Monday, October 17, 2011

We came in third

As you’ve probably figured out by now, we didn’t win the 2011 USTA Southern Mixed Doubles Section Championships this past weekend in Macon, GA. But we had a lot of fun and I realized – yet again – how fortunate I’ve been to be a part of such a great team of people. We are family!

We found out just before we left for Macon on Thursday that the Mississippi team had dropped out and that (therefore) our schedule for the weekend had been altered: we would have only 3 matches, which effectively turned each match-up into a must-win situation. This was unfortunate since, given the depth of our team, we would do best if Sectionals became a grinding war of attrition, in the way that the State of Georgia Championships played out.

On Friday, we played what turned out to be the best team in our division, a professionally coached team from Tennessee. Despite the fact that the John Drew Tennis Center has 24 courts, all three of our lines were unable to start at the designated time of 1 PM. In fact, lines 2 and 3 – both losses for us – were over shortly after line 1 was finally underway. However, we were privileged to watch an impressive 10.0 level match while we were waiting for the court. Our line 1 team then battled impressively against what looked like a 4.5 level man and his partner. Even though we lost the first set, we won the second and so a 10-point Coman tiebreak would decide it; unfortunately, we lost that by the slimmest of margins 8-10.

On Saturday, we played a very nice team from Alabama. Once again, our line 1 pairing split the first two sets with their opponents, but this time was victorious in the Coman tiebreaker. While our new line 2 team struggled, our new line 3 team won in straight sets. Surprisingly, the Tennessee team lost to South Carolina – the team that we would play Sunday – that afternoon, so we were still in it (mathematically) going into the final day. That evening, like we did at the state tournament, we celebrated the birthday of one of our players – our line 1 lady, who had already given herself a gift by winning with her partner that afternoon. We celebrated with Mexican food and drink – and birthday cake – at a restaurant near our hotel before traveling downtown to the players’ party that evening. Our team spirit was on full display throughout the event, especially on the dance floor where we all but led the activity. Others joined in, hungry to be a part of our team’s joyous camaraderie.

Sunday morning’s match was at 8:30 AM, and it was a cool 52 degrees in Macon. A lot of things would have to happen in order for us to make it through to the finals that afternoon. Firstly, we would have to win our match against South Carolina; secondly, Tennessee would have to lose to Alabama. The former happened, but the latter did not. Our line 1 played an outstanding match and defeated the vaunted S.C. team’s line 1 that had defeated Tennessee whereas our line 3 team had a very unusual match: after dropping the first set 1-6, they stormed back to take the second by the same tally before dominating the Coman tiebreak in the third. Unfortunately, Tennessee would not be denied and, even though there was a three way tie for first place, they won the team tiebreaker – most individual wins – to advance to the finals, where they lost to Kentucky, a team that won all of their matches during the weekend.

So our magical run has come to an end, but we’re better for the experience. I know that I will always cherish the memories of this trip – and indeed the entire season – and of the time spent with this special group of individuals that are my teammates and friends forever. Go Faaaaiir Oaks! Take it, take it!

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