Originally Published: July 26, 2004 7 a.m.
When things are going your way, it's easy to be cool, smile, throw out the compliments, and relax. But how about when the tide changes?
Sports magnify this theory and your reaction in a short period of time, especially tennis.
This weekend at the Prescott Senior Mile High Open Tennis Tournament it was interesting to wander around and watch how different players of a wide range of ages dealt with starting a match off, their styles of play, reactions to points played, sets won and lost, the fight and determination put forth and sometimes lost. The grit, steely nerve, release of tension with a phrase, an arm movement, and sometimes a racquet thrown.
With a close call in a tight match, did the opponent look in disbelief, challenge verbally, or take it with the knowledge that even if it was a bad call it wasn't on purpose, and go on?
The adrenaline gets going through the system and the will to win can push you through lots of things. Like playing your fourth match of the day; a third set when you know you should have won in two; a slight muscle tear and definitely sore muscles after two days of play.
Mentally you can make or break yourself. When inclement weather changes the format to an eight-game pro set, can you reset your brain to do what needs to be done in a short period of time? After losing the first set, can and do you reevaluate your opponent's game, make changes and try to turn the match around? Is keeping a positive, "I'll try hard every point", thought process part of who you are no matter what the score is?
At the beginning, on change overs and at the end of the match, did you treat your opponent(s) and partner with respect and good sportsmanship? That isn't to say you have to compliment them to any degree during the match, but hopefully not less than staying civil while play is going on.
If you're winning easily you certainly shouldn't let up, but on the same token you don't have to rub it in by saying things that make you look like the superior player. The best players have come up from the beginning levels as well, so to think back how it was for you could be a good thing in buffering a loss for someone of lesser ability.
When you blow some steam, how long does it take you to get back in the rhythm of the match? And it's a good thing to remember that if you make a big ruckus on the court, it's more than a little distracting to the people playing on the courts around you. (That's a good one for me to put on my short list.)
The planning before each match begins can become a ritual of sorts, from what you bring along in your tennis bag, pre-warm-up, mental preparation, and starting your match with a solid state of mind. While after the match, win or lose, doing a rundown of how the match went, what you could have done better and what you need to do before your next tournament or match that will help make you a little better.
Becoming match tough is different from just being a good tennis player.
Watch two players warm up and you might think that the battle to begin is going to be really close. But when it's all said and done, what looked like might be close is a blowout. Ask the players how many matches they've played recently. In most cases the winner has done much more prep work in match, practice and tournament play.
People play recreational tennis for a variety of reasons, but tournament players do it to test their skills under duress, give it their best, go back to the drawing board and then try it again. No one ever reaches perfection, but on a good day there's nothing else like it.
•Upcoming tournaments: Saturday, July 24 is the "Beat the Heat Doubles", from 5-9 p.m. at the Roughrider Tennis Center. A-B and C events. Call 445-1331 to sign up. Cost is $15 per person and you should sign up with a partner.
•Sunday, Aug. 1, 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., is the "Century Doubles Tennis Tournament." You and your partner's age must add up to 100 years or more. If you're less than 30, you are considered 30. $15 per person. Call 445-1331.
•Senior Olympics Tennis sign up deadline is July 27. Pick your packet up at the Armory.
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)