Monday, July 7, 2008

NTRP Summary

Things that worked.
*My serve, though I need to remember to be more aggressive on that first serve!
*Fitness. Five matches in three days, and I'm okay! In fact, in that last match, I think I got better as I went.

Things that need to be improved.
*Footwork. I think this is the #1 thing that causes me to be so inconsistent. I'm not where I need to be to hit the shot I want (namely, deep and with spin). I hit way too many short balls, which are rarely punished by my opponents, but it will not get me to the next level.
*Consistency/Patience. This is more of a mental thing. I think I'm finally starting to understand...especially when I noticed that the winners I did hit were not the hardest shots I hit, but the ones with the best placement (and usually, spin).
*Strategy. I was able to find and exploit the weaknesses of some of my opponents, but it is taking me way to long (usually an entire set) to do so! If I come in, I also need to have a strong overhead for those lobs.

Questions for the peanut gallery.
1. Would you have played the consolation round, even if it meant possibly losing to a lower rated player? Because that happened to me today. Honestly, I'm a 3.5 in doubles for sure, but not necessarily in singles, where I would put myself as a 3.25! As always, there sure were a lot of 'no shows' in the consolation draw. Do some just figure 'screw it' if they don't get a shot at the 'real' final?
2. Anybody like to share any ideas/strategies for dealing with opponents that are in love with their drop shots? Honestly, I'd never seen so many until this weekend, and two of my opponents used them A LOT. If you get to it, what do you do with it?
3. How do you deal with bad line calls? In that last match, there were a few, though I never questioned. I didn't want to get distracted by that, and in the end that is exactly what happened. I'm not necessarily someone who plays better when they are angry and upset, but in retrospect I'm wondering if I should have said something or not?


Sunday, part 2.

One of the women giving me a 'scouting report' was actually another one of the players in the 3.5 draw who knew my opponent. I had met her the day before, as she was the losing half of the four hour singles match that I mentioned previously. The 3.5 main draw final was going on the same time as us, so she asked if I was okay with here staying and watching my match as well as that one. I was actually delighted. In my first match, my opponent had about 8 people rooting and clapping for her, and I had zero. Made me jealous! Xisbum did come and watch a bit of my match with the Texan, though...and it sounds silly, but I think I play better when I have a 'friend's box'!

Anyway, the scouting report was that she had some really funky and junky strokes, especially on the backhand side. R told me to try to hit high balls to that BH and to hit with some power so she couldn't junk me to death.

That scouting report was dead-on, and then some. My opponent, J, also had some bizarre slice spinny serve that literally landed about two inches past the net. *shaking head* It was all I could do to get it back, and then she'd lob me. And the drop shots! Aiy, aiy, aiy!!! She'd drop shot my serves! MY SERVES. At one point, I said out loud 'You've got to be kidding me.' If I got to the drop shot and returned it without hitting an error then she'd lob me...I was so far in I never had a shot at running down the lob (though I tried!).

Absolutely disgusted, I lost the first set 1-6.

So, once again, I played around with my serve. She only would drop shot me on her BH, so I either went into her FH or hard into her BH. Finally, it started to work. I also starting getting to those drop shots and placing them for either a winner, or something she couldn't hit a lob off of. And then, she stopped hitting them. In a rally, if I stayed patient, more often than not I could draw her into an error. I was down 2-4 at one point, but got it back to 4 all. Broke her for 5-4. Served it out to win the second set 6-4.


My game plan had actually *worked*!!! My fellow player on the side, along with some other players, were watching, and I got applause after winning the second set! Kinda cool!

Because this was consolation, we played a 10 point match tiebreak in lieu of a 3rd set. I got a quick mini-break, and held onto it until 6-5. Then I went on a bit of a roll, and got it to 9-6! And then she went on a roll, and we got to 9-all. I win the next point, 10-9. Rally. Short ball, I attack, come in, she hits a short lob...I put it away. She calls out. I was pretty sure that it was in, but I didn't question and didn't argue. It was her baseline, and I wasn't sure enough to question.

Well, not sure enough until I saw one of the spectators get immediately up and run over to the official to get her to come and watch. Oh man! So, that told me right there...she hooked me, and hooked me bad. Okay, okay...settle down, right? Nope. She took the next two point, and won 12-10.

So. I could rant and complain about the hooked call. The woman who got the ref told me afterward that not only was my ball in, it was evidently way in. Instead of getting hung up on that, I'm trying to focus more on the fact that I failed to put away the match several points should have never gotten to 10-9 to being with.

So, all in all...a good experience. I got a lot of tennis in, and played four vastly different opponents. And I'm left with some very clear things to work on...(continued...)


Sunday, part 1.

The plan for Sunday was consolation semi at 9am, doubles at 10:30am (with adequate rest), and if I made it through, consolation final at noon. Whew!

When I arrived at the site the organizers told me that my partner had indeed called, and we had to default the doubles match. Sucks, but what are you going to do? Her baby was sick, and she was needed elsewhere! Plus, we are playing a club round robin tournament Wednesday, so we'll get a second chance there.

My singles opponent was tiny...but a firecracker! I had my usual slow start, during which I noticed that my opponent liked pace, hit with some nice pace herself, did not 'dink' or dropshot, and had great topspin off of her FH. She had a weak one handed backhand, though, so the plan was to play and serve into that as much as possible. If I gave her anything even resembling a short ball on her FH side, she put it away. I got down 1-3, but hung in there and starting finding my own strokes. I finally evened it at 4-all, then 5-all, and then I finally got up 6-5. I had to start going for more on my serve as well...hitting it a bit flatter and shorter in the box seemed to produce more weak returns or a return error. In the end, that made the difference as I served it out 7-5.

Second set...would she melt down, keep fighting, or would I have the second set melt-down? Well, this time it would be her. I finally started grooving on my ground strokes, making less errors, actually being patient, kept going for that first serve, and won the second set 6-1. She also hit a lot more errors, and after the match she admitted to not feeling very well. It was quite hot, and I do think it bothered her, especially toward the end. Chalk one up for me in the fitness least compared to her!

I had a bit of break before the consolation final, during which I was approached by my previous opponent and two of her friends, who informed me that they were pulling for me and gave me a bit of a scouting report on my opponent. *laughing* They were dead on, too. I also almost got the win in the final because my opponent, J, didn't know she got to play again. I mentioned it to her, and she said 'I'm glad you said something, I was getting ready to leave!' Oh well, I wanted the match...I wanted to get a win the proper way!



I spent 10 hours at the tournament site Saturday. Hey man, at least I got my money's worth, right?

The plan for Saturday was a doubles match at 10:45 and then a consolation singles match in the afternoon. My doubles partner and I had planned to meet at 10am to warm up for our match. This is the same person I partnered with the previous year at 3.0 doubles and we won!

At 10:30 she rolled in, having overslept. Turned out to not be a problem, as we were going to have to wait...all the courts were taken, and because of the four hour singles match, things got a bit backed up. They had an indoor bubble though, and we were able to go in there to warm-up and hit a few balls.

Only three teams signed up for 3.5 doubles, so we were put into a round robin. I knew three out of our four opponents, and both of the women we were to play for this match. One of them had been my teammate this previous season on one of my teams.

We ended up playing this match in the bubble since that singles match just wasn't ending. My partner was very happy with this, but I would have preferred to play outdoors, as I think that would have given us an advantage against our opponents.

The match got underway, and it was a frustrating one, no doubt. My partner, who hits very hard all the time, was missing just a bit on her groundstrokes, neither of us could seem to hit a decent return, and our opponents completely took our net game away from us. We lost 3 and 3. It was one of those matches where afterward, we looked at each other and kind of scratched our heads! One of our opponents had one of the most hideous service motions that I've ever seen...and still we couldn't seem to capitalize. I suppose, once our net game was taken away, we didn't have a plan B. Neither one of us has the patience and consistency to lob for days on end.

Ah well, disappointing for sure, but we had one more match the next day. My partner left, and I found out that my opponent for consolation singles had scratched. Instead of just doing one match, that actually advanced me in the singles bracket!

There was another woman, a singles player who had just lost her second round, that was willing to stick around and take the place of my scratched opponent. She was visiting from Texas, where she is a 3.5 who also plays 4.0. She was a great player, and blew me out the first set 1-6. I dug in, and managed to make a match of the second set, but still lost 4-6. She seemed to get to everything, and possessed a very effective drop shot. So my plan in that second set was to take away that drop shot by moving her around...and it almost worked. It was a fun match though, and I was very grateful for her for sticking around and playing.

As we suspected, the organizers couldn't get Tennislink to substitute her as my opponent, so we chalked the match up to a 'fun' match, and I still advanced in the consolation draw.

At this point, I had planned to watch fellow TTW'er Xisbum's doubles match, but one of the clerks at the desk asked me to hit with him! Lol! I was tired, but they are so nice there that it is hard to say no. So I said okay, but only one set and in the bubble (which also allowed me to watch Xisbum's match which was on the neighboring court).

I won this set 6-2 (or 6-3, can't remember!). Of course, when it doesn't count, I hit so much better! This tells us, gentle readers, that Topaz is also a headcase. It was a positive way to end the day though, and I felt like I got some good practice in.

I got to watch the final set of Xisbum's match, which was a close one, but unfortunately, this was just not the tournament for TTWers!

After this, I had to negotiate with the organizers a I was scheduled to play both singles and doubles at 9am the next day! Funny computer!!! They decided to do the singles first and move the doubles to 10:30. I would have preferred it the other way around, but I didn't want to be too pushy. These were seriously nice people and I didn't want to be a was just the consolation round after all...if it were main draw, I wouldn't have worried.

I called my partner on the way home to inform her of the change, and she said her youngest was sick with a fever...if he didn't get better, it didn't look like she'd be able to come out for the doubles match.

VA/MAS NTRP tournament, part 1

Last year, I participated in a very well-organized tournament about an hour from where I live.

This past weekend, I just got done playing this tournament for the second year, this time as a 3.5 playing in both the singles and doubles divisions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the draw had more than 3 people in it (unlike my last NTRP tournament!).

A bit of background...I'm trying to transition to singles after three seasons of mostly doubles. I just spent my first season at 3.5, and it is an understatement to say that it did not go how I had planned. *eyebrow*

Friday night.
I started my singles matches Friday evening against a woman that I could find nothing about...she was not in Tennislink in leagues or tournaments. So I had no idea what to expect. There were a few first round singles matches going on that evening for both men and women, and as we were gathered while the ref told us some basic rules, you could totally tell that people were 'sizing' each other up. My opponent was taller and stockier than me...but I was expecting someone with no tournament and league experience, so I was hoping to have the advantage in that respect.

I was so wrong.

I lost 1-6, 2-6. My game plan these days is pretty simple...keep it in the court, go corner to corner, stay patient, and attack the short ball. Well, let me tell you, that is hard to do when you're getting blasted off of the court. She overpowered me and just never seemed to miss. I had a bit of success bringing her in...the only thing she seemed a bit uncomfortable with was volleying, but more often than not I didn't get that far in the point to exploit it. She had a great serve, which didn't give me trouble (I blocked it back), but it also put me in the defensive right off the get go.

An easy way to sum up this match would be to say...she controlled everything. I made her work for it...I managed to keep her out there for an hour and a half, and it was hot...but I couldn't find a way into the match at all.

Later I found out that she had been a pretty successful high school player and this was her first competition back. Her coach is a player that I met at a tournament about a month ago, and he told me that he expected her to win the whole thing and end up with a 4.0 rating. He also took no credit for her game...said she pretty much came to him with strong strokes on both sides, good movement, and a great serve.

After me, she took apart the #1 seed 1 and 0. She then took out a player that beat me earlier this summer in three sets, which put her in the final. Incredibly enough, she lost the final in three sets to a woman who had a four hour first round match! As you may have guessed, that woman was a backboard. She just never missed.

And I have to to get to be a backboard?

The draw was big enough that the organizers decided to have a consolation draw, so I did have that to look forward to the next day.