The French open this year had one of the strongest draws in recent years and kept the field to just the best 16 in the world that entered. The top 10 players in the world automatically qualified and then it was by handicap. All the top 10 players had entered for the first time in 3 years. I was going in to the tournament ranked no 8 in the world. My career high ranking. This would usually mean I would get seeded and be protected from playing one of the top 8 before the quarter finals. As the French only keep the draw to 16 players, they are not allowed to seed 50% of the draw. That meant I could face anyone in the first round as they had only seeded 6 players.
I drew Tim Chisholm in the first round. The first time I would play him in singles. He is one of the best players to ever play the game and is still one of the best players in the world now.
I went in to the match confident as I had some good results recently and my training with Michael Cecchi meant I knew I was fitter than Tim. I knew Tim was going to be incredibly hard to beat but I had couple game plans that I believed would be enough to win.
I started the match quite strongly. I took the first game and had hit some nice winners. I was feeling good. The 2nd game Tim won but I let slip a 40 love lead which was really disappointing. I won the 3rd game to go 2-1 up and felt happy with how I was playing so far. That was soon to change. Tim started taking advantage of some of my poor serves and I started to have some uncharacteristic racquet errors. All of a sudden my confidence was shaken a little bit and I couldn’t find a way back in the first set. I lost the set 6/2.
I shrugged the disappointment of the first set off and was really focused on winning the second set. The problem was I could not find any rhythm and the things I normally do well like forcing for the dedans was completely off. I was hitting far too many on the penthouse. Paris is a difficult court if you can’t hit your targets as it is so bouncy that you don’t get a lot of winners on the floor. I lost the 2nd set 6/2.
I kept believing I could win and I started to find some rhythm and had Tim under some pressure. Tim was still playing well however and I was failing to win the important points. I had some game point to bring the match to 4 games all but I wasn’t able to win them. I was serving at 3/5 30/all still believing I could steal the set. Tim had other plans. I served to railroads which Tim volleyed both with pace straight in to the back of the dedan. It was an impressive way to finish the match.
I walked off the court disappointed. Not because I had lost but because I didn’t play anywhere near the form I had shown the last 6 months. In reflecting the match I realized how clever Tim had been with his court position which helped him win points. He is not the fastest on the court but is clever enough to try force you to hit shots where he wants you to hit them. Sometimes he would serve and stand a second gallery and cut off your cut volley for a winner. The other thing I realized, I had never changed to plan B. Plan B was chuck a variety of serves to throw off his rhythm. Instead I kept serving railroads and demi PK’s which played right in to Tim’s strengths. The positive thing for me was that I never gave up . I still had to make Tim work to win as the match lasted 2 hours.
The singles might had finished for me but I still had the doubles. I was looking forward to the doubles as I got to play with none other than Rob Fahey. The greatest player of all time. Rob & I had Ben Taylor Matthews and John Lumley in the quarter finals. They are no 4 and 10 in the world. The day of the match I decided to book a practice court for an hour. I wanted to work on my forcing and my volleying as I has lost a little confidence after my match against Tim. I am glad I did because I played really well in the doubles, as did Rob. We hardly made any mistake and Ben & John were in the match. We won the match 6/1 6/1 6/1. This was made more enjoyable by the large crowds in the gallery. The French had organized cocktail parties every evening which meant that the night time matches had big crowds which was great.
Next up in the semi final. We had Camden Riviere and Tim Chisholm, the doubles world champions.
We started the first game strongly. More like Rob started strongly, he hit 4 dedans to win the first game. We should of one the 2nd game too. We had a game point and I served a railroad which knicked and rolled but the marker never called it. Rob and I sorted of stopped in disbelief as we dumped it in to the net. Camden knew he had got away with one by the smile he gave but what can you do. You are going to get good and bad calls all the time. It’s just the bad calls tend to stick out when it costs you winning a game. From there Camden and Tim played well and won the set 6/3. Rob and I started the second set with a game plan to be aggressive and it worked. We both forcing really well and were winning a lot of cheap points. We had game points for 5/1 but failed to do that. We did go 5/2 up however with set points. We thought we had them as Camden looked in pain and was grimacing a lot. As the set got closer Camden started to move better and showed no signs of pain like he did earlier in the set and they were able to sneak the set.
Looking back on the set I think Rob and I tried to go for too many shots and put too many on the penthouse towards the end of the set which cost us winning the set. The 3rd set Rob and I started well, going 3/0 up. Camden and Tim shook off their slow start and were starting to put a lot of pressure on us and in the end, we lost the set 6/4 and the match 6/3 6/5 6/4.
I was really happy with how I played in the doubles and it was the first time I felt I belong out there with the very best players on a doubles court.
The next tournament for me will be the British Open In November. I have 6 weeks to keep working on my game and fitness. I do have 3 national league matches before then so that will help get my game match sharp. Also Rob and I will be teaming up again in the doubles at the British Open. I can't wait.