Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On memories (mixed doubles)

Team Fontimoto played our last match of the season on Friday night. The results: a 6-3, 7-5 loss in Kenosha. Despite the score, the match was mostly fun. We held serve when we were down 5-4, so I'm proud of small achievements like that.

Going into the season, my goal was to have a .500 record or better. Jim thought this was aiming low, but I don't, given that 1) we didn't meet until an hour before our first match and 2) I don't consider myself an especially skilled mixed doubles player.

You win some, you lose some.

I do wish we hadn't ended our season with two losses. That was tough. Especially because I felt we were starting to play better.

True to the primacy and recency effect, I remember the first and the last matches. Especially the first. In the last few weeks, there were also some memorable moments in the middle: wailing at the missed overhead, cookie halves, jokes about back pain.

During our last pre-match conversation, we talked about Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. I'm Bobby: modestly skilled and a decent producer. So Jim is Whitney, all emotion and raw talent. "She's dead!" he said. (Don't worry, I don't see you going out like that. It's not a perfect analogy.)

And like Bobby and Whitney, the season was bittersweet — as most are. But I was glad to be your partner. Congratulations on your debut, Whitney! We're expecting great things from you.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On discord (mixed doubles)

The challenge of playing an opponent twice in one season: Don't let your baggage get too heavy.

Even though Jim is a "What happens on the court stays on the court" player who doesn't hold a grudge, we had lots to talk about after our match.

Oh, the regret after our 7-6, 2-6, 1-6 loss to Patrick and Deb. Oh, the recrimination.

It's tough to be competitive and then get blown out — all in the same match. Whereas in our first meeting (where they dominated 6-2, 6-1), we could at least laugh at our underwhelming performance.

This three-setter felt a lot worse, even though the score was better.

On Monday, Jim described our post-match vibe: "If we were married, then Friday night, we went to bed angry."

But I realized something, too. Tennis will never be more important than friendship. Or fun. Or sportsmanship.

Tomorrow's a new day. And a new match.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tennis 2012: Le Club, Week 7

In yesterday's twist of fate weather-wise, the temperature dropped more than 20 degrees by the time we arrived at Milwaukee Country Club. (Which was good, because I don't do well if it's above 100 degrees — as anyone who played with me on Monday night can attest.) After starting our matches, it rained.

Sigh. Small talk. Waiting.

Finally we got to play.

Despite the stop-start nature of the weather, every match was decided in straight sets. Our team lost, 2-3.

At #1 singles, Jessica lost 6-2, 6-3. What I love most about you is that you're not an excuse-maker. Like in your assessment of your opponent: "She was good." Undefeated, even.

Mary played cardio tennis earlier in the day and then #2 singles indoors at North Shore. Too much exertion in anticipation of a heat advisory? Not for Mary. She won, 6-4, 6-2, because she decided she wouldn't play a third set. Way to dominate at singles. Again!

At #1 doubles, Kim and Kristen gave their opponents a challenging match. Their opponents ultimately took it, 7-5, 6-1. Incidentally, Kristen was the only one of our teammates who wore white. Um, when did this become a rule? Clearly there's some etiquette I am not privy to.

At #3 doubles, Tash and Rebecca played phenomenally. Rebecca ran all over the court — was it the Gatorade? Their opponents hit overheads right at Tash and she just volleyed them back. No problem. Terrific win, Team Tashbecca, and wonderful that the last match ended on a high note.

I wish our match had gone longer. Patrice and I tried really, really hard at #2 doubles. We lost the first set quickly. Our only lead was at 1-0 in the second set. We actually made the rallies longer, trying to lob and outdo them with consistency (until they made a mistake, and then Nooni would put away an overhead). They were up 5-4 but we won the next game. Then they were up 6-5.

At 40-30, they hit a forehand volley winner to win 6-2, 7-5.

After our first set shellacking, we could've just given up, but we didn't. So even though "We can't win them all" is but small consolation, I am really happy with our determination and effort.

And Sandy, thanks for trekking to MCC to cheer all of us on. Your encouragement and analysis were really helpful. Now if only I could get you to be the team blogger....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To-ga! To-ga!

Luke and Linda chose July, the month of Julius Caesar, to celebrate their 50th birthdays. The theme: the letter L (the Roman numeral 50, get it?).

Linda looked beautiful — and not a day over 29 — in a gauzy white number that will be wearable beyond the Roman party circuit. Sandy and Jeff bought complementary toga costumes — a smart and time-saving move. Some guests converted sheets and curtains into togalicious togs. One idea I may have to try: using a fitted sheet, which gives a nice drape.

I myself did some strategic bunching, pinning, and tucking, realizing that a toga is a two-person job (have you ever tried securing something on your back?).

L&L also set up a make-your-own toga station and a Roman backdrop for photos. They have creative friends who showed up with hats shaped like a Caesar salad and a coliseum. One guy brought a fan with a photo of JLo's ex.

Marc Antony!

It was a great party. There is something about being dressed in a bedsheet that strips away all pretenses. We hung out in the driveway, backyard, and front yard enjoying Caesar salads and Arnold Palmers (or L&Ls: Lipton and lemonade).

The night ended with fireworks. Roman candles, of course!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tennis 2012: Le Club, Week 6 (the team)

Our team hosted Pleasant Valley yesterday, earning a 4-1 win.

Thanks to Jessica and Mary for staying late to give me match details and discuss the merits of not drinking beer. Sorry this is so brief, but Rebekah's jonesing for the recap and I have to get back to my day job.

At #3 doubles, Ann and Nora battled a tenacious team and lost 7-5, 7-6. Matches like that are so exhilarating and heartbreaking. I saw only a little bit of your match, but I know you fought hard.

At #2 doubles, Kim and Glenna finished their match quickly with a 6-1, 6-4 win. So Kim must have felt okay despite the Kopp's cheeseburger and malt an hour before the match. Glenna, I did get a few glimpses of your picture-perfect forehand. Congrats to both of you on your decisive win!

On the #1 court were Patrice and me. You can read about it in a separate superlong post. (Rebekah will tell you that I've included every thought I had during the match. The match took 2 hours and 20 minutes. What can I say, I had a lot of thoughts.)

At #2 singles, Mary told her opponent, "I'm not going to go three sets" and "You don't run an old lady back and forth." Her opponent, who is also a friend, obliged: Mary had a 6-2, 6-1 victory. Nice job on your total domination.

At #1 singles, Jessica won the first set 6-2. She mentioned footwork, "an amazing volley" (only one?!), and an "I'm too old for this" moment. (Were all of those during the same point?) Unfortunately, her opponent retired with a strained calf. A real bummer. But Jessica, I know you would've controlled the match, like you always do.

Okay everybody, thanks for all the support. Kristen, Sandy, and Rebekah, it was so nice to see friendly faces in the crowd. I started this season feeling anxious about how it would go, but I didn't need to worry. This team makes me feel totally at home.

Tennis 2012: Le Club, Week 6 (Team Noonimoto)

At #1 doubles, I recognized one of our opponents from a match last year: Linda was tall, aggressive, and confident — and strong in the warmup. Her partner, Pam, was consistent and had terrific touch volleys.

On Court 7, we fought to take the first set, 6-2. The score did not reflect how competitive they were.

Down 2-4 in the second, Patrice and I tried not to get frustrated. "I was here on Friday, down 2-4," I said. "We can get the next four games." We had accomplished such things in the past.

But they toughed it out, started hitting more winners, and took the set 6-3.

During the break, Nooni and I strategized. In the first set, she had mentioned our maturity as an advantage. Totally! Staying calm and poised would help us. We talked about being resilient between points — something that our pro Jayson had drilled us on. It is hard to play a long point and then refocus for the next one and the one after that.

And I had practiced this when I played singles with Sandy on Sunday. Sandy is one of those players who forces you to play your best, and I needed every advantage I could get. Thank you for preparing me for this match.

Linda and Pam were up 3-2.

Here's where some of the details get fuzzy. I do remember seeing rows of people standing at the windows. I recognized Glenna's patterned tennis skirt when I went to retrieve a ball. But I couldn't look at her. I didn't want to lose focus. And how could she help me telepathically?

I do remember this: We tied, then were up 6-5. Then they won the next game.

Bummer. We couldn't close out the set when we had the chance. But we had to move past that, because we were still in the match.

This was my first tiebreak of the season. And it had been over a month since Nooni and I played together. Good thing we've played so many tiebreaks (and she had played one earlier this season at 8.0 mixed, and won).

Linda and Pam were tough. Changing servers and sides so often, it was hard to get into a rhythm. We were down 5-6. Match point.

Patrice served — and won — the next two points. How's that for poise and resilience between points? 7-6.

Time to switch sides again. I exhaled. I have to remember to breathe during really competitive moments.

Patrice returned serve. I don't remember how we won the point, just that we did.

6-2, 3-6, 7-6. A comeback.

After any given match, you can say, "That could've gone the other way." It's rare to have those nights where you dominate or get killed. Most matches become wars of attrition, where you just try to grind it out and chip away at your opponent. Tonight was one of those nights.

A satisfying win for the maturing Noonimoto.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On our differences (mixed doubles)

On Friday night, we played the same Bluemound opponents as before. They were playing much better than they did in our last match.

Chan served and volleyed effectively; I couldn't pass him by driving the ball crosscourt. And Juliet served really well: a low, flat serve that was hard to return.

So we lobbed. And Jim volleyed over their heads. We took the first set 6-2.

And maybe got a little too relaxed in the second set. We had already forgotten how competitive they were in the first; even though the set score wasn't close, many games had gone to deuce.

They were up 2-0 in no time.

Not exactly the tennis performance I'd intended for our friends — Lisa, Jane, and Phil came to cheer us on. But hey, at least Jane heard Jim swear only once.

A side note about getting ready for this match: I had tried to take care of myself — ran earlier in the week, played tennis Wednesday, rested Thursday. Jim geared up by switching to light beer. He also played singles, practiced his serve, and baked snickerdoodles.

And yet I did not want to play a third set. Even though we were on the air-conditioned Highlander courts, I felt a little off — maybe from the days of 100-degree heat.

Instead I talked to Jim about how well he was playing.

"Your turn," he said.

Clearly he had recovered from an earlier overhead that he'd hit out, after which he fell to his knees, wailing.

Ah, the drama.

I laughed. "We've all done that." I myself do it regularly (miss overheads, I mean, not laugh at my partner).

After the changeover, I said, "Maybe I shouldn't have laughed." I laughed again. "Or maybe not continued to laugh," he said.

Now we were down 2-4. Full speed ahead for Jim: "We're gonna get this game quickly, then I'm gonna win my serve." He has not quite caught on to my one-point-at-a-time approach.

But even though those things didn't happen quickly, they did indeed happen. If anyone can overpromise and then deliver, it's Jim.

We broke Chan's serve, then I held serve for a 6-2, 6-4 win.

A first for us. It's hard to believe you can have a comeback win — until it actually happens. Until you get it done, point by point.

Cheers to all that is possible!

Monday, July 2, 2012

On staying calm (mixed doubles)

On Friday afternoon, Jim sent me a jubilant email — albeit in a tiny font — that he had practiced his serve the night before and no pressure, but we needed to win the first set.


I'll admit, I was not in a huge we're-the-number-one-court mood that night. Probably because my back had been hurting since my singles match the week before. Ice, stretching, and Advil hadn't helped.

But I felt better when we warmed up. Calm.

Once we started playing, we found that our opponents had some enviable strengths: Scott moved well and had unbelievable angle shots, and Julie was tall, powerful, and difficult to lob over.

We took the first set 6-4. Early in the second set, we labored over one game — multiple deuce points — but lost.

I tried to stay calm.

"Poise," I said to Jim.

As in, let's keep it together and not beat ourselves up over lost points or lost games.

This is much easier said than done. But I try to follow the proverb: Never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon.

We hung in there.

We were up 5-3; they were serving. Match point. I turned to look at Jim.

"Don't look at me like that!"

Like what?! I turned away.

We lost the point.

But we won the next one. Match point again. I had a feeling we were going to win — right then.

And we did! Or rather, Jim did. He returned the ball, they hit it back to him, he hit it again, and they made an unforced error. A great point for me to witness.

Feeling really proud of our effort, I got a little choked up. But I snapped out of it when he said, "Now can we high five?"

Yes, Jim. High five. You played great!