the highlight of my life over the past few years
I am hoping to write two long-form blog posts. This one will focus on technical analysis of the final game I played in this tournament. The final score is 8:3. The next one will cover my overall experience, the stress and expectation, the takeaways, and the broader term implications to my tennis life.
Heading into the final I felt relaxed and recharged, after winning the previous two elimination games with the expectation to win.
The schedule for day 2 (Sunday) was quarter-final at 9:45 am, semi-final at 12:45 pm – both played at 6 game regular set. The final was at 2:45 pm – 8 game pro-set.
My goal was to do better than last year, in which I lost in the quarter-final. Therefore my 1st game in day two was the most important one. I played a bit tight but did make it by 6:3. Next in the semi I needed to play against Shawn, whom I played a practice match against a week prior and I won 6:3. This time I played slightly better and won by 6:2.
Now I am in the final – already surpassed my pre-tournament expectations. My opponent is Ken – the #1 seed.
Before the tournament started, I knew I was ranked #2 seed and wouldn’t play against Ken – the 1st seed who was a runner-up last year and only lost a close match in the final.
Strength & Weakness
Without watching much of Ken’s prior games, I needed to figure out his style during our game. He had better movement (He saved this match point by running back from net position to baseline twice), and net touch and athleticism ( It is eye-opening to see him perform a jumping overhead smash as Monfils did
At the same time, there are two areas that I played conclusively better than Ken in the game.
- Serve – similar speed, but I had 90% first serve in versus Ken’s 61%)
- Backhand ( 5 winners w/4 unforced errors(UE) versus his 3 winners v/ 8 UE).
Tactics and in-game adjustment
To my( and my spectators’) surprise, I captured an early lead 4:0 after the first 20 minutes without facing a breakpoint.
Usually I like to use the first 4 games as a tune-up period. I was totally prepared for a back-and-forth dog fight-style final. In retrospect, this one-sided result could be attributed to two reasons – on one side, I was playing the best tennis during the whole tournament was I was playing “free” of expectation to win. On the other side, Ken wasn’t used to my heavy topspin style and made many unforced mistakes.
After a quick 4-0 lead, my level dropped a bit and Ken held his serve and made it to 1:4. He was actually already playing a lot better from the previous game on my serve (when I was leading 3:0) . He seemed to be increasing his net-aggressiveness – hoping to neutralize my baseline advantage.
During the changeover, I told myself I needed to make the adjustment to my game plan. The best way to take away his success of going to the net (and take the momentum back ) is to go to the net more often myself.
Battle on the net
Starting my first point on a 4:1 service game with an opportunity to go the the net, I took advantage of it and executed pretty well with a backhand down the line and a forehand volley winner to finish the point
This point really boosted my confidence. I took every chance in this game to go to the net, and Ken doesn’t seem to be used to my change of tactics – made a few errors with his passing shot. I held serve and the score was 5-1.
In the next two games, I rode the momentum with the same approach and took the lead to 7-1. The last point was the best point I played, summarizing the battle on the net
“It is not going to be this easy” – I was telling myself during the changeover. And it was true. Ken raised his level when his back was against the wall by producing a few breath-taking overheads. At the same time, my level dropped a bit, making a few unforced errors that I wouldn’t make before. He took the next two games in an easy fashion and took the score to 7:3. By this time I knew I needed to refocus and raise my level again. I kept reminding myself that I only needed to win 4 more points. With a bit of luck, I won the first three points in game 11, holding three match points.
Ken played the best point (in my opinion) on the 1st match point – showcasing his athleticism by running back and forth TWICE
Gladly he can’t repeat this performance over and over – I won my 2nd match point with his overhead error