I told the captain I hadn't been playing and that I desperately needed to practice. But the summer USTA season starts next Friday, and she said the tournament would be a perfect way for me to get ready for the season opener. That was a new one to me--usually I practice to get ready for a tournament...using the tournament itself as a warmup would be potentially embarrassing experiment.
She promised it would great time and told me that Tony, a guy who played on our team last fall, was also singed up for Open Mixed. For some reason she thought that would help convince me to sign up, but Tony's presence was hardly a selling point. He's a really nice guy, and there's no one I'd rather have on my team, but there's also not a single person I would less like to risk facing in a match.
Tony came within a few matches of qualifying for the U.S. Open (yes, that U.S. Open) last fall and plays low-level pro tournaments all over the country. The one time I practiced against him last year, he absolutely crushed every one my hardest first serves like he was taking batting practice and I was lobbing him softballs. I've never come up against anything like that, and I almost had a seizure from all the flashing my life was doing before my eyes.
But I figured I better get ready for the summer season, so I agreed to play and signed up for the Sandy Dyer Open. The captain was able to round up a few people last night to get me some practice before today's match. When I got Lifetime this afternoon (the same one from that early Saturday match months ago), Tony was already on the show court playing a match, which was great news for me, since it meant that I wouldn't be playing against him. And watching his match was absolutely hilarious. Tony's mixed partner was his wife, who isn't quite on the same level as Tony...it looked like she wasn't sure which end of the racquet she should hold on to. I've never seen such an extreme mismatch of ability on half a tennis court.
Familiar place...marginally better weather than early March...
Tony was covering every inch of the court, shamelessly--and successfully--playing 2-on-1 against the other team. His wife hit the absolute minimum number of shots, serving and returning when it was her turn and immediately getting out of the way to let Tony work his magic. If they other team managed to get the ball to her, they won the point...if they couldn't get it past Tony, he'd crush a winner. Tony and his wife ended up winning in a super-tiebreaker, and then my partner and I took the show court against one of the Lifetime teaching pros and his partner.
Aside from last night's practice session, I hadn't even looked at a tennis racquet since April Fool's Day, so expectations were low. Not to mention the fact that I'd never met or played with the partner the captain found for me before this afternoon. With a packed Lifetime lobby looking on, I just hoped I wouldn't embarrass myself and get laughed off the court. Things started shaky, but we miraculously pulled off an exciting comeback and won 3-6, 7-6 (5), 10-5...though I did get drilled in the arm, the ankle, and nearly took a forehand in the face.
I couldn't have been more pleased or surprised by the win, especially when it looked for a while like we were going to get absolutely destroyed in the second set. When I returned to the lobby post-match, there was some bad news: in tomorrow's match, my partner and I will be playing keep-away from a semi-pro player. I never bothered looking at the draw sheet, but sure enough, we'll be meeting Tony and Mrs. Tony in tomorrow morning's match. This promises to be one of the strangest mixed doubles matches I'll ever play.
Free tattoos, Sunday at 11AM!
Let's just hope my partner and I can successfully direct the majority of our shots at Mrs. Tony tomorrow, or I'm going to show up to work on Monday with Wilson logos tattooed all over my body. I'm buying a football helmet tonight and stuffing a pillow down the front of my shorts before tomorrow's match. Hopefully that doesn't interfere with my vision or my movement...time will tell...