Thursday, 4 July 2013

2013 British Challenge - Middlesex Uni



Day 1 Tuesday 25th June, sets 1-4 - 2/6 2/6 3/6 2/6
I came up against a guy playing the best tennis of his life. After defeating Ricardo in our last two meetings I probably didn't pay enough respect to the fact that he took out last year's British Open Champion Bryn Sayers in the Semi Final.
My game plan was to get Ricardo on the move getting him changing direction. But he was more than ready for my boasting and when I did boast the ball back to his B/H side from the Hazard end he made the Grille look and feel the size of the Dedans. I was also trying to serve one bounce Railroads but the newer balls didn't really help me out much and he was able to hit plenty of Dedans. I lost my line and length while also making a few errors and all 4 sets were lost and very very much on the back foot. I kept battling hard as the sets tumbled by but on this day Ricardo was just too good.
I did for the 1st time in my career hit a bounce winning gallery from close to the net which put a smile on my face and a very loud cheer from the spectators.

The great thing about playing a best of 13 set match is that even though Day 1 didn't go to plan in a normal best of 5 final it would be all over and the title lost. In this format I've had the chance to look at a couple of things and also to some degree put them into practice by having a 2 hour hit at Middlesex on Wednesday. Mostly working on using my cut volley return to better effect. What makes this game so complicated is that for me to make the court wider you need to hit straighter... As in when hitting the cut volley return to the F/H corner instead of hitting the sidewall 1st which actually brings the ball back towards the middle of the court giving your opponent less work to do, I straightened my cut volley up so that I was aiming for floor-backwall-sidewall making the opponent run all the way across the court to the opposite wall.

Day 2 Thursday 27th, Sets 5-8 - 6/0 3/6 4/6 6/5
I came out off the blocks and played the best single set of tennis of my career, taking it by strong play and executing my game plan perfectly. My cut volley was making him work a lot harder which meant that he wasn't able to hit quite so many winning openings, I also didn't boast anywhere near as much as in the 1st days play. I tried my hardest to keep it going even winning the 1st game of the 6th set but unfortunately try as you might you can't control what your opponent does. Ricardo almost instantly found a way to get back into his stride from day 1. I kept to the game plan and even though the 6th and 7th sets didn't go my way I felt like they could've if a couple of things went my way. Margins when playing at this level are so small. A missed Grille by an inch here an inch there, a loss of a chase by half a yard and so on. Now the challenge was to send it into a 3rd day as I trailed 1/6 in sets and Ricardo was only one set away from winning the match, a match that for me was very winnable going into the 1st day's play. That's exactly what I managed to do. In a very tight 8th set in which I was forced to save a match point 4/5 30-40 down from the Hazard end and a chase 3&4. I hit a ripping cut volley half a ball stitch above the net cord and way out of reach from a lunging Ricardo. I went on to win the next two points and the 5/5 game to 15 to end the days play at 2 sets all.

The rest day between the 2nd and 3rd days play was used very much for recovery. I had an ice bath after getting home the night before and again 1st thing friday morning as well as friday afternoon. I kept trying to draw inspiration from the 2002 World Championship match where Tim Chisholm trailed Rob Fahey 2-6 in sets going into day 3, Tim won the first 4 sets of day 3 to send the match into a deciding 13th set but it wasn't to be as Rob held on and continued his stranglehold on the WC title. I prepared my body and mind as much as I could in order to play all 5 sets required to win.

Day 3 Saturday 29th June - 3/6
As much as I could I tried to completely forget about the scoreline and take as the cliche goes, one point at a time but it just wasn't easy. In the back of your mind somewhere you're aware of the scoreline and the knowledge that Ricardo only needed to win a single set to claim the title. With that pressure and nerves my ball striking just didn't quite feel right and after scrapping a little to 3/3 Ricardo was able to win the required 3 games and take the title.

Quite disappointed at the time but I have to remember I have played some really good tennis this tournament. A gutsy, hard earned victory over Tom Durack from 1-2 down in sets and also a really solid and mentally tough Semi Final victory over Ben Matthews 6/5 6/5 6/5. I feel I've gained a great deal of experience playing in my 1st best of 13 set match which will stand me in good stead next time, hopefully in a WC Eliminator or WC Challenge match.

The tournament was supported by Play Brave a new (ish) clothing brand who supplied some tennis kit for each of the players. I have to say that the polo shirt which I wore in each of my matches is the comfiest shirt I've ever worn.

Last but not least big thank you to a handful of RTC members that made the journey up to North London to show their support during the Tournament and a special mention to my Fiancee Carly who looked after me during the long couple of weeks.



A few pics taken by Carly