Our year started with a first round loss of 7-6, 7-5 against the 2 seeds in Ann Arbor. Despite losing the match, Max and I did a lot of positive things that we are able to build on moving forward. We won our service games much easier than last year and in a more dominant manner. Rather than hitting an average serve, having to dig out a tough first volley and fight to win the point, I consistently hit bigger serves to set Max up for 1-2 punch plays and visa versa. When Max and I were both at net in 2 up situations, our volleys were rock solid until we had a put away opportunity, compared to floating a volley and falling behind in the point. Our communication as a team has improved and is allowing us to deal with ambiguous situations that commands a decision in a split second. It’s common that teams lose points they shouldn’t because of miscommunication. It only takes one point to change the momentum of a doubles match. Many matches are lost simply because a miscommunication error changes momentum of the match at a fragile moment.
The main area of my game I struggled with in the match was returns. I did a decent job against one of my opponent’s serve and a terrible job against the other. They get credit for serving well, but I also know what I’m capable of as a returner. My standard of returning is much higher than how I returned that day. Although our returning was spotty, we had many opportunities to break in the second set. We were up 40-30 in their first 4 service games to start the second, and we couldn’t capitalize on any break chances; we went 0 for 8. Our opponents definitely deserve credit for good shot making under pressure. However, we had returns on our racket that we executed last year when we had more of a match rhythm. Me working on my returns is one of my priorities before I compete next, but they will also get sharper as I play more matches. In addition to improving my game before the next tournament, I like to commit to daily tasks to improve as a person in general.
I like to listen to podcasts daily. Ray Lewis runs one of my favorite podcasts named “Tackling Life.” Tackling life explores daily motivation along with current issues in the world. Ray introduced a concept he called “detours.” He defined detours as unwanted happenings or perceived failures. Ray always perceived detours as preparation rather than failure. The concept that detours are a form of preparation resonated with me. I automatically have more patience with my self when things don’t go as planned. Detours present themselves in a variety of ways. Here are couple examples: A person running out of money and being unable to play their desired tournament schedule are forced to stay home and train for longer. A person sustaining an injury may be forced to commit more time than ever to film study and grow his or her understanding of the game. Max and I faced our first detour of the season when we traveled across the world to Bangkok, Thailand.
We missed the cut two weeks in a row by one spot. Facing the news would have been easier had we made a run in Ann Arbor, but we didn’t. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, Max and I trained very hard for two weeks. We woke up most mornings at 6:00am, ate breakfast at 6:20, and were on court warming up to prepare for Plyos at 6:45. We had practice at 7:00am and normally picked two areas of focus to improve for that particular practice. For our second practice, we played another team and recorded it for film study later. Some days, we had a third practice at 7:00pm for feeds, serves and returns. Although we didn’t get to compete the last two weeks, we gained confidence from the hard and consistent work we put in. When I find myself feelings nerves during tight moments while competing this week in Australia, I’ll have many moments from the two training weeks in Thailand to draw confidence from.
Max and I will be competing for the next two weeks in Australia, and we come back to compete in North America afterwards. As of now, I plan on playing for the next 8 weeks in a row. My schedule can change pending results. If Max and I consistently make deep runs into tournaments, we will schedule a week off. I look forward to keeping everyone updated as the year goes! Have a good one.