I was determined to swing freely as that is how I want to play and I have been practicing.
Unknown player poised to serve. I pause to watch. Well balanced, relaxed. The ball rises aloft released from hand at the end of a straight arm. The racket dips behind the shoulder and comes forward to thwack the ball. Ace down the middle on the deuce side. That looked if not completely effortless, well practiced and expected from the server. The economy of movement was impressive as was the alignment of all the separate body parts.
I compare unfavourably, from the early ball release on bended arm to the contact point, again on bended arm. Doubt.
Unfamiliar room. 5.37am not yet half awake. The body rises automatically for the relief that the bathroom offers. Instinct knows this is an unfamiliar place as automatic pilot guides me, skilfully or unknowingly, avoiding yesterday’s discarded kit on the floor. Maybe it’s a signal from the sloping floor, maybe something more intangible, a sixth sense? I pause. Reach for the light switch, only to find my nose about an inch from the wall. My left hand waves into space, my right feels the closeness of the wall. The correction of a half step left, allows right hand to locate the light switch. Normal waking service is resumed.
The chemical balance in the brain has discarded last night’s doubles, after finally getting on court at 8.30pm after waiting all day. The conclusion logged is that I was too ready to give a big performance and yet because I could not see the ball clearly due to the unfamiliararity of the floodlighlights, I was mistiming the ball. I had added additional complexity by making this the first time in years to play with the double handed backhand, which had gone so smoothly in practice this morning. I was determined to swing freely as that is how I want to play and I have been practicing. The combination of the lights, double handed backhand, the referee imposed 5 minute warmup and wanting to play really well, conspired to a pathetic performance. Doubt.
Had to ring the bell to get into the club this morning. Needless to say no other competitors about. Warmed up and then created a little game of throwing two balls over my should and catching each after the first bounce. Nice easy movement and reaction practice. We’re just big kids playing really. An important thought to hang onto. Makes me think about how children learn by experimenting and enjoying themselves. Eventually Darek joined me for a hit before his match.
Watched a few matches get underway, then settled with my book and eventually had a snooze.
2.30pm became 3.30pm before we got on court. Inadavetently left my brain in the changing room or it fell out of my bag on the way to the court.
Always interesting when you play someone unknown. The court supervisor tosses the coin. I win the toss and elected to receive. Good decision, break serve to 15. Off to a good start. That was easy ish, maybe I could win this says my brain and gets all nervous!
Two double faults and we are at 1 apiece. Before I can blink it is 1-6. I have been profligate with unforced errors. It is so frustrating and I let the world know. ‘Mike, why do you do that!!’ I shout at the top of my voice. It releases a bit of tension, but not enough. I do pick up a number of short balls and play some exceptional running forehands cross court when all seemed lost. Opponent said on several occasions he thought he had the point won.
Second set. Hold serve to win the first game. The it goes 1-2 then 2-2 and then 2-6 and we are shaking hands at the net. I am boiling inside. Dragging the court at least allows a few minutes to calm down. Opportunity to at least have a close match gone.
Serve was poor. Too many double faults to count. At least one in every game. Some awful returns of serve pushing the ball into the net or on the backhand sticking out an unpurposeful racket allowing the ball to drift long. Even the lob, usually pretty reliable, is always long. Pretty frustrating afternoon. A big underperformance. All the things I said I wanted to do and tried to instill in my brain, never happened with any consistency. The two handed backhand did not show up at all.
Maybe I expect too much of myself. Doubt.
Evening, drive the five hours back home. Tired, fueled by coffee, chocolate and McDonalds. Into bed for midnight.
6.30am An inner rage is turning to fuel. I send out messages for practice over the next few days.
A singles consolation. It’s not at all on this occasion. I take the court still dwelling on the previous match. A definite no, no. I don’t even warm up except for a few cursory arm swings. I run around a bit, my heart not really in it at the start. I try to rally some enthusiasm, it’s a long time coming and doesn’t arrive during this match. I try and I try. The serve is into the net. The forehand is flat and long or wide. Only just maybe, might as well be a mile. My generosity extends to calling my own serve wide when the opponent had played it. I am told otherwise. From my view point it was clearly in the tramlines. Doubt.
Listening is important, though difficult with the noise of doubt, like pots and pans being thrown around in the kitchen, harsh sounds bouncing off the hard surfaces. I rerun conversations and opinions cast in my direction recently. A useful analysis beyond my own and then blended to try and piece together a realistic picture.
You were coming back strongly in that second set
Not much in it, you missed a number of shots by the smallest of margins
You are too impatient
Make too many mistakes
As the match progressed the ball toss was getting lower
In doubles you stand too far away from the net when your partner is serving.
If I mix all these observations and comments around, what is the result.
This one word captures everything
While there are certainly technical things to work on, mindset is the over riding thing to be improved. I have become too attached to the score. Get behind and here we go again, another defeat. Get ahead and I might win this one, but hav’n’t done that for a while, so there is a big doubt which is growing like an unwanted blister.
Weds 27 6.30am
Conversations with doubt
My old friend follows me about
Storm approaching, it looks and feels like rain but it is not actually raining yet. I set off to jog to the gym, into what is in fact a very fine mist, not sufficient to make me turn back
In the gym. 6.35am
“Yep, all good”
“You ok? “
“Yeah! A bit of a struggle to get out this morning. I thought about turning over and going back to sleep”
“I’m like that every morning. It never gets any easier”
Mmm, nods in agreement
“Have a good one”
“You too! “