A break in the clouds
Chasing victory, and the sun, through a stormy tennis match
You may be wondering why we haven't posted any new videos recently. Not going to lie, it's been a mess around here. "I didn't even know this was possible," I thought while sipping my double americano and checking the 7 day forecast, "for it to storm this much."
Still, it was only 40% chance of thunderstorms today. We were playing no matter what.
Little did I know, I wasn't off the hook just yet.
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Inspecting my racket, I had forgotten my overgrip was shredded from last match, as I glanced at the clock. My strings were starting to move around in the bed. "It's been almost three weeks," I said to myself as I checked the depth of the notching, "they should be be good for a couple more."
At the club, we had our choice of indoor or outdoor courts. "Outdoor," I quickly answered, "I haven't been able to play outdoor in like, forever." We didn't have this issue when I lived in San Diego - you could play until your arm fell off.
We took our time during warm up as the thick humidity was stopping balls short. "You can serve first," Mark said as he elected to receive. I even wondered if I was ready to serve, after not playing the whole week.
The sky churned and felt as if a ceiling was closing in on top of us. Our surroundings darkened. The tall skinny pines bent and swayed beside our court. "At least there's a breeze," I optimistically hinted to Mark, who had just been broken.
Only two games in and the rumble of thunder interrupted my focus as I was eyeing a double break lead. The sound of children playing in the pool below was abruptly silenced by lifeguard's whistles as they made the call. Large raindrops dimpled the dusty top layer of the court. "The clay courts can take a good bit of water," I thought, "but it's getting worse."
We quickly stuffed our gear into our bags and scurried off the court to retreat indoors. "The indoor courts are soo fast, it's gonna rob me of time on his forehand," I thought. But just before we walked inside there was a break in the clouds, almost as if someone flipped a switch, and a ray of sun peered through the crack in the sky signaling us to turn around. "Wanna try one more time?" Mark asked.
The story of our time on court isn't just about the score. It's about the storm that is going on in our minds as we navigate the match, and how to deal with the rough waters. Here are a couple important lessons that I learned today that should help you before embarking on your next session.
So strap in Vacation crew, and get ready for the rough ride.
ROUGH WATERS AHEAD
I was up 4-0 and feeling good, just cruising along with the wind at my back. But momentum shifted and somehow my opponent was able to creep back to almost neutralize the score. It happens in a flash - you probably know how the story goes.
Maybe you're up a set and feeling good. But all of a sudden they come back and now you're worried about going into a breaker. The match you thought you had already won was starting to turn the other way. Now you're even thinking about how bad it would suck to lose the match.
It got me thinking of something I've been doing recently, a new way of thinking - a mental compass that's helping navigate through matches at a higher level then ever before.
A NEW WAY OF NAVIGATING THE HIGH SEAS
One thing that's been working for me recently is being mentally willing to weather the storm. No matter if you're up a few games, up a set, down a break, down a set - whatever. It doesn't matter what stage you're at - you have to come into the match set up for the long battle.
When you're up a set, it's easy to back off and chill. But we all know what happens next. This is actually the time to double down and know that it's a long way until the finish line. You haven't won shit yet - it's only halftime. It's time to get it going.
And when you're down, you can't let it get to you. If they won the first set - tell yourself the match is just getting started and has a long long way to go. If you're down 1-4 tell yourself to fight back every single point. Dig your heels in and play some good tennis, grind harder than them, get one more shot back - and ride out the storm.
A CLEARING IN THE DISTANCE
Up 5-3 in the second set the road to victory felt close, but still a bit unclear. Mark was playing stronger each point and going for shots - and making them. My hand was shaking from gripping the wet racket handle. Completely soaked, I toweled my hand between every point to keep dry, beginning to fear if I could keep it together.
I began to fear, too, that I wasn't going to be able to serve this one out and might have to go into the next game. I shook it off, and remembered my strategy. There was still work to be done.
At 40-15 match point - an easy time to just slap a few serves or go for sloppy winners because you have some cushion, I caught myself. I slowly stepped up to the dust covered baseline, barely visible underneath the beaten up clay court - I knew what I needed to do. I thought, "Grind this next point hard, don't let up," as if I was down and fighting back.
Eventually this brought me to the win at 6-3, 6-3. It wasn't necessarily the hardest match or the best he's played - but it was a good one.
I looked up in disbelief - all of a sudden it was like a different day from when we started. Players started showing up to the courts, while the sounds of diving boards in the distance were heard again like the pool had never closed. Rain was replaced by a crystal clear blue sky, and the thick humidity refreshed by a clean breeze. "I don't think I've seen the sky this blue, this clear in months," I claimed. It was as if the storm never happened.
I've played a lot of tennis before but this is what we'd been hoping, waiting, and even dreaming for. It made me think of how the ending score doesn't tell the full story of the ups and downs of the match, and the battle we go through to get there. It made me remember that this is all worth it, that to truly find your best tennis, and to find what you are looking for, you have to be willing to ride out the storm.
"This is what it's all about," Mark said as we packed up our bags, "could you imagine if it was like this everyday?"
I looked at the 7 day forecast on my phone and for the first time in weeks it was free of storms. "Actually, yeah, I could."
So, Vacation crew, when you are lost in your match just reach for your mental compass and never let it go - and let it guide you to your best tennis, ever.
It could end up being a match, or a day, that you'll never forget.