Friday, June 29, 2012

Nadal's streak is over, and now so is mine

That's right, the last FIVE times that Rafa played at Wimbledon, he made the final. That all came to an end when the Spaniard lost a thrilling five set, second round match to Lukas Rosol from the Czech Republic yesterday.

Earlier this evening, my FIVE month (16 match) ALTA and USTA winning streak came to an end, when my partner and I dropped the third and deciding set of our match 5-7. It was a good run but, like Rafael Nadal's streak, mine is now over.

Time for the both of us to begin again;-)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fear is just a lie

I don't know if you've heard Tenth Avenue North's song Strong Enough to Save, but it didn't take too many listens by me to realize there was something profound that was almost “hidden” in the lyrics. The title of this post. You might ask “what does this have to do with tennis?”

Less than 2 weeks ago during the French Open/Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic was down 2 sets to 1 when he saved 4 match points in the fourth set before going on to win his quarterfinal match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and a partisan crowd. Sound familiar? If not, it was a little more than 9 months ago last September in New York that Djokovic came back from 2 sets to love down in the semis, facing double match point with Roger Federer serving at 5-3, 40-15 in the fifth, that he hit “the shot” that led him into the finals where he beat Rafael Nadal to win his first U.S. Open title. These are just two of the most dramatic examples in which the current number one player in the world has demonstrated his belief – in himself, in his God given abilities etc. – and exhibited fearlessness on the biggest stages in tennis.

Again, I’m not sure when I first heard the lyric myself, but I started to integrate it into my thinking on the court earlier this year, and it has really made a positive difference in my performance on the court. In the past, at certain key moments, I might start to get nervous – serving for the set or the match etc. – and my lack of execution would become more than my partner could compensate for, hence we’d lose the match. After all, no matter how skilled your partner, 'he' can’t save you from double-faulting.

Now, however, due in large part to my growing faith, and knowing the truth of the titled phrase, after asking for and receiving courage, I’ve been swinging away. That doesn’t mean that I’m no longer making unforced errors, or even double-faulting on occasion, but the cause isn’t a lack of belief on my part. "Pressure” that used to plague me is gone and - even counting the likely outcome of a couple of suspended matches - my various partners and I have compiled a record of 19-4 in 2012 (and 3 of the losses were in January), including the last twelve in a row ... all for the Glory of God!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Will Djokovic end Nadal’s Roland Garros reign the way Nadal ended Federer’s Wimbledon streak?

Watching the end of Monday’s continuation of the Roland Garros men’s final felt eerily similar to watching Roger Federer’s first of two consecutive finals victories over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, in 2006. It was the Spaniard’s first final at the All England Club, and he scratched out the third set before succumbing in the fourth. Federer had been dominant at Wimbledon – its green grass a perfect fit for his skills – and with the victory had just won his fourth consecutive title. The Swiss Master would go on to win his fifth consecutive title the following year, also over Nadal, but it would take five sets to do so.

In 2008, the third consecutive Wimbledon final between the two combatants, Nadal would finally beat Federer in a five set thriller that some have labeled the greatest tennis match of all time. Federer reached the final again the following year – the last Wimbledon final of his career? – beating Andy Roddick in yet another five set classic, but Nadal did not defend his title in 2009 because he’d withdrawn due to an injury that likely played a role in his only loss at Roland Garros (a 4-setter to Robin Soderling) a few weeks earlier that year.

At the start of next year’s French Open, Rafael Nadal will be the same age (26) that Roger Federer was when the Spaniard ended the Swiss’s dominance at Wimbledon. It will be interesting to see if Novak Djokovic, who finally made his first final at Roland Garros this past weekend, will have the opportunity to do to Nadal at Roland Garros – where the red clay is perfectly suited for his skills – what Nadal did to Federer at Wimbledon or, if like Nadal, he still needs another year (and a five set loss to the Spaniard in the final) to finally breakthrough and win his Grand Slam in Paris.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Long overdue update on several (personal) tennis items

I haven't written about my tennis or the teams that I play on in a while - since March - and there are some that follow this blog just to see what's going on in my tennis world, so I thought it was time to write a post on the topic.

Firstly, through another captain's error, my men's ALTA team won its division, making it three bag tags out of three seasons this year for me. Actually, including USTA, it's been four bag tags out of four seasons in 2012 so far, because our mixed doubles team not only one its division but, Friday night, we played in our fourth City Championship in 5 seasons and, by winning, took home our second Atlanta city title! On to Augusta in August and the USTA Georgia/Southern League Mixed Doubles State Championships for the third straight year; can we repeat as State Champs?

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Friday night's festivities because I joined a senior men's ALTA team for the first time ever, and had to play in my first match at the same time (and across town). My exceptional partner and I won 6-1, 6-1 as our team took 3 of 4 lines. Then, Saturday morning, our ALTA mixed team - having been moved up to the A-level after our City Championship this winter - played its first match. My new partner and I won one of the three 3 set battles and our team took 4 out of 5 points ... a great start for both teams.

This spring I volunteered as a tennis coach working Special Pops athletes at Fair Oaks Park on Thursday nights and last month I was once again an umpire at the Special Olympics, held at Emory like last year's event. This year I was doubly blessed to participate because my oldest daughter and her boyfriend came with me on Sunday and served as ball-persons during the singles competitions.

In between seasons - it was May 12 before I finally had a league tennis weekend off - I restrung my racquets and decided to try some much touted Luxilon (18 gauge Ace) strings on one of them. I love it! Also, I attended a Georgia Tech tennis round robin charity event that first Saturday off - great fun, I came in 3rd and won a GT t-shirt - and met a fellow alumnus that has his own red clay court. So, a couple of weeks ago I had the chance to play on clay for the third (?) time in my life and, though I lost, had a lot of fun and am hoping for a rematch soon.

Lastly, I have volunteered and received confirmation already that I will be working as a scorekeeper at the men's ATP event that kicks off the U.S. Open Series, the BB&T Atlanta Open, like I did for the 2011 Atlanta Tennis Championships.

As you can see, my tennis life has been - and continues to be - as blessed as ever this year; officially, I haven't lost a match since January 28. When will this wild ride end? Perhaps now that my winning streak has reached 13;-)