never meant to touch
are touching. The touch
again, crush and grind,
until I am bright with ache.
from "Tennis Elbow" by Jim Hall
Anyone who says that high level tennis is not a physical game has never played nor watched high level tennis. Watch Rafael Nadal, the strain that he puts on his legs and knees, the way he kisses his biceps after wins. Listen the Novak Djokovic talk about what helped drag him to #1 in the world, the hours of workouts it took, not the hours of hitting. Come and see our own Abe Thorne play tennis.
Over the past few years, this Columbia City match has been close. We lost to 3-2 matches to them and then last year turned it around and won 3-2. In this year's match, we were ahead 3-0 in the varsity match before it even started. Columbia City only had 2 varsity players, and so we had won before we begun.
But there were still many things to be worked through. For example, Abe Thorne was about to play one of his most evenly matched opponents of the season. And Jesse Amstutz looked to have a difficult match as well against a 3 year varsity player.
Then, the injuries started mounting. We were already thankful to rest Parth, who has been having shoulder difficulties since last year. Two JV guys are out with aches and pains as well (Bryce Miller from a 60 mph ATV crash!) Then, Jesse mentioned that his arm hurt while trying to serve, and he is fearing tennis elbow. Jesse was one of the heroes of last week, grinding out 4 long matches. So we decided to give him a break, and Sol Brenneman unexpectedly took the court in Jesse's place.
Sol played an excellent first set in his opportunity. He attacked, he hit with confidence, he had fun, he made great points. Then the second set began and he quickly fell behind. It looked like it was going to be a third set for Sol, a long night in 90 degree heat, and a position he had not dealt with well on Saturday.
But Tuesday's Sol was a man of a different mindset. Determined to play "really cool" points, Sol looked loose and fresh headed into the third set. He quickly won the first game, pounding several forehands into the corners. With his attacking, fun-finding attitude, Sol's strokes looked relaxed and well timed. And he won, 6-0 in the third.
Meanwhile, our JV was having a different experience. Instead of grinding, they were flying through their opponents. Byeong picked up his 5th win, 6-0, and Ryan and Ethan won with the same scoreline. Jackson King had yet to pick up a win on the season, but teamed with Brandon Nguyen, they rounded out the JV wins. Jacob Rudy-Froese got his second chance at singles, but became the only JV loss. And all of those JV matches were done, even though they involved the Columbia City players playing twice, before Abe was even done with his first set.
Abe was playing Niko Rongos, a tough sophomore who had beaten Ike Lehman last year in their #2 singles match. It had been a long, draining match in which Ike had fought through cramps near the end. Guess what, history was about to repeat itself.
In the first set, Rongos controlled the early part of the set before Abe took control near the end. Abe especially established control with long, deep shots. As the tension built, Rongos began to make more errors. However, as the set entered a tiebreak, Rongos loosened and attacked, and the more aggressive player usually wins in tight situations. Rongos took the first set tiebreak and the momentum that went with it.
In the second, Abe looked tired and done. Rongos took advantage of Abe's weak play and errors and took a 4-1 lead. Seth offered simple advice at that changeover. "You're not playing like Abe." Then Abe turned the tide and attacked, moved, hit, yelled. He won five straight games to claim the second and force a third set.
Starting the third, both players held serve. Then Abe started stretching his calves, and I knew that the physicality of the match was making him begin to cramp. At the start of the next game, it was all too evident. Hitting a first serve, Abe crumpled to the ground head first with severe cramping in both legs. After four or five minutes of stretching, it became obvious that Abe wouldn't be able to continue to the end of the match. He had to default, giving the win to Rongos. It was not the end of the great match that anyone wanted.
As we grind through August, both the mental and the physical have to come together. Sol seemed to get the upper hand on the mental today, but the heat drained Abe. It's just a reminder, everything that we spend our energy on has to be worthwhile because, in the words of poet Jim Hall...
"And every winner I hit,
every exquisite triumph
has made me tender,
put a twinge in my step..."
Let's continue to stay focused as Abe and Sol did today, so that none of these twinges are wasted.
#1S - Abraham Thorne - 6-7 (5), 6-4, 1-2 (retired) - Niko Rongos (10)
#2S - Sol Brenneman - 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 - Blake Fearnow (12)
#3S - Justin Zehr - won by default
#1D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - won by default
#2D - Parth Patel/Landon Weldy - won by default
#1SJV - Byeong Min Lim - 6-0 - McCade Kennedy (10)
#2SJV - Jacob Rudy-Froese - 1-6 - McCade Kennedy (10)
#1DJV - Ryan Duckworth/Ethan Lapp - 6-0 - Matt Kennedy (9)/Dillon Reed (9)
#2DJV - Jackson King/Brandon Nguyen - 6-3 - Matt Kennedy (9)/Dillon Reed (9)