It’s the partnership, stupid

Yesterday Anne indulged us with her 5.5 pro who coaches 4.0 women in New Jersey for a living. He’s in his late 30s or 40s, trim with a raspy voice, perhaps from years of yelling on court that stretches out 78 feet long. I always wondered when will the coaches start wearing the headphones. But again, when everyone is equipped with one, then it would all be evened-out if they work next to one another.
Simon came bit late, right hand held a beat-up racket (left his tennis bag at a friend’s house the day before) and left hand held a crumbled plastic grocery bag containing six Buds. We proceeded to a really short and uninspiring warm up.
“Why don’t we start the game?” One of us suggested.
“How much would you like me to play, 40% or 50%?” Coach asked at the net.
“How about 65.” Simon suggested.
“No, 68.99%.” I joked.
The coach served first and lost it succinctly. Simon held his serve promptly. Another break and held, we were up 4:0. The coach threw down his racket in disgust after I drove a back hand down the line. I had few double faults but nevertheless we took the first set 6:4.
Here are few factors at work IMHO:
Partnership. Aside from crediting my partner that’s very obvious but the partnership perhaps deserves a look. I was relaxed knowing well that we were the underdogs and confident because Simon would cover my back, who never lost his patience and was gracious in handing out encouragements and compliments. When he was receiving coach’s serve, he told me to stay back because he couldn’t do much with his powerful serve. As an Alzheimer, I kept creeping up to the service line and be remind every single point – to stay back. Blame the dementia, obviously. Sheeeeeshi. I’m sick of myself too.
Looking across the net, Anne has a lethal back hand. Actually she has a well rounded game. But at times they would get into a heated argument, which only reinforced my comfort level, which I feel should be handled discreetly. And a little deference won’t hurt the marriage de temp either.
Pressure playing with a pro or far better player. Being a loser, I never feel bad at losing a game/match as long as it was well played. Few times I teamed up with a Pro and/or Tony and the mounting pressure was just too overwhelming: they hated to lose while all the balls came to me.
“Don’t touch ..” Tony would yell.
“Why don’t I just sit by the court side?” I joked since I really didn’t know where to stand and what NOT to hit.
“Good idea.” He would retort.
Another time with the pro, as he was approaching the net, I began to run back to the baseline.
“Why are you running back?” The Pro would ask in bewilderment.
I was bewildered that he didn’t understand one-back and one-front defined the 3.0ers. Well, again, this goes to the partnership. Although many consider high/low pair won’t work, but a decent result could be manufactured if the partnership is fully invested.

The lob that came in handy too. It’s very intuitive for me to drive back at a hard serve (and reaching out for the shots that I had no business to even trying in the first place). After I lost both points at hitting out Coach’s serve, at 30 all, Simon pleaded,
“Please, don’t try to drive, just block ..”
[I just couldn’t remember .. there isn’t enough time for me to pull back the racket and then hit .. blame the AD .. Hey people, don’t you love it? IF Irene could remember a thing, who else would/could you have to beat around all those years??!! .. .. ha ha ha]

What I’m trying to say is, a lot has to do with the partnership chemistry. If the 2 don’t jell then no matter how good you are, you’re not going to make it work.

The coach, being a gentleman never once hit hard to/at me when I was stationed at the net. Not sure it’s a good thing because real match may play out differently? Personally I really don’t like to hit to the weakest link to get a win, because it doesn’t give me any pleasure. But again, I haven’t been playing at the league, no team to reckon with, nothing was on the line.. .. I resorted to let my partner to do the dirty deed. The coach soon abandoned his percentage playing wow and shifted into full throttle, gunning for Simon’s head and blood everywhere. Few overhead he hit from corner to corner were just breathtaking. During the second set I couldn’t serve out at 5:3, and double faulted to give them the game. They quickly caught up and ultimately took it 7:5. Was there any missed opportunity? Absolutely. Why didn’t I size it? The drive to win wasn’t strong enough, perhaps? I was disgust at myself.

The coach said he won’t leave unless he wins two sets from us. Unfortunately we have to leave early to their dismay – we had a night match. Needless to say, the coach could probably beat us all by himself. It’s the same as I would try hard not to be the stinking liability to my partner.

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