I might have had better odds of owning a winning Powerball ticket, given the way the previous twelve months had unfolded. 2 Pack Black Original Hi Viz Fast Fit YellowBright purple Handmade Accent Pillow Case Knitted Of Semi Woolen Threads But somehow there I was in mid-July, stepping up to the baseline to serve at 9-9 in the decisive supertiebreaker, two points from a berth in the finals of the New England 40-and-over 7.0 competition. Lurking tantalizingly beyond that was the chance to reach a USTA national team tournament for the first time since 2006 (I also made it to Nationals in the Tri-Level competition, which features a single doubles position, in 2014).
Even conceding that nothing worthwhile comes without a struggle, it had been unusually difficult for me to get to that point. I battled plantar fasciitis throughout the summer of 2017 and eventually chose to take two and a half months off from tennis (a very small percentage of the resulting frustrations are detailed in earlier posts). I returned to the game that December and spent two mostly pain-free months slowly recapturing my form and fitness. Then one cold night in February I somehow forgot to pack both my sweat pants, which I warm up in on all but the hottest days, and my compression leggings, White-high Large Bedside Tables Nightstand Cabinet Bedside Cabinet Table Stackable Side Table Coffee Table End Table Nordic Iron Art Creative Living Room Sofa Simple GAOFENG (color Green-high, Size L)QIQI-LIFE Solid Wood Square Stool, Home Dining Stool,4-Leg Sponge Pad Small Chair,Fabric Dressing Stool Living Room Sofa Stool Wooden Bench (color Wood color, Size 02)a residue of two knee operations which I now wear whenever I play. It was amazing that I remembered my racquet, but I might have been better off forgetting that, too, because about five games into the match my Achilles tendon went “pop” and I was back on the disabled list. Long days and nights teaching and coaching, coupled with insufficient attention to my injuries, meant that by the time my Achilles healed, my foot was hurting once more, and it would continue to hurt all summer long.
I may not have been healthy or well-conditioned or playing the way I wanted to be playing, but I did choose my teams wisely, and those teams carried my 200-plus pounds of competitive deadweight into postseason play on many different fronts. While I wasn’t able to play any qualifying matches for the Keene 8.0 mixed team which had made such a great run to Sectionals in 2017, I did the bare minimum (generally two matches at low lineup positions) to become postseason-eligible for Keene’s 7.0 teams at both the 18-and-over and 40-and-over levels, as well as the Algonquin 4.0 teams in the same age categories. Domus Vita Design Carlton - Square Mirror Frame with Tobacco Finish, 38.2”L x 1”W x 38.4”H, TobaccoA Dry-Towels Dry-Towels All Bathroom unipolar Shelf Copper EngravingAll four teams were deep and talented enough to finish in the top two in their respective local leagues, and though I played no significant role in those triumphs, I was more than willing to be a part of their postseason runs come summer.
The 18-and-over mixed playoffs came first, but since most of our nucleus of players was over 40, our captain, Chet Porowski, viewed this as a dry run for the older age category and used it mainly to try out different combinations and get everyone some playing time. The result was what we expected, though we hoped for better: we lost all three matches and won just one individual court. I had one winnable match that slipped away in a supertiebreaker and one unwinnable match in which the opponents somehow passed off a recently-graduated Division II college player as a 3.5. Her serve was better than mine, which in men’s competition isn’t saying much but should by itself disqualify a woman from carrying a 3.5 rating. One of our women blew off our finale on Sunday, leaving us shorthanded and requiring Chet to put his considerable diplomatic skills to use when the opposing husband/wife team who were left without a match to play protested vehemently (word to the not-so-wise: just take the free point and shut up, already!). The only other memorable moment came when I mistook the coffee dispenser on the table at IHOP for a syrup dispenser and slathered my pancakes with it. Yep, it was a successful weekend all the way around.
We were convinced things would be different in the 40-and-over division, though, and not without reason. We had essentially the same group of Keene-based players and me as the 18-and-overs, but fewer teams competed in the older age category, and that allowed Chet to skim off some of the female talent from other nearby clubs. He also brought two of his tennis friends onto the team as self-rated 3.0s: one, Tom, was closer to a 4.0 in ability but hadn’t played in organized competition since high school, and the other, Scott, lacked even that background but had the athleticism and power to play like a solid 3.5. Putting them with strong or even mid-range 4.0 women gave us two near-certain points in New Hampshire and two super-competitive courts even at the highest levels of New England tennis. Chet’s longtime partner, Kristen, had been bumped up to 4.0 in November 2017, or we would have had three super-competitive courts, but we still got by most of the time with a patchwork of combinations on the third court, and I was part of that patchwork. I was the only 4.0 man and had two qualified 3.0 partners. Anne was closer to a strong 3.5 but insisted on taking all her own shots- and in mixed doubles, as I have lamented many times previously, almost every ball is hit to the woman unless she is rated a full point higher than her male partner. Factor that in and I may have been better off with my other partner, Jackie, who also happened to be Joe Waldvogel’s daughter. Jackie inherited Joe’s pleasant off-court personality and competitive nature but is much more generous with line calls than her father. Although she excelled in many other sports growing up, Jackie only had about a year of tennis-playing experience, so her game was still closer to a 2.5 than a 3.5, but she was willing to be coached during matches and unafraid of hard-hit balls, and by Sectionals (there are no Districts for 40-and-over since the number of competing teams is smaller) she had also developed an extremely consistent serve. Qing MEI Solid Wood Wall Hanging Coat Rack, Bedroom Living Room Storage Rack, Wall Storage Rack, Hanger Simple Hanger A++E 100x200cm Student Dormitory Folding Mattress Tatami Mattress Sponge Mattress Multi-Function Comfort Non-Slip Soft Bedroom (color D, Size 180x200cm)
Sectionals were held in mid-July at a handful of clubs in the Boston area, and we first needed to win our round-robin four-team flight. Anne and I played number three against Vermont on Friday, and the match unfolded the way many 7.0 matches do: the opposing woman lobbed with exceptional consistency and called all the close balls “out”, and her male partner blanketed the net and mixed some spectacular smashes with other balls that hit the back curtain on the fly. We made just enough shots and they missed just enough for us to win by a break in each set in a back-and-forth match. The other two matches were also close, but we won both and so went into Saturday with lots of momentum. We built on that momentum with an easy win against a team from the town I was born in (Torrington, CT) and a much more difficult one against Longfellow, a club located in one of Boston’s wealthy western suburbs that had been considered the favorite in our flight. The consensus proved accurate and Longfellow also entered the final match undefeated, but Chet and his partner Sorrell came through in an exciting supertiebreaker, and that sent our team to the knockout rounds with a 2-1 win. Student Dormitory Bamboo Mat Bunk Single Mat Summer Cool Mirror Mat (Without Pillowcase) Wood Pattern Mat 1.2 M 0.9m (color Brown, Size 90 190cm)TXXM Barstools Bar Chair Dining Chair High Stool Lift Chair Swivel Chair (color Black, Size H38-54CM)
Eight teams now remained in contention and the elimination rounds were all scheduled for Sunday, meaning we would have to win three matches in about a twelve-hour span to get to Nationals. But all the rotation players on our team were available except Anne, who had gone on vacation after our Friday match, so Chet felt we had as good a chance as anyone. Our quarterfinal matchup would quickly let us know the truth of that, for we were matched up against Cedardale, a giant all-sports club from north of Boston that traditionally fields top-notch mixed teams at all levels. Chet’s plan was to put his strongest lineup out against Cedardale, a slightly weaker one which included Jackie and me in the semifinal, and then the best and healthiest teams left in the final. It didn’t look like that would matter, though, as Cedardale had ringers of their own: a man somehow rated 3.0 and his steady partner decisively beat our veteran duo of Sue and Bruce at number 3. We needed to win both the other matches, and both went to supertiebreakers, and we faced match points in at least one of them, but the teams of Tom and his partner Tina and Scott and his partner Sandy came up huge, and that sent us into the final four. Jackie and I were going to be playing on the big stage. Ltong Coat Rack Solid Wood Floor Hanger Simple Bedroom Living Room Foyer Elegant Atmosphere Coat Rack (color D)GFF Bathroom Racks Multi-Layer Solid Wood Bathroom Shelf, Bathroom Wall Hanging, Bathroom Bathroom Accessories(50 13.5 25cm)
Things had gotten so chaotic by then that it took her a few minutes to sort out all that she had somehow not heard before. She ended up retroactively giving The Jerk a point penalty and Eric Morrow on the next court a warning for an explicit recounting of The Jerk’s behavior. When the match finally resumed under the judge’s watchful gaze, The Jerk stopped going nuts. He stopped winning, too. It wasn’t rocket science: when they were able to just play tennis, the better tennis player had the advantage, and Zack dominated the last few points. It had been a battle- almost a literal one, at that- but in the end we had achieved our dream. We were going to Nationals! To punch our ticket by finally breaking the Portland jinx made it all the sweeter, but it was plenty sweet regardless, and we celebrated accordingly. The rest of the day passed in a blur as we went from Williston-Northampton to the main tournament site at Mount Holyoke College for pictures, high fives, hugs and USTA-New England champion glasses. I loved the chemistry on our team and was thrilled to be a part of it, even though I hadn’t contributed as much on the court as I would have liked. Given the injuries I’ve dealt with over the past few years, the sad reality is that I’m clearly much closer to the end of my competitive career than I am to the beginning. It won’t be much of a surprise if October’s trip to Arlington, Texas represents my last experience at a USTA national tournament. But many avid players don’t get to make a trip like that even once, so there’s no doubt I’ve been blessed to be three times lucky.
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