Tennis Tournament 2 (or, how to lose 6-0, 6-0)
So, in the latest episode of my plan to make it into the US Open, I played in another tournament, at Harvard. Now, this installment of the series, a lot of corrections were made from the last tournament. This one had a $700 prize, and brought in 33 players of reasonable skill, instead of just 5 who were within 1 standard deviation of my level. (Of course, by “reasonable skill”, I mean, “clearly better than me”. ) So this time I had the opportunity to test myself against better players and find out that “pressure induced positive variance”, and it was only $30 to play, instead of $45, so it was better value (and more interesting) overall.
Well, my first and only opponent was a guy named Eric Fleming (who made it to the finals of the Kia Amateur Australian Open Eastern Regional Tournament (his picture is on the right) (Fig 1), but did not advance to win this Harvard Tournament), who demonstrated that I needed a lot more than a positive variance to win. And the match with him was great in that it really exposed a lot of my weaknesses. And since I lost almost every game 40-love, I gained plenty of that information. I also can’t complain that I had stomach problems, or that I wasn’t playing my best, because even with my A-game, I would have still lost badly.
What it was is that clearly he has been training to take “advantage” of the ball placement at the first opportunity and end the point. I can’t stress this enough, because if my first serve wasn’t in, he jumped all over the second serve, hitting it at the fastest, steepest angle away from me. If my return was short or slow in any way, he exploded all over it and ended it immediately too. Basically, there were no rallies. Either I had to focus on ending the point, or I lost it immediately. I knew, the moment my racket contacted the ball, whether it was over, and more often than not, it was.
In this way, my somewhat “minor” weaknesses for casual-competitive play (favoring rallies) became detrimental.
Psychologically, I was a bit over-impressed with how quickly I was losing (which didn’t help), and partly this was due to inexperience in tournaments. After watching the videos of him play, I noticed that he had plenty of weaknesses himself, any of which could have been exploited, but I was paying less attention to what he was doing, and more to how I was missing. That said, near the end of the second set, I started paying attention to his body movement on his serves, and moving to intercept where the ball was going, which on a couple of games actually evened out the play a bit. (I actually almost won one game, lame as that sounds) It started to feel a bit like high school again, where I watched everything on the court and played intelligently, rather than just trying to hit as hard as possible.
Anyway, one of the things that I’ve enjoyed so far about the tournaments, is the “life lessons” that I learn through “getting my clock cleaned” (as my advisor described it). After the first tournament, I really felt like I am not bringing my “A-game” to other aspects of my life either, so I train to lose. After this game, I realized that there’s no such thing as an “A-game”. There is only the game that you train with. One doesn’t have to walk away with a big ego, thinking that they are better than someone else, or artificially puffing themselves up. All they have to do is train with a strategy and then execute it over and over again. I basically learned that from watching my opponent. He wasn’t taking advantage of shots because he wanted to demonstrate his domination, he was taking them because that’s how he trained.
(No pictures because all the footage is of the ball passing me).