That is the point of this entry. I am too lazy to link to my previous entries about my matches with her, so here's the short of it: I'd beaten her 4 times in a row. We'd played exactly 4 times before today. I went into the match full of confidence, thinking it was going to be an easy victory simply on account of my record against her, and completely forgetting that what counts isn't the number of times that I have won, but the newness of the match, and the person at the other side of the net. What I had mistakenly thought was going to be an easy victory turned out to be hard fought, frustrating, rather emotional and all-round shitty.
A couple of things were at issue today. It'd been a while since I last played her, so I had forgotten how deceptively weak her actually weak serves are. By this I mean her serves are objectively weak in that she kind of taps the ball over the net in a manner that makes the ball float over and sit up really high; and it's objectively weak because any decent intermediate player would be able to smack it away for a winner. But the weakness is deceptive in a subjective sense: its lack of pace, its floatedness, make it rather challenging for me to time my shot properly. While I remained aggressive on the return throughout (and of course, I'm naturally aggressive and I can't defend, so it's really the only style that I have), I think I missed a good 50% of my returns. The most frustrating part was the forehand returns that I completely mistimed, hitting the ball somewhere close to the frame and sending the ball sailing wide.
This brings me to the second thing that wasn't working: my forehand. She'd send a defensive-ish ball back meekly over the net, bouncing somewhere around the service line, and I'd get up to it, thinking I was in position, and I would take the racket back and swing, thinking the ball would, you know, go over the net as it's supposed to - but the ball ended up smacking itself painfully against the net. Right from the warm-up I wasn't feeling the range off my forehand at all; I wasn't timing the ball well, it felt awkward and uncomfortable, and the backhand was only slightly better.
I broke her opening service game and held mine. Then I had a bunch of break points on her next service game to go up 3-0, but blew them all: dumped too many returns into the net, couldn't time my forehand, got really irritated at myself. Then I proceeded to get myself broken too many times. The only saving grace was that she couldn't hold serve either. When the score was 4-4, on serve, I was almost desperate to win her service game. When I finally did and stepped up to serve, it took a lot of mental effort to hang in there when the score was 30-all.
While I hit a brilliant backhand cross-court winner that she wouldn't have got to anyway even if a ball hadn't rolled over from the adjacent court, and although I wasn't distracted by the ball at all, I didn't even stop to consider if I should suggest calling it a let. I didn't even ask her if she was distracted by the ball. Normally I would; but it was not a normal situation. It was the difference between match point and break point - and I sure as hell did not want to be facing break point. So I ignored the potential let situation and walked back to the baseline and got ready for the next point.
It was on her to say something if she was distracted, right? I do feel a bit bad for not asking if she wanted to play a let. But I really wanted to win. I really wanted to win. When I finally did, hitting a backhand cross-court passing winner, the relief that I felt was more angry than happy. I simply didn't know what the hell I was doing for most of the match, under which godforsaken rock my forehand was hiding, and I was so displeased with my performance that I was determined to win the tiebreak. I usually stop caring and start experimenting with different shots when I've secured the victory; but today, I needed that victory, too.
I won the tiebreak 7-2, so I won the match 7-4. I tried so hard not to get mad at myself but I honestly cannot begin to describe how frustrating it was, missing shots that I should have made, basically playing without a forehand. Right from the warm-up, too, I was already rattled by how this carpet court we were on seemed to absorb too much pace from the ball, or maybe it was her, I don't know; but the ball wasn't coming through like it usually does, and so I found myself having to step in a bit more than usual. All these things messed with my head so badly - and the inflated confidence did not help at all.
So here's the lesson: I'm never going into a match thinking it's going to be an easy win ever again, no matter how many times I have beaten my opponent. Such over-confidence is not helpful at all.
I have another one tomorrow morning against a guy that I've never played. I hope I win this one too. I've won all my matches so far and I expect to go up at least one division...which means I may go back to losing again. Oh well. I do love the adrenaline though, the sort that you can only get from competition. It's ridiculous and quite silly how seriously I take this. It's ridiculous how much I love winning. But because I am a rather extreme person, I love winning as much as I hate losing - and so whenever I'm in a losing position, I just get so upset. I have to find a way to get it under control, and find a way to stay the course, stay focused, play the point and not the match or the opponent, when I'm in the situation like today, playing like shit, blowing all my leads, failing to put her away.
I can't believe I could have lost this one. I'm so glad that I didn't. I don't even know how I won with my shitty level of play...but I'm pleased that I dug it out in the last two games.