Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Tennis results (24-oct-2011) - 4 weeks in a row

With so much stuff (crap) going on at work and lots of "to do's" at home prevented me from updating this blog.

After winning against Luciano on Oct 4, i assumed the number 1 rank in the ladder. Since then i have beaten Carl, Wayne and Carl again tonight making it 4 weeks in a row at #1. However i no longer attach any significance to the #1 rank. I am interested in becoming one of the top player at the outdoor circuits and in order to do that i need to focus on good execution and good offense. Most players in the ladder generally are defense oriented players and if one is patient and play defense with occasional offense, it isnt that hard to win against them and stay at #1. However in the outdoor circuits when we play top ranked players, they generate plenty of offense and cant just win with defense alone. My focus this winter is improve my offense while staying consistent.

Last week it was Wayne and it was a tough match. Wayne always plays me tough and i guess our games match up well against each other. We held at 1-1 and then I played from behind most of the set to catch him at 4-4 all along breaking each other's serve. At 4-4 i broke him and held serve to make it 6-4. After winning first set, i jumped on an early break and held and soon was serving at match point at 5-3. It is already past 10 pm cutoff but my opponent wanted to continue.I had a tough line call (i believe the serve clipped the service line and skidded off ) as my first serve was called out. However i threw in a cotton puffy second serve and he punished it and then on i lost the plot and eventually the set at 5-7. At this time we are way past our 10pm cut off. Technically if we stopped then , i would have won the match because of # of games won. Nevertheless my opponent still wanted to continue. With clock around 10:30 Pm or so, i really didnt want to play another set (as it would be way past 11 pm and unfair for the rep working the front desk). We ultimately agreed to play 'first to 3 games win the match'. He held serve easily and very quickly had break points on my serve. My serve was off all night but came through suddenly with Three clutch serves and suddenly it became 1-1. I broke his serve some what easily and went up 2-1. The last game was a tough one with several intriguing rallies but i prevailed to win 3-1. There arent any silver bullets in this match. It is lot of work and some lucky breaks in the end (to be fair, it shouldnt have come this far as i was leading 5-2 and just needed to win 1 of the 3 games and i couldnt).

Tonight's match with Carl was a bit anti climatic as compared to our match two weeks ago. That match was a tight encounter where i won 6-3,6-3. I had to pick my spots and hit serves into them and took chances on short balls to win that match. Carl was playing very tough that night and a couple points here and there would have changed the match's complexion. Compared to that tonight's match is a simple one. For one, my serve was on and didnt face a break point until late in the second set (actually serving for the match) . Compounding this ,Carl's game was off the mark and he made some uncharacteristic errors. In the begining of both sets, it would appear like he would blow me away and take the set but both times i survived the mini storm by playing some offense myself . In the end, it was a comfortable 6-2,6-2 win for me.

Jack played again (only for second time this indoor season) and it looks like he might drop from the Top4 group . This year we only have 12 spots and the way the format works is #1 vs #2 ; #3 vs #4 ; #5,6,7,8 (called as Top4) ; #9,10,11,12 (Called as Bottom4). He indicated that he won only 8 games tonight. Unless there are Substitution scenarios (which we dont have in his group) , 8 games isnt enough to keep one's spot.

It is surprising for me considering that yesterday (Sunday) Jack beat me 7-6 in a friendly outdoor match. While the conditions may be different, we both played for win and i lost the tie breaker. Given that warm up, i assumed Jack would handle his group and move up. His group doesnt have players that would pose him match up problems (on the other hand, he can pose night marish problems for some of the players).

Historically Jack makes his run to the top towards Thanks Giving and Christmas time. He hasnt played much lately and will need a couple more sessions to get his game grooved. I would pick him to move to the top in 4 weeks time (assuming he gets to play)

I am considering taking some time off from Gym. I am putting in a lot of cardio work at the Gym and i might have hurt myself in that process---my right shin hurts and feels numb after work outs. No doubt that fitness played a huge part in some of my results but i am thinking i can take a break and come back to Gym with renewed energy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

...And New Season begins

The Indoor season is back. The outdoor season and the summer went so quickly as a blur. Next thing i know , it is all long coats, snow clearing and what not. Technically the outdoor season is still on as we probably have couple more weeks left before really cold weather sets in.

I did play little more outdoor tennis than last year (when i had an injury related to a shoe) this time. I played a local outdoor circuit with mixed results. I started off well, but as i played better players, i struggled and then in the knock out rounds i lost in pre quarters to a guy who would be eventual champion. More about that match at some other time but i played my worst match in recent times on that day. May be the next time i meet him ;)

Another good thing i did during the summer is focus on fitness. Thanks to a free bee thrown by my company, i have a free membership at the Gym at my work and i made full use of it thus far. While i am not yet at the fitness levels of 2005, i am definitely better than what i was last season.

The indoor season began two weeks ago on 26 Sept but i drew a sub. This sub is a strong 4.5 or 5.0 player and he clobbered me. Two games into the match, i realized that i cant win against this guy with defense and i tried to go for my shots. The overall score (which doesn't count towards my results) isnt worth mentioning but if we consider that i was 40-15 or 40-0 up at least 4 times and i had a bunch of break points that i didnt convert, i would say i matched up OK with him. In the end, he is simply a better player than me (His second serve is as good as my best shot--my first serve). The only thing that worked for me is my forehand into his backhand and i milked it as much as i can.

The other significant news of the opening night was the absence of my good friend Jack. Due to prior commitments, Jack couldnt make the opening night and it showed (poor ticket sales, non existent media coverage, etc).

Fast forward and yesterday was the second week at the ladder. As expected, i played Luciano. We had several memorable matches in the past and he is the #1 player of this ladder for few years in a row and is a tough opponent to beat , especially this early into season.

Playing outdoor circuit gave me a lot more insights into my game and one of the things i learnt is that my game matches well against counter punchers and defense oriented players while I have most trouble against 'run and gun' players with plenty of offense. Another benefit i had is that i dont feel as nervous before a match.

I broke Luciano's serve right away after a marathon game. However he broke me again and i broke him again. Serving at 2-1, i fell in a 15-40 hole again but a good serve and 'best rally of the night' that ended with me hitting an inside-in forehand down the line winner to pull it to deuce and then held on for a 3-1 lead. I would break him again for 4-1 lead. The key thus far is hitting aggressive forehands into my opponents backhand corner and camp on my backhand side to hit the next forehand. I was crisp on my movement and my shots had good depth and action.

Serving at 4-1, running north-south on a long rally, i pulled groin muscle which was very painful (Come tuesday Am, there is lot of swelling and pain is unbearable and i can barely walk from my bedroom). From this point on, i had trouble loading on my right foot and it impacted my movement. My opponent isnt a guy who gives up with out a fight and he broke my serve easily and then held to make it 4-3. Part of the issue was my shots werent deep enough and he was able to angle the ball closer to the net on either side--i cant even chase them full steam and not going to do it when i had trouble with Groin muscle. I made some adjustments and held the serve and then broke him to win the first set 6-3. The first set only took 70 minutes.

The new timings of the ladder (runs from 8pm-10pm) allows 30 more minutes of play than the previous seasons and so we still had about 40 minutes left. Apparently the rules say that if the players split sets and were still playing, they had to abandon the third set at 09:45 and play a 10 point tie breaker. The reason why i was thinking about a tie breaker is my inability to move crisply with the muscle pain. I was almost certain that if the match were to go the distance (ie tie breaker), the advantage is with my opponent.

I opened the second set with a 0-30 hole but settled in and held. I broke him again and then held to make it 3-0. He held his serve ,after a see saw marathon game which saw him erase 4 break points to make it 3-1. Another marathon game on my serve went my way after me saving a ton of break points to make it 4-1. The next two games were anti climatic and i closed the match with a deep forehand into centre baseline. While the score looked one sided, second set was a struggle for me internally as i couldnt move well and trying to cope with the pain. I couldnt get into good positions to take an aggressive cut at the ball and often ended up bunting it back.

Muscle pull not withstanding, i am happy with the way i played the first set and how i handled the second. It was a long match and even after 2 hours, i didnt feel tired and could have gone on for one more set easily (again not factoring the muscle pain). Several times i was stretched wide but i was able to pull off my legs and i didnt have trouble chasing down the balls north-south or east-west. The fitness hours i put in didnt go in vain .

The best comment was one of the players commenting that i was the guy to beat this year. I am not sure if it is true but i would like it to be true.

And in an important development, Jack took over as commissioner for our ladder. This will provide more structure and rigor and greatly enhance players experience. He plays very fair, often to a fault and is ideal candidate for such a role. The only flip side is to balance the number of players, he had to sit out yesterday. I would much rather see him play than him on side lines.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

End of Indoor Season-Impressive Season Comes to an End

Its Official. Indoor Tennis season is over. After 7 months (season began on Sep 20), It is now officially a season with the April 28 session.

The last session also included prizes and i ended up finishing #3 for the season with a 25$ earnings.Considering that i missed a significant portion of the season due to my travel and injuries, this is a good accomplishment.

The highlights of the season definitely include me hitting the #1 spot quite a few times. In total, i had 7 weeks at #1. Prior to this season, i came close but couldnt become #1. The most significant achievement this season still is my run to the top after i ended up at the last position on the ladder due to travel and injuries. Even if one wins every week it will take 6 weeks for someone to become #1 and i did it in 7 weeks which in itself is quite an achievement.

The season ended for me the way it started.I won 17 points 6-1 against Dan,5-2 against Darren and 6-1 against my other favorite player in the ladder Carl. Both my serve and forehand clicked and i counter punched well.I probably hit a dozen aces and a good number of forehand winners.

Before the season began, my recipe to getting #1 was to work on cross court forehand,improve my backhand and work on fitness.I truly believed that i needed a better backhand and some more pop on my forehand to become #1. After 7 weeks of #1 with what is my most dominating season, my tennis game can be summarized as --"Hammer the serve and play defense". My forehand and backhand didnt improve much but they held steady. Instead my serve, especially the first serve pace, accuracy and consistency improved a lot.I am not sure how this happened either. Only big change since last year is that i am a little heavier (thanks to the addl 5 pounds i put on).

I dont know if my serve form carries forward or not. But as far as this season goes, i am arguably the best server in the ladder. Except for Jack, no one was able to read it well in the ladder. After the initial successes, my confidence in my serve improved. Originally i was only able to hit a couple of spots on court with my serve. Now i can go down the T or wide or into the body and i am able to do it on Deuce and Ad courts.Several times i was down break points and some of them are at hopeless 0-40 but was able pull those games with big serves. This clutch performance is the key to win close matches and moving up.My W-L ratio is very impressive.I lost to Luciano twice which caused me drop down in rankings. I lost once to Carl and Jack but it didnt cause any rankings impact. Next indoor season is quite far away and i plan to perform even better.Now that most players in the ladder have taken notice of my game, i expect even tougher games when we return in the winter.

Jack also had an impressive season capping with two appearences at the top of rankings as #1.His game came a long way and is one of the best counter punchers in the ladder today besides having a beautiful all court game.

The outdoor season is here and i plan to work on my game during the Outdoor season and have fun.Me and Jack are planning to play some local circuits during the outdoor season besides hitting and practicing with each other.

Lot of credit for my results belong to my good friend Jack. Besides being my hitting partner, His scouring reports, insights are always spot on and i can always count on him for support. He is also a very good sport often to a fault.I have seen him calling out balls in , in favor of his opponents.I have never seen him ever erring on a line call/score to his favor.People took advantage of him but he doesnt seem to mind and is a symbol of Tennis spirit. Another Colleague Dave ,Iron man, Canoe racing and Volley ball champion provided some great fitness tips to help me get fit faster.

I am eagely looking forward to playing in the warmth of the Sun and enjoying slight outdoor breeze. Outdoor tennis has its own challenges. Wind and sun become a factor. Court speeds are also a factor. It requires some adjustments from the indoor game.

I also plan to work on improving cross court forehand and backhand.

Hopefully i can repeat the magic of indoor season outdoors !.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday tennis results (07-Mar-2011)-- Three way Tie

Jack , Wayne and I all ended up on 11 points. To further complicate matters, I beat Wayne (4-3) , while Jack beat me (4-3) and Wayne beat Jack (4-3) to make it a Three way tie.

Dan sub'd out and we ended up playing Sub John again who gave me lots of trouble the week before. This time around i was up 4-1 against him and then 4-1 against Wayne but kinda let them back into the matches to make it 4-3 against them. This time around i have served well and played a good strategy. I did have 3 deuce games against John and Wayne but couldnt convert them.

Jack played very well and i didnt react well to his game. I played too passive and jack used his drop shot effectively. we played last and towards mid point of the match, when Jack is leading 3-2, we knew the result of John-Wayne match and hence the winner of our last two games would move up automatically. Jack won his game and i held my nerves to hold on to my serve and make it 3-4. Though Jack won this match, we all tied on 11 games.

A quick look at rule book used by our commissioner states that in such cases where there is no clear winner, the higher seeded player is given the tie. Based on last week's performance, i was seeded higher than Jack and Wayne and perhaps i will move up.

The campaign to move to the top still continues though i only have 3 more weeks left. I am travelling the first two weeks of April and wont be able to play. Once i return from my trip, i want to focus on fitness and conditioning for the remainder of April as the outdoor season gets underway in late April. Regardless of my results in the coming weeks, It is still a great season thus far. I started at the very bottom (seeded 22) and was able to work my way up in a very short span. Assuming that i move up this week, i will be seeded #4 and that in itself is a great accomplishment though i wouldnt want to stop there.

Monday tennis results (28-feb-11) -- staying put

Though i won 12 points and tied with Carl, i am staying put as i lost tie breaker to him.
The only shocking \ surprising part is that i happened to beat Jack 7-0. I lost 2-5 to Carl and 3-4 to a sub John. Had several opportunities to win a few more games but couldnt convert them.

The lopsided win against Jack is somewhat bizzarre. Last season i did have 13-0 against him once but Jack is playing too good now. I expect market correction to occur pretty soon and our scores will level off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update and Monday Tennis 21 Feb 2011

7 weeks....Yes.. its been that long since i last updated this blog. I was out whole of January on Vacation visiting my folks and when i returned there is a ton of work waiting for me to pick up and clear off.

I did start my tennis action on the ladder 3 weeks ago. Since i was out of action for such a long time (8-9 weeks), I had to start at the bottom of the ladder. There is also the fitness factor. Since i got sick in December (Dec 02 to be exact) and lost the finals on Dec 06, i havent trained in about 2 months. It doesnt help that i added about 7-8 pounds to my weight , thanks to my vacation.

I however am determined to return to the ladder and make an impression. I started training again and its been 2+ weeks thus far. Traditionally i see noticeable difference in my fitness in about 12 sessions or so and i am almost there. However this only means that i am actually ready to train harder.I estimate that if i sustain the training program and intensity,it will be mid march before i can claim to be Mr.Fit.

The first two ladder sessions (feb 7 and Feb 14) were fairly routine. Since i am playing at the bottom of 0830 (feb 7) and top of 0830 (feb 14), i mostly stayed clear of the big guns who are feasting at the 7 pm. I know that i am going to win my matches but due to the nature of one-sided matchups at this (0830) level, to actually move up one needs to win them lopsided. In a traditional setup, we have scenarios where 11-12 points were enough to push people to the top but over this part of the world, that is not sufficient. We often see two players in a given group posting lop sided scores and it comes down to how big a margin was in their wins against players that lost.

In that sense, playing at 0830 was challenging as i set myself a goal that i need to be back at 7pm in 3 weeks (two good weeks is all needed to move up but i wasnt sure of my level of play). I was probably playing a little better than i expected and posted good results.

Feb 7 --> 6-1 (A llan) , 6-1 (B ruce), 3-2(Stev e) when we ran out of time.

Feb 14 --> 6-1 (T olu), 5-2 (B ruce), 5-2 (A llan)

Some of the matches arent as easy as the scores would indicate. I might have made it harder on myself by putting more pressure on me to win every game instead of playing normally and let the result become automatic. However the end result is to my liking and i have made my way back into 7 pm.

Fast forward to Feb 21 and for my first outing at 7 pm in 3 months, i got W ayne , J ason (sub by R obert) and D arren. W ayne is a bad matchup for me. He has lots of offense and generally goes for lines and placement with plenty of power. He is one of the very few players in the ladder that i have a losing record against. R obert sub'd for J ason and i have played him before. I did not play D arren but i had a false sense of confidence as i learnt that Jack had him 7-0 the week before.

W ayne was hitting hard and his serve was threatening. We stayed with serve for the whole match. I had a 3 break points on the second game of the match but i couldnt convert. Two good serves and then a decently constructed point. It was also that i wasnt sufficiently warmed up and my timing was off. I had scares on my serve and i came close to being broken on the 7 game but i survived all of them , thanks to some clutch serves. I came out 4-3. It came down to the deuce point on this 7 game and i didnt realize how important winning that point was until much later.

I didnt have too much trouble with R obert. However i am not looking to just win this match with him but to actually win as many game as i can so that i can establish a lead. I suspected that the winner of this group would be either W ayne or me. Since i had one game lead on my match with W ayne, i was hoping to maintain it , if not stretch it. I broke R obert on 2 game and soon i was leading 4-1 with his win coming from a very close fought game which i couldnt convert. He followed up with a very solid game after to make it 4-2. Serving the 7 game, i faced the possibility of losing one more game but i held serve comfortably to make it 5-2.

I later realized why i lost these two games. I lost focus and was paying too much attention to the other match between D arren and W ayne. D arren was playing really good and heading into the last match of the night with him, i wasnt so sure of my chances. After i learnt that he handled W ayne 4-3, i knew it will be a tough evening.

Like always i tried to summarize the equations and i had 9 points, W ayne had 6 and D arren has 8. It suddenly became a 3 horse race. My magic number became 13 , ie i need to win my match 4-3 or better. W ayne can only win (7-0) in his last match and he cannot score more than 13 and even if i tie with him, i own the tie breaker. Ofcourse, first i need to win my match or it would be W ayne or D arren moving up.

I have no idea how Jack handled D arren 7-0. My wife had a reason later on. D arren puts lot of back spin on the ball with a weirdo action and it was very hard for me to pick up. In addition, he was hitting his first serves a lot, with good placement and became very hard to control. He won the spin and won his first game easily. I fell behind 0-30 and then again at Deuce but somehow won the game. Even the second game had a similar story --he held serve with ease while i struggled a lot ,still it is 2-2. One shot he puts so much action on the ball that i expected it to land out. Instead it lands close to the net and then backspins. Since i cant get a read on these, i am often caught at baseline.As i tried to counter it by preparing to move in, he unleashed a few good forehands deep into corners. Add to this the fact that he was making lots of first serves and didnt seem to be tiring while i am huffing and puffing. One thing i did notice was that his backhand doesnt have the same action. The few balls i was able to get into that corner, i was successful in majority of them. I started to direct the action towards his backhand . It wasnt easy as he managed to run around or camp in that corner to hit forehands. This started yielding results. As the match went on, i could also read his shots better and when they landed close to the net, i was able to track them down and put them in tough spots for him. I broke him and went up 3-2. With two games remaining i needed one and i held serve comfortably by aiming at backhand. Now that i have 4 games, i knew i was going to move up. For a good measure, i broke his serve on the 7 game to make it 5-2.

With 14 points, i will move up but to use an idiom "out of the frying pan , into the fire". next week, i will be facing Carl, Rich and ofcourse Jack. It is a challenging round and if anything i probably will have the least chances. Both Carl and Rich bring plenty of offense and can take over the games with relative ease. Then there is Jack. He is playing pretty good and been extremely consistent at the top of the ladder. In addition he knows my game all too well. Add to it the fact that while i struggled against D arren , Jack schooled him 7-0. The reason why it was possible is because of his high level of play. I will need to lift my game couple of level above if i have to have any chance.

There is also a controversy which might impact me. There was a one game descrepancy in Jack's group , thanks to Dave---wonder why such things always have him. Depending on which version we consider, Jack could have moved up (and thereby saving me from facing him early in the draw) or Dave might move up. Ultimately it looks like Jack chose not to challenge and it means that i will have the toughest draw ever.