Thursday night is league night for me in our regional league. I play B level and myself had a pretty straight forward match. Our #1 though was in very tough playing the top player in our league, one of the top under 19 players in Canada. The junior used to play at our club until he went to University so these two have played countless time before. The match ended with the expected player winning but not without some interesting twists and turns along the way.
The pace of play for the outset was really fast and hard. Both players are extremely fit and their movement is astounding. The ability to retrieve balls that look like they are not returnable is quite amazing. The first game was tight the whole way through with rarely more than a couple of points between them. Our #1 was able to close it out in extra points though I believe 15-13.
Games 2 and 3 went to the junior but were tightly contested.
Game 4 is where it got really interesting. The junior got off to a quick lead and kept adding points and our #1 was having no success getting on the board. At around 5-0 there were murmurs in the crowd of a possible bagel. The junior was digging in and our #1 looked like he could not figure how to win a rally. Even when he was really extending the junior the ball kept coming back. This is where the really interesting turn came. The lead eventually got to 7-0 and there was a clear focus from the kid on getting the bagel. He definitely knew it was possible and wanted it. Our #1 knew it too but for the last few points had worked the kid all over the court and even though he had lost the rallies it was clear who was doing way more work. At 7-0 a very hard and low unexpected boast ended the run and the hopes of the bagel to bring the score to 7-1. That 1 point was huge of course but the work that our #1 made the kid do was even more important. The game completely turned around and the score kept getting closer. The change in the match was not only physical it was also mental. There seemed to be a definite focus on getting the bagel and when that was lost there was a mental let down as well. The game eventually got to 10-9 for the junior. Remarkably close considering the score had been 7-1. The kid did manage to close the game out and thus the match but it definitely looked in question.
It was a very entertaining match to watch. The 4th game was definitely an incredible affair with a couple of lessons to be learned. If you are the player that is struggling to win even a point against a tough opponent don’t give up hope. Mental toughness is imperative. If you are in the rallies and really making him work focus on that. Don’t let the negative aspect of the score deter you. See the positive in how you are extending your opponent and realize the work you are making him do will pay dividends later. Look for a let down in focus. If you are the player way out in front remember the goal is to win the match not bagel your opponent. Certainly you do not want to give up any cheap points but keep focused on the match and its outcome not on winning a personal battle, getting the bagel, and in the process risk losing the war.