Today, in preparation for playing singles at districts this weekend, one of the other singles players on my team (S) and I met up to play a practice match.
On paper, she should win. She has a far better record than me, and has taken some scalps along the way (KZ being one of them). She, I suppose, could be classified as a 'pusher', though I don't like the negative connotations that go with that label. To me, consistency is gold, and something that I still consistently...lack. Like me, she is a teacher, only her medium is PE, and she can run everything down, return it into the court, and do it for hours. Her only weaknesses is that she doesn't hit with much pace (this could also be a strength at 3.5 since generating our own pace while keeping the ball in the court always proves to be a singular challenge), she has a weak serve (see 'no pace'), and she will not hit winners...on purpose. Her short dinks sometimes end up being winners, but I'm not sure if she means for them to end up that way or not. And lastly, she is quite uncomfortable at net, so bringing her up on purpose is a good strategy (if you can execute it!).
So, again, since I was denied my chance to play 'the diamond' and practice coming in, I was excited to try it out today.
It was a tight first set, with S edging me out 6-4. I was having trouble, like I usually do, returning her soft serve...I kept launching it out. I also wasn't coming up enough...when I did, I usually won the part. I still don't always pick the right time to do it, but that's why we're practicing, right?
Second set, I noticed some patterns in her baseline play (notably that she always tries to pass me cross court from her backhand), she really didn't like if I got some slice on my serve, and I was able to come in A LOT more, which put pressure on her. She tried coming in herself, but made errors and then gave up on it. I was also more patient, I think, and waited for my moments to hit a winner, and my most successful shot was my FH down the line. On returns, since they were so soft and slow, I set up like a regular groundstroke to hit them, and focused on placement and setting up the point rather than trying to hit a winner. Ironically enough, lots of times this resulted in a winner!
We still played long games, but this time I seemed to have the edge, and I took the second set 6-2. Like during regular league play, we don't play a full 3rd set at districts...instead we do the 'champion's 10 point tiebreak', so that is what we did today. After a few long rallies, I raced out to an 8-1 lead. Again, I showed that I get too lazy and/or sloppy when I'm ahead, and it wasn't until it was 8-6 that I finally won the next two points and won the match.
I'm not too 'gloaty', though, since I know I play better (and more relaxed) when it doesn't 'count' for anything. She was peeved, though, I could tell. She is a very friendly, though competitive person, and I think she expected me to hit enough errors that she would win easily. I can't blame her...that is my M.O. But maybe, just maybe...I'm starting to change that.
Tomorrow is packing and clinic at night. Maybe some light workout in the morning. Thursday we head down (possibly without our own captain, as S told me that the rumor is she decided to play with another team of her's that is also headed down to districts. Not. Cool. IMO. I don't care how shorthanded *they* are...she's *our* captain!!!).
I hope to remember to take the camera so I will have some pictures to go along with match write ups from districts!
I'm excited, because I played well and I executed a game plan! When I lost the first set, I adjusted instead of just doing the same thing over and over again.