Saturday, April 28, 2018 (Court Day #145)
2018 Paso Robles Wine Country Classic
On Friday afternoon, I scrambled to leave work—there were enough Indians but not enough chiefs—and get home where Eric picked me up for the 2+ hour drive to Paso Robles for the tournament. We took off about 2:30, hit some early rush hour traffic on Highway 1, and arrived at Centennial Park about 5:15.
We found the check-in desk. The woman asked for Eric’s name and driver’s license for I.D. She looked at her list and then passed it to her left to the second woman with the half of the list with Eric’s name on it. She was ready for me. I offered, “My name is Kyle Yates.” I caught the eye of a man siting in the booth. He caught the joke. I can’t pass for the young top tournament player. I passed my I.D. to the woman and Eric and I were soon in possession of our swag bags and were directed around the corner to pick up a bottle of wine too.
We checked out the courts. There were several permanent courts and 16 temporary courts. There was an assortment of players using maybe a quarter of the courts.
I’m very appreciative of the volunteer running the tournament, but we couldn’t help but be a bit amused by the varying angles in the baselines!
Hmmmm. Not exactly consistent line work!
We went back to Eric’s car and grabbed our paddles and a couple balls. We dinked for about 15 minutes then headed down to an RV lot to see my cousin Adam. The three of us stood around for a little while then Eric and I headed to the Fish Gaucho restaurant where Eric really wanted to eat. Eric went to park while I jumped out and grabbed a reservation—an estimated 1 hour and 15 minutes! Eric and I walked around the city center and killed time. After about an hour, we were seated outside where it got rather chilly, but dinner was decent. (I figured out that I’m not a big mole sauce fan!)
Afterward, Eric wanted to stop and pick up some snack bars for the next day. I plugged in 7-11 and the phone app took us away from downtown and through increasingly secluded neighborhoods. “You have reached your destination.” Huh? It took us to the address of 7 11th Avenue! Oops! Eric was not laughing as much as I was—poor guy, he was driving!
We pulled into the AirBnB in Templeton—about 10 minutes south—at a quarter to 9 and got settled.
The day started pretty miserably. I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 5 a.m., I saw light from Eric’s phone reflected off the ceiling. He told me later that a client of his had emailed him at 4 a.m. At 5:45, Eric got up and started getting ready. Neither of us are early risers, so this was kind of like jet lag! Putting on my shoes, my back wasn’t allowing me to lean over with as much flexibility as I’d been experiencing the last few days. But I got my shoes on without too much extra effort. We ended up leaving about 6:50.
We pulled into the parking lot a few minutes after 7 a.m. and it was only about half full. Things were hopping already though. Vendors were set up and a bunch of players were already there.
The tournament administrators booth. Busy, busy! Mike, the TD, in bright green.
Eric and I did some drilling and warmups before the courts got too busy. I was doing mostly fine on one side—with the sun mostly at my back—but when I switched sides, I was having a really hard time getting my drop shots…they were falling short. With some adrenaline, I figured they’d get over the net. I wasn’t too worried about it.
Our first 3.5 tournament play was against Vinny Rivera and Kevin Rangel from Bakersfield. Wow. What an eye-opener! These guys were better than we were expecting to have to face. Vinny had a fast and low serve that was hard to handle. They probably scored a few points in that game due to our returns going into the net. Both had teeth-rattling power forehands. A few times we could catch Kevin where he’d mess up on his backhand, but it was generally reliable, especially closer to the net. They climbed ahead fairly quickly with a lopsided score until we slowed them down a bit. Nonetheless, they pulled off a decisive 11-3 victory. As we closed in on our loss, it concurred to me that it was best of three games. Could we turn things around?
Eric and I took the lead in the second game. We got few point margin, but then they crawled back into the game. We eked out a 12-10 win. We were still in this one. On to the third game.
Unfortunately for us, the third game was similar to the first and they won the game 11-2 and took the match to advance to the next game in their hopes to medal. By the time we were done, all the surrounding courts were vacant—ours was the match that was the hardest-won battle apparently.
I will say we made good use of our time outs. When they went on a run, we called a time out. Of course, they did the same to us.
The most memorable point for me was when Vinny hit a ball high that bounced short in our kitchen. He was at the baseline. I ran up and feigned a large backswing, then dinked the ball over the net. Point. I barely paid any attention to the spectators, but I heard one yelled out, “Nice fake!” Realizing much later, I didn’t even acknowledge the compliment, but hey, it was in the middle of a game.
Afterward, I asked Vinny about his experience. He said he started playing 14 years ago, then after playing a couple of years took a break and started playing again 4 years ago when he found people playing pickleball in Bakersfield. His 20-something young partner Kevin came from tennis background. Vinny realized that he knew my name from the Pickleball Forum on Facebook. Funny, small world.
Later on, Eric and I bumped into Vinny and Kevin. I asked how they did and Vinny said that they lost by two points in the first game then got clobbered in their second game. Drat. There goes our hopes that they would turn out to be the gold medal winners—that would have made us feel a lot better! Even later, we learned that they’d been also eliminated from the consolation bracket and therefore also from any medal. [It turns out they were awarded a silver medal in the “8+”—age 8-34—bracket. The TD had grouped all the ages under 60, then applied assorted medals to 8+, 35+, 50+ separately after the fact.]
Our first match in the loser’s bracket would be Donald Spradlin and his son Ryan from Colorado Springs. Eric and I placed Donald in his early 60s and Ryan in his 30s.
Eric and I quick pulled out ahead, 3-0, in a game to 15. The senior Spradlin was not dialed in yet. Eric and I expanded our lead until we were ahead 9-4. Six more points and we could advance. But, we’d switched sides at 8 points. From this sun-facing side of the court, my drop shots were completely failing. I must have hit at least four into the net. I was not entirely alone in making unforced errors, but there was no question that I was the main culprit, not Eric.
As they closed in on our score, I told Eric that I was going to switch to third shot drives. And on the next one, rather than us losing the point to my drop into the net, we won the point!
What is bizarre, was my calves started cramping up. I’d never had that happen in my 15 months of playing pickleball. I called time out, drank water, stretched my calves and continued. Only to call time out again a few points later for the same problem. Crazy.
My game was not on. I was making far too many errors. We lost 15-12. So by about 10 a.m., we were already eliminated from the entire tournament. What a disappointment!
Eric and I wandered about watching other Santa Cruz teams play. David Black and Kevin Kearney were eliminated much like us, losing two matches. Same with Kevin’s wife Bev and her partner Barb.
John Pacholski partnered with Tom Sherwood in the 3.0 60+ doubles category.
John and Tom their way to winning their first match. They had a slow start, but pulled it together.
After Eric and I had left for the day, they’d have won a bronze.
Beth Black and Jennifer Watson (Chris’ wife) did well.
Beth hits a winner!
They were down 10-4 in the third game of a match but came back to win 12-10. That was a fun one to watch! Beth and Jenn went on to take a bronze medal. Beth was playing the best I’d ever seen her play. They went on in the afternoon to win bronze in 4.0 35+.
There and Back Again
Very shortly after 2 p.m. Eric and I were on the road back to Santa Cruz, leaving our cohorts in the midst of their medal runs.
Today was definitely a good learning experience. The next time I do warmups before a tournament and I can’t get my 3rd shot drops, I’ll either need to dial it in or abandon it far earlier. I do kind of wonder it it’s connected to my slightly limited back flexibility. I don’t like to blame things on injuries, it seems like just conjuring up an excuse, but my back was tight and still isn’t 100%. That and me only playing games once in the three weeks leading up to the tournament couldn’t have helped.
Still, Eric was happy that he went—as I was. Again, it was a learning experience. Even then, I’ll admit I was a bit depressed. I really wanted to do better. But at least we have an honest gauge of what 3.5 competition is really like. But should we be in 3.0 or do we belong rightly in 3.5, but at the bottom of 3.5 as we work our way up? Man. Hard to say. So disappointing.
More growing to do.
As for my ongoing hourly play count, I’m going to guess one hour of play. Maybe it was more, but I believe it’s in that ballpark.
Number of days on a court: 145
Number of total hours: 409
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