Sunday, 12 July 2015

Post Season part 1


It's been a while since my last blog but after watching the Wimbledon Final this afternoon it got me to reflect on my previous Real Tennis season and the upcoming season beginning in September.

In a sport like Real Tennis I can only dream of the feeling Novak Djokovic is currently feeling after winning on a stage like Wimbledon but even though our equivalent stage is the British Open or World Championship's are much less in the eyes of the general population it gets me thinking about the best win of my career and last season being my best season on the Real Tennis circuit.

Season 2014-15 started with the French Open in Paris. I was unseeded due to the fact the tournament committee decided only to seed 6 players instead of the usual 8. It meant missing out on the 8th seed and drawing World Champion Rob Fahey in the 1st round. I had never taken a set off Rob let alone beat him so it was a bit of a disappointment when I saw the draw.
I didn't let it worry me too much as I had practiced a lot with Rob over the previous 12 months being his hitting partner for the 2014 World Championship in Melbourne. It was also the first tournament I had played in almost 12 months after dislocating my shoulder at the 2013 British Open and missing a few tournaments because of the injury.
I remember being so excited to play a match that I ate my pre match meal an hour earlier than I planned to and even got dressed into my tennis kit shoes and all about 90 mins earlier than I would normally. Thankfully I was able to settle a little by finding a nice quiet corner of the Paris club and was able collect my thoughts. I started well but the 1st set went the way of Rob. I rallied in the 2nd set and took the set 6/4. I remember being so nervous when trying to close out the set, it was such a relief to do so. I was then up to my neck in the next couple of sets and had chances at 5 all 30 all in both the 3rd and 4th sets but Rob's experience paid dividends and after going into the match planning to get a set I left the court disappointed to not win the match...

The next stop was the IRTPA Championships held at the Manchester Tennis and Rackets club. A pretty non eventful tournament here... I was seeded to play Ricardo Smith, one world ranking spot above me in the Qtr finals and was going to be a heck of a match after he'd had a great tournament beating Chisholm, Sayers and lead Fahey 2-1 in sets at the US Pro back in June.
To my surprise upon arriving in Manchester to play my 1st round match I heard the guys talking about Ricardo (working and living at Newport, Rhode Island) and how he'd arrived at Boston Airport and realised he'd left his passport at home. I have to be honest I thought the guys were having a lend of me but eventually realised that the guys were absolutely serious.
A straight sets win over Leon Smart and Craig Greenhalgh meant a date in the Semi final against World Number 1 Camden Riviere who dispatched me 6/0 6/3 6/0.

Premier Division National League was back after a year hiatus and Peter Wright and I partnered up to represent RTC. On the 1st November we hosted Leamington, Ben Matthews and Jon Dawes. Peter took the 1st set and lead mid 2nd set before losing a tight 3 set match to Jon. I defeated Ben for about the 4th time in a row in straight sets. We lost a tight doubles in the deciding rubber.

It was then time to prepare for the British Open. A tough draw awaited me! unseeded as world number 9 my draw put simply was Conor Medlow a lefty who loves to smack his forehand into any type of winning opening, into Tim Chisholm who loves to smack his forehand into any winning opening and if I was to continue through the draw Steve Virgona in the Qtr's another lefty who loves to smack his forehand into any winning opening.... I spent the weeks leading up to the Open practicing getting my opponents return back in play. Sounds simple... ha not against the quality of players I was due to face!
-1st round vs Conor Medlow. I got out to the quickest of 4/0 leads before Conor hit back and even held a set point at 5/5 before I was able to take the set and close the match out in straight sets. 6/5 6/2 6/3
-Round of 16 vs Tim Chisholm. Again I had never taken a set off Tim let alone defeated him, but I had played him at the British Open in 2013 and learnt a lot from that match. I lost 2 of the narrowest sets both 5/6 to Tim and faced a 2 set deficit. I had a game plan and even though it hadn't gone my way I felt it was still the right plan. I stuck to my guns and took the 3rd set 6/4. The 4th set was nip and tuck with Tim keeping his nose in front most of the set. I then faced 0-40 (triple match point to Tim) in the 5 all game needing to beat chase 2&3. Tim served, I belted a forehand at the backhand corner of the dedans, Tim got racket on it but thankfully the ball flew out of court. I took the next 2 points from the receivers end to get it back to deuce. I then had 5 or 6 set points and finally levelled at 2 sets all and send it into a 5th set. Tim was now feeling the pinch and I was buzzing from getting back from 2 sets down. I took the 5th and final set to record my best ever win in any sport I've ever played coming from 2 sets down against the World Number 5 and the quality player that is Tim Chisholm. 5/6 5/6 6/4 6/5 6/2 in a match that spanned 4 and a half hours.
-Qtr final vs Steve Virgona. I had only once taken a set of Steve in roughly 8 outings against my fellow Aussie. Only 24 hours after the high of defeating Tim I was back on court and I couldn't of dreamt of a better start to the match taking the first 2 sets 6/5 6/4 to all of a sudden lead the World Number 3 two sets to love. Steve took an injury break at the end of the 2nd. I took the opportunity to rest my tired body by taking a seat and collecting my thoughts. In hindsight it was the worst thing I could do. I had less sleep than the length of my match with Tim and now I was almost 2 hours into another tough match. After the re-start I could't get going again, Steve got on top and won 10 games in a row to be 0/4 up in the 4th. I rallied but it was a little to late. I got back to 3/4 before Steve closed out the set. My body was now starting to cramp. Something I'd never experienced on a Real Tennis court before. The 5th set went in the blink of an eye and so did the match. 6/5 6/4 0/6 3/6 2/6. Although the match didn't go my way I was starting to believe I could match it with the big boys.

Before Christmas and roughly the half way point of the season Peter and I had two Premier National League matches.
Queen's at home of which I was due to face Conor again. He had to withdraw and I defeated Andrew Fowler in straight sets. Peter defeated fill in Charlie Crossley and they gave us a walkover in the doubles to claim maximum points.
Two weeks later we headed to Petworth. I lost to Bryn Sayers somewhat disappointingly 0/6 5/6. Peter came from behind against Craig Greenhalgh and we took the doubles and claimed an important away victory.

After Christmas, more highs, almost's, and the poor timing of injuries.

Stay tuned


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

2015 US Open - Boston


I was really looking forward to the US Open being played in Boston, it is the 1st time in my playing career Boston has hosted the US Open as the court has been out of action since the 2007 World Doubles due to the roof closely resembling a sieve...

I arrived on Monday 16th Feb, 24 hours delayed after my original flight was cancelled as 3 feet of snow fell over the weekend. I was able to fit in a couple of hours practice on Tuesday an hour with Rob Fahey and an hour with my doubles partner John Lumley. Thursday I was able to have an hours practice on my own to enable me to do some serving practice which is always an important aspect of playing on a court for the 1st time in my career. I had one last practice with Camden Riviere on Friday morning in preperation for my tournament to start on Saturday.

Saturday 21st - My first match of the 2015 US Open was against Ladies World Champion Claire Fahey (nee Vigrass) who has been allowed to enter the Open tournaments due to the out right fact her handicap is now that of a level to qualify for the big tournaments. She is hitting the ball very well and is stronger and more aware of tactics and court craft than her male counterparts of similar handicap.
I started a little slowly and went 0/2 before getting on top in the points. I was very much still trying to get used to the court in a match situation but was able to do enough to keep Claire at bay. 6/3 I took the 1st set. I quickley went 2/0 up in the 2nd before Claire played the best tennis I've seen from her. she went 2/3 and then 4/5 up and I knew I was in for a fight to take the 2nd set. I got back to 5/5 and the 1st point of the final game of the set, set the tone for me for the rest of the match. I was completely out played in that point and it was a turning point for me as I knew i had to really knuckle down and take some of the distractions i was facing out of my mind. I took the set 6/5 and then quickley raced through the 3rd set taking it 6/1 after being 5/0 up. 6/3 6/5 6/1 victory, not my best tennis for the season but that sometimes happens in a 1st round match of a tournament when your opponeint has also already played a competetive match to get through to play me as a seeded player.

Sunday 22nd - Singles Quarter Final day. I was the second match on for the day taking on Men's World Champion Rob Fahey. I was really looking forward to this match and I had put together a game plan that I thought could put me in a position to win the points required to win the match. The 1st time I've thought this to date when talking about taking on Rob Fahey in a 1 on 1 match.
I felt I started well and was getting my range on my giraffe serve. We went game for game all the way to 5/5, at 30 all I made a bad decision from the Hazard end with a chase of worse than 3 up my sleeve got an easy ball and then skyed a backhand drive out of court when I should of stuck to the plan and either hit it into corner or gallery. We changed at 30-40 down chase worse than 3. I served almost the perfect giraffe only for Rob to lob the ball to a perfect length up onto the side penthouse where it then bounced off and was going to land in the dedans, I was able to hit an awkward backhand volley from deep in the court, Rob played a good ball down the line to my forehand corner which I made good ground to recover the ball only for Rob to play a deft touch backhand half volley back across to my backhand corner and with me way out of position I set off at full speed made it all the way across the court but tragedy struck as I lunged and tried to decelerate I slipped or lost my balance and crashed in to the backhand wall basically head first. I somehow didn't knock myself out but I knew I was in a bad way. One of the spectators on hand was Anders Cohen who is a top neurosurgeon and he was one of the first on court and made sure my neck and head were stable and ordered somebody to call 911 and get an ambulance here to take me to hospital. Thankfully after a CT scan I was cleared of any fractures to my skull and no internal bleeding. My right ear lobe started to fill with blood and in the end needed to be drained. This unfortunately was the end of my US Open campaign as I wasn't able to compete in the doubles which was very disappointing as its annoying for my teammate as well.

I spent a few days recovering and flew home to London a few days later. I'm now fully recovered and getting back into my practice with a number of National League matches to come over the next month. Including playing Rob again at RTC on the 28th March.
The next tourament's are in the summer with the World Doubles Championship taking place at Tuxedo Park (New York) and then the US Professional singles being held at Newport (Rhode Island) in the first two weeks of June.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

2015 Australian Open - Melbourne


I have just returned back from this years Australian Open where I made my first ever Open Semi final followed by my first ever Open Final.

The weather was a little disappointing for the first few days I was there, but luckily for the entire trip we didn't see a day hotter than 33 degrees which I'm mighty thankful for!

I arrived into Melbourne late on Thursday 8th January and was straight into the club the following day to hit with Julian Snow for an hour. Melbourne is probably the trickiest court in the world that we play a tournament on. Its fast and unforgiving... It's also hot and muggy on court being summer down under even though the weather wasn't particularly hot. I continued to head into the Club from my parents place over the next few days to hit with the likes of Julian, Nick Howell (my Aus Open doubles partner), Kieran Booth and Frank Filippelli.
Tuesday was my first day off court with the start of the singles. The top 3 seeds in the draw were given a bye into the Quarter final which included myself seeded #3. I headed into the club to watch Bret Richardson vs Michael Williams with the winner taking on myself on Thursday. Bret won the match and I was impressed with how much his singles has improved over the last few years.

I had one last practice with Camden Riviere on the Wednesday night for last minute preparations before Thursday's match and the start of my tournament assault.

Quarter Final vs Bret Richardson - I was fairly nervous leading into this match. It had been 2 years since one of my worst experiences on the Real Tennis court when in the first round I struggled through defeating an injured and cramping Nick Howell as well as struggling with JetLag after only arriving a couple of days before playing. I have since learnt from that, I arrived 6 full days before playing this time.
Bret is a talented lawn tennis player and doesn't really do anything the conventional way. Top spin smash drives off the return of service for one, and when he is seeing it well theres not much you can do but to react quickly and get his return back in play and start the point from there. I dropped the 1st game in each of the 3 sets and even trailed 2/3 in the 3rd set but was able to weather the storm and play well enough for a 6/2 6/2 6/4 victory which set up a Semi final (my first) against a friend and long time rival Kieran Booth.

Doubles Quarter Final vs CJ White and James Gould - The 2 youngsters played their hearts out and I was very impressed with CJ with the little court time he has these days how well he played. Nick and I were perhaps a little casual at the start of the match and we almost paid for it facing a couple of game balls from/../ CJ and James to tie it up at 5 all in the 1st. We were able to do enough and take the set and with that the momentum to win the match 6/4 6/0 6/2. CJ a 15 handicap had taken a set of the World Number 7 Kieran Booth in the singles Quarter finals the day before...

Semi Final vs Kieran Booth - There was a lot riding on this match for both of us. For me it was a huge opportunity to gain some much needed World Ranking and World Race points after missing the Aus and US open's last year through injury and to also consolidate my recent form from the British Open.
It's funny how nerves work I was much more nervous for my first match than I was for this one and I started the match well to lead 3/0 in no time. Kieran looked a little edgy and gave me quite a few cheap points. From that point on though it was another story. Kieran really dug deep and snuck the 1st set 5/6 and went 0/3 up. I was trying to figure out why I was struggling to stay in the match and thankfully did. I kept much more patient and was able to control the service end by hitting a lot of galleries so not to get stuck down the Hazard end. Kieran was playing a very disciplined game plan and was tying me up in the F/H corner of the service end. Kieran can be a little wild with his forcing as he loves to hit the cover off the ball and I thought if I was to serve tight railroads which I was, I'd get a lot of cheap points but this wasn't the case, this therefore meant that we had some pretty long drawn out points in the heat which was tough. From 0/3 down in the 2nd set I played some of my best tennis in the match to take the set 6/4. The 3rd was nip and tuck all the way. I led 5/4 and went close to closing in out but Kieran levelled at 5 all and it was anyones, I snuck it 6/5 for the all important 2-1 lead in sets which was huge in the context of the match. The 4th was again close but I was able to keep my nose in front and edged it for 6/4 to win 5/6 6/4 6/5 6/4 in almost 3 hours of tennis. I was through to my first ever Open final and I was elated I called Carly immediately back in London to tell her the good news even though I knew she'd been watching the streaming.

Doubles Semi Final vs Kieran Booth and Bret Richardson - It's safe to say that this wasn't the most enjoyable days at the office. Nick was clearly feeling the pinch of a long week with the Roo Trophy marking as well as getting things organised for his move to Newport as the new Senior Professional, to make matters worse we could hardly take a trick with all the luck going the way of our opponents which in sport just happens unfortunately. We went down disappointedly 3/6 5/6 2/6
I hope all goes well for Nick as he heads to Newport. It should be a great opportunity for him to gain more experience to make it to the next level.

Final vs Camden Riviere - My opponent in the final (my first) is none other than the current World Number 1. In three previous meetings with Camden I was yet to take a set off him. I was hoping he'd be a little nervous as he was needing this title for a career grand slam (winner of all 4 Opens). I was a little nervous as it was my first Final but also had never played in front of such a big crowd. Some of my matches at the British Open recently went close but nothing like this. Even though I was a little nervous I was super excited to be playing in this match against such a great player. I had a game plan and tried to stick to it but the preserved pressure and actual pressure Camden puts you under is like no other in the game today. His speed around the court and his deft hands to not only retrieve balls but to get it back into such a difficult position is second to none.
I really can't remember too much of the 1st set I have to say it was over in a flash 1/6. I remember telling myself to slow down and enjoy the moment of a Final (well as much enjoyment as you can when your playing Camden). I felt I settled into the 2nd set a little better and got back to the job at hand. I was hitting my cut volley return well but balls that would of set chases against most kept coming back which meant I had to hit a number of galleries. I felt at the service end I could really match it with Camden but from the Harzard end it was a different story. I lost the 2nd set 2/6.
Even though the 3rd set scoreline wasn't any prettier 2/6 it was my best set of the match. I felt more comfortable in the points and much more patient. Camden was and is just too good at this present time and I hope I get another chance against him in a Final down the track to get at least one back on him. 1/6 2/6 2/6

I would like to congratulate Camden on his achievement of a Career Grand Slam but more than that, he currently holds all 7 of our major titles with the US, Aus, French and British Opens but also the European Open, US Professional and British Professional titles. To add to that again and will be interesting if it has been done before as Camden holds the US, British and French open Doubles titles with Tim Chisholm and the Australian open with Julian Snow making him the holder of all but the singles and doubles World Championships which I think is an amazing achievement.

I have now arrived back from Melbourne and will look to hit the ground running as the US open in Boston is only 3 and half weeks away. I have a Premier Division National League match vs Petworth (Bryn Sayers and Tom Durack) at HOME on the 31st January. To reserve your ticket please contact the Pro Office.

Thanks for all the support