Good news is we had rockin excellent matches versus Mary Lou’s Cedardale White team this afternoon. Every court was about as good a match as we could play. Not-so-good news is that the same was true for ML’s team, and the result was we all fought to a 2-2 match tie and White took the extra point on set count, giving them a 3-2 W. Good for them, but sadly not quite good enough¹ to get us into the post season.
So here’s the box:
I can’t remember seeing so many shots pinged at someone’s sneakers come back over the net anyway than in any other match. All 4 players, really, really like playing the net, so there was almost someone in the way of where you wanted to put the ball. But given the general reluctance to bestow one of the other homeless refugees from your club with a ‘nnePorP’ tatoo, the sneaker shot or some ridiculous angle were the preferred options. So there were a lot of those, and a lot of digging them out now matter how well struck they were.
Not that there weren’t plenty of big groundie battles, there were a fair number of those as well, but usually the opponents closed after a couple of impressive rally balls.
David’s serves were particularly nasty today. The service box T and the corners took a relentless pounding and they just kept getting better as the match went on. By the end it was like okay, that one was in triple digits by a fair margin. Oh and plus there was one VERY pretty topspin lop; David launched it somewhere in the 3rd set. Kevin tried to hunt it down and almost caught up to it, but then it hit the ground and took off like a bottle rocket. If there weren’t a wall it would have skipped all the way to Newburyport harbor.
Jenn’s net was its usual excellent self. I don’t think Leslie or Kevin were particularly picking on her (because that would obviously be a mistake), but she was fielding a spate of fiercely struck balls. Not a problem (except for the apparent “No-K” policy….we’ll work on that for next year) with a lot of the big two-handed Serena Williams volleys (I love those!).
Kevin and Leslie had their break-through moment in the second. Big serves, long groundie rallies, and a very strong half-volleys kept us on the back court a bunch and hence out of net striking distance. Nice ploy. Fortunately the third set was much more net-oriented and much happier for us.
Christian’s forehand is a force of nature. You can hear him hit it from a building away. Blam! Doesn’t matter if you sent him over a grapefruit or a bullet or if he had to hit it on the hoof; it’s come back at 110mph. The only difference is if you made him work for it, maybe it will come back to you (or your poor net person) rather than some ally or angle you can’t get to.
So that’s what Dave and Mei did, all match long. Deal with the pace and try to deflect the momentum somewhere where it’s to our advantage. That and move the ball around a lot. As I might have mentioned previously, Dave and Mei have developed a very well-coordinated dubs game. All those points where everyone is repositioning themselves after every second ball are their best ones. There were a bunch of those, so we made some major points off that part of the game. Sadly Mary Lou is also happy to hunt down nasty angle shots (Christian too for that matter), so it’s not like we could run away with the match just by hitting awesome volleys and half-volleys.
In the end it was close, but game White.
This frequently looked a lot more like a chess game than a tennis match. That was probably mostly Spring’s doing, since his favorite thing is to back you off the net and then drop the ball at some really inconvenient place hard/impossible for you got get to. So if you’re playing him, it’s best to do whatever it is you can to keep that from happening. Regardless, there was a lot of jockeying for position so you could get the shot you wanted off. Maybe except for Deb who seemed to prefer to prefer to put the ball by or through you at the earliest opportunity, which ever would work best.
First set started out very promising. Peggy and Steve were controlling the points and keeping Dave’s slices and Deb’s net at bay. However Dave and Deb came roaring back and put up a 4-2 lead disturbingly quickly. We caught back up, but Team White hung on to the advantage to take the first.
Second and third sets were much more of a net game. As a rule, we like net games, always have. There were a lot of prolonged volley exchanges, but Peg will find a way to put the ball past you if you give her half a chance. A quarter of a chance. Heck, a sliver. You get the idea. So between her and Steve’s net, and Steve’s big groundie setups, we racked up enough games to take the match on game count after 90 minutes. From the looks of it, they could have gone another 90, but rules are rules.
Mark’s serves were completely on this afternoon. He wasn’t bashful about teeing them up on Maria’s side either, which is fine except it made it hard for her to get points off them, prompting her to deface the sacred score sheet as shown:
Somewhere a 6th grader shakes their head in disbelief.
Unreturnable serves aside — and for that matter Kelly threw a bunch of those in — the points tended towards long battles at mid court. Well, Kelly and Mark would prefer to blow you off the court with a forehand, but aside from service returns nobody was intentionally going to let them tee up. First set was even all the way up. If there was a break, there was an immediate break back. Second set, Deb turned up the volume on the net put aways while the ground and pound assault from Mark continued. Fun match, it looked like; we’ll just have to get our revenge next season.
Next Match, See You in September
Thank you to everyone who played this season. It was a fun one. No one can say where we’ll be playing next fall, but we will have team, guaranteed. Wherever we are, we are always Cedardale Green.
Have excellent springs and summers, and we’ll see you wherever we can find courts.
¹Sad math section: Before this afternoon we were in 4th place, 1.5 points ahead of Newburyport Gold, whom were playing Newburyport Green directly ahead of our match (with our match at their facility, so thanks to them for that). Gold swept giving them a 3.5 point lead over us as of our match time. We needed 4 or 5 points to proceed to the semis; we got 2, so post season was just 1.5 points out of our reach. At least we didn’t get 3 points. Then we would have missed by just 0.5 points and that would have sucked.
You meet Cedardale members this week, at a match like today or somewhere in search of an interim workout venue, and you get an idea of how integral the club is to people’s lives. Some more directly than others — the place is one of the biggest employers in the area — but we’re all just stunned, physically stunned. It does go to show that though the facility is big and the clientele varied, there’s a sense of community to the place that goes way beyond the shell of a building. That’s a good thing to be part of.
Also you get a sense of how pervasive the club membership is. Without a single location to go to, they’re everywhere. (Any resemblance to cockroaches is purely coincidental.) Nowhere more so than at Bass River this afternoon. There were in fact a few Beverly people there, but it was easily 60% Cedardalers. Admittedly part of that is Bass River’s aggressive team recruiting and liberal (using the polite term) membership policy, so there were people there already to play BR matches. You know who you are. But the rest were our team, Mary Lou’s team, and various and sundry cheerleaders (Greg and me).
Speaking of team, I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet the part where we won. Big time. Look:
Court Players Result 1 David W / Sarah W (6-4, 4-6, 5-2) 2 Chris K / Jenn W (6-3, 6-2) 3 Dave S / Mei W (6-4, 6-4) 4 Steve / Laura N L (6-3, 6-1)
This is a tough BR team. Their place in the standings don’t do them justice. In fact the last time we played them they completely hammered us. So the matches today were all tough ones, but that’s ok because those the the best ones (especially when you win!).
Our place in the standings is pretty good. And this is before today’s results. With any luck we’ve extended the 2.5 point lead over Lynnfield. (Two point five!? I’m always suspicious of this stuff as an actual tie in matches, sets, and games happens about as often as Halley’s Comet and usually the result is better explained by scoring incompetence. In this particular case, however, I’m not inclined to ask questions. Unless we get bumped out of post season by 0.5 (again!) in which case you bet there will be a formal freaking inquiry.)
The matches were awesome. Here’s some highlights:
You could tell during warmup this was going to be a fight. The opposing lady was a college kid (well she looked young, but then everyone looks young to me at this point…however she was wearing Simmons sweats, so there) with very college-kid like strokes. The opposing guy was a biiig dude with imposing groundies of his own, as well as a NASTY kick and twist serves.
All good, Sarah and David were up for a fight.
It was an all-court game. Lots of ground-pounding cross-court battles followed by rapid fire volley exchanges. If any shot was a little off it was immediately punished, so it’s a testament to the level of play that most exchanges were 5+ balls and a lot were in the 10+ range.
First set started out as a break-fest; no one held first 4 games. Then everyone held. Then we got a break and held for the set. This is Sarah’s first time playing for us in quite a while, and I’m sooo happy she did today. The net volley points were just brutal and she personally responsible for a lot of that action. BR liked trying to blow you off the court with big groundies, but Sarah more than willing to play them ball for ball in that game as well. Likewise David fired up a ferocious groundie and net charge game of his own and, frankly, good for Beverly for dealing with it (at least as well as they did). The second set Beverly eked out and preserved a break. Third set started out pretty even, but David and Sarah just wore out their competition to the point they forced just another error or two per game and, in a match this tight, that was enough for a W.
The side netting got a good workout today. Between the opposing guy’s twist serves and slices and Sarah, David, and the opposing lady’s outrageous groundie angles there were a lot of people pulling themselves out of the netting after a point. Dear other clubs: you don’t need side netting. Work without a net.
Jenn really, really likes a good net game. And Bass River was happy to oblige today. Or, phrased another way, Chris and Jenn were applying enough heat to their opponents game that there were lots of excellent volley opportunities. Or in Jenn’s case the two-handed backhanded smash thing; why just volley a ball out of reach when you can tee up a big Serena Williams two-hander an blow the ball right through the opposition. That’s much more fun.¹
Anyhow, Chris is lightning fast so even if Beverly managed to get a ball into the back court during a point, he was there in time to hunt it down and get it back in play. The opposing guy almost busted his racquet at least once out of frustration; he had the point won off a very nice groundie pass and yet it came back anyway, then he had it won again off a decent volley but Chris materialized back up at net to put it away with a volley of his own.
The games themselves tended to be long and there were a credible number of deuces, but we were just too much for the Bass to get much of a toehold.²
Dave and Mei have continued to evolve as a dubs team, even in the season we’re playing right now. They’re both fast and capable players, but they are also getting very intuitive about what the other one is doing. And what’s that worth in a dubs game?³
Which isn’t to say that they don’t have excellent shots of their own; both of them had to come up with some pretty spectacular plays this afternoon to keep a point alive (or, better, win it), but the fact that they were in a position to be able to make the play is totally a cooperative thing.
Even so, Beverly got off to an early 3-1 lead in the first. No worries. We were just getting warmed up. Once the points started getting longer it was Beverly that was tending to error off first (forced errors mostly; as on all the courts nobody was giving anything away).
Second set we were starting to walk away with the match at first. But not so fast; Beverly managed to come back and even get a break up to like 3-4. Sadly (for them) that was the last they saw of games. There was just too much heat from our side on each and every point; BR just couldn’t keep pace enough to get another game under them. Nice W!
The opposing guy was pretty phenomenal for this league. He’s been hovering on the 3.5-4.0 bubble for years (yeahhh, I felt compelled to check his ratings…he’s legal, for now). When they were warming up, Steve and this guy were exchanging topspin groundies. I think it was some kind of game to see if you could kick it over the other guy’s head. Interesting drill, but it had absolutely nothing to with the way the points were played in the match. The guy was landing big groundies deep into the court and Steve was countering by punching to ball back so it landed on the guy’s, or lady’s, sneakers. If that didn’t win the point outright, then at least it got the ball up over the net so Laura could put it away.
It was all good in theory, but despite a very nice groundie-to-volley game from Steve and some heroic net from Laura, the returns off the guy’s racquet were too frequently too well placed to do much with. The BR lady was less of a threat, but her area of responsibility was approximately 17% of the court; the rest was the dude’s (and for a reason).
It looked like a fun match anyhow. Everyone hung out to play a friendly (in which I’m sure we completely demolished them), so that’s always a good sign.
¹With which sentiment I am 100% in agreement.
²Which, I guess, would be a pretty good trick if you were a bass.
³Uh, it is the dubs game.
Lynnfield did help us out a little by defaulting on court 4, but that worked out perfectly as it was going to be populated by players who would rather not be here (car repair, IR respectively) but would suit up for the team anyhow (!). Everywhere else, got points the old-fashioned way: we earned them.
Here’s the box:
Court Players Winning Score 1 Kathy K / Vinh W (6-2, 6-1) 2 Peggy / Chris K W (6-3, 6-4) 3 Mei / Dave S W (5-7, 6-4, 3-1) 4 (default) W (6-0, 6-0)
and the Courts Reports:
And I thought Vinh had loaded up the Conestoga wagon for California last month. Happily he replied to this week’s blast-o-gram with a “yeah I’ll play”. If this is the last time he can play, well, thanks for making it a show!
Kathy and Vinh had an answer for pretty much everything Lynnfield could throw at them this afternoon. The opposing guy had blistering groundies and serves and was pretty good on the hoof, but there was just no getting through the Kathy and Vinh wall. Not that he was bashful about trying; we have multiple opportunities to fend off 80mph fastballs but didn’t budge off the net.
Contrariwise Vinh pinged the guy at net early on (an accident) and it must have stung (it looked like it did!) because he backed waaay off the net for the remainder of the match. Which of course meant that he got to rally with Vinh or Kathy in a groundie exchange, which they are perfectly happy with, or try to pass them at net (getting through them: not an option). In fact all the players were happy to rally and even Vinh’s forehand rip was coming back regularly — it’s just that they were going to error off before he got anywhere near tired. The points Lynnfield did get were on some very fine passes (they had to be). Still, Kathy wrecked a couple of their passing shot winners by returning them back for winners of her own. In one case the guy blew one down the line and was starting to walk away when Kathy reached out and dropped it back for her winner.
I don’t think they quite cleared an hour. Lynnfield were despondent (they claimed to not feel well and who wouldn’t?) and went home, so Vinh, Kathy, Peg, and Chris played a friendly of their own after their matches. Which brings us to….
Today was Peggy’s (yes, that Peggy) and Chris’ inaugural match for us. And an excellent match it was! For two people who have never played together, never mind on this team, they had a very well coordinated defense and too much pressure on offense for Lynnfield to deal with. Which isn’t to say that Lynnfield didn’t have plenty of game of their own; they did. The guy was particularly quick and hazardous when on the attack — he had a great serve and followed it in with really strongly hit volleys. It’s just that anything short of a winner either
(a) Peggy is going to be there waiting for it even before he finishes the stroke, or
(b) Chris is going to dig it out of the alley (on court 1 sometimes) or off the back line
There were plenty of groundie exchanges to go around, but unlike on court 1, neither Lynnfield player were easily scared off the net. So there was a lot more close quarter fighting. Not knife fights so much as multi-volley exchanges. Too bad both Chris and Peggy have fighter pilot reflexes, and it’s like Peg in particular just lives for that kind of game.
Despite the close(ish) score we dispatched Lynnfield in with enough time to spare for a friendly between Cedardale courts 1 and 2. That looked fun too.
Lynnfield came out of the gate really strong. They racked up two games — at deuce, so we were giving them trouble — and had us a deuce again in the third. This is Dave’s first time back since being on the PUP list for a while and I wasn’t sure if he was looking too happy to be here (he said later, no it was all good). So it was like, ruh roh.
No worries, though. We took that game and from then on the set was even. The early break persisted in the first, so Lynnfield got that one. But in the second and third we got the first break and took those sets for the W.
I think Dave and Mei’s preference is to hit rally balls all day long and try to bludgeon the other side into submission. Or in Mei’s case continually roll the ball so deep into the opposite court you spend all your time and energy scraping the things off the baseline.
However if you insist on playing a net game then you’re just going to have to contend with Dave’s and Mei’s reaction volleys. And angle shots. Dave was landing those so wide Lynnfield spent half their time on courts 4 and 2 respectively. I’m sure the players there were thrilled.
This was nail-biter in the third for a while — there’s a path scuffed in the tennis lobby from all the pacing to prove it — but once Dave and Mei got the break for 2-1 with time running down it was time to break out the SWEEP Champagne, which is always an excellent vintage.
The Week After That
Home versus Woburn
…and Beverly had the paddles. Hey, we had an excellent team over at Bass River this afternoon. On each of the courts it pretty much took as the whole 90 minutes to almost win some sets. In fact on court 2 it took more than 90 minutes though the overage was mostly due to the incident (see below).
Here’s the box:
Court Players Damage Points 1 Mei / David W. L (7-6, 6-4) 2 Josh / Maria L (6-4, 7-6(3)) 3 Laura N. / Michel L (7-5, 6-1) 4 Margaret / Erik L (7-5, 6-3)
and before we get to the Courts Reports let me just make one captainly comment: ‘sup with all the injuries all of the sudden? If the Pats had our PUP list they’d just stay home and play Madden NFL 17 on the couch. Here’s a note from the team doctor: don’t lift a wounded finger until next Sunday…it’s all that midweek tennis that seems to be causing the damage. It’s bad for you!
Mei was a little (!) dubious when I shifted her and David up to court 1. It was one of those good news / bad news things, because everybody loves those. Good: David’s her partner, Bad: on court 1 (the one and only 7.5 position), Ugly: Bass River had some serious firepower so it was more like an 8.5 position. Given the scoreline, David and Mei were good with that, but I’m sure it was some pretty unforgiving ball if someone left a floater on either side of the net. David looked like he had a good time and Mei didn’t run me down in the parking lot, so I’m taking that as a good sign.
Maria and Josh were wrapped up in a pretty intense match as well. Don’t know much about the match itself, but they all seemed to be pretty happy at the end. Maybe just happy it was over, but no one was shaking their head. Well except…
At the end of 90 minutes they just finished the last game and started on a tiebreak. The two guys who had the courts afterwards proceeded to throw a hissy fit. The players explained they were just going to finishing up a (5-point!) tiebreak, as per club rules just about every-freaking-where. The two proceeded to toss their gear around, stand ON the court and pretty much be a general nuisance. Eventually they stomped off and sniveled in the lobby for 10 minutes AFTER the match finished. Which is as amusing as it is aggravating. I think Maria and Josh were less bothered by it than the Bass River lady, who was still breathing fire half an hour later.
Regardless, nice match!
First set looked like a track meet. Or maybe tennis boot camp: every game was played using the doubles alleys only. There was always someone bolting after a ball and getting it back (maybe) across the net with inches to spare before running headlong into a curtain / wall / netpost. What did we just say about injuries? (Oh, right, save it for Sundays. Carry on.) Late in the first Bass River got up by a game and held on for 6-4.
Second set both Laura and Michel clearly felt they had to take their frustration out on something and proceeded to just pummel the net. Both of them teed up on sequences of very impressive slapshots, it’s just that the clearance was a little low. There doesn’t seem to be much of a point to it (literally) because even if you put a hole in the net and knock the ball clean through (they tried!) it’s not a winner. Didn’t stop them though. Maybe it was too high, maybe the wrong color, but if the net could have waved a white flag it would have. The seemed to be having a good time though, so have at it!
Michel’s daughter was there to watch, on her way back to college. Unfortunately they, along with Margaret and I, were sequestered on the back courts and out of view of the window. Not to worry; Bass River thoughtfully installed a video feed you can watch from the lobby. If by “video feed” you mean something along the lines of a parking lot surveillance cam. Olivia said she tried to watch, but it was all so pixelated she couldn’t tell which court Michel was on or even if he was playing at all. After a while she gave up and watched Dave and Mei play, which is a reasonable second best.
We had some darn fine points, not to mention really long hard fought games; there were like 10 deuce points. Oddly enough none of the 4 of us were having a particularly spectacular service day; there were probably 10 service breaks too. The guy had a pretty good slice, but we were reading it well enough to put it back more often then not and then you get some nice depth on the return from his pace. By the same token, we weren’t getting much past them either.
Both Margaret and I had to hunt stuff down a lot. We were getting used to it — and in particular Margaret made some heroic saves — but when you’re trying to rescue a point from the back court you pretty much have to rely on your opponents erroring off or at least giving you a chance to get back in the point. They made some contributions, but not often enough to get us a lot of traction.
The guy’s forehand was a complete nuisance, especially the service returns, so we tried to avoid that. But he was very quick to run around any backhands — I’m not sure he even had one — so that was a puzzle we didn’t solve even toward the end of the match. Nevertheless so long as it wasn’t whistling back off your serve you could rally with him. Margaret got points from him off a number of those exchanges, so those were cool to watch.
In the end we dragged it out until the 90 minute mark, so that’s success in a way.
Home versus Lynnfield at 4:30pm. See you there.
The match this week was one of the home vs. home matches, that is us and Cedardale White (better known as Team Mary Lou). Which are always amusing events because many of the players have subbed in on both sides. Hopefully everyone remembered who they were playing for and where they were supposed to go.
Cappy (a/k/a Capt. Slack) is absent this week; I don’t even know the scores! Sorry for the crummy post. One thing for certain though: everyone had a good time, guaran-teed!
We’ll be back next week. Green Machine versus Lynnfield. Last time we played them there were incidents, so there’s something to look forward to.
We need to take up a donation to help Newburyport pay their heating bill. The only thing colder than the courts is the locker rooms. It’s like 15 degrees¹ outside and maybe 8 on the courts and -8 in the locker room. There’s a steam room in there, but I didn’t dare open the door because I thought there might be some dude in a frozen block like Ötzi the Iceman.
Regardless, I had high hopes going into this match. The Newburyport players were all married couples. That was bold of them. I had a pipe dream of sending the Newburyport couples home not talking to each other. Someone sleeping on the couch. A speed bump in the parking lot. Didn’t happen. They all went out and had celebratory dinners and toasted each others fine choice in mates and partners. I hate when that happens. Because this is what happened to us:
Court Players Result 1 Kathy K / David W L (6-4, 4-6, 6-1) 2 Joni / Steve L (6-3, 7-6(0)) 3 Mei / Dave S L (6-7, 6-3, 2-3) 4 Laura / Erik L (6-4, 6-4)
You will note that all the matches were very close, so this was a tightly contested ass-kicking. Here’s the (abbreviated²) Courts Reports:
There were streaks of games in this one. We’d be up, Newburyport would mount a recovery. Newburyport would be up a couple games, we’d win the set. It was all going great up until the last set. Newburyport just took off then. There was some discussion between Kat and David as to whether the forehand/backhand arrangement was advantageous. I think Set 2 and Set 3 were the same setup, so maybe changing every set is the key. Or every couple games and see if they notice.
This was Steve’s debut match and it was a good one. He and Joni were in a really fast-paced match with lots of net warfare, at least the parts I saw. Whenever I looked over there were 4 players up at net looking for some angle shot or rifle up the middle to try to get past the other side in really long exchanges. Fun, in other words. Nice match!
This was the closest one. And for good reason. Both Mei and Dave were playing completely awesome ball. I think Dave probably put 7 or 8 miles on his sneakers over the course of the match. Plus also he chased the ball into the well into the side netting, from which he had to disentangle himself, not once, not twice, but three separate times. If we were still handing out nicknames, his would be “Tuna”. And that’s not counting all the amazing down-the line shots he kept burning Newburyport with.
For their part Newburyport played a very aggressive game. And they were not bashful about going after both Mei and Dave with some blistering forehand approaches. But of course both Mei and David are not bashful about returning said balls with significant interest. Mostly Mei was rolling balls back deep into the to get Newburyport off the net and make them hit them off their back feet. But at one point the guy hit a slapshot right at Mei; she returned that ball harder than I have ever her hit anything. The ball just blew past the guy’s racquet before he even saw it coming. It was like, “okidokee”.
They were still duking it out at the end of 90 minutes. In the end the difference was one game. It was a great match; I’m sure they would have played another 90 minutes if the rules let them.
We got off to a little bit of a rough start: it was 3-0 before we converted a game. After that we were doing pretty well, though not quite enough to erase the deficit before the end of the set. Second set was much more even. Laura has excellent approaches and we were making progress as long as they engaged her in a groundie war or either of us in straight up volley warfare. But they managed to find enough nasty angles to keep us from leveling the match. We had multiple (like 4 or 5) chances to convert at 40-15 and somehow managed to let them back to deuce and either just eke out the game or…well, not eke out the game.
At the set changeover Laura suggested switching our forehand/backhand setup. I said nah, we were starting to get it together at the end of the first, let’s keep it this way. Stupid boy. Same setup and, surprise, same result. In the short friendly we did switch and we were killing. So next time at least we know which setup to play.
Still, this was a good match and it took us all but 10 minutes if the allotted time to play it out.
²Cappy is debugging some nasty code 😦
On the down side we missed most of the Denver game. On the upside: (a) we got a big 3-1 WIN versus Newburyport Gold this afternoon, (b) Chewbacca played, and (c) there were incidents. How can you beat that!? Ok a 4-0 win beats that; take it up with the slacker cappy on 4. But still a pretty good way to spend a winter afternoon. Here’s the excellent box:
Court Players Result 1 Jenn / Chewbacca W (6-1, 6-2) 2 Lynne / David W. W (2-6, 6-1, 6-4) 3 Laura N / Vinh W (6-4, 4-6, 4-2) 4 Mei / Erik L (6-3, 6-7)
and the excellent (mostly) Court Reports:
Jenn and Jeremy are a pretty lethal combination. Though of course they are. In particular with Jenn at net and Jeremy serving or receiving, those points were almost always in our favor. The other way around is still tough ball for the competition, but the aforementioned configuration is killer. Jeremy will rally all day long if you let him — and Kayla from Nbpt was happy to oblige for some serious ground pounder exchanges — but eventually someone will go after a net person (and if that’s Jenn then good luck to ya) or the rally ballers will close and then it’s urban net warfare. Now they’re in Jenn’s house. She’s fast. And aggressive. And has like a sixth sense of where you’re going to hit the ball even before you figure it out. And of course Jeremy is no slouch when it comes to net either; he’d just rather hit rally balls because it’s more fun.
So there wasn’t too much Newburyport could do about our court 1 this afternoon. We just had too much going on both back court and at net to handle. I’m not sure if they cleared the hour mark; they seemed to be sitting around watching everyone else play for a really long time, after which Kayla and Jeremy knocked a ball around for a while just for more groundie game because apparently the match didn’t have enough of it.
This was all about net possession. Just like they tell you in dubs school. Go figure. When Lynne and David were up at net, they won the point. When Nbpt was up there, we had a problem getting past them. Anything but a perfectly placed topspin lob was going to be ineffective in this match; David certainly has wheels and will hunt down anything humanly possible, but it turns out the Newburyport dude was likewise inclined and at least moderately capable.
So if you were going to win a point you had to get the angle at the net before the other team did. Fortunately Lynne’s “at net” range extends pretty far back into the court. She has spectacular reactions and nice low shots even at a reach, so she’s almost always in her volley comfort zone. David enjoys a good groundie war as well as net warfare, but is also quick to capitalize on any loose ball he can pounce on for a Zdeno Chara slapshot. Sadly Newburyport was more interested in net play, so they weren’t cooperative in that aspect of the game. Fine. Lynne and David were also perfectly to close on net and volley up a storm. Which by second set they were doing before Newburyport even thought of moving in. And second set was a rout. Third set Nbpt put up more of a fight, but it was too late; Lynne and David were already in a groove and they took the 3rd for a big W.
You could cut the tension on this court with a knife. Frankly, it’s just as well that nobody on this court had any knives; it would have gone badly. Both Vinh and the opposing guy hit seriously aggressive groundies and approach shots. Not out of control aggressive, just ones you couldn’t blink or they’d be past you. Which is fine. But each of the points was a lot of work, and there were miraculous digs, saves, and running things down, so there was a lot riding on each point as well. Which is also cool especially with Vinh and Laura who are here for the competition. (Turns out the opposing lady was here for an an argument, but we’ll get there.) Laura and the opposing lady were getting peppered by volleys and approach shots because mixed dubs. Laura was cool with that and held up fine under the onslaught; the opposing lady seemed less than pleased with the attention. And very much less than pleased with Vinh’s heavy topspin groundies that kept her pasted quite literally against the back curtain.
For the most part it was just good game. And close. In the closing minutes (more like closing minute) Laura and Vinh were up by one game and needed to close win the next one to close the match out. Newburyport really wanted this one; they were running, not walking, to pick up stray balls. Nonetheless after some serious volley exchanges we took the game and the match.
Today’s incident happened somewhere early in the 3rd. Things were particularly tense. Laura had to fend off a particularly well-hit volley from the guy but angled it beautifully off just out of lady’s reach. Also at this time a ball bounced onto the court behind Laura (probably from court 4, sorry). Nonetheless the lady elected to make a play on the ball. And then, having missed it, called a let. Which is a no. Either play on or call the let immediately, not both. It’s a rule.¹ So Vinh and Laura argue the point, so to speak. The lady is becoming more agitated and says “well you two were cheating on line calls and we let those go”. There are words you can’t unsay. Notwithstanding that Laura and Vinh were making perfectly reasonable line calls, calling your opponent a cheat is one of those nuclear option things.² I think we ceded the point just to get on with life, but Vinh was steamed. Laura was ticked off too but she counseled him to channel the dark side and use it to win the match. Doubtless that was part of her Sith training. In any case, the incident did not work to Newburyport’s advantage and may have cost them a lot more than just that point.³
ANYHOW NICE WAY TO CLOSE.
Mei and I had our hands full on this one. After warmup we thought, cool, the lady looks pretty easy to deal with. Um…no. She hit pretty soft and loopy, but you could hit something arbitrarily aggressive to her and if it was within reach or within a couple steps, it always came back. And deep. The guy on the other hand was very fast to poach anything we left remotely hanging. Both their volleys tended to be shallow, but in the first set we (ok, mostly me) still had a hard time getting to them and not overcooking the reply.
Mei has a nice deep topspin groundie. That can be really effective particularly against an opposing lady who might not be used to that kind of thing in the ladies’ leagues. For that matter I’m a wicked topspin junkie as well. Sadly neither Newburyport player was particularly fazed by the kick and our best stuff just kept coming back.
Despite a couple deuces, we were down 0-3 in the first before we got a game. We struggled to get a couple more, but Newburyport just ran us down. Second set Mei wanted me to hang back on her serves and returns because the guy was such a nuisance at net. That was the key, we did very much better even though we still had to fight just about every game to deuce and won the second in a tiebreak. Which I was happy with because I figured that by splitting sets we might contribute somehow. (No.) Some pretty good game nonetheless.
Happy Holidays and see you next year!
¹There’s tennis rules and tennis etiquette. This one’s a rule.
²This one’s etiquette. And it’s still wrong.
³Also now I’m steamed too: WTF is that logic? You have crappy line calls so I’m going to call a let if I don’t make a play. Rules? We don’t need stinkin rules.
It’s been just a little bit of a drought over the past weeks, but we got some much needed relief this afternoon by way of a 3-2 WIN over Lynnfield. It was a 2-2 splitter with the extra point off set count, so it wasn’t even close. Here’s the box:
Court Players Result 1 Lynne / David W. L (6-3, 4-6, 5-2) 2 Joni / Kelly L (6-3, 7-6) 3 Margaret B. / Erik W (6-3, 6-3) 4 Margaret C. / Mark W (6-2, 6-1)
and the Courts Reports:
This Lynnfield team is a particularly tough one. The guy is good, pro level. (Lynne thought he was a 4.5, which he easily could have been, and in which case I would be drafting the protest letter now. Sadly he’s rated 4.0 (S) for Sandbagger¹.) The lady is maybe a 3.0 and that’s giving her some credit, though she is a backboard so there’s that. But it means that anything from her side is a floater and anything from his side is shot out of a cannon. The pace differential is killer. The ball is coming back at 12mph from the lady, you return it, and then the guy hunts it down and now it’s going at 120mph with a trajectory intersecting with the back of the back line.
When dealing with the guy David and Lynne had the same approach: duke it out with him. The points I saw were these huge groundie wars. Not a lot of poaching because that would just knock the racquet out of your hand, assuming you could get a racquet on it. Mostly the point went on until someone launched a particularly nasty shot and the response went just a little long. That part of the game looked like fun. The lady was different. David would try to angle her bloopers back out of her reach and the guy’s range, Lynne noticed the lady didn’t particularly like bloopers either so just gave her back the same boinky shots (very un-Lynne-like shots…I’m sure it was stressful!). That all worked well so long as the guy was neutralized, but if he got to something, then it was instantly back to triple-digit pace.
Clearly an even match — one break of serve each set — AND a split-set decision which figured into the final point total for the W.
This would be the classic dubs match of the day, with both sides looking to own court position. Most of the action was confined to within the service box, which is the way dubs is supposed to be played (or so they tell me). So lots of volley wars and a lot of scurrying to hunt down balls the other side thought they knocked for a winner but which came back anyhow. Long points and close games — they were still playing in the closing minutes of regulation time.
Kelly has a huge first serve and a very nasty forehand return, which is excellent way to get a point started even if the other side can get them back (which they could mostly, but not aggressively). Lynnfield kept targeting Joni at net, though you would have thought that they would learn not to after approximately 0% of those shots got by her. Something about the combination 18,000 hours of aerobic doubles training and fighter pilot reactions means they weren’t going to get through her.
It was all about getting that nasty angle out wide OR splitting your opponents apart so you could get the shot in between them. Lynnfield managed just a few more of those than we did, but every freaking point was a lot of work for both sides. Still that’s what makes it…fun?
Special thanks to Kelly for coming down; he wasn’t supposed to be here but we had a staffing emergency and he was kind enough to leave the dead car in the driveway and play.
Margaret (B) and I haven’t played together in years. Which is too bad, because this was just a lot of fun. At least we had fun. Lynnfield seemed unamused by our antics. I don’t think either of them cracked a smile despite some perfectly friendly repartee. Plus their guy on court 2 expressed some displeasure. Which just gets you a big dopey grin. So for future notice here’s the rule: The more dour your expression, the more silliness you’re going to get. Be happy.
Oh, and we kicked ass too, so that was cool. Not that Lynnfield didn’t scare us; we got up 5-0 in the first and 4-0 in the second, then deliriously happy with our good fortune would proceed to donate the next 3 games in a row. Mostly to blown overheads. How many overheads can two people screw up? It’s a deep well. But thankfully the ground and net game was solid enough for us to recover and finish off the sets without further game-ending mishaps. The guy did have a hell of a forehand when he chose to unload; it just wasn’t often enough to make a difference and for the most part we kept him pinned in the back court and out of too much trouble.
Margaret has exceptional volleys. The opposing lady had pretty good ones too, but she was no match for Margaret who would keep the point going until she won it outright or the lady hit a ball loose enough for me to poach. Both the opposing guy and the lady had decent but not overpowering pace on their serves which is, in a word, perfect. Those returns are going back faster than the service. Meaning Margaret or I was instantly looking to poach the response. Unless said response was an overhead in which case we were inexplicably helpless.²
Despite what Lynnfield might say, this was a hoot and a half.
Mark and Margaret (C) looked like they had an equivalently fun match, though their Lynnfield was a distinctly happier pair. Talking with their guy after the match he said Jeez, Margaret just gets EVERYTHING. Yes. Yes, she does. Plus Mark was nailing his serves and the big BIG topspin groundies. Typical point: (a) serve to Mark, (b) big heavy ball at the back of the court they’d be hitting on their heels, (c) back to Mark, (d) same nasty groundie, (e) deflect to Margaret, (f) response short in the court you have to scurry for, (g) good shot out wide seemingly out of Margaret’s reach, (h) is for HAH it’s coming back anyway, (i)…(z) etc.
The individual points were pretty long (and therefore fun), but they were going mostly to Margaret and Mark. While tennis is unquestionably a game of stats, and percentage assessment is the smart way to play (or so Chalk kept telling me) there’s this: if you get more points than your opponent, you are going to win. And we won a lot more and quickly: I think the match was over after 50 minutes. Still, Lynnfield had a good enough time to hang out and play a friendly for the rest of the 90 minutes.
Home again! Easy peasy! (Warning: this winter and spring are just going to suck donkey biscuits. Travel wise I mean. We’ve got lots of good game no matter where we play.)
¹Ok, they don’t actually have that designation, but they should.
²Probably best not to dwell though as we kicked butt.
Newburyport got 3 off us today in a slight setback on our quest to regain first. No worries though, the season isn’t even half over yet. Plenty of time to find that mojo. (Where do the mojo go, I’d like to know? I think ours is vacationing on a Caribbean beach somewhere. Yo, time to come home!)
Here’s the box (thanks Kathy for the scoresheet):
Court Players Result 1 Kathy K / Vinh W (6-1, 6-2) 2 Margaret / David W L (6-3, 6-1) 3 Cathy B / Khem L (6-3, 6-2) 4 Kellie / Michel L (6-1, 3-6, 6-2)
Cappy was once again AWOL so there’s only one Court Report (of sorts):
Vinh thoughtfully provided a Facebook Live video stream so those of us not in attendance could watch. It was just like being there. Well except for the part where the phone camera might have been upside down. All you needed was a pair of inversion boots though and it was better than US Open coverage, where the flush feeling you got might either be the excitement of the match or a head rush from all the gravity.
The match didn’t last long; I think they were done with the first set before the 30 minute buzzer went off. Vinh was serving great and Kat was monster at net. Same thing on Kathy’s serves. The net presence seemed to freak Newburyport out; they made a few DF contributions along the way. But mostly it was big serves and returns followed by a quick groundie exchange followed by a net put-away or smash. Relentless. Thanks for the save!
Sorry…there wasn’t too much visible down court from Vinh’s phone (plus also there was the 180° problem). Sounded fun though. Except where Newburyport said “no” occasionally, that was more like “awwww…”
Home versus Lynnfield. See you there!
We had a slight math problem this afternoon. 8 players divided by 0 courts won is…well you don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that’s not exactly the result we were looking for. We did win an awful lot of games, and a few sets as well, but Newburyport won just a few more of them.
The matches were very close on all the courts, see for yourself:
Court Players Result 1 Lynne / David W. L (4-6, 6-4, 6-1) 2 Mei / Dave S. L (6-4, 7-6(3)) 3 Margaret / Erik L (6-4, 6-3, 5-1) 4 Jenn / Kelly L (6-7(3), 6-1, 3-1)
along with the Court Reports:
First set started out shock and awe. Last set was more like “awww….” Lynne said the opposing guy had a huge first serve with lots of action that he could make break either direction. Which is nerve wrecking because you have to guess unless you can see the spin (unlikely at 90mph), or unless the guy has a tell, and even then it’s no fun. Lynne didn’t tell if the guy had a tell, so I guess we guessed a lot.
The points looked ferocious though I only saw a few. The lady didn’t look like she hit a particularly strong ball, but she must have been a complete backboard if she was dealing with David and Lynnie.
Lynne said it was an excellent match, though, so I’m sure there were plenty of inspired points to go around.
I think the players on this court ran individual half marathons by the time the match was through. Dave was playing points from over on our court at least twice. The points were endless. Dave would cruise into net for a perfectly executed put away volley and half the time (literally) Newburyport would find a way to dig it back. Likewise they tried to get balls through Mei on a regular basis and she just sent the balls back at an inconvenient angle or depth on the same regular basis. It was pretty spirited match play with more than a few laughs along the way, but still pretty intense competition. They were still playing the final tiebreak out at the 90 minute mark. Nice match!
It seemed like every game went to deuce. Plenty of deuce points in the middle of the sets. Both set points, the effective match point, the last point of the game: deuce, deuce, deuce deuce. The games went pretty quick though. Patiently working a point is a little bit of a foreign concept to Margaret and me. It’s more fun just to kill something (even if it’s your own chances of winning the point).
The guy was much stronger than the lady, but we had an easier time dealing with him. She was a complete backboard. Frequently we’d hit volley after volley at her feet and she’d roll them back deep for another go. Eventually we’d go for the big finish with 50/50 results (see kill shot, above).
Margaret was awesome at net as well as on the back court dealing with their big deep rollers. My serves were okay, even if the lady kept lobbing back even the heavies, which as a nuisance. But Newburyport was clearly our equal. One or two more deuce points to the good and the match was ours.
All the players reported fun matches, but this one takes the cake. After 90 minutes, they still wanted to keep playing just for fun, which is a pretty good sign (sadly they were bounced because someone else had booked the court). First Kelly’s serves and Jenn’s net kept Newburport on their heels. By the second set Newburyport had gotten pretty good at owning the middle of the court, so they were a little bit of a brick wall no matter how hard Jenn and Kelly tried to intimidate them. The ensuing volley wars made for pretty good tennis, even if the bad guys were getting the game points.
Pats vs. Jets. Enjoy.
The Week After That
Away at some other Newburyport.