Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Nationals: the good, the bad and the lessons learned

What an experience we've had at the Nationals!  Dean and I started on Monday in the our age bracket in men's doubles, and we found out right away what the caliber of play is out here.  And it is phenomenal.  We lost in two straight games, were sent to the lower bracket and lost handily to the next team.  It was comforting to know that the first team that beat us advanced 6 rounds and the second team advanced 5 rounds so they were excellent players.  But still.  Whew...

On Wednesday, Dee and I started the mixed doubles in the 50+ age bracket and although Dee (like Dean as well) was having trouble with her serve, we made a good show of it, but lost two straight matches.  Argh.  Out again.

Thursday brought singles for me, something I've only played maybe 15 times.  I faced a 5.0 (the top level) player(and last years gold winner) and started strong with an 11-9 win in the first game.  Unfortunately, my forehand let me down in the last two games as I rushed points and though the 3rd game was close, I lost.  That sent me to the lower bracket where I faced a 4.5 player and won.  Hooray!  Finally a win at the Nationals!  Unfortunately that good feeling was short-lived as I lost the next match.  I was down 13-3 before I relaxed, but after fighting back to 13-10, I made two errors and it was over.  At least I was learning.

And finally, Dean and I entered the Open Men's doubles on Friday with the idea that we should play our best and take it as a learning experience.  This group included 59 teams including all of the top players in the country.  We won our first match against two young players and advanced to meet two well-known 5.0 players.  We started strong with a 7-1 lead, but they came back to tie it at 7.  Despite having a chance at 11-10 and 12-11, we lost that game 14-12.  The next game was not as close unfortunately, but we gave it our all.  It was disappointing, but we enjoyed watching this team advance through several rounds against great players.  In our third match, we faced two older players with many, many years of experience and they beat us in a game that we felt we should have won.  It was not our best effort.

The toll that the matches (especially singles) took on my repaired knee made me rethink my entry in the Open Singles and I erred on the side of caution and withdrew.  It was the right move.  The intensity of play was far beyond what we have ever seen with every point being contested.  It was a pleasure playing against the best and we now know what we need to do to get to the next level.  But most important was the chance to meet new players and make new friends.  Pickleball players, even at this top level, are like family (the good side).  They are friendly and helpful.  We got the chance to learn from the best, people like Jim Wright from the Villages who offered to help me with my game (and someone I aspire to be like).  He was a true gentleman on the court and it was an honor to spend time with him.  And there were so many others that we met that we look forward to seeing again down the road.

And finally, a thank you to all our friends (15 in all) that traveled to see us play.  Sorry we didn't win more matches so that your trip was more worthwhile.  Maybe next year...

1 comment:

  1. Remember the experienced and the opportunity you had to play with the best players in the country. We're still very proud of our RV Pickleball Friends!!! Take care, stay safe, have fun.