What a way to end 2020... tourney report from MAS Holiday Classic

leech

Semi-Pro
I just had the most improbable run in my tournament history. Last week, I entered my Section’s Holiday Classic, an NTRP event that had draws for gender doubles, mixed doubles, and gender singles. Wasn’t sure what the turnout would be because of the COVID-related restrictions (wear mask at all times; no spectators; no-ad scoring for doubles; 2-hour time limit).

For context, I don’t usually play in a ton of tournaments and have not had much success in those I entered. In my entire 4.0 career, I was 1-2 in singles, 2-3 in men’s doubles, and 1-2 in MXD. Spoiler: 2020 was my year, apparently. I definitely ran above expectation (I play poker, and understand there is short-term variance that doesn’t provide a realistic picture of long-term play).

4.0 Men’s Doubles

I asked DT, a player I’ve scrimmaged against in MXD but had never played with, to partner with me for this tourney. He is super consistent in his groundstrokes and is excellent defensively. He isn’t very active at net, but has great touch on his volleys.

Round of 16. We played a pair that seem to be veterans of the tournament circuit. I had played one of them 2.5 years ago, in singles when we were both 3.5. He has a wicked flat backhand that we tried to avoid. His partner didn’t hit as hard, but was consistent and used his length to be a presence at net. But DT was on, and we kept more balls in play. 6-2, 6-2 win to start off the tourney with a relatively easy win.

Quarterfinals. We faced the #1 seeded team, who had received a bye. Both were collegiate players at a local Division 3 school (one was 4-2 last season; the other was 9-6), and had played well together last year at this tournament. The one thing that gave me hope was that perhaps my old-man game could cause them problems, if they got too impatient against my slices and lobs. The plan worked well enough for us to take the first set 7-6, but we failed to close it out when we were up a break at 5-4 in the second set. A few games later, they broke me at 5-6 to force a match TB. Three things to note from this match: (1) One of the opponents had an aversion to giving us the balls; he would usually throw them in the corner; (2) the same opponent would take his sweet ol’ time, walking to the back wall to towel off, making us old fogeys wait even on our serve; (3) both opponents exhibited horrible sportsmanship, from hooking us on line calls to smashing balls at the net/wall/ground when they lost a point. We started the match TB with about ten minutes left. It’s important to know that if neither team is ahead by 2+ points, then the TB would not count, and we would lose the match by virtue of being behind in total games. When we started out down 2-3, I was getting worried, especially since the 19-year-old kid was moving at a glacier’s pace between points. We clawed our way back to 5-4, and I figured we needed to win the next two points since there was just a couple of minutes left. We win the next two points, and when the younger kid nets an easy volley, he slams the ball into the ground, bouncing it high into the air. It’s now 7-4, and they should be scurrying to get the ball to my partner, who is to serve next. But the kid makes no effort to get us the balls. I saunter over, slowly grabbing the two balls and stroll back to my side of the net. By that time, there is less than 10 seconds left, assuring that we will win the TB. We win the next point for good measure, and time is called when we were leading 8-4 in the TB!

Semifinals. Up next were two of our friends and league teammates. One had a huge serve and liked to come in behind it, and the other had good touch and also liked to come in. I have a tendency to lob when I get in trouble, so I’d need to make sure to lob deep enough to keep in out of their overhead zone. DT played lights out, and we cruised to a 6-3, 3-0(40-love) lead. Then we got tight, and our opponents reeled off four straight games…all on game points. All told, they won five game points in the second set to come roaring back to take the set 7-5. We regrouped and jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the match TB…only to see us knotted up at 8-8, but held on to pull it out. 6-2, 5-7, 1-0(8) for us.

Finals. We faced another set of friends/teammates in the finals. We were pretty fairly matched up, but we won the key points in the first set to take it 6-2. However, they made some adjustments and my shots stopped giving them trouble, and they turned the tables to take the second set 6-2. When we fell behind 1-5 to start the match TB, it felt like momentum had completely swung their way. But we clawed back and got it to 8-8 when our opponents suffered their first double fault of the match, which we took full advantage of. 6-2, 2-6, 1-0(8) win to grab the 4.0 men’s dubs title!

4.0 Mixed Doubles

For this event, I asked PD to partner up. She plays excellent defense and hits the most consistent lobs, and is able to finish points at the net. Just don’t expect any groundstrokes from her.

Quarterfinals. On paper, we should have had an easy match. We were playing a 3.5 guy that was playing up, and a 4.0 lady that I had played earlier in the year (with a different partner) and beaten like 2&0. But, I’d tweaked my calf the first match that morning, and this was to be my third match of the day. It was nothing but an easy win. They were up a break at 5-3 in the first set, but we were able to force it to set TB and win that. The 3.5 guy was hitting as hard as any 4.0 guy we’d faced all year, and the 4.0 lady was dominating at net, with very few errors. We escaped 7-6, 7-5.

Semifinals. I’d actually partnered with both of our semifinals opponents this year, so was aware of their games. The 4.0 guy hit booming forehands and serves…my partner was a bit scared. The 4.0 lady had great-looking groundstrokes, but can be off at times with her volleys and overheads. Our strategy was to keep the ball away from the 4.0 guy’s forehand, even if it meant giving the 4.0 lady a chance to put balls away at net. The plan worked to perfection the first set, but she played better the second set and he was able to get in on the action more. We made some incredible defensive saves to steal a game or two, and that was the difference. 6-0, 7-5 win for us; finals-bound!

Finals. More friends/teammates to get through. The opposing guy is on the short list for biggest 4.0 forehand in the Section…and his partner has a bigger forehand than him! If we gave them too many chances to crack their forehands, we wouldn’t stand much of a chance. But my partner is so adept at redirecting pace into a loopy, perfectly placed lob, that they’d have no choice but to try to crush overheads. They made enough errors on overheads that we were able to jump out to a 4-0 lead to start the match. Of course, they started getting in a groove and pounded us the second set to force a match TB for the title. We won a series of long rallies to start off the TB, and we could feel the momentum shift back. We held them off to grab the title, 6-3, 3-6, 1-0(3) over our good friends! Lobs beat forehands, on this day.

4.0 Men’s Singles

I’d played exactly two singles matches this year, going 1-1 in league play, but figured I’d enter the singles tournament because there wasn’t much else going on tennis-wise this time of year. I hadn’t expected to have played seven matches the preceding two days!

Round of 16. I played a gentleman who lived 1.5 hours away in WV. Figured anyone willing to drive this far must be good. He was a tall dude with good strokes. I felt like I was going to be in trouble when he broke me handily to start the match, cranking a return winner on my best serve of the tournament. But, I fed him a steady dose of forehand slices to his backhand, and then came to the net whenever I had the opportunity to try to close out the point. We definitely had some battles, but I prevailed in the next 12 games; 6-1, 6-0 to get through to the next round!

Quarterfinals. I faced one of the opponents from the first round of the men’s doubles draw. He had a pretty impressive singles record, so expected a tougher match than our doubles match. I was able to junk-ball him enough to grab the first set pretty easily, but he started coming in more the second set. When he drove a forehand to my backhand, far too many times I lobbed it short, and my 6’3 opponent took full advantage to put them away. I think I had a chance to close out the match six times before my opponent finally succumbed. 6-2, 7-6 win for me.

Semifinals. My opponent was fit/young, and had good power from both wings. I had experience and unorthodox shot-making on my side, and that prevailed overwhelmingly well that morning. My slice drives would throw off his timing just enough to cause him to net a lot of routine balls. 6-0, 6-0; this was a huge benefit to me, as the finals was scheduled an hour after the semis, and my finals opponent had played a full two hours in his semis.

Finals. My opponent was a lefty with a huge forehand. He’d just beaten my friend in a tightly-contested 7-5, 5-4 timed out win, so he was pretty gassed. My go-to move this weekend was to drive a low forehand slice down the line, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hit to his lefty forehand. So I’d try a forehand chop/drop (not sure what the technical term is) that would bring him in, and then I’d try to lob over him or hit wide past him. It worked surprisingly well, as I jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but he didn’t roll over. He took the next three games and we battled hard in the fourth game, and I was relieved to come away with the first set 6-3. He spotted me a 4-1 lead in the second set, then threatened to get it back on serve when he had multiple break points vs me in the 7th game. I escaped with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

I played and won 11 matches over six days to hit the Holiday Classic trifecta!
 
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leech

Semi-Pro
Congrats, you played great and deserved the sweep.
Thanks. 2021 has snapped us back to reality (my partners and I are 1-5 in league play to start the new year), but it was a good week to end 2020 on.
 
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leech

Semi-Pro
Thanks - just not good enough as my strokes cracked under TB pressure. Hopefully by summer there will be the some more tournaments scheduled.
Maybe having spectators watch will give you the boost you need to close out the TBs? You went 1-1 in match TBs, I see...so can't really conclude you cracked under pressure.
 

McLovin

Legend
@leech , congratulations on the trifecta, especially the singles final. I know the guy you played very well (he’s a member at our club and has played on our 8.5 combo and tri-level teams in the past, and has played 7.5 mixed with my wife). He’s a solid 4.0 who handles pace extremely well.

Of course, it helps that his son (who won the 4.5 singles and doubles) is a very good player who is also a local teaching pro (or at least he was at some point).

Solid week all around.
 

Doan

Rookie
@leech , congratulations on the trifecta, especially the singles final. I know the guy you played very well (he’s a member at our club and has played on our 8.5 combo and tri-level teams in the past, and has played 7.5 mixed with my wife). He’s a solid 4.0 who handles pace extremely well.
To beat @leech you have to be able to handle spin extremely well. :p
 

leech

Semi-Pro
@leech , congratulations on the trifecta, especially the singles final. I know the guy you played very well (he’s a member at our club and has played on our 8.5 combo and tri-level teams in the past, and has played 7.5 mixed with my wife). He’s a solid 4.0 who handles pace extremely well.

Of course, it helps that his son (who won the 4.5 singles and doubles) is a very good player who is also a local teaching pro (or at least he was at some point).

Solid week all around.
Thanks! Yes, his son is the newest teaching pro at JTCC. He actually taught a lesson first thing in the morning, played the 4.5 semis (which timed out), taught another lesson during his hour "break", and then won the 4.5 men's final. It's nice to be young and fit!

I got a good preview of my finals opponent, as he was playing my hard-hitting friend in the semis on the adjacent court. I wasn't looking forward to dealing with his sharp flattish lefty forehand, but moreso his "C'MON!!!!"s that punctuated his big winners. Especially with no spectators, that sounded extra loud/obnoxious. He toned it down for my match; he was nothing but a gentleman. He did give me what he meant as a compliment, I'm sure... he said he knows I can serve harder than I was, but that I must have realized I didn't need to, because he wasn't taking advantage of it. Truth be told, that's my normal serve...no pace dinks!
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
That's awesome, but I just wonder where on earth they are allowing big tournaments in the middle of the pandemic's second wave. We can't even play doubles where I live and we only have 500 cases a day in our province.

It's NTRP so I assume its not China, Australia or NZ. Vermont?
 

Doan

Rookie
That's awesome, but I just wonder where on earth they are allowing big tournaments in the middle of the pandemic's second wave. We can't even play doubles where I live and we only have 500 cases a day in our province.

It's NTRP so I assume its not China, Australia or NZ. Vermont?
Washington DC - everyone had to wear masks while playing...
 

McLovin

Legend
Especially with no spectators, that sounded extra loud/obnoxious.
Ha! Yes, he can be a bit...intense. But he is nothing compared to his son. I hit with him a ton when he was in high school and college. He’d be swearing up a storm on the court, throwing racquets, etc. He’s broken a few against me throughout the years.

But, like his father, he’s a really nice guy off the court. Very friendly and personable.
 

c-had

Rookie
Congratulations! Well deserved victory. I loved the writeup.

And good choice of partner in DT. I played with him twice in 4.5 dubs this year, and we were pretty successful despite him playing up. Plus he's such a nice guy, it's fun to play with him.
 
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