This weekend was South Carolina Mixed State Tennis Championships. Teams from all over the state came to Florence, SC, to compete in the tournament that decides who goes to the Regional Sectional Championships.
It was exciting. It was hot. It was mental.
The State Championships
To receive the privilege to go to State Championships, a team needs to win its regular season. GATA, or Greenwood Area Tennis Association, had 6 teams in the 7.0 Adult Mixed division, and my team won all their matches. All six of them.
GATA is a small division. We have a lot less tennis players here than in Charleston, Greenville or Columbia. In those big cities, teams have 8 to 10 matches during their regular season and a playoff to go though to determine who goes to States. Competition is fierce.
We knew going in, the tournament would be tough. We would face seasoned players who’d played much more than we did.
How We Did
Our first match was Saturday at 9h30 am. I am captain of the team and my biggest challenge is let mentally go of all the responsibilities that comes with the title. Is the line-up the best it can be? Are my players satisfied with the line-up? Are we all up to the challenge despite our injuries?
There’s nothing like playing a tournament match. We face opponents we don’t know. There’s a nervousness settling in our blood. The fear of letting your partner down is ever present.
Or maybe it’s just me?
That first match, after the fourth game, I still had nervous tremors in my legs. But I played okay. I forcefully pushed out of my head all the little worries and I focused on my match. My partner and I won 6-2, 6-3.
You might think it was easy but at that level, it never is. Games go on, dunces add up, and the scores doesn’t always reflect the match.
The best part for any captain is when you step off the court after your match and your teammates announce they all won. My team won all their matches Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon, same result. I was elated. To win 3 -0 twice at that level indicated how strong a team we were.
The Last Match
Our last match was Sunday morning at 8 am. One of our players had to go back home and couldn’t play and I had to shuffle the line up, making it so that my partner and I played a third match. We were facing a very good team, one that hadn’t lost a match at all, during their season and during States.
We lost 2-1. Ahhhh.
It was really close. One team lost cleanly, the other lost in a tie-break. My partner and I won in a tie-break, a long one, so long I was afraid we’d pull a John Eisner.
Tennis is Mental
At some point in the tie break, I lost my two serve points. I got really down. I almost gave up. Mentally, I’d given the match away. We were losing the tie break 2-5 and my mental toughness had melted away like ice cream on a hot brownie.
That’s when the chemistry between partners kicks in. He felt my moment of weakness and did an intervention. He said the right things, at the right time. He stopped the floods of my inner negativity. It worked.
We won the tie break 19-17.
What I Take With Me
Even though my team lost that last match, I was satisfied with our performance. We went much further than I thought we would. And now I know, even though we play in a small town, we have the talent to play the big leagues.
I can’t wait for next year.