Despite the pain in my right forearm, I played a solid match. I didn't make as many errors as I usually do. My backhand was solid as a brick, even hit an amazing cross-court pass that I had to marvel at (I hardly ever blink twice when I hit a good shot), and when I decided to substitute accuracy for power, the result was amazing. He gave me a lot of short balls to the backhand side, so I kept having to run forward, get into position, and respond to the short ball. The old me would have hit the shit out of the ball and hoped for the best but with the worst becoming reality (i.e. ball goes out or into the net); today, though, the new and improved me kept my cool, focused on getting into position, and focused on where I wanted to put the ball, and hitting it with just enough power to send it where I wanted it to go.
It was great. I was making shots that I was missing the last two matches. I focused on focusing on the point, not the match, certainly not the outcome, and I actually used my brain a bit, hitting a bunch of cross-court forehands, pushing him out wide, then hitting the short response into the open court. I don't know why it took me so long to play like this: to have this mental calmness, to be competitive and wanting to win but not let it overwhelm me, to want to play a good shot more than I want to avoid losing. Tennis - and all racket sports - is 80% mental. My getting upset in the last two matches had certainly hurt me more than anything else. My shots are my shots, right? I can't do anything about them in the match; I can't improve them, I can't be thinking about the changes that I want to implement but which are not yet part of my muscle memory, I can't do anything but hit the ball in the way that I know how. And that doesn't change by much from match to match. When I thought that I wasn't feeling the ball, it was because I wasn't focusing on the ball - and I wasn't focusing on the ball because all my mental energy was fixated on the outcome, either of the point, of the game, or the match. When I get my mind to go to the right place, however, I can focus fully on the ball - on hitting it properly, on sending it where I want to send it, on seeing the ball and where it's going, and getting into position to hit it.
It was a shame that my right arm hurts, for I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I could have hit my forehand properly. Still, I think I did okay - I didn't send him that many shitty flukey shots (though there were a few mishits), and whenever I passed him at the net, they were mostly solid shots. He liked to go to the net a lot which definitely disrupted my rhythm, so I'm glad that, overall, I managed to keep my cool and maintain focus and did not allow panic to take over my body.
It was 7-4 in the end and I won the tiebreak 7-2. I did make the rookie mistake at one point of stopping to see where my forehand return landed instead of preparing for the next shot - and of course, I wasn't prepared for the next shot, I found mnyself in no man's land, and couldn't get his deep reply over the net. Despite playing with no topspin and rather shoddy technique, he's a consistent player, i.e. the ball kept coming back. He made errors mostly when I hit a good shot that he couldn't get to in time, or when he dumped volleys into the net. Other than that, he returned my serves with no problem (I definitely don't trouble most people with my serve, only myself when I can't hit it well), dragged me into longish rallies, hit some good angled shots and made some good volleys. So yeah, pretty consistent player - and since I hate playing people who just keep hitting the ball back, I'm glad that I didn't end up spraying errors everywhere today.
Okay. I am really tired today. I didn't sleep that well and had to wake up at 7.30 for the match (though I only got up at 8), and I had a gin and tonic in the afternoon with Matt, and I have to go for drinks with friends at 8, and I really want to lie down right now, so I'll stop this here and write about other things another time.
(Won 13 of last 16 matches)