opponents weaknesses and strengths more. I don’t remember doing that. I just tried to hit harder. I had no real reason to feel this would help. Normally you just start hitting out when before you used to be just inside the line.
So unfortunately I started losing. I lost my serve, broke back then ended up 4-1 down. Mainly though losing my focus. I wasn’t being as cunning and throwing away points. I fought back to 4-3 but then lost the next two games and the set being complacent again.

For the championship set decider I never got ahead. I think the main problem is that I hadn’t figured out any particular strategies to beat the guy. I was just hitting as I felt. I noticed that he was attacking my backhand and I still hadn’t relaxed enough to punish him for that. While I was feeling confident on serve I wasn’t confident on my groundies enough to really attack him. I still put this down to lazy footwork and also a lack of tactics. I didn’t even think of the basic 1-2 punch. I didn’t use my serve as a tactic i was just happy to get it in.

I eventually lost 10-6. So overall it was quite close. All the other matches had finished by then so we’d certainly taken out time. I really enjoyed it. I’m kicking myself because I really felt I should’ve won but that’s why I want to compete. You have to earn you wins and I didn’t. I’m happy that I didn’t get down on myself at all and I got rid of my nerves. But I didn’t push hard enough with my footwork. Ao I still feel I could have attacked more by sorting out my base.

I was sweating like a trooper, glad I had a towel with me but I definitely need to get some sweatbands. My glasses were covered in sweat which actually got in my way at times. I should have cleared it off I was worried that I’d just smear my glasses and not see any better. it’s happened before but in truth I know I could have cleaned them properly on my top and being able to see well is what it’s all about.
I think I need to drink more water when I compete indoors. It just gets so hot and I sweat so much.
I’ve also got to start figuring out standard routines to win points. With my serve I should just expect a short ball and be ready to attack it.  I should also move my opponent from side to side. This guy didn’t have great movement but I hardly tried to move him at all. He also wasn’t that tall but I didn’t bring him in and lob him. I need to be practising all these different tactics so I’m familiar with them  and remember them when I need them in a match.

I’ve also got to tie these routines with tactics. I need to work on identifying my opponents strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t figure out what I should be aiming at. I was just hitting without purpose.  In hindsight I don’t know why I stood so far behind the baseline. I’ve been working on this cos I often stay on the baseline after the serve. This exposes me to guys who hit strong deep shots but this guy didn’t. Most were short and without power. I don’t know why I didn’t come in to mid court more so my shots would penetrate more.


To fix this I need to vary my practice more. Play against different guys and adopt these basics regularly. I really need to impose my style. This time I succumbed to a pushers style. I need to start forcing my style. then my shots will come together.

Perhaps you can now see why I’m a bit bummed. I think I really should have won but my tactics and approach was weak. I’ve got the shots but I didn’t use them properly. I'm glad I kept my cool and enjoyed myself. I also got my shots, particularly my serve working under pressure. Something I didn't do well previously. I think I played the points a little too much not the ball. I can work on these things. I’m hoping to try again in a month so hopefully I’ll do better.
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