Fairfield, Vegas, Charlottesville, and Knoxville
Overall, the tennis has been good the last 3 weeks. Max and I were in Fairfield, Vegas and Charlottesville. In Fairfield, Max and I lost second round 3-6, 6-4, 10-6. In Vegas, Max and I lost in the final 2-6, 6-3, 10-8. In Charlottesville, Max and I lost first round 5-7, 6-4, 10-8. Vegas hurts the most of the three tournaments because we were very close to winning our first title together. However, I’m happy with how Max and I have been growing over the last three weeks as a team. Charlottesville was the first, first round lost we’ve had in a while. We had the whole week to get better and prepare for Knoxville, and we made the most of it. We had two practices a day, gym, and film study everyday after losing. It honestly feels like it’s just a matter of time before Max and I take our results from pretty good to really good. We have been very consistent with our hard work together since we started playing in June, and I believe our results have no choice but to follow.
These last three weeks as a whole have been filled with the usual: Morning practices, film study, gym, plyometrics, and using Eric Butorac as a resource to get an answer to questions we don’t know the answer to. Sure, the work has been physically and mentally exhausting at times, but this is my dream life. Regardless of how tiring the work is, I always seem to wake up early the next morning with energy and optimism that we are a step closer to our goal of being an ATP level team. This blog would be quite long if I decided to give a detailed recap of all lessons learned the last three weeks. I wanted to post a blog a week ago after Vegas, but our days are long and I’ve been too tired. I finally have a little mental energy, and I’m excited to share a couple of things Max and I have been doing this past month to continue improving as a team.
Since Columbus, we’ve made the effort to quickly check in with each other before practice that we expect to win. Before the first ball is struck, Max or I will say “is the mindset there?” to make sure we are training with the expectation of winning. Just training physically hard isn’t good enough. Almost everyone trains hard at this level. However, very few people actually expect to win the tournament. Winning expectations have to be consciously practiced every day over an extended period of time if I expect to have confidence in myself during tight moments. Players that only physically train hard but don’t train their expectations often find ways to lose in more situations than not.
We have also started traveling with a hitting partner this past week. His name is a Charlie Emhardt, and he played his college tennis for Valparaiso University. Charlie is currently playing primarily doubles at the future level. Max, Charlie and I felt this would be a beneficial experience for everyone. Charlie gets a closer look at a higher level of doubles at the challenger level, while he helps Max and I have a higher level of preparation. Max and I aren’t coaches by any means, but we give Charlie tips on his game as he practices with us. He also sits in on our film study sessions. In specific, Charlie helps me and Max by providing us more realistic looks during practice. For example, Charlie can be a net presence while Max serves to me. Me practicing returns with a person putting pressure on me is more effective than me returning while imagining net presence. I get consistent reps on the exact feel of what returning in a match is like. Another example is Charlie feeds me a first volley while Max pressures it. I get to work on feeling Max’s presence while I try to avoid him during my first volley and Max gets to work on trying to affect my first volley, simulating a returner partner role. My favorite aspect of Charlie helping us is him being able to serve at us as much as we need. I can work specific returns that have been giving me problems and gradually work on my chip lob return everyday. I technically could get Max to serve at me, but it’s not very efficient as I’m conscious of asking for too many serves from him in fear of wearing his shoulder down. Charlie has been a huge help for us, and we have been expect playing a lot sharper because of him.
Max, Charlie and I are currently in Knoxville, Tennessee. We are in the semifinal and will play 3rd up after 11. We will go on around 3pm eastern time. It will be best to follow the scores to see exactly when I’ll go on. We will play against Sem Verbeek and Bradley Klahn. They are both good players and we look forward to the challenge.