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.