Monday, March 5, 2012

We are ALTA City Finalists!

For me, it’s the very first time, as a player or a captain. For 11+ years of playing ALTA, a personal goal for me has always been to make it to the final weekend of a season, and here we are. Having made it to the semi-finals before, no team that I’ve been on or have captained has ever made it over the final hump to earn a plate: ALTA City Finalists earn a plate, a big (dinner size) “silver” plate for winning it all, or a smaller (salad) “silver” plate as a consolation prize. So, in addition to half a dozen bag tags, I’ll finally have a plate; which size is to be determined this coming Saturday at Blackburn Tennis Center.

There was quite a bit of drama during this past week. Because of a lack of attention to the necessary maintenance of our neighborhood’s tennis courts, our HOA board finally arranged to have our courts resurfaced between seasons, and the work was to begin this past Monday. Of course, last November, there was no way of knowing that one, or that both of our mixed doubles teams would win their divisions and host home playoff matches. Still, each team would have to win 1 or 2 playoff matches before there would be a conflict. As I have written, our regular mixed team won both matches last weekend, and if the weather was perfect – note the optimism at the end of last Monday’s post – we would have played this past Saturday on newly resurfaced courts. Unfortunately, it rained a least a little bit each day this past week and, given the nature of Premier Courts, they have to be completely dry in the rubber layer underneath the acrylic layers before resurfacing can begin.

So here it was Thursday night and nothing had been accomplished. After talking with the coordinator on Tuesday about this issue, I had made an arrangement with our opponent to have courts available in case ours weren’t finished in time, and they were glad to be accommodating. But the conversation had been one of “if by some miracle at least two of our courts are playable, then we’ll still host the matches here”. There was no way to know that all four courts would be available because the resurfacing hadn’t even begun, so after calling the vendor to make sure they wouldn’t be doing any work on Friday, I called the somewhat dismayed and clearly disappointed opposing captain to tell him we would be hosting them.

After violent and deadly (at least in other parts of the country) storms Friday night, the rain on Saturday morning stopped a couple of hours sooner than predicted; by 9 AM, and with the clouds breaking by 11, it was clear that we’d be starting at the appointed time of 1 PM. Although their line 1 man was a few minutes late (past the default time), we remained calm and unstressed. Per the way our amenities are laid out, court 1 is closest with courts 2-4 progressively further away from the seating, so the crowd attention is usually focused on the nearest (line 1) match. Even though it initially appeared that our opponent had a stellar lineup - their line 1 man who hadn’t played against us during the week 3 match looked very strong and their week 3 line 2 man (that teamed to beat our line 2 the last time) was playing at line 3 this time, the first sets were breaking our way. As it turned out, we won the first set at line 3 first, then on the near court at line 1 because of some exceptional play by our pairing. Our line 1 lady was digging out tough shot after tough shot – frustrating their line 1 man - while our line 1 man was putting the ball away with efficiency when he got the chance. Line 2 was very competitive; both sets were long, but unfortunately we eventually lost them both. However, long before that happened, line 3 wrapped up their match – they must have played exceptionally well, but I didn’t see it per the distance from where I was seated.

The 4’s, who had already begun warming up on court 4, moved to court 3 and the 5’s – my partner and I – then began warming up on court 4. Unfortunately, line 1 was still engaged in a thrilling battle, having lost the opportunity to hold serve to take the second set 6-3. However, my partner and I made the same agreement we had the Saturday before, vowing no scoreboard watching; just concentrate on the task at hand and try to win our match. Fortunately, just as we were finishing our warm-ups, we heard the cheers and knew that we’d taken line 1 … so it really was up to us, or line 4 (already underway) to clinch it. Not wanting to make the same mistake I did last Sunday, when we moved to the open court 1 to appease the fans, I didn’t even bring it up with my partner or our opponents. Instead, we remained focused and I can honestly say that I didn’t look over to court 3 until we’d won our first set 6-1, when I noticed that we’d taken the first set there as well.

Which would be the clinching match? Given the brilliant play of my partner and because of our continued focus on every point – we were ruthless; didn’t want to give an inch (lose a game) – we found ourselves up 3-0 with chances to go up 4-0 in the second. The next thing you know we were breaking our male opponent to take the second set by the same tally as the first. I believe that our 4’s were tied 5-all in their second set at that point, and would no doubt have closed it out if needed. Yay, celebrations all around!

So we’ve earned a chance to play in the ALTA City Finals, only the second time a team from our neighborhood has made it that far, with a chance to be the first to win it all. Wish us luck!

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