After those encouraging words, I'll start off...
My first night of Winter pennant, our main season!
I was excited but a little nervous. I had not played this competition for a whole year, since I was sick for most of the season last year, so I expected to be a little rusty, as I don't get nearly enough practice against the higher players apart from this competition.
The team we were up against were probably not considered one of the top teams, so we expected we had a decent chance of winning this night. The big unknown was their no 3 players, a young players from France, who was here for about 6 months and had been put into the team without knowing his level.
When we watched this player play our No 1 player, it was clear he was going to be big threat, as he was clearly No 1 material, and probably one of the better players among the No 1s! He beat our No1 in 4 sets... our No 1 put up a good fight against him, but he was just a little too consistent. We also lost our other 2 matches, so we were down 3-0 before I even played my first match
I started off against their No 4, who I was obviously expected to beat. My opponent is a friend, but I've never actually played him before. His big weapon is his serve, a fast and kicking serve with his Jpen bat. He's also got LP (OX) on the other side, but he hardly uses it and it's not the easiest to control on his fast blade. We both started off scrappy...making quite a few easy mistakes. I was highly impressed with his serves...they were a fast combination of top / side, and I don't remember seeing that much kick on the table from anyway... very impressive! I struggled with them initially, but when I decided to take a step back from the table and just chop or guide them back, they didn't trouble me that much anymore. I won the first match 11-9, and things got a little easier in the next 2 games as he was no longer winning free points on his serves, and he struggled a bit with the spin on my loops. He also had trouble with my serves with the pips. I can't remember the scores but I won the match in straight sets. Since we're friends, we had a good chat afterwards about the game and his equipment, and I think he'll continue to improve and give me a tougher game next time.
We won the next doubles and singles too, so we were back at 3-3
My next game was against their No 1 player...who I've played before on quite a few occasions, and although I've beaten him a few times, my record against him is not good, probably only winning about 1 in 4. He's a good looper on both FH and BH, and takes the ball very early and aggressively... he also hits very hard and has very spinny serves... not easy and not the type of style I like to play against. I knew I need to attack whatever balls I could and play aggressively, coz once he got looping he was very hard to win point from. If I could throw off his timing with the pimples I could beat him.
I started off well, returning his serves aggressively and throwing his timing off. Although I won quite a few points off my loops, I won more points off his mistakes, for which I can take some credit, as I was really mixing it up especially with the pips. I remember that I always had trouble with one of his serves... not so much returning it, but returning it well enough to stop an aggressive attack. I was ready and prepapred for them, but for some reason he did not use this serve at all?
I won the first two sets, but then got a little behind in the next one, which spurred on his confidence, and he started ripping his loops past me again. I lost that set, and knew I had to focus hard on the next one, or he could well run away with it. It's not the first time I had lost to him in 5 after winning the first 2.
I focussed hard again, and got a good start. He got some good loops on which forced me back, but I chopped them with the pips, and the returns were very heavy and he put most in the net. This gave me more confidence again and some of my FH attacks started to pay off too, so I won the next set to win the match!
We played our next doubles, and my partner and I did well to win that one, which evened out some of the singles losses we suffered. The teams continued to exchange wins and losses... it was going to tight!
After my doubles I felt a little drained and weak and even light-headed... not quite sure why? I might have been de-hydrated or perhaps I'm not used to the fierce competition anymore, or might be just a little too unfit. It might even have been the few chocolats I had just before our doubles? I don't know!
I tried to rest to shake off the feeling and have a good rest, but was called upon to umpire even though I had to play next.
I umpired the next match and felt a little better afterwards. I closed my eye for a few mins afterwards, and cooled off a little more with some water on my face, and I felt a little better, so I started my next game against their No 3. After seeing him beat both our No 1 and 2, I did not expect to win this, but I thought I'd give it good go regardless, as I had nothing to lose. I did lose the match in straight sets, but I felt I played quite well against this player. I gave him plenty of trouble with the pips, and he struggled with my slower and spinny loops, although he adjusted and got better. I certainly had my chances in both the first 2 sets, but I could not quite finish them off. I forced him back from the table quite a few times, but loops which are normally winners came back, which I wasn't always ready for. obviously I need more practice against good players... that the best way to stop yourself from not anticipating a return. I discovered that one thing I need to work on is the in and out movement when I'm chopping away from the table. This player varied the depth of his loops well, and I wasn't moving well enough to get to them in good position, so I will work on that.
The night ended with the matches tied at 7:7... unfortunately when we counted games we came up only 1 game short!
All in all I felt I had a pretty good first night. I was really happy with my forehand and my movement, but also that I managed a block a lot of loops with the pips, which I have been working on in practice, but had struggled to put it into competition. I've also been trying to attack a lot more with the pips (as per leatherback's advice
) and this was starting to pay dividents as well, but I must continue to practice this, as I feel there's more potential there.
How well the night goes for me often depends on good a night's sleep I get, which tend to be 50/50 for me as I struggle with sleeping. If I do geta good night sleep, I tend to trouble most players, but with a poor night sleep I feel like a zombie at times, and could lose all my matches.
I think as long as I sleep relatively well, I should do OK this season... lets hope that continues.