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USCTA National League 2017/18

On Wednesday Oct 11 I had my first National league match of the season playing for New England/Philadelphia against New York in New York.

My teammate was John Lumley and we were plying against Barney Tanfield and James Stout.

John was playing as the no 2 so he was up first against Barney Tanfield. John was very solid and beat Barney 6/2 6/2

It was now my turn to take in James Stout knowing that if I win we would win the night and make the job of reaching the final of National League a little bit easier. James is the racquets world champion and is also very good at court tennis. He has made 2 US Open finals winning 1 of them.

I knew James was going to be very hard to beat on his home court so I needed a good start. James went 4/0 in the first set so the good start I wanted didn't go according to plan. Despite the bad start I remained focused on getting back in to the match. I started to read the ball well and move better on the court. I was covering James' shots from the return of serve a lot better too. He liked to hit a low drive force to my forehand corner which would get him a chase every time at the start but I started to cut that shot off now and was winning more points. My return of serve improved as I made a couple of adjustments to Jame's left hand side wall railroad.

Slowly I started to get myself back in the match

I won the next 3 games in a row. The score was now 4/3 in James' favour but the momentum was in my favour.We had a long 8th game where I had game points but frustratingly I did not convert and James went 5/3 up. The next 2 games I played well,hardly making a racquet error. The first set was now 5 all. I went 30/15 up and missed a great chance to go 40/15 instead it was 30 all and James got him self a couple of chases. 3 yards and better that 2nd. James served the ball down and I was planning on hitting a cut volley but changed my mind at the last second to let hit the back was so I could force. I missed wide going for the dedan. Now 40/30 James served his side wall cut volley an this time I did cut volley. I hit a good return too but James dug it out. We had a good rally but I couldn't find a winner and James was able hit a hazard gallery to win the first set.

It was a bit gutting ro lose the set after making thay comeback but I knew I was playing well and was feeling comfortable out there. The second set James went 2/0 up. I missed a good chance to make it 1/1 as I was 40 up in the 2nd game. That wasn't to matter. I was defending James force's as well as I had ever done and my cut volley was working well too, especially to close out the set. I hit four great cut volleys in row to force racquet errors out of James and win the second set 6/2.

The final set started at 3/3. I needed to start well again but like the first 2 sets it was James that took a lead. Before I knew it was 5/3 James and I was still stuck on the receivers side. I desperately tried to get a chase before the match was over. I wasn't able to get one. The last game did go to 40/all 1 point but James won the point at the match. 6/5 2/6 6/3

Despite losing, I was happy with how played. Take away the first 4 game and the Last 3 games I was the dominant player which is pleasing considering how good James is, especially on his home court. Another thing I was very happy with was that I played with a smile on my face and I never got down on myself. I know in the past I have been too hard on myself and it's probably had a negative impact on my play at times. I am trying to make more of a consciences effort to be positive on the court and not be hard on myself. To play with a smile.

Next up was the doubles. It was all to play for. John and I teamed up. We planned on playing server up but early on the match I started to get a bad cramp in my left quad. I spoke with John and told him he is going to have to cover the back of the court for the match and I will be at the front and to the best I can to manage the cramp. When we changed ends I had a shot of pickle juice which is great for cramps. It seemed to work as the cramp went away and didn't come back.

Back to the match. This was a heck of a doubles match. The NY crowd was getting right into the match,cheering in their home pros loudly. They were playing well. Barney played up and James back. I have never seen Barney play as well as he did that night in the doubles and James was brilliant at the back. We threw everything at him and he get getting the ball back. We were all ways behind in the match until the end.

We did tie the match up at 6 all before losing the next game which went to deuce. John and I dug deep and were willing each other over the line. John was a rock at the back towards the end of the match and whenever I had a chance I looked to cut balls off at the front. We tied the match at 7/7. This was it now, whoever won this game would win the night and take the points. We survived a match point at 40/30 so now it was duece. I was returning the serve and hit a cut volley that I thought James got but the marker called down chase 1&2 .James was furious. The next point I went for it and hit a hard force straight at the dedan which forced a racquet error. We changed ends at advantage with John and I defending chase 1&2. I served a tight serve and Barney went for the dedan but missed high. We won and it was gutsy win. 8/7 John and I won and it took over an hour.

On Wednesday 25th I had a National league match against Tuxedo. This meant I had another chance to redeem my self against Tim Chisholm.

before I played Tim, Mike took on Josh Dodgson. He lost in 3 sets. 6/5 0/6 3/6

Tim had just come off a long drive from Tuxedo so i knew he might start the set slow. It was important for me to come out really focused and to chase everything down to make Tim aware that I was here to play. I couldn't of dreamed a better start,. I was middling everything and moving around the court efficiently. I ended up winning the first set 6/0.

I knew Tim was going to up his game and i needed to keep my focus. I won the first game of the second set, so i had now won 7 games in a row. i was surprised at how easily i was winning some points. Like I expected, Tim fought back and I my level of play dropped a bit. Still i was up for most the second set, but I just made some easy errors when I shouldn't of been putting the ball away. Frustratingly, this allowed Tim back in to the match and he took full advantage and he won the second set 6/3

The 3rd set started at 3/all. Tim came out swinging and was accurate. He won the first game to go 4/3 up. I then won the next game to tie the set at 4 all. Tim piled on the pressure and was hitting the ball so clean and took the next game to go 5/4 up. I squared the match to make it 5 all, saving a match point in the mean time. The final game, I was serving. Tim hit two dedans to go 30/0 up as well as a chase. I put in some tight serves and won the next 2 points to make it 30-all. I hit another fast rail road and Tim over hit the cut volley so i had an easy put away and i dumped it in the net. I couldn't believe I missed that gift. I now needed to beat chase more than a yard worse. Tim hit a good deep bobble so i tried to cut the ball down the line but hit the top of tape and consequently lost the match.

Tim won 0/6 6/4 6/5

We then had doubles afterwards. Mike & I lost 6/8. I was happy with how I played in the doubles. I could tell Mike was still tired from his singles match so he was making more errors than usual.

Despite losing, there are so many positives for me to take from that match. I know that when I am playing well I am hard for anyone to beat. I also know that I need to keep my concentration and really put the foot down when I am comfortably ahead. I need to not lose focus and allow someone back in to the match like i did with Tim.

Next up, I leave for the British Open on Thursday November 9. The draw is on the IRTPA website & USCTA website

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