Outside work and family, I spend a disproportionate amount of my time playing tennis. During my years in England, this took the form of often-drizzily Sunday mornings at a cosy but decidedly ramshackle club and the occasional poorly organized match in the Surrey league. Life is certainly different in California. My club has 10 well-tended courts and play is dominated by practice and matches in USTA leagues. In the fall season I had the temerity to play on four teams and captain a fifth.
The payoff for all this effort came last weekend when I traveled with my combo doubles team to the district championships in Los Gatos, near San Jose. (Combo doubles is a competition where players of different standards combine to make a team. Our team is a 6.5 combo, meaning players of 3.0 and 3.5 ratings play together.) Our team was the cinderella of the districts: we had scraped the fourth and last qualifying place in our flight, which covers the East Bay. There we had successively beaten the number one and number two teams to make it to the districts.
I could write a shot-by-shot account, but I think that would bore even me. Here’s the nub: my fantastic partner George and I went undefeated through the three matches of the weekend. Another pair, Chris and Herb, won two out of their three matches. And even though we couldn’t find a winning third pair, we won the districts. George and I had a particularly delicious symmetry: we opened our first match with a bagel, winning the set 6-0, and we closed our final match with a bagel. Out with a bang.
It would be easy to deride this kind of competition as a rather wistful attempt by 40- and 50-year olds to recapture a mythic youth. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But more it really was a weekend of highly directed physical and mental effort (I think at least 70% mental) with great people, both on my team and our opponents.
By the way, there was even a blogging angle to the districts. My favorite tennis blog, Peter Bodo’s Tennisworld, pointed last week to a new blog on tennis.com: a couple of club players would be chronicling their progress over the year. I took a look and the man, Joe Pambianco, wrote about preparing for the district championships in Los Gatos. I emailed my team about the coincidence. My teammate Chris read Joe’s blog carefully, which turned out to be a good idea. Chris and Herb played Joe and his partner on day one. Joe had written about what he needed to improve. Guess which shots Chris picked on. Joe records his account of the weekend here.