Sunday, August 31, 2008

I Suck, Then Suck It Up

Here's a quick summary of my performance in the Champaign Park District Labor Day weekend tennis tournament today:
  1. I Suck. I Suck I Suck I Suck. I Suck I Suck I Suck. I Suck I Suck I Suck. I Suck I Suck I Suck.
  2. I Don't Completely Suck.
  3. I Suck It Up.
  4. I Hurt All Over.
The good news is my rib/back injury seems to be healed. I played a total of about four hours of singles tennis today, and the only part of my body that doesn't hurt right now is my ribs/back area.

It has been exactly two weeks since I decided to take a hiatus from tennis, load up on drugs, and let my injury heal. I played one match on Thursday evening, but other than that, I hadn't played in two weeks. So I wasn't in the greatest shape when I took the court this morning.

My first match was against a guy who I'd played many times before. I'd never beat him, but I'd won the first set against him three times. He hadn't played much this summer, and I was playing 3-5 times a week before my injury, so I thought this might be my chance to get him.

It wasn't.

The first game we played lasted about 20 minutes because we kept going to deuce. But he pulled it out, and that seemed to open the floodgates of my suckitude. I don't really understand what happened, but he rolled over me, 6-1, 6-0. We played a relatively long time, because we had lots of long points and deuce games. But in the end, the score was the most lopsided one we'd ever had, by far. It was frustrating, demoralizing, and put me in a negative stupor that made me focus on everything that's wrong with my life.

An hour later I played in the "consolation finals", since there were only four guys in our bracket. This was at noon, under an unrelenting midday sun. I came out strong to a 4-1 lead and thought, "Alright, maybe I don't suck after all." But then my opponent started to figure some things out and took the next three games. We went back and forth, but I managed to squeak out a 7-5 victory in the first set. Feeling rejuvenated after taking the first set, I won the first two games of the second set.

Then I hit a brick wall. The sun, the heat, and the match I'd played earlier had all drained my energy. The sun was brutal and there was no where I could go to get away from it. It was like a heavy leaden blanket draped all around me. I stopped running to the ball, I stopped setting up my shots properly, I couldn't do anything but take half-assed swings at the ball.

Every once in a while I would get enough of a semi-burst of energy to win a point. But I lost four straight games and couldn't see any way that I could win the match. I was down 2-4, and I didn't really care anymore. I lived only for the few seconds when we would change sides and I could get a swallow of Gatorade. I needed a respite from the murderous sun, but there was no shade on the court. I might play two good points after the change-over, but then my throat and lips would dry up and all I could think about was getting to my Gatorade bottle again.

By some miracle I managed to suck it up and win two games to tie it at 4-4 in the second set. But when he won the next game to go up 5-4, I did something I've never done before. I threw a game. To win the set, I would have had to have won three games in a row, and I knew that I didn't have it in me. I decided I would rather just go to the third set, where we only play a 10-point tiebreaker. I might have it in me to win that. So I let him win the next game, and thus the set. I don't know if throwing the game was sleazy or "gamesmanship" or what, but I was dying out there and just wanted it to end.

In the tiebreaker, we alternated the first six points, so we were tied when we switched sides 3-3. I noticed some cramping in my legs as I tried to run for shots. He won four of the next five to take a 7-4 lead, and was still leading (7-5) when we switched sides again. I was so dead on my feet at this point that even walking over to the other side of the court was torture, so I dreaded the change-overs. I wondered how long I could push myself before I would pass out from sun stroke. I tied it up at 8-8, then he had match point at 9-8. He blew it, and we had yet another change-over at 9-9. He had three match points in the game: at 9-8, 10-9, and 11-10. But everytime I fought back to tie it up. Finally, at 12-11, I had match point. I was determined not to have to go through another change-over, so I had to win the next point. I served, came into the net, and smashed an overhead away from him to win the match, 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (13-11).

After I hit the winning point, I fell onto my back and lay on the court. It was probably an obnoxious and melodramatic act, but I couldn't help myself. I got up, shook myself off, and shook my opponent's hand. He left the court immediately, but I sat there for about ten minutes trying to get up enough energy to walk over to the shade of the pavilion next to the courts. My Gatorade bottle was empty, and I was parched.

Somehow, I made it to the pavilion, and then to the car, and then home. Every muscle in my body screamed in pain. I took some painkillers, laid on the couch, and drank liquids. The tournament director called to say he forgot to give me my medal for winning the consolation finals. (Apparently three out of the four participants in this tournament get a medal.)

Now, I hurt all over. I loaded up on drugs, but they still couldn't relieve the mind-splitting headache that came on in the evening. I suppose it feels good to have won, but I still don't know how I did it. I certainly didn't enjoy the last two sets of tennis, even if I did win.

Midday summer tournament tennis is no fun.

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