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March 27, 2003, 8 PM, Southern Boundaries Park
A little tennis story…

Our Triangle Sports & Outings Club tennis team played Robert L’s USTA League team for the first time tonight. We were pitted against the doubles team of Rob E and Bork H. I hadn't played a league match in about 12 years and son Roman hadn't played a league (or any other formal competitive) match ever in his life. The overall format was best 3 out of 5 individual matches to win. Our #1 and #2 singles guys lost, but our #2 and #3 doubles won handily. This meant that the entire rest of our team was watching the match that my son Roman and I were playing. One of the two opponents, Rob, was quite a good player. He had a hard topspin first serve and got most of then in, hitting a number of aces and winners on us. He also hit his groundstrokes with more pace, and was their team’s main point winner. Bork also had a good first serve but was less consistent with it and didn’t hit as many service winners. He had an accomplished slice. Both adversaries were solid players, meaning they were experienced, had good control, and were quite steady. Roman’s game plan was #1 to be consistent, and not give them many point opportunities. My game plan was #1 to be consistent, not give them many point opportunities, and be my aggressive self at the net. It turned out (to my surprise as I am woefully out of practice) that I was extremely consistent with my topspin forehand ground strokes (missing only one or two of them in the entire match). We lost the first set 4-6. The second set we lost a 3-0 lead but won 6-4. Splitting sets, we played a 10 point tiebreaker. What tension. Our team would win the evening if we won our match, or lose if we lost our match. In the tiebreaker the other team had two match point opportunities to win, but we managed to win both of those. It came down to mental toughness, consistency, and heart. We could have been playing for $10,000 and we wouldn't have tried any harder. At 12-11 with the other team ahead, and their best server serving, Rob double faulted (that's perhaps where his mental toughness became as issue) - putting the score at 12-12. We won the next point, making it 13-12, and it was then my first serve. For a brief moment, as I was preparing to serve, the external world ceased to exist, and there was dead silence. Instead of attempting a hard cannon ball first serve, I used my kick second serve. The point ensued and I ended up making the winning shot, an awkward dump shot from mid-court, winning the match, and winning the night for our team. Roman ran over to me and we gave each other celebratory hugs. Then the team clamored all over us and shook our hands. What a great ending to a tough 2-hour+ match. Yes!!!

I remember that during the second set I’d gone over to the fence where our co-captains, Gary and Joe, were on-looking. I yelled to Joe, “Hey, Joe, how bout finding me a younger body." He laughed and said, "Tell you what, you give me your consistency and I'll give you my body." Cracked us up.

My back had been hurting since the middle of the first set, but I guess the adrenaline helped mask it. I was, if you know what I mean, living totally “in the moment.” Afterwards, as Roman and I ate dinner, neither of had any appetite because we were still so excited. Rome played great. As I mentioned, he had a hit-the-ball-in game philosophy and took few chances. Yet, Roman hit two winners down his alley on two different game points. He sort of apologized for taking undue chances and we both just laughed. Can't argue with success.

I imagine Rome and I will always remember our first dad-son match together, no matter what happens in the fullness of time. Just wanted to share the experience.

TennisTom, aka Dad

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