Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday's dribblings

Wasn’t sure what to name this blog … didn’t have too much to share this morning. Decided it’s too early to post my later round men’s U.S. Open picks given that Friday’s blog carried the tournament through the third round, so this Thursday’s (or next Monday’s) post will be more accurate if I just wait. Plus, with Clijsters out and Serena back on the warpath, I’m just not that interested in the women’s draw; perhaps it’ll get more interesting after the first week.

My Ultimate Tennis partner and I won our last regular season match in straight sets on Friday which, as I’ve written, probably disqualifies us for the playoffs. But I decided to plea via e-mail for putting us in the next higher level’s playoff draw so that we can at least play one more match, given the fact that we had a bye and a withdrawal week, only 4 matches for our entry fee this summer. I’ll let you know what happens. I mean, it’s not our fault that we were placed in a weak division at our playing level, or that their doubles league isn’t mature enough to have their leveling done accurately enough yet.

One interesting thing about our match last Friday night, which started at 7 PM but was fully engulfed in darkness (save for our court’s lights) by the time it ended, was what happened in the final game. We’d won the first set 6-2 and my partner was serving for the second set and the match at 5-4, 40-love when all of a sudden two things happened: one of our opponents, who was playing with a racquet that might be deemed illegal per it’s huge string gap holes and spaghetti strings, finally figured out how to return of serve consistently into uncomfortable positioning for us – over my head with a high bounce for my partner’s backhand – and my partner started to double fault. The game then went on for at least a dozen deuces. In fact, when it was over (we won the set 6-4), I told my partner that he should feel lucky – and may have set a record – because not many people can serve double digit double faults in the same game, and still win it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The U.S. Open draws are out (so are some of my picks)!

Starting next Monday, almost all the best men and women on tour will begin competing for the last remaining Grand Slam title up for grabs at the 2011 U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and the draws are here . While there have been several notable withdrawals, among them 2-time defending champ Kim Clijsters, it should be a terrific tournament; the women’s final will be on "Super Saturday", September 10th, and – unless it is rain delayed – the men’s final will be on the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01.

Looking at the draw as I have every year since 2001, there are some intriguing potential early round matchups. Of course, the U.S .Open has its own Bracket Challenge, now in its second year, but I doubt they started doing it because of me (I started doing it as a response to the NCAA basketball tournament, because I know more about men’s and women’s tennis than I do college b-ball;-) You’re welcome to use the following to make your own picks, and I won’t even expect you to share your bounty with me should you get a prize or win it all.

Interesting first round matchups include a couple of veterans recovering from injuries – big serving Ivo Karlovic against big hitting Fernando Gonzalez – as well as – Mikhail Youzhny, who always seems to do well in New York, vs. Ernests Gulbis, who won in L.A. earlier this summer. I’m not sure how to pick Ryan Harrison against Marin Cilic, but hope the American upstart makes it through in order to face another up-and-comer in Bernard Tomic, from Australia, who will likely beat his qualifier opponent in the first round … and Monfils didn’t get a very easy first round draw in Grigor Dimitrov! Good luck Gael!

Some projected second round matchups include an all-American contest between Robbi Ginepri & John Isner and Ivan Ljubicic vs. David Nalbandian. Besides the top seeds, those who seem to have an easy pass all the way to the third round include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco, who would then face each other in the third round, Stan Wawrinka (unless Donald Young truly has finally arrived), and Andy Roddick, thankfully.

Third round matches that are possible include Alexandr Dolgopolov against Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych against Janko Tipsarevic, and Robin Soderling vs. Isner. The third round also has some historical matchups which would have been better a couple of years ago, but because of the age and current play of Nikolay Davydenko (who plays top-seeded Novak Djokovic) and either Ljubicic or Nalbandian (who would play 2nd seed Rafael Nadal), they aren’t likely to be as interesting.

Check back Monday when I’ll break things down a bit further and/or share some of my women’s picks.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Atlanta's Flexible Tennis Leagues

Atlanta is such a tennis crazy town that, in addition to USTA League Tennis (which the rest of the country enjoys) and ALTA (which boasts some 80,000 members), there are several different (competing) flexible tennis leagues as well. So, as an Atlanta area tennis player, not only can you join a team that plays for (e.g.) seven consecutive weeks on the same day or night of the week in each of the four seasons which, if you do well, leads to several rounds of playoffs that lead to a championship of some sort, but you can choose a partner (or play singles) in one of several other leagues which let you (and your partner) schedule matches against opponents “at your same level” at a time that’s mutually convenient which similarly leads to playoffs and championships during every season of the year. In fact, if you don’t watch out, tennis can become your life.

Ultimate Tennis, formerly known as K-Swiss, was the first of the Atlanta flexible leagues that I joined. At that time, it was just for singles but it has subsequently added doubles and mixed doubles leagues. The largest (oldest) doubles league is T2Tennis, which expanded by adding singles recently, and will experiment with leagues for seniors this fall. The conventional wisdom is that T2, because its doubles league is more mature, has more players at each level and is so deep that one should level themselves, at least initially, a half a level below their typical rating to be competitive, hence there are half (or minus) levels available (e.g. 3.5-, 4.0- etc.). Ultimate Tennis, perhaps responding to T2’s entry into singles, has been aggressively promoting their doubles leagues by offering PGA Superstore gift certificates with values that exceed the cost of entering these leagues.

Because of the Ultimate Tennis promotion, it was a no brainer for my men’s ALTA doubles partner and I to join their league this summer, to keep our partnership fresh in preparation for this fall’s ALTA season. Although scheduling matches with our opponents has been – at times – challenging, and the level of our opponents has been less than we’d hoped, we’ve had fun and everyone we’ve played has been pleasant even amiable. With one match to go, we lead our division and may even finish too high to qualify for the league’s playoffs, which run through the early weeks of September, interfering with the start of the ALTA & USTA fall seasons.

Because of the number of tennis players in Atlanta, more per capita than any other U.S. city according to ESPN’s lead-in promo during the 2011 Atlanta Tennis Championships, there is a plethora of ways for playing the sport competitively in the metropolitan area. Whether one has just moved here (e.g.) into a swim-tennis community or is just starting to play the game, there is a tennis league for you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Many Rewards of Tennis

When a team wins their ALTA or USTA division, a City or State Championship, they are awarded bag tags, plates, towels and/or various other paraphernalia. We’re not professional athletes and there’s no money involved (at least I don’t think there is;-) but that doesn’t mean that most players don’t try their best to win these inexpensive spoils of our recreational sport. In fact, some try a bit too hard for a few dollars worth of plastic, metal or glass etc.

Having been a part of some teams that have achieved various levels of success over the past 11 years, I can tell you that what I remember most is not the reward hardware, but the people I’ve played with and, to some extent, against. Because, when it’s all said and done, the friendships developed and the positive memories are what remain; these are what mean the most to me.

Sure, I can recall matches that I lost which were heartbreaking, either because of my own mistake (or limitations) on a key point, or a questionable line call by my opponent, but I’ve tried my best to forget these momentary lapses. Unfortunately, I can also remember times when my actions on the court did not do me proud, in which I embarrassed myself (and perhaps my partner or teammates) with bad behavior. But I’ve forgiven myself for these moments of “temporary insanity” and have tried and will continue to make amends by being a better player, opponent, and teammate in the future. For the most part, adopting a "play well" versus "play-to-win" philosophy has done the trick.

But as I think back and reflect on the 50 or so ‘seasons’ of Atlanta tennis I’ve played, the overwhelming majority of my thoughts are of my fellow teammates, not specific matches or accomplishments. I’ve learned so much in the company of others, and the camaraderie when working towards a common goal with purpose. I can also remember those opponents who were particularly at ease with themselves and their abilities (which may have been less or more than my own) and the home captains, whose focus was on hospitality, and treating our team as guests.

Because what we share as tennis players is a love and a passion for our game, the sound of a racquet hitting the ball cleanly, the vision of a winner hit perfectly into the open court (vs. at an opponent), to cheer (and be cheered) for each other, win or lose, the nervous energy before and the adrenaline rush during a match – both of which we hope to channel for our benefit vs. our detriment, the competitive nature of our sport particularly when our skills are most evenly matched with our opponent(s), and yes, the euphoria of winning, but also the social aspect of the entire experience.

It doesn’t really matter what the prize is for a team or an individual achievement on the court, because the other rewards of tennis are so much greater.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our USTA/Southern Georgia League State Championships victory - the nitty-gritty details

How to begin? I’ve just sat down to tell the story of our championship weekend in Augusta, and I’m struggling to find the words to describe it. I guess because the reality – emotions and gratitude for it all – is still sinking in. We are Georgia State Champions!

The journey to our great adventure began last Thursday. Most of our team of fourteen (out of eighteen) arrived in Augusta, Georgia on Thursday night; it’s about a two and a half hour drive from Atlanta. Our hotel had a welcoming meal for us and, after a quick bite; we decided to hit the courts for a practice hit before bed. Nearby were some public courts in a park which left much to be desired: of the 3 courts, only one had a net strap, and it had to be adjusted so that the center of the net was at its correct 36” height. Unfortunately, there were no lights, so after warming up and playing a couple of 4 game “sets”, we went in search of another facility, but came up empty. Still, we decided to return the next morning to warm-up and play a few tiebreakers before heading to the Fleming Tennis Center for our first match, which was to start at 11:30 AM.

Our first opponents were from Bainbridge (SW Georgia, near Florida) and they couldn’t be nicer. The matches weren’t terribly competitive (their team ended up winning only 1 line all weekend) which was good since it was the first tournament experience for several on our team. My partner and I, who had played in Augusta last year though not together, raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set before some sloppiness – which led to a few tight shots – crept in, but we closed it out comfortably 7-5, 6-2. This was the only match my partner or I played (so Mom, you can stop reading now;-)

Our second match was scheduled for 4 PM at the Newman Tennis Center, where the quarterfinals, semifinals & finals would be played at the end of the tournament. We didn’t play at Newman last August, so this was my first time at the facility. It’s huge: at least eighteen hard-courts including a “center” stadium court. In fact, our line 1 played – but unfortunately lost – their match on the stadium court. It was a terrific battle, however, which culminated in a Coman tiebreak as the third set.

The Coman is different from the standard 12-point tiebreaker – first one to 7 points by 2, switching sides after every six points – in that it maintains the established server sides until it’s concluded. In other words, you maintain the same server order but switch sides after the first point is served, and then after every four points are played such that everyone serves their tiebreaker points from the same side that they served from during the match. It’s really quite ingenious even if it throws off everyone at first. The state tournament was setup with Coman tiebreaks for the first two sets, if necessary, first to 7 by 2, and a 10-point – first team to win ten points, by two – Coman tiebreak in lieu of a third set to keep the matches moving along given all the teams and levels in the tournament. For what it’s worth, there were 30 teams at our 7.0 level (the most teams at any single level), ten 6.0 teams, twenty-five 8.0 teams, nine 9.0 teams and 20 Senior mixed teams across the four levels for a total of 94 teams in Augusta … I’m sure their hotel and restaurant businesses were pleased.

Unfortunately we also lost line 2 via a third set Coman tiebreaker, but we won line 3 so we were still in the hunt after the first day. We “celebrated” at the Wild Wings CafĂ© not too far from where most of us were staying at the Homewood Suites, whose staff was very friendly and accommodating throughout the weekend.

Our first match on Saturday was to be at the Diamond Lakes Tennis Center in Hephzibah, GA, about eight miles south of Augusta’s Interstate 520 loop. We had to get up early to eat and have a chance to warm-up before making the trek south for our 9:30 AM match. When we got there, we saw our Atlanta city finalist rival playing their 8 AM match already, but we stayed focused and won all three lines. Line 2 was over fairly quickly and line 1 had to fight hard to take their first set before cruising somewhat in the second, but line 3 turned into a real battle. We won the first set 6-4 but fought from behind in the second and avoided a Coman tiebreak by winning it 7-5. Our line 3 man – having played in all three matches thus far – had looked exhausted in the blistering heat of the late morning, but he somehow found a fifth gear just in time to close it out with his ever steady partner. Diamond Lakes is a terrific facility, but unfortunately there is no place to hide from the sun and the 90+ degree heat took its toll.

Our next match was scheduled at Fleming for 2 PM, and it was now 11:30 AM, so there really wasn’t much time to cool down and refuel. This is where having a large and deep team would start to pay dividends. Our captain, who had the challenging job of putting together eight lineups over 4 days, put four fresh players on the court – including herself, though reluctantly – such that we were able to repeat our morning’s result and take all 3 lines. There was a lighting delay then a rain delay but, having a large team, we were able to rest our players, who didn’t have to participate in the squeegee patrol. The real battle was at line 1, where our captain was paired with the man that had played at line 1 in the oppressive heat of the morning. However, they were both up to the task, coming from 3 points behind in the third set’s Coman tiebreak to win it, and we no longer had to fear the funky third set format!

We were not only back in the hunt, we were in first place – though in a 3-way match win tie – meaning we controlled our destiny from here on out. We CELEBRATED in a couple of ways. Firstly it was the 40th birthday month of one of our players, and secondly we wanted to show our appreciation for our captain, who’d led us to a city championship, a division championship, a city final, and two trips to the Georgia state championships over the course of three seasons in 18 months. We convened in one of the suites, had our cake and ate it too, and played the game Taboo. A good time was had by all and it was a team building, team bonding experience that I’ll not soon forget. Life is good!

Sunday morning, we knew that we had our work cut out for us; we’d have to win to advance to the state quarterfinals that afternoon, and we were to play another Atlanta-based team that had the same record in the tournament as us. We were scheduled to play at Fleming (for the third time) at 9:30 AM, so we had to get up early again to eat and warm-up before heading south. Our line 1 team played a husband and wife pairing that was very good, but they were more than equal to the task. Their man kept drilling the ball at our line 1 lady, but she was able to take his pace, and volley it away. Our line 1 man covered the backcourt, where he was able to direct the ball, using angles and lobs to enable a straight set win. However, there were hard fought battles underway at lines 2 & 3. Though we’d taken the first line 2 set fairly easily, our opponents were just getting warmed up; they battled back from 1-4 down in the second to make it 6 all. We were in control of the second set Coman from the get go, but our pairing had some demons to exorcise from their lost third set Coman on Friday afternoon, which they did in spectacular fashion to clinch our spot in the state quarterfinals!

Again, there was a quick turnaround and, again, having fresh legs was our advantage. Although we had the same line 1 as that morning, our captain was able to play four different players at lines 2 & 3, and the line 2 match ended up being the match of the tournament. It pitted (my opinion) our two best 3.5 level players against perhaps their best pairing of 3.5 players. The first set, which was rain delayed for less time than the previous day’s matches, was so tight and long that our line 3 nearly finished winning their straight set match before it was over. Our line 2 team took it in a set-ending Coman tiebreak. The second set, during which our tired line 1 team lost their match, was also very tight and long. Halfway through it, everyone on both teams in addition to many from potential semifinal opponents – including our Atlanta rival’s entire team – were watching and cheering for one side or the another on virtually every point. Our opponent was a local Augusta team, so there were literally dozens of fans; unfortunately, some were less friendly than others (it’s the only USTA match I’ve ever been to that felt like a more typically nasty ALTA match). When our opponents prevailed 6-4, the inevitable third set Coman loomed, but so did another rainstorm: lightning flashed and thunder crackled in the distance. I’m not making this up, it looked for all intents and purposes that it was going to rain again during the players’ break after the second set. In fact, I heard later that the official was about to call for a delay. But the third set tiebreaker began and it didn’t start well for us. I’ll confess now that I then bowed my head, put my hands together and prayed, not for victory, but for energy ("Dear God our Father, please allow our players to play to the best of their ability" and also "Thy will be done"), that’s all. When we won, our team erupted, some of which was relief that we’d kept our hotel rooms;-)

We'd made it to the semifinals of the state tournament and, though every one of us should be happy with that result – two steps further than the year before – I got a sense that this was a team of destiny when I saw that we’d be playing a team that had finished second in their division while our Atlanta rival would be matched against the team that had yet to lose in the tournament.

Monday morning was just what the doctor ordered: a cooler day without a chance of rain, with two of our matches scheduled on courts that would be in shade through much of their first sets and the other on stadium court, and a tired opponent that had yet to play a team outside of their division, meaning they weren’t as battle tested as we were. For the most part, it was quick and easy for all three lines, but there was a mano-a-mano battle going on between our 4.0 man, paired with our 3.0 lady, and their (now) 4.5 level man (paired with their captain) at line 3. Throughout the first set, both men played each other, for the most part, instead of taking advantage of the other’s weaker partner, as if both decided to test the other, taking their best shots to see what kind of response they’d get; his incredible one-handed backhand against our player’s unparalleled court coverage. There was one exchange in which both men somehow returned the other’s hard hit shot time and again, each blasting away until our opponent got to the net and made a drop shot off an impossibly dipping forehand, which caused our guy to sprint to the net to shake his hand in congratulations. Appropriately, the match was played on the stadium center court. Those that watched were treated to a showcase of two very talented tennis-playing gentlemen (not to take anything away from their female partners, each of whom had some impressive winners of their own) doing their best by giving it their all, while respecting and appreciating the other’s ability. It was certainly a pleasure to watch!

So, we made it to the finals, which were to be played at noon, and it wasn’t even 9:30 yet (the semifinals started at 8 AM). Our would-be opponent was going to be tired, either way, because all three lines were going to a third set Coman. Our captain had the luxury of going with the hot hand, playing one line that was 3-1 for the weekend, another that was 4-1 and a third that was undefeated (4-0!), and all three pairings had won their semifinal match that morning. At this point I need to mention the fact that our line 1 man was about to play his sixth consecutive match (and his partner her fourth consecutive match)! That’s right, he’d played twice in Saturday’s oppressive heat, winning both times with different partners, and in both of Sunday’s matches, losing the latter because he had to have been gassed (taking nothing away from their opponents), and again that morning in the semifinals, which was fortunately a quick match. I have no idea how he was still standing on his feet, but once I saw him springing up for overheads during the first set of the finals, I knew he – and we – would be alright. By the way, our Atlanta rival lost, so we were to play the only undefeated team (also from the Atlanta area, but somehow in a different division) in the finals.

High noon was soon to arrive and, after returning to the hotel to checkout and rest however briefly, it was almost time for the finals. Of course, we had to have our pictures taken in front of the sponsor van, during which the photographer said that she’d never seen such a large team, but then it was time to “do the darn thing”. During warm-up, as I myself had said that morning, one of my teammates said to me that he was feeling good (about our chances). We jumped out rather quickly to 4-1 at lines 1 and 2, but line 3 trailed by the same. Our least rested pairing actually played the best match, winning first and notching the first of our two needed points. The first set of line 2 drew to 4-3 before our team got back on track to take it 6-3. Meanwhile, our line 3 pair had evened their set, which was eventually decided in our favor via yet another Coman. So we had one match in the bag, and the first two sets of lines 2 & 3 – which were being played side-by-side on 2 courts fenced – in our pocket. Yes indeed, we were feeling good. Again, our line 2 raced to a 4-1 lead, but by this time they were playing inspired tennis and would not be denied; they held to make it 5-1 and then the drama began. In what must have been a 10 deuce game, with the majority of those going to ad-in (so that we’d have to serve it out, e.g. to win 6-2), our man – playing in the ad-court – hit backhand after backhand, including some that were down-the-line winners, to save game points until he finally sliced a return-of-serve cross-court and short (video), which his serving opponent was unable to retrieve, to win it.

As you may have read here already, we advanced to the USTA/Southern League Tennis Mixed Doubles State Championships by winning our division, and winning three rounds of playoffs to make it to the city finals, which earned us an automatic invitation to the tournament. There were eighteen players on our team; everyone contributed to this accomplishment. This past weekend, fourteen of us traveled to Augusta, where we won 7 of 8 matches (19 out of 24 lines, almost 80%); each of the thirteen players that played at state won at least one match (the fourteenth was “Coach”), so it was a total team effort.

On to Sectionals: October 14-16 in Macon, Georgia.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We are the Champions, my friend

After playing eight 3 line matches over 4 days against tough competition in the extreme heat & humidity of Augusta, Georgia, our team - 14 strong - won the USTA League Tennis Mixed Doubles State Championships!

Unfortunately it's late, and I don't have time to blog about it tonight. However, I did want to post this news and hope to have a chance to fully update you soon - with pictures and commentary - on how we did it.

Thanks for all your best wishes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Georgia State Mixed Doubles Championships start Friday!

That’s right, the date is almost (finally) here! Most of our USTA League Tennis Mixed Doubles 7.0 Team is headed for the State Championships in Augusta today, for this weekend’s tournament.

In case you’ve just started reading this blog, I’ve detailed how we earned our chance to compete for the State of Georgia title, to earn a chance to compete in the USTA’s Sectional tournament, already here. If you’re interested, you can follow the events of this weekend’s event through a special website that our state’s USTA organization has established … or you can wait until Monday, when I’m sure to update this blog with our results.

Wish us luck!

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to plan a round-robin social tennis event

This is kind of a redo of my earlier post How (not) to plan a round-robin tennis tournament. We had some success the second (and third) time around with a “new system”, which was nothing like our first attempt.

The objective was to have an afternoon of mixed doubles tennis whereby every player would get to play for a couple of hours in a way that would minimize the duplication of partners and opponents while maximizing the fun! Ideally, everyone would get to play with a different partner every time, against a different opponent every time. My neighbor actually had an idea that worked great; there was virtually no duplication until the fifth and final rotation, and everyone got to play for a couple of hours. We even worked out a way to accommodate the fact that we had too many men, one late arriving lady, and some that got too hot or tired to continue. All in all, a great afternoon of tennis for all participants!

The key is having at least 3 courts and an equal number of men & women – for a set number of rotations – that add to a multiple of four: for example, 6 men & 6 women (adds to 12) on 3 courts, or 8 men & 8 women (16) for 4 courts. If you have more men than women (or vice versa), you could have a couple of people “double up” and play as a team, substituting one for the other after each rotation; this is a great way to find a place for late (or unexpected) arrivals, particularly if it’s a social vs. competitive event.

Start with mixed doubles pairings on each side of every court and play 4 games (everyone serves once), switching sides after 2 games, with no-ad scoring. If the teams end up tied 2 games to 2, spin a racquet to determine who gets to serve a tiebreaker point, which must be served either man-to-man or woman-to-woman. The winning team moves up one court (from court 1 to 2, 2 to 3, or 3 to 1 etc.); the losing team stays. Tally each player’s total on (e.g.) a dry erase board – if the winning team won 3-1, each player gets 3 points while each player on the losing team gets 1 (if they ended 2-2, every player gets 2 points; the racquet spin only determines who moves “up” a court). Wait until every court has finished and, after all the winning teams have moved to the next court, switch partners and start the next rotation. In 2 hours, you should be able to get in 4-6 rotations. If you choose (and you have some fun prizes), add up each player’s tally to determine a winner, or winners.

Even though it was another hot August day in Atlanta yesterday, we had a great time. We did have more men than women, a late arrival and some that wanted to stop early, but we were able to double up and/or substitute so that everyone got their fill and no one complained when it got time to award the (nominal) prizes. Again, as long as it’s a social event, this is a great system that allows everyone to play. Additionally, everyone was asked to contribute a small amount to pay for Gatorade, water and tennis balls, and to bring a snack/dish to share for after event cool down and socializing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nadal opens Twitter account

Is this big news? Well, I guess I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t think so given that this blog’s feed is posted to Twitter every time I write something here. For those who care, my handle is @atltennisblog (naturally;-)

According to Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation), Roger Federer is the only holdout among the ATP Top 5 to not be a part of Twitter. I do remember that the Fed posted pictures of his twins shortly after they were born, but I guess that was on his website vs. Twitter. In any case, Twitter is my way of keeping up with the latest insights from BG and Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill), in addition to each of the Grand Slam tournaments, the USTA, the ATP, Tennis Magazine (@tennis) and a few other interests I have. I don’t follow individual players, though I do seek out & read tweets from (e.g.) Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) at the end of a major tournament, out of curiosity. Andy Roddick (@andyroddick) used to tweet some funny stuff, but I think he’s lost his sense of humor. I also don’t solicit followers and am frequently amused by those who “follow” me for 24 hours, e.g. long enough to see if I’ll then “follow” them back. Kind of like my cellphone, I carry it so that I can reach you, not so you can reach me … and I can get quite annoyed when my Timeline gets cluttered up with posts by persons I haven’t explicitly chosen to follow. Perhaps those few that do follow me – for more than 24 hours – have found something in my biweekly posts that educates, amuses or enriches them in some way … and one of them is my U.S. Congressman!

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is an important “channel”, but Google remains the primary way in which people have found this content, and it’s not even close (something like 30 to 1, traffic-wise).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Atlanta Tennis in August … and a few personal updates

August in Atlanta is HOT and HUMID, and playing tennis during this month is not for the faint of heart. The good news for ALTA & USTA members is that regular season tennis is suspended during the month; while playoffs, city finals and state championships are still underway or forthcoming, most players get a break during this hottest month of the summer unless they choose to play T2 or Ultimate Tennis, which is exactly what diehards like my partner and I have chosen to do.

My ALTA mixed team didn’t qualify for the playoffs, but our division’s winner will be playing in the city finals next Saturday. Our neighborhood ladies' USTA 3.5 team continues to play towards a city title and my USTA mixed team is looking forward to playing in the Georgia State Championships in Augusta in a couple of weeks. My men’s ALTA team has begun practicing for the fall season, starting September 10th, but I’ve yet to make it out per other commitments.

Since there was to be this lull in my tennis calendar between seasons, I decided to see if my men’s ALTA doubles partner – we won 5 matches and lost one 3-set match this spring – would like to strengthen our pairing for the fall. We thought about playing either T2 or Ultimate Tennis together from mid-July through the end of August, and decided that the latter was the better choice. In fact, it was a no-brainer given that T2 would have cost each of us $30 and Ultimate Tennis was “free” because of the PGA Superstore gift certificate offer. The downside is that T2 has a more mature league with (presumably) better level consistency and more matches/season, but Ultimate Tennis (IMO) has a better website and scheduling software.

Our first match was played against a couple of good individual players who didn’t appear to have much experience playing doubles together. Though we struggled at the beginning of the match as we learned of our opponents’ weaknesses, we won fairly quickly and easily – both of us made a lot of put-aways at the net. Our second match was played against a couple of veterans, on their courts, where they had significant crowd support (like an ALTA home match), but everyone was friendly and our opponents were very nice. One of them was stronger than the other who, despite being beat time and time again by my crosscourt forehand return at his feet, continued to rush the net after his first and second serves. The first set was tighter than the second, but the result was the same as our first match – a straight set victory which, in Ultimate Tennis, is worth more points than a mere (e.g. 3-set) win. Unfortunately our third opponent withdrew and we weren’t given the option of scheduling a sub, so we’ll get less points and – given a bye week – it’ll be a couple of weeks before our next match.

Since I’ve come to love my new racquet, I decided to order a backup from Tennis Warehouse, which had them on sale. I’m still slightly bothered by the hollow vibration in the handle and how quickly my strings have frayed relative to the racquet I used to play with, but I wanted to have a second racquet for “State” in case I need it. Lastly, I want to whine that my arthritis is no longer confined to my big toe, where it has “bothered” me for a decade – it inhibits me putting on and pulling off my left shoe – but has spread to my hands, neither of which I can fully close. It doesn’t affect my holding a racquet or my game as yet, but I don’t like what this ailment portends.

Hope all is well with you, your partner and your tennis this month!