Monday, October 15, 2012

Nathan Brendle v. Mazin Hakim

A couple Wednesdays ago, our Bruin season quietly concluded on a dark, damp evening. We were nice and warm inside, and the court was certainly not quiet. But it's taken me two weeks to write about anything because, well, disappointment takes some time to work its way through me.

Nathan Brendle was the last Bruin alive this season, as he had eased through his Sectional match and advanced to the Individual Sectional. Because of the way that other results in the Sectional fell, Nathan only had one match to play to become the Individual Sectional champion. That match was against Elkhart Memorial's Mazin Hakim.

Throughout the season, Nathan and Hakim had similar scores against their common opponents. Hakim had gotten on a roll during the tournament season, helping lead the Memorial Chargers to their first Team Sectional championship before they bowed out to the Fairfield Falcons. Nathan was also on a roll, having won 21 (!) straight matches.

As the rain sprinkled the Concord courts, we agreed to move the match indoors. And the match got off to a brilliant start for Nathan. He broke Mazin's serve in the first game and then held his own to get a 2-0 lead. He continued to build and took a stellar first set, 6-1. In that set, Nathan made only 4 errors total, while Hakim made many more. It was Hakim who seemed to be showing his nerves, and Nathan was playing calmly and in control.

The second set started out with the same. Nathan built a 4-1 lead, without ever getting his serve broken. The lead was somewhat deceiving in the second set, as it was only 1 break of serve separating the two players. However, at 4-1 Nathan had several chances to break again and pull ahead 5-1. Unfortunately, he couldn't connect with any of these chances, and the long hold proved to be a turning point for Hakim.

Changing strategies, Hakim began to go for less and rally more. Consequently, Nathan found it hard to win points. He was tempted to go for more than he could hit, and as the match tightened up, so did Nate's nerves. He still played solid tennis, and the match was outstanding from that point on... but Nathan couldn't dominate like he had in the early part of the match.

The match went back and forth from this point on, but after losing a close second set, Nathan could never pull back into the lead as he had trouble breaking Hakim. Though Nathan managed to tie the third set at 5-5 by finally breaking Hakim, Hakim played a huge game at 5-5 to break Nathan. The season ended in the next game, as Nathan's forehand return sailed wide, and Hakim advanced in a thrilling third set victory.

There was much to be proud of in this match and in the season, but it is always difficult to watch a season end. I really get tired of how much it hurts, how many questions it leaves, etc.

But one thing is never questioned, as the Bruin guys rolled out onto the court to talk to Nathan after the loss... we know how much these guys care for each other, how much they wanted this for Nate, how invested they have been in the season.

Great season for Nathan, as he ends at 21-2 individually. Great season for the Bruins, as we "over-achieved" at 13-7 as a team. Great season for all!

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