Max and I had two good weeks in Australia. We made the semifinal of both tournaments back to back. On the way to the first semifinal, we beat the one seeds who were both ranked just above 80 in the world 6-1, 6-4. In the following round, we beat a German team who are both good singles players. One of them are ranked 244 and the other is ranked 142. The match against the singles players was a weird one for us. We won the first set quickly, got up an early break in the second, established momentum decently well, only to get broken late in the set, and be in a dogfight for the rest of the match. The final score was 6-3, 6-7, 10-8. In doubles, your team can be dominating for most of the match, but momentum can be hard to recapture if its lost. We lost in the semifinal to the 4 seeds 7-6, 6-4. It was a close match, but we got outplayed late in both sets when it really mattered.
In Launceston, we beat a good, unseeded doubles team first round 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. The next round was more routine as we won 6-3, 6-4 against two good singles players. The semifinal was an awkward match to play. I cant necessarily speak for Max, but it was weird for me. The match was played over two days. We started the match on Friday and made it to 3-3 in the first set before getting rained out for the remainder of the day. Although the score was tied, it felt like we had the momentum. We cruised on our service games and had 4 break points in theirs. When facing our opponents the next day, I simply wasn’t playing as well. The conditions were different. We played on center court compared to playing on an outside court like we did the day before; it was sunny and windy compared to overcast and calm. The conditions felt faster, and it also felt like the serves stayed lower on center court. I played fairly average on Saturday compared to playing well on Friday. It felt like our opponents played played better on the second day of competition as well: they returned much better, on my serve in particular. I had lots of good serving games, so it wasn’t a complete failure on my part, but I got broken once in both sets which shouldn’t happen. They both returned my body serve well, and I wasn’t consistently hitting the corners well enough to get the amount of free points and weak replies that I’m accustomed to. Max did an awesome job when serving in the wind by varying spins and speeds on his first serve, so no two serves felt same for the returner. That’s something I could have done a little better compared to going for a powerful serves over again and trusting that I’ll eventually find my range.
I think all of my doubles skills except for my serve are top 70 quality. My returns can be up and down at times, but half of the people inside of the top 70 have streaky returns. I also don’t consider streaky returners, bad returners. When returning, we deal with big serves that are well placed with a net man covering a section of the court, forcing us to hit a high quality return into a refined area. Those stipulations would make a lot of good singles returners streaky doubles returners. I digress. I’m serving well overall, but I need to continue finding ways to get my serve top 70 quality. The pace is good, the potential of how I can serve is great, but the consistency of me being able to hit my spot needs to improve. If I’m accurate only 70 percent of the time for example, I’d do pretty well. I’d hold most of the time, and I’d look to have a dominant serve most service games I play. However, when I’m trying to win tournaments consistently, I’m going to need to rely on accurate serves when I need them. Improving my serve was one of my main focuses this offseason, and it has improved. Especially in terms of pace, but now I need to improve it in terms of accuracy.
It’s been 4 days since my last match, and Ive started a serving journal in an effort to dig deep and find solutions to make my serve great in terms of accuracy. The purpose of the journal is for me to write in detail of how my serve felt after each practice and why it felt good or bad. I also chart how well or poorly I’m doing in specific serving drills. By taking a deep look into my serve after each practice, I’m able to better realize mindset and technical tips that help me serve better more often. These are details that would likely be overlooked if I didn’t take time to stop and deeply reflect on my serving. So far, all of the information I’ve gathered has lead me to improving my toss consistency. The bottom line is technique goes out the window if my toss is inconsistent. If I am consistently adjusting to varying tosses, I’m adjusting my technique to make up for the varying positions I’m striking the ball from. When I watched myself serve in matches, I noticed that my toss varies. When trying to hit a small target off the serve, there’s a different feel from executing on a toss that’s contacted directly above my head compared to being contacted to the right or left of my head. Not only does my arm position change when adjusting to a bad toss, my hand angle to properly execute the serve at my desired target also changes.
I watched a video that explored the idea of tossing the ball in your natural swing path. You find your swing path by taking practice swings in a serve motion. Once I did that, I realized that my natural contact point in my swing path is slightly to the right of my head. The concept of tossing the ball in my natural swing path is a clear reference point that better helps me create a consistent toss. I’ve also made it a point to get to the courts early and practice sending 30 tosses into my natural swing path before practicing my actual serve. Since doing this, I have been much more accurate.
Im currently in Morelos, Mexico. Max and me play tomorrow against Peter Polansky and Dimitry Popko. They are both good singles players, and we are looking forward to the challenge. Ill update this blog once I find out exactly what time we play tomorrow. Max and I have had two really good practice days since being in Mexico, and we will feel prepared for the match. I also noticed a couple more nuances that are helping my serve. I’m excited to share them in the next blog. After this week, we will play in Calgary, Canada.