Thursday, July 28, 2011

One big advantage(Hopefully).

I've always had this concern, primarily because I've played three players in my time that have had to retire early because of this.

I'm talking about shoulder injuries.

In tennis, they are devastating for obvious reasons. You lose the power of your serve in some cases, you are relegated to the Michael Chang underhand serve at the French), and you lose all your snap on your groundstrokes. It's one thing if you are a pusher that waits for the others' mistakes(guilty as charge for 16 years of my playing life), but if you are a serious player, this'll screw up your game.

I thought about this too, so I started one more unconventional warm-up(Besides hitting with a wood racket).

I decided to start hitting with both hands.

Yes, it does mean that I don't hit as many backhands in warm-ups, but it also keeps my hand-eye coordination on the up and up. Being able to hit pretty well with my left hand, as well as my right, gives me the confidence that, should I blow my shoulder, that I can stay in a league or tournament match.

Admittedly, I've never played a match left handed. If I can find someone at around my level or a little lower, I might try the experiment for a couple of games and see if I like doing that. One good thing is that I'll actually have a kick serve on the left hand side because it's impossible to hit a flat serve on my left side right now(Arm's not used to the motion, I guess).

Things are going to start changing, but right now I enjoy all this experimenting. Makes me feel like I can continue to have a distinct advantage over my opponents. That's all I can ask for right now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feeling my oats.

Man, I feel pumped this week.

Regardless of the outcome, I just participated with a great player this weekend, and felt like that I'm going to succeed.

I've got my first tournament match out of the way, saw what I need to work on, and am ready to move forward now. One thing I have to start doing, though, is winning.

It starts in two weeks for my next USTA tournament, but this time I'll be trained. I go to Destin, FL in early August for vacation, and there's a lot of tennis players there. Nothing like playing on the beach.

Maybe it is the impossible climb, like the title of this blog suggests. But man, it's fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My first USTA tournament - Georgia State adult championships.

Usually, losing 6-0 6-1 in your first tournament wouldn't be a cause for seeing the highlights.

But there's a lot to look forward to here.

I played Christoph Vogt, a guy who is one level ahead of me, and is a physical freak(45 year old guy playing in the 30s level). Considering I wouldn't wear him out, I knew I'd have my hands full.

Take this for what it's worth. I lost, so that's in the record books. He did beat me too. This is a damned good tennis player.

Short and sweet, I've been sick all week(food poisoning), and didn't get to train at all. Saturday comes and I feel better, so I go out there. I noticed in our warmups that I was hitting well against a superior opponent. I thought I'd have a chance.

Yeah, I felt it for sure, but I was going to run him around too.

He wins the first game, but we have a marathon second game(lasted 21 minutes) before he took that one. So after 25 minutes of the match, it's 2-0. Throughout the match, I was at 40-15 or better 8 times, and at advantage 4 others, and I couldn't finish him off till the 11th game. No strength left. After Game 1, my heart was racing at 600 mph. Never been that worn out before.

But I finished the match, and I'm very proud. The guy on the court next to us had the same bug I did and had to retire, so I was happy to finish. My one game was a proud moment. Beautiful passing shot off an impossible drop shot.

I got two things accomplished today.

#1. I matched shot for shot against a superior player, and found out I really can play with most anyone.

#2. I'd heard that to get to a higher level, I need to get in even better shape than I am now. I just asked Christoph to be my trainer. He's going to be a part of my team now with this show. We earned each other's respect today.

Yup, got my ass kicked today. Oh well. I'll be back, and will get better and better.

Lots to look forward to, that's for sure.

Next up...the Kennworth NTRP Summer Slam in August.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How a wood racket changed my game.

Last year, I joined a league for the very first time in quite a while. I had made a decision that I wanted to take my game much more seriously, and that I'd start that in a local Atlanta K-Swiss league.

I played in leagues in my hometown(actually won first place in my very last one too), but while Quincy tennis has good competition, Atlanta, GA is a whole new world. The players REALLY take it seriously around here, and I knew this wasn't going to be the same experience.

Since T2 was past its due date, and I didn't know enough people to get into ALTA(no partners), I joined the K-Swiss league. I started with two used rackets, one towel, and no bag. Absolutely started from the bottom.

I lost the first match 6-4 6-2, and won the second match 6-4 6-1. The third match has its own story, and it changed my tennis forever.

I was facing what would end up being the #1 player in our division and #3 in our whole league. He had an all right serve, but his groundstrokes were absolutely impressive, and he had unreal crosscourt shots. His only weakness was his net game, and it nearly cost him.

After losing the first set to him 6-4, I started to wake up. I had so many winners, and I was controlling the pace of the match. Problem was that, while I was breaking all his serves, he was breaking mine too. My serve completely fell apart, and we probably had the only set in tennis history where neither guy won their serve. We went to tiebreak, where I finally lost 12-10. Match lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, and he even told me he would've quit from exhaustion if we went to a third set.

Now that's a fun story to tell the grandkids, but I'm not even close to that level, and I'm not even married to start that kind of life up. Combine that with that I'm way too competitive and never satisfied, and I knew things needed to change. While I wore him out, he still won the match and I knew why.

#1. My serve flat fell apart.

#2. I just didn't have enough snap on my shots.

I was watching a Cubs game(big fan, by the way...and yes, horrible year, and or decade, and or century), and watched a hitter in the on deck circle. I remembered that, yes, they used batting donuts to weigh the bat down, and then take it off to make it lighter at the plate. I was trying to think about the tennis equivalent of that.


Behold, the purchase of my first wooden racket!

Now I told you in one of my other blogs that I trained on a garage door with a Connors T-2000, so that metal monstrosity was the closest I had to real old school. I'd never held a wood in my life, but I knew two things.

#1. It had the head size of a walnut.

#2. The sweet spot was even smaller. The hubble telescope couldn't find it.

When I got it in the mail, I went straight to a park and found a hitting wall. It took me 15 minutes to stop hitting the frame of the racket. I'd forgotten that, with all my years of hitting with oversized heads, I didn't have to pay attention to my shots. With this, I had to do that. I decided that I was going to spend every warmup, in every league match, hitting with the wood racket and switch to the regular racket during the matches.

I didn't lose again for 2 1/2 months.

Warming up with the wood racket made my other racket feel like goosedown, so my shots got crisper, and I started to get some power. I wasn't just that guy who had impeccable placement, and forced mistakes. I was actually hitting winners. Plus my serving improved exponentially. I really believed I had a chance to win the league title, as hot as I was playing.

Then bad luck hit. Both of my rackets were showing their age, and they both went bust in the same match with four matches left till the year was over. The main racket's frame bent completely to one side, causing me to hit the frame on every shot. The second racket's string's popped.

Yup, I was left with the woodie for the last three matches. I won the last two matches, but the first round tournament match I lost 7-5 6-1(after I came from 5-0 down in the first set). The woodie did its job all year, but it's not supposed to play in a regulation match with regularity, not with the equipment that is out there now.

Yeah, it was a disappointing and bad luck way to end the tournament, especially when I was on such a crazy hot streak, but I took something from that year. I ended up getting Top 50(out of 800 or so players) in the league, and #2 in my division for my first year there. All because of a switch up in strategy.

I can say this though. What happened there will never happen again. I bought a Babolat Pure Drive, dropping $170 along the way. That was the most I've ever dropped on a stick before, but it was worth it. I said I was taking my tennis seriously now, so no more buying 20 dollar sticks from Target. That's the end of that idea.

Remember when I said that I started out the season with two tennis rackets, and a towel? Now the Tennis Channel could do a bag check on me. It's a different world now.

Can't wait to see where it takes me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being gutsy AND stupid do not mix.

This Saturday, I play in the USTA Georgia State Adult/Senior Championships(300 points) in the 30s group. It's been a good while since I've gotten into tournament play, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. My opponent, Christoph Vogt, is going to be a handful. I know how in shape he's in, so I'm not going to wear him out like I wear everyone else out. Time to get crackin.

But before I do that, let me regale you with a story about some of my stupid forays into tournament play.

I'm a midwestern boy from Illinois...Quincy, IL in fact. It's a small town of about 41,000 people, and has that down home feel mixed with a wee bit of city life. Basically, it's one of those places where the tiny farm towns around it think it's a metropolis. Anyway, every year, we had this tournament called the Dame and Hurdle tennis tournament(now called the Illinois State Tennis Championships). Dame and Hurdle was our local jeweler in town, and they ponied up the cash for the tournament every single year, which brought some of the best tennis players from about fifteen states to this little town in Illinois. Crazy thing too, because USTA wasn't affiliated with this tournament. I guess it had a solid reputation.

I played in this sucker for three years, and I won exactly ONE GAME in those three years. Yes, you read that right...ONE GAME.

Now why was that? Was it because I was this incredibly horrendous player who didn't belong on that court whatsoever? Not even close. I was still the ungraceful, unathletic goat who rumbled on the court and somehow got to every ball, but I wasn't horrible.

No, my problem was simple.

I signed up for the open division every year.

Everyone and their uncles knew I wasn't anywhere near open level talent...except me. My gusto was the equivalent of the eighth graders who wanted to be cool and smoke across the street after school, knowing that it was JUST out of the principal's jurisdiction. Simply, I thought it was cool to go full blast into the top divisions, even if those players moved like gazelles and I moved like a penguin with its feet tied together.

And my three years went about as well as you could expect.

Year 1 - Sayeed Ali - #1 player in Quincy High School. Skinny as a post-it note(guy couldn't have weighed more than 130. I even weighed more than him), but was probably one of the top ten players in our state. Got doubled bageled, as could be expected, but it would end up being the best tournament match I'd ever have. Ended up getting 21 points off the guy, which meant I took him to advantage 2-3 times. I wondered how I did so well off of him, even if I got the double donut(Did find out he had knee problems over the years, so maybe his knees were bugging him, who knows).

Year 2 - Bill LaTour - #1 player in Quincy, #3 in Illinois. 6'5" and 260 pounds, give or take five. Big huge powerful serve. I was like that stick of beef jerky to a grizzly bear. 6-1 6-0 was the final. Wanna know why I won one game? Double faults and a couple errors. Actually took the first 1-0 lead and lost the next twelve games.

Year 3 - Todd Willing - #2 in Illinois(I believe) - Forget about it. He was always in the finals, or in contention every single year. 6-0 6-0.

You knew the tournament officials were laughing when they saw my name, and they threw the lions at me to get me out of there. I realize the craziness of my decisions, but I guess that's what makes me tick. I don't fear going out there with the lions, even if I'm about to get mauled.

I believe that's what motivates me now, as it has motivated me these past eighteen months. I remember the foolishness of my decisions, but I also remember the swiftness in how they wrote me off and threw me to the side, and how they had every right to think that way. I wanted to get to that top level so badly, but I hadn't worked for it like everyone else had. I continued to play the same gutsy, balls to the wall, man on fire, clumsy as an ox way, and everyone else had worked on everything all year long. I didn't deserve it that time.

I will start deserving it right now.

This Saturday, I once again have a formidable opponent. But this time, no tournament official knows me from Adam, and I'm going to be more ready. I could easily win, or easily get wiped off the court, that's the way the game goes.

This time, if I do get wiped off the court, I'll know what I did wrong. I will train even harder.

And the next time, I would be ready.

But enough about that. I'm ready to win.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Studying everything about the game.

Lately, I've been studying a lot of tennis. I mean a LOT of tennis.

Praise the invention of YouTube.

I have studied men's and women's tennis, ATP and challengers tour, recent Wimbledon and French, and old school 70s and 80s matches. It's amazing to watch the differences in the game now.

But all of this has also shown the lack of attention a lot of people have these days when it comes to Tennis. Everything is made in pill form for an instant help, and everything is faster paced. Not to say that faster paced is bad(the pill form thing is, for sure), but there just aren't as many intelligent players anymore. The new rackets have a bigger head with a bigger sweet spot, so the pros of today can get in the habit of trying to outwhack the other(with certain exceptions of course).

Watching the days of the wood racket, it's a much different animal. The heads of a wood racket are the size of a walnut, and the sweet spot is even smaller. You really have to pay attention to your shots, and your placement, so the game is akin to a chess match(Which is why I switch to a wood racket in my matches when things are going bad. I'll elaborate in another blog). Maybe it is more "boring" compared to now(although that term is relative, especially with me), but the game had a certain intelligence it doesn't have too often now(again, with exceptions to the rule). I'd like to see future tennis players studying these old styles, but when a Nadal match gets 50,000 views and a McEnroe-Borg match from the Suntory Cup gets 150 views, it doesn't look like that'll happen anytime soon.

You can learn something from every generation. The newer generation is bigger, faster, and stronger than ever. When you watch a guy like Gael Monfils, you'd think he was cut from granite. He covers the court better than just about anyone, and he has an athleticism that you normally see on the basketball court. You look at the old days of John McEnroe, and his arms looked like a skinny teenager's. Even now, at 53, he's in better shape than he ever was before, and has built his body, knowing that this is a much different athletic world.

And this is the key to the game. Adaptation. If Mac, who said himself that he hated working out, and was pretty lazy when it came to the gym, can get himself in tip top shape and adapt to the new world, why can't today's newer players adapt to an older style?

Mind you, that's not me saying that we need to go back to the days of the wood racket, that'd be silly with all the advancements in exercise physiology. I'm just saying that tennis academies, who are making a killing off of teaching baseline to baseline tennis to prodigies that can learn so much more, could be better served by understanding how the old school played, and how it could benefit today's players with advanced equipment.

We can learn from everyone and everything. It's time our tennis proved that theory.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dad's teachings

I had an interesting childhood. My father was 50 when I was born, so when I was a teenager, he was in the middle of his 60s.

To any teenager, that usually meant that their father was "ancient", "old", a "relic", or any of those nice terms. But I was a different teenager, and this was a different father.

In my opinion, there was no cooler father. Whether it was that he was a businessmen, or could turn a room on a dime, or that he drove construction equipment(he was a contractor), or that I got to ride in it, or that he was a bull of a man with huge arms, and legitimately tough. Any of a number of those reasons described him. Most of all, he never dressed, walked, or acted like an old man, and that made a huge difference.

In an earlier blog, I talked about Dad looking out the door and watching me hit against the garage door while I was sweating out there. He'd give a smile and watch a couple of minutes, then go back to whatever he was doing. It's the little things. He'd do that when I was shooting hoops or hitting the baseball over the ivy fence of "Wrigley Field".

I think what made him most impressive was his physical depth perception(Guy, at over 80 years old, could park a Cadillac, without stopping, even if someone had taken up part of a parking spot. He wouldn't even touch their car either), but his mental depth perception too. He liked sports enough, but it wasn't an obsession of his like it was mine. He was too busy in business, and making deals, but he liked sports enough to watch them on weekends with me(and we never had cable, so those were special times too. You don't get those special times if ESPN is on 24/7 in your place).

What I meant by mental depth perception was his insane ability to notice the littlest things in sports, and those things that could help your game. He despised when anyone put a ball on the floor under the basket in basketball, especially when they could easily pivot and put it up, and that little act would end up in a missed shot or a stripped ball 75% of the time. He loved the screen pass in football, and used to regale me with the stories of how George Blanda had zero arm, but would call the screen and they'd pick up 15 yards at a time, and it'd open up the field for something bigger. Lo and Behold, we'd see the Chicago Bears(our team) throw a couple of screens and pick up 30-35 yards, and he'd cuss the TV out, wondering why it took till the third quarter to do that. No matter the sport, he had this crazy ability to see little things, and he'd be right. He could've really been a coach if he learned the games well enough.

The most amazing thing, though, was Tennis. He watched Tennis three times a year with me, and it was all the slams. He knew piddly squat about tennis, but he'd watch. And again, lo and behold, he learned a lot of rules of the game, and knew how doubles lines worked after watching a couple matches.

I remember when I was 14, and I was having all kinds of trouble with my serve. I was basically serving like Harold Solomon(if you know who that is, you'll understand what I mean. If you don't, look him up), and getting crushed by better competition. We were watching the US Open once, and Dad noticed the littlest thing that I never ever noticed when I watched Tennis.

He noticed the ball placement.

Not just how high to throw(I was throwing too low also), but where to place it. He didn't even notice it on replays. Dad just watched and showed me what they were doing. He had all the minute little details down, and he never played a day in his life(Well, one day he did, and he said it wasn't more playing than "chasing the ball around).

Dad's gone now. Passed at 82 years old. Great thing was that he aged gracefully, and looked 65. Walked a couple miles a day with my Mom, and exercised at 7 AM every morning. Seeing him all my life skewed the hell out of my perception of what old people really were. I keep forgetting that you are supposed to actually grow old like most old people grow old. To this day, it doesn't occur to me that it's wrong to actually grow old, and you should keep yourself going till the worms get you. Hey, Dad did, and I plan to do that.

As I move on and move up in the tennis world, I am still amazed that it wasn't any coach in tennis lessons that taught me how to serve(I took my first formal lesson at 13 years old, and I always sucked at serving in those lessons anyway), or even my tennis coach for one season.

It was simply an older father with inhuman depth perception.

Sometimes, life just works like that.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My first swings.

It's been 18 years since I started playing competitive tennis(my Freshman year in high school, and the one and only year I played. More on that in another blog), but if you count all the swings I've had, and the roots to where it all started, it's heading on 23 years now.

Seriously, it all started on oak garage doors with a brick divider, an inherited T-2000 that my brother played with, and my imagination.

Growing up, I was a Boris Becker fan. Absolutely loved the guy. McEnroe and Connors were fine, and awesome players, but I grew up around men's men, and Connors and Mac were scrawny pissants in my eyes(not like I said it like that, but you get the picture). Boris played with a fire in his eyes, served hard as hell, and fought for every point. Plus kicking Lendl's ass always provided great entertainment. Man, I hated Ivan Lendl.

So what would I do? Starting at about 10 or 11 years old, I'd bring that old T-2000 out to the driveway and be Boris Becker, and would ALWAYS be facing Lendl. We had two garage doors with a brick divider in the middle. The driveway was built where it went probably the equivalent of half a block, so there was plenty of room to play(What can I say, my Dad built a kick ass house. You should see the underground fort he made for the kids out of an old diesel tank). The rules were simple. I "served" the ball(serving at 10 years old, when you are not a phenom, is a misnomer. It's more bouncing the ball and hitting it. I learned to serve at like 13) to the "opponent"(garage door). I'd keep hitting till the ball bounced twice or either of us "won a point". "It" won a point if the ball got past me, the ball bounced twice, or if I hit the divider and it went to the side(the equivalent of an out). I had only two ways to "win"...If it "hit" it out(meaning if it ricocheted too far into our yard without bouncing on the driveway), or if I hit it accurate enough to make it roll back to me. That helped my accuracy over the years.

I played every spring and summer starting with the French and ending with the US Open(No way I was starting with the Australian. It was January and I am from Illinois). Always did 3 out of 5 sets(so that started way before my buddy Brian), and since I lived like five feet from the Mississippi River(Not really, but we lived off the bluff from the Mississippi, so we had the river weather. If it was 80, it'd be 100 where we were. If it was 20, it was 0 where we were), I was playing outside in some horrendous heat, and in jeans, as I mentioned from yesterday. I would play for hours at a time, Becker would "win", and I'd come in soaked to the gills and a glass of lemonade waiting from Mom.

Later on, it was Sampras and Agassi when Becker and Lendl went by the wayside. I would be Sampras and go hours against Agassi, and had Mom give me a glass of lemonade. Once in a while, Dad would watch outside and just smile(Even tough guys have have a soft spot), and I'd wave and get back to the "match".

I continued this practice even after I was long gone from the team. There are just traditions you don't want to totally end. I'd say it ended around 18 years old(even though the imagination thing ended around 16 years old, for obvious reasons), and it was a nice little run. I learned how to hit a ball this way, but it allowed me to have an imagination, and we should all be allowed to do that.

I went home a couple months ago for personal reasons, and I completely forgot my racket. I would've liked to have one more go at the garage door. With Dad gone, Mom's going to sell the house one day, and I'll never have that time back again(Or the time Dad planted real ivy on our fence in our yard, and I could pretend it was Wrigley Field for 9 innings). Still, even if I can't get it back, I can definitely remember where it all started.

Most players had top notch lessons or academies, and the best equipment. I had Connors' old steel monstrosity, a garage door, and an imagination.

I'll pick my situation any day of the week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Playing in jeans

Yeah, the title says it all. I was crazy like that.

Actually, it's an easy explanation. Being the son of a contractor, I helped my father out in the summertime. Even in the blazing heat, you couldn't wear shorts, so the only thing I knew was jeans. I'd work with him, then I'd go in the park with any of a number of buddies and play tennis right afterwards, no matter the heat and humidity(and trust me, it'd get over 100 in the park).

One guy in particular was named Brian Mathews. We were pals from junior high on, and we both played a lot of tennis together, and I mean a lot. Probably 3-4 matches a week at times, depending on how busy we were. We didn't play best 2 out of 3 like most did either. We really challenged each other and went best 3 out of 5, like the pros did it.

And again, I did this in blue jeans.

You couldn't tell me anything back then. Yes, I knew that my legs were so white, I could blind the sun. Yes, I knew that it wasn't the right thing to wear. Yes, I knew I was going to get laughed at relentlessly. Oh well, who cared? Besides, it saved me time going home and getting changed.

This guy and I were DEAD even. He'd win a match and I'd win a match. If anyone won multiple matches in a row, the other would come right back and do the same. I wouldn't be kidding if I'd say we played .500 tennis. He didn't really play anything but park tennis, but he could've really gone farther if he wanted to take it seriously. Brian had good talent.

There's only one match, out of all the matches, that I still remember to this day, and it went 5 also. It was the day after the Pete Sampras-Alex Corretja match at the US Open...the one where Pete got sick and threw up on the court. It was like 97 out that day, and heat index was about a million degrees. Brian and I split 4 sets, all at 7-6. I was getting a bit sick at set 2, but kept going. End of fourth set, I'm sick and am getting dizzy. Brian's talking trash to me that I'm trying to be Sampras, and I'm not really sick. Couldn't blame him for thinking that, but it was true. I was feeling like crap.

One great thing was that, for some reason, I turned in an awesome fifth set and won 6-2 in the fifth. So yes, the final score was 6-7 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-2. 3 1/2 hour match in that heat, and in those days, I didn't bring water with me. I was dangerous as hell in a lot of ways.

Usually I'd go to his house and play video games afterwards, but I still felt like crap, so I went to my Grandma's to stay the night(she had cable, we didn't). I went to bed early, thinking I'd sleep it off. Two hours after I went to bed, I woke up and threw up then. Threw everything up.

Turns out that, between working for Dad, and that whole match, I dehydrated myself to the max. Got completely sick. Drained me for about four days. You'd think that would've taught me a lesson, but not really. When I was better, I was back on the court in that heat. Didn't get sick anymore in the summer, so I guess I didn't learn a lesson.

Don't worry, I wear shorts now. In fact, I have everything the pros have and more. You could do a bag check like The Tennis Channel does. But I have to say that wearing jeans and playing all summer, in searing conditions like that, did give me one thing...stamina. Crazy stamina, in fact. I've worn better players than I am out. I've had three better players tell me that if we went to third sets, they would've quit.

So I look back at that in that way. If people wonder why I used to wear jeans, or why I have a wood racket for warming up before matches, or why I always take the hottest court during the hottest summer months against my opponents?

Just remember...there's always a method to my madness.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why am I doing this?

Seriously? Why am I doing this?

I get this all the time, and in everything I do. This question is nothing new. I pull some of the craziest stunts alive(not necessarily like Shawn White, but more psychological stunts). I've heard that question over and over.

I mean I'm already an actor(struggling, but who isn't, right?), directed a couple of films, produced or helped produce five films, and done five theatre productions. I've also had a failed attempt at radio about ten years ago, and that lasted two weeks. Besides that, I've also fought in two MMA fights(Lost both), got to have drinks with Ben Stein once, done a Tennessee to New York and back cross country trip for the hell of it, and obtained a black belt in Taekwondo. From all those stories, it's obvious that I've achieved at some stunts, and failed miserably at others.

So why am I trying yet another one like this? At 33 years old(In August).

Because I don't know any other way. My DNA is hardwired to take chances like this. I don't know where this came from. When I was a kid, I was an absolute wimp. If my Dad didn't drive long distance trips, I'd either refuse to go, or I'd throw up if Mom drove. I'd barely ride my bike to the mailbox. We lived in a ton of wooded areas, and I didn't go in the woods very often at all. I'm just wondering where my balls to the wall approach came from.

Ok, time to let the cat out of the bag.

For eighteen years now, I've played tennis. Learned how to bang away against our garage door at 12 years old, pretending to be Boris Becker(and later, Pete Sampras). At 15, I played seriously for the first time. Even made the tennis team in high school. I sucked at singles, found out I was a good doubles player, and was placed in the doubles draw. Didn't lose again the rest of the year and moved to 12th and the final draw for the team's rival match. After that, I never played on the team again, but I've played every year since.

The last 18 months though, I've really thrown myself into my game. Before, I was the epitome of a pusher, only I was even more annoying because I had unreal stamina on the court and could play all day long. Didn't have much of a serve...or a forehand...or a backhand. I was basically that guy who ran everything down with the grace of a dump truck. Whether I was going to beat you, or you were going to kick my ass, you were going to hate playing me because I was the ugliest player in the history of the game. Still won a good share of matches though, and can't fault me for that.

Then I started playing leagues here in Atlanta, GA, and I found out how much they take their tennis seriously. I then started taking it REALLY taking it seriously. I used to watch a lot of tennis on youtube, and now I analyze every shot(Watching John McEnroe's a blast for that). I bought a wooden racket to warm up with because I remembered how baseball hitters have a weighted donut around their bat for extra weight, and it makes the bat lighter when they get rid of it. I just bought a wood racket and started warming up with it. Didn't lose another match for two months(until I had to play with it for my final three matches. It's interesting playing with a woody vs a brand new Babolat).

So now, as usual, I am upping the ante again. I am 33 years old in August, no doubt about it, but I am in FAR better shape, and can do things I couldn't do at 16 or 17, so I'm going headfirst into this one.

I'm going to find a crew of producers, then find trainers and an academy, and create a reality show called "One Chance"(Wherever it is shown, I do not know, but at least the internet's getting strong if nothing else happens). It has to do with me getting real trainers, real instructors, and real players, and upping my game to levels no one could think. How far? I don't know. I have no ceiling, so I could really go far with this concept, or fail like the MMA thing did. I won't know till I try.

In the meantime, while I get everything together, I'll write about everything tennis. Everything from some old stories from the battles over the years, to current tennis on the tour. What can I say? I love to write.

Enjoy the ride, folks. This is going to be a blast.