What's the difference between winning and losing in a close match? What's the difference between beating a player who is maybe slightly better than you and losing to them without winning a game?
These questions are of utmost importance to anyone who wants to be a good tennis player. Most matches are decided by which of the players or teams have the better strokes. Those matches are ones that you can't feel bad if you lose, and feel good if you win because you know you've put the work in to get those better strokes. But what's the difference when serves, forehands, backhands, volleys and so forth are relatively even?
The answer, of course, is the intangibles. The things that cannot be measured.
Those things also can't be coached. As coaches, we can remind you of these things. We can stress the importance. But in the end, it's each of the players who gets to decide whether they are going to make these things important, or whether they are going to ignore their importance.
In the match against Westview, we got to see how important decisiveness is. Let me define decisiveness before I go on. Decisiveness is the having no hesitation. It's deciding what you are going to do and doing it with confidence. It is putting an end to over-analysis, keeping things simple, and swinging through.
In the varsity singles matches, better strokes mostly ruled the day. Byeong was a much more experienced and polished player than his freshman opponent, who will be a great player soon. And Jonathon lacked some of the firepower that his opponent had. Daniel too found himself playing someone who's forehand was just better than his own and his backhand just a bit more consistent. In the final two matches, we'd have benefitted from some decisiveness, more of just hitting the ball with confident swings.
In the varsity doubles matches, when we were at our best, we were decisive. We pushed up toward the net and volleyed, overheaded, and poached with confidence. Both positions had areas of letdowns, but were able to recover. But at no place in the match was the freezing of fear and then the freeing energy of decisiveness more evident than #2D.
Lane and Dustin started out the first set low on energy and seemingly hesitant. They were not closing the net, they started the points with feet moving but ended them standing still. With a little encouragement from their coach, they brought new energy to the match when they were down 5-3. Suddenly they were all over the court. They finished strokes, they got to the net, they weren't standing on the service line anymore trying to volley but were a foot from the net. They closed the set in a tiebreak where they took a 3-0 lead and never looked back.
In fact, they continued that play to take a 5-3 lead in the second set. But then pressure made them hesitate again. Again, back came the slow feet during points, the dropping rackets, the indecision. Should I swing through and drive the ball or place it slowly into the court? Should I slice or topspin? Two handed or one handed backhand returns? In all of this, Westview's team did the opposite. They hit through the ball and made their comeback. This time, they pushed the match to a tiebreak and won 7-1.
So to a third set, to decide the varsity outcome. But here, Lane and Dustin got their energy back. Lane dominated the net by closing quickly and putting volleys down through the middle. His returns and groundstrokes were driven neatly crosscourt and Dustin found a couple that were devastating down the line. We decided what we were doing and didn't hesitate. We did it with confidence. Nowhere was that more evident than on the final two points of the match. Tied at 30-30 on Dustin's serve, Lane and Dustin pushed to the net to put the pressure on. Westview lobbed the ball high into the middle of the court. Dustin stepped back and relaxed, and decided to hit the overhead. With no hesitation, he pounded the ball through the middle of the court. On the next point, Lane was at the net and saw a ball floating toward Dustin's groundstroke. With decisiveness, Lane sprinted to cut it off and hit his own overhead, which ended the match. In the close match, we had played with energy, strategy, and been decisive.
In the JV match, we could have used more of that energy, and less hesitation. In many matches of equal strength of strokes, we came out on the losing end because of the intangibles. But no worries. We've now seen what decisive and strong tennis looks like, as the whole team gathered round together to watch Lane and Dustin pull out the final victory. Now the key is to take example into our own practice and matches.
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-2, 6-2 - Kurtis Davis (9)
#2S - Jonathon Yousey - 2-6, 2-6 - Austin Hostetler (11)
#3S - Daniel Robles - 2-6, 3-6 - Ryan Barker (11)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 6-1, 6-3 - Jeryl Weaver (12)/Trey Zabona (12)
#2D - Lane Miller/Dustin Miller - 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-2 - Peyton Schrock (10)/Ryan Miller (10)
#1SJV - Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 6-1 - Brandon Eash (10)
#2SJV - Liam Bradford - 3-6 - Justin Schwartz (9)
#3SJV - Caleb Shenk - 3-6 - Micah Yoder (9)
#4SJV - Nathan Oostland - 0-6 - Brandon Eash (10)
#5SJV - Angel Torres - 0-6 - Justin Schwartz (9)
#6SJV - Philip Krabill - 4-6 - Micah Yoder (9)
#7SJV - Tommy Nguyen - 4-6 - Aiden Gingerich (9)
#1DJV - Jackson King/Jacob Woolace - 7-5 - Ethan Roth (11)/Ryan Klassen (9)
#3DJV - Joel Yoder/Braydon Harshberger - 1-6 - Ethan Roth (11)/Ryan Klassen (9)
#4DJV - Jonah Farran/Chris Craw - 2-6 - Aiden Gingerich (9)/?????