I got back from my glorious weekend-away last night at 7 PM, and I hurt, but it was worth it.
I had never been to Indian Wells to see the professionals play, but it is no wonder the tennis center has been awarded "The Most Impressive Tennis Center" in the past. The center is HUGE. Even though I'm a drooling fan dork, I have also never been to Wimbledon or the US Open, so I'm certain this locale is much smaller compared to those tennis meccas. But compared to the college campuses and clubs I've played at, this place is gigantic.
And the scenery... OH! The sky was clear blue without a cloud in sight, the horizon was sprinkled with mountains with snow caps (in the desert!), with hills in front of them saturated in brown, with palm trees in from of the hills, and court after court after court under our feet. It was heavenly. Next time, you are definitely coming with me, Mom.
The trip down to Indian Wells on Friday wasn't too bad. Usually Friday nights in Los Angeles is rife with traffic jams on the freeways, but we took a less traveled route that got us there from LAX in 2 1/2 hours. Not bad at all.
Upon arrival, I was introduced to my room that I had agreed to share with three other ladies. We laughed at the size of the beds. There were two double beds in this room. I got to know these ladies very well thanks to the small arrangements. But I have to say, I actually enjoyed the rustic intimacy. I don't think we would have bonded as well as a team if it weren't for the laughter and banter this room created.
The first day of tennis was nerve wracking! We were scheduled to play three matches of doubles at 11 AM and three at 2:30 PM. Our captain made certain everyone who wanted to come play got a chance to play. How great is that?! Yes, we all wanted to win, but not at the exclusion of any player. So, that first day, everyone had a chance to play one time. However, we only had 10 ladies on our team who were able to go, so two of us had to play twice in one day. The captain made an executive decision: she asked me and another lady to play together at 2:30 PM right after our 11 AM matches. She said she wanted the best players to play twice.
Although I was extremely flattered and excited to play twice, it struck me that I'm no longer in my 20's. How would I perform back-to-back? Also, I have never played under such competitive circumstances before. The intensity was... INTENSE. Walking out for the first match, I was actually shaking from nerves, and the first set represented that: 2-6.
My partner and I got over ourselves pretty quickly after that. Mostly I was angry at how awful I was playing. I'm certain if the captain saw me playing that first set, she would have re-thought putting me in the next match. But, we got our collective nerves under control, and our training took over: 6-3.
At these tournaments, the third set is a "Super Tiebreaker". That is the winner is the first team to reach 10 points, winning by two, using the Coman Tiebreaker system. We won the tiebreak and the match 10-7. Woo-hoo!
This match up was against Santa Barbara. They were by far the most lovely players I have had the experience to play against. They didn't call close balls out just to get the point. They laughed and enjoyed themselves, and they laughed with us! It was so much fun. During play, I would look around at the beautiful scenery again and feel the desert wind on my face, and count my blessings that I have an awesome hubby who lets me do things like this.
At the end of the first match up, our team won 2 of the 3 matches.
The second match up was against Temecula Valley.
Now that my nerves had settled, I was ready to get down to business. I was playing with the other player the captain deemed one of the best on our team, and we won in straight sets to a tough team: 6-4, 6-3.
I mentioned that the Santa Barbara ladies were so awesome. Well, I'm pleased to report that the Temecula Valley ladies were even more so. During a match, I usually make silly comments that cause my partner to laugh or smile, but rarely the opposition. On top of which, we had drawn a respectible crowd (about 25 people) who were watching and laughing at our antics. I have to admit we as a foursome were hilarious. My stomach hurt more than any other muscle after this match due to all the laughter. I wished these ladies lived closer to us, so I could play doubles with them all the time.
We had to wait to see how the other teams did. The final result was that our team won 2 of the 3 matches again. Woo-hoo! The only way we wouldn't make it to the finals is if one of the teams we played beat the other team 3-0, and then we would have a tie. Well, that didn't happen.
Off to the finals we go!
We went out to dinner Saturday night to celebrate our first arrival to the finals. The reason this is so mind blowing to us is because we are playing the other winning teams in our district. Which ever team wins will go on to play in the Sectionals later this month. I don't think I can fully describe this feeling, Mom, but it was really cool.
The next morning I was up early, naturally due to being a "morning person", and realized that I wasn't very nervous for the finals. I was a little worried about that since I usually need nerves to get my juices flowing in a match, but I didn't think much about it. Sure enough, as soon as I stepped onto the court at 11 AM, my heart was pounding.
We were playing Bakersfield in the final. They were really, really tough. Not just as a team, but they were tough mentally. The first set was well fought, but my partner and I (the same partner I had for the 11 AM match yesterday) got the critical break in the middle of the set: 6-3.
Then something happened. We were up 2-1, we were up a break, and suddenly, we allowed the significance of winning tighten us up. I mean we shanked returns. We shanked overheads. Mom, you would have walked away with your stomach in knots over how we let that second set slip by: 2-6.
Now we were in the critical Coman Super Tiebreak. We lost the first point: 0-1. We held serve: 2-1. They held serve: 2-3. We held serve: 4-3. We got a mini-break! 5-3. We held serve: 7-3. Home stretch time. Shanked return by us: 7-4. Another shanked return: 7-5. Double fault: 7-6. Forced error: 8-6. Excellent serve: 8-7. Excellent serve: 8-8. Double fault by me: 8-9. Ace by me 9-9. Excellent serve: 9-10. Match point! Amazing volley: 9-11...
Oh! So close!! We ended up losing the final 1 game to 2. It was a bittersweet pill to take. We soon discovered that if we had won this final our team would have to be disbanded except for 3 players. The rest of us would have been moved up to the next level.
I'll accept this loss knowing that...
but wait until next year!
I'll call you to talk about more play-by-play stuff later this week, Mom.