Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: July 2021 (Page 1 of 4)

Monterey Tournament

Sunday, July 25, 2021 (Court Day #396)
Monterey Pickleball Palooza – 3.5 Mixed Doubles

I left my house at 7:34 and arrived to pick up Olga, who was kindly waiting at her complex entrance for me at 7:45. Along the drive Olga shared that her husband Oleg and her father-in-law would be coming down later in the day to watch. (My wife has no interest in pickleball and was staying home with our new puppy.) Traffic was light and in a quick 45 minutes we were in the middle of rural nowhere driving into a small dusty valley that was home to the green oasis of the Chamisal Tennis & Fitness Club. It was overcast, with the temperature in the mid-50s.

As we got out of my car, the fact that I had a second pair of shoes came up. “That’s a good idea,” observed Olga. “After I had a pair of shoes fall apart for a tournament, I always bring two pairs,” I explained.

The “main drag” with tournament director tent on the right.

Check-In

We checked in with Michael Zury, Director of Tennis and Pickleball for this club. He appeared to remember Olga. She and Jean won the women’s doubles event there two years ago. Binh and I had signed up for that 2019 tournament, but I’d gotten sick and we had to cancel.

Mike and his assistant at command central.

Warm Up Game

Olga and I found an empty court and proceeded to warm up for about 10 minutes. John P. and his partner Barb S. asked to join our court to also warm up and we agreed. John soon offered a warm up game. I looked at Olga and she nodded. We took them on. It was a slaughter. Olga and I won 11-2. As we were tapping paddles at the net, John said, “You guys are ready.” What’s funny is I hadn’t even started the tournament yet I had already gotten smacked hard on my paddle hand with a ball during that game. Ouch!

Hemmie and Shawnte (left) warming up against a random team.

Olga has said the 3.5 groupings had come via email, but I missed that detail. (My work has been really demanding lately.) We were in the same pool as other Santa Cruz locals Shawnte and Hemmie. In fact, they would be our first opponents!

There was the playing of the National Anthem and directions to the various courts—I believe there were 16 of them, great for holding a tournament! All the round robin games were being played to 15, win by 1. We’d switch sides at 8 points. Winners would not be determined by wins or losses but by the total accumulation of scored points; so if you lost all your games by one point, you might still end up in 1st place! With six teams in our pool, we’d have five games to play.

Game 1: Shawnte Hagan & Hemmie Ramirez

This was a very contested game. Beforehand, Shawnte had kidded, “I hear we have a meat grinder for a first game.” I kidded back, “I heard the same thing for us too!” Hemmie played better than I was expecting, she did very well. The lead changed several times. I hit a few lobs that weren’t deep or high enough and Shawnte took advantage, slamming the ball for a clear winner. Not my best moments. We were down toward the end, but came back, pulled ahead and won 15-13. By the time we were done, all the other nearby courts had cleared and those players were already waiting for their next games. It had been a long battle.

Game 2: Greg Salmon & Whitney Kramm

Greg and Whitney are both tall and both were sporting tennis whites. They are in their 40s or early 50s. I was worried when they pulled ahead. Soon, they had a 9-6 lead. But Olga and I tightened up our play, adjusted somehow, and pulled ahead. Once we were leading by a few points and close to winning, they seemed to make more errors. Trying too hard? Or had our 6-2 run—later a 9-2 run to win—knocked the wind out of their sails? I was a bit surprised with this win, 15-11.

Game 3: Jack Hagler & Liz Hagler

Jack, I’d met—or at least seen—before. I’d mentioned this to his wife Liz then to him when he walked up. He replied that he’d been up to Brommer Park to play. Jack is a much stronger player than Liz. She’s decent—and tall for a woman—but Jack is really good. Jack is tall, maybe 6’3” or more, with a huge wingspan. And he uses it. He is a poach machine! You’d hit a shot, intending it to go crosscourt to his wife Liz and he’d spring over and unexpectedly whack the ball—and you better be ready! We lost 13-15. I thought we should have won this one.

Game 4: Nathan Forte & Barb Raab

Barb is a Santa Cruz regular, a solid player, but I’d never seen Nathan before and had no idea what to expect. Boy. He could whip his serves. He was using the new (2021 provisionary rule) drop serve to full effect. He was ripping those things. He scored points off returns into the net or balls that sailed past his baseline. He also had a powerful forehand drive. His backhand was decent too. We needed to do a much better job getting him into the soft game. I really wish he was local to Santa Cruz, I’d love to play against him regularly. Barb played the best I’d ever seen her play. We got creamed. It wasn’t even close, nor was there much hope in this game as they went ahead quickly and never looked back. Each rally would be over in short order. We were just outclassed and didn’t compensate enough. We lost 6-15.

Game 5: Ken Ottmar & Marta Dalhamer

By this time, as the result were posted, the strength of each of the teams was getting obvious. This team we’d be playing had won every previous match, leaving them undefeated at 4-0. This would be a tough one. And it turned out to be. Yet, it was great to play in since I love playing against stronger players. You’d hit an excellent shot that would often be a winner in rec play but the ball would come back anyway. Both Ken and Marta were very good servers. (Not deadly like Nathan, but still good serves.) I hit a couple of my own serves too long. I also was too impatient and drove a dink into the net. And Olga was trying to play a hard game . . . it works fine on weaker players, but in this game, it was problematic—more patience was necessary. We lost 7-15.

What now?

The top finishers in each pool would advance to the gold medal match, though apparently, there was a bronze medal match too. It wasn’t clear to me how that worked. I was expecting to head home but soon we learned that there would be some bracket play for those who didn’t advance toward medals. Somewhere during the morning, the cloud cover had burned off and it had gotten warm and a touch breezy.

During a break between either Game 4 and Game 5, or between Game 5 and bracket play, I had told Olga that I thought she was being a bit aggressive. It’s can often be a bit touchy when giving advice on your partner’s game. You don’t want to distract them or upset them, but you also want them—and yourself—to be successful. I remember being really appreciative of my partner Eric’s advice at a tournament about how he thought we should attack our opponents. My feeling was that, while at the net, Olga was driving shots across instead of waiting for balls that she could hit down upon. And I am certainly not perfect nor always as patient as I need to be, but I’m very comfortable in a soft game.

Yep, 3rd in our pool of six 3.5 teams. Middle of the pack.
The other pool. John and Barb lost every game but ended up 3rd behind Jackie/Fernando.

Consolation

While we were told that the bracket play would involve the two pools facing off against each other, through what I learned later was an error, we ended up playing again against Jack and his wife Liz. (We were supposed to play against a team from the other pool.) It would be would be best of three games to 11, win by 2.

Bracket Match #1: Jack Hagler & Liz Hagler

I wasn’t really into this game. I was tired, hungry, warm, drained and not playing for a medal. Maybe Olga was feeling the same. We fell behind in the first game and ended up falling 10-12 to our opponents.

Once that loss happened, it lit a fire. I wasn’t going to lose again if I could help it. And we didn’t—we clobbered them 11-1. There was still some service changes as they held us off, but it was inevitable. There would be a deciding Game 3.

For this last game in the match, we traded sides at 6. This was back to a closer game, but this time I was confident. Olga and I won this one too, 11-8. And with that, we took the match.

Olga (in black) chats with Jack and Liz after the match was done.

Since we won our match against Jack and Liz, we were moving on to play against the winner of their own match . . . as you’d expect for brackets. That team would be against Wendy Bates and Eric Johnsen.

Bracket Match #2: Wendy Bates & Eric Johnsen

Olga knew Wendy, they greeted each other by name. Maybe it was from the tournament two years ago or maybe Wendy visited Santa Cruz. It was pretty obvious that Wendy and Eric were playing a better game than we were. Oleg and his dad watched from a bench well out of the action. I had some really great shots in this game—along with a handful of lame shots, but overall good.

We lost the first game 6-11 or 7-11 . . . I didn’t note the score but that’s what Olga recalled when I asked after the second game. It had a fair amount of back and forth. The second game was much like the fist, but even longer with even more service changes. We lost this one 7-11.

And with that, our day was done.

The box of awards. Nothing for us today, unfortunately!

A lunch of salad with chicken slices was included in the entry fee. I ate in the lounge area with Olga and her father in-law while Oleg was taking things in outside.

Afterward, I checked out the medal matches. I wasn’t paying close attention, but watched some points. They had a referee for the gold medal match.

Folks watching the gold medal match.
Part of the Santa Cruz contingent: Olga, Shawnte, Jackie, and Hemmie.

By 3:10, I was on my way out and heading home. I tried to find Olga to say goodbye but she’d apparently already left with her family. Traffic was heavy so getting home took about twice as long. I iced my arm once I got back.

I really enjoyed this tournament. Lots of good play. I felt I played decently and that my play got dialed in as the day went on. Heck, I should give myself some slack. After 2 1/2 years of nearly no right-handed play, four weeks ago, I played a little right-handed for the first time. Nine total outings righty then I played a tournament. Crazy. I can’t expect myself to play at the top of my game. I will get better.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021 (No Play)

So, it’s been a few days since the tournament. My body was pretty sore on Monday. And my back is still a bit sore. So. The right elbow. The tennis elbow arm. This was a trial by fire. Five intense games to 15. Followed by five more intense games to 11. Yes, my forearm and elbow are sore. Not terrible—I have first hand knowledge of “terrible” when it comes to tennis elbow—but I’m not about to play again right-handed until it’s better. I don’t want to aggravate it and make it worse.

Olga texted yesterday and shared that she learned something new. “The soft game can be satisfying. It gives you more time to think and make decisions.” She said she was practicing softening hard balls when playing today with Jackie, Patty and Kelly May. (I’m not sure if I’ve met Kelly May.) “It was working well. If I continue doing that the girls will hate me soon.” Excellent—you want your opponents annoyed and frustrated with your game! You want your opponents to be uncomfortable. Something that can help is figuring out what you dislike your opponents to do to you—what you find uncomfortable—then try that tactic against your opponents. Short spin serve? Drive to the backhand foot? Lob over the backhand shoulder? Think about it.


Saturday, July 31, 2021 (No Play)

A couple of days ago, I bought a used cordless massage gun on eBay and it should show up next week. Such a thing was recommended online by someone suffering from tennis elbow. I’ll give this a try. Certain motions are reminding me that my tennis elbow is not a thing of the past.


Number of days on a court: 396
Number of total hours: 2,027.5

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More tournament prep

Thursday, July 22, 2021 (Court Day #395)

I had one of my staff close our family business . . . and this time I remembered my court shoes! I arrived at Skypark at 6:20. Olga had said she’d be there and she was. She was already in a game and their score was low so when Janet stepped out to let me into a separate game, I jumped in. I joined the new guy, Scott, against Mark D. and Alan K. We took a very big lead but we ended up losing. Allan made some great deep and hard serves that took both Scott and me by surprise. I opted to save my right arm for more consequential games, so I had played that game lefty.

We ended up setting up temporary nets and filled eight courts.

Olga and I got into my next game as partners and we continued to improve communication and “feel” for each other’s play. The tournament is in three days.

Olga mentioned that another local, Jackie, is playing in the tournament. Her last name was misspelled in the list online as “Sinmore” instead of “Signor”—kind of funny, if you stop and think about it! I’m not familiar with her partner, who goes by Fernando.

Easy One

We played a game against a 2.5/3.0 woman—the wife of a man playing off in a different game—and Alan K. I played that one lefty. Even taking it somewhat easy, Olga and I won as expected.

The Challenging Ones

The most fun and best games of the night were Olga and me against her husband Oleg and the new guy John. John is tall and obviously has prior racket game experience. Oleg coached him during each of the three games we played and John got noticeably better during that time. Olga and I lost the first game, won the second, and lost the third. John got really good at angling low shots shallow off the court. Olga did successfully pull off an ATP on one of those. The next time she went for an ATP, John predicted it and was able to hit the low ATP shot back. Honesty, I can’t remember if he got it back over the net, but regardless, Olga and I did manage to win that rally.

One Last Game

As I started to head home with my backpack, I was talked into one last game by Adrian. I played with Oleg against Adrian and Olga. Oleg and I both played lefty. We got a solid lead, but Adrian got us on a few fast serves and we ended up down 10-9. But we came back and wrapped up the game 12-10. A fun time.

We left about 8:45 p.m. The sunset had been beautiful with pink wispy clouds and a big moon was up.

A good sign, after calling a few of my serves illegal on a recent day, Oleg didn’t mention any of my serves . . . “No news is good news!”

Home

During play tonight, my forearm felt ok but it also felt on the cusp of going off the rails. But it never got bad. I iced my forearm when I got home.

I felt pretty good about Olga’s and my play tonight, I think we can give just about any team in 3.5 a run for their money.

One of my biggest concerns is I hit what would have been three winners into the net! High balls that I got excited and overdid my slam. Arg. I definitely don’t want to do that during a tournament!


Friday, July 23, 2021 (No Play)

I woke up to a sore back. It seems a constant companion lately, but this was up a couple of notches. My right forearm aches just a tiny bit. Worrisome, but not overly so. Then, there’s my right butt muscle. Ouch. I did something to it. I hope it won’t get worse by Sunday’s tournament in two days.


Number of days on a court: 395
Number of total hours: 2,022.5

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Tournament practice with Olga

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 (Court Day #394)

After closing time at work, I went to my car to grab my T-shirt and shorts when I realized that I’d forgotten my court shoes at home. Oops. That’s a first. I had a vague feeling this morning that I was forgetting something! That would cost me at least 15 minutes of play. I got to Skypark at 7 p.m. on the dot and things were busy. 23 people were there, 20 in games.

No tennis players, but plenty of pickleball players!

Mark D. suggested we set up a net and play 2 on 1, but I told him that I was waiting to play with Olga since we have a tournament on Sunday. Less than two minutes later, a court was open and I was on.

Shut out

Olga and I took on Mark D and Larry. If we win like this at the tournament, we’ll do very well! We won 11-0. It was my first shutout in a long time.

Next, we played Bruce and his wife Janet. After a shutout, I was expecting us to do every well, but this was a battle. I made almost no mistakes in the first game, but a few of my drops ended up in the net in this game. Olga made more errors too. That and Bruce and Janet are better players. It was back and forth, but Olga and I came from one point down to win 13-11.

Newbies

The next game, we played some newer lesser skilled players, Kate and Cathy, whom I’d never met before. Given the skill level and to rest my tennis elbow, I played the game lefty. We won 11-3. It’s one of those games were you relax and don’t play as focused. Both women were very nice.

We convinced Oleg to get into a game with us. He partnered with Mark D. Oleg is very precise with his shots. He’s not perfect, but he has shot power and great angles. Olga and I lost this one 11-7.

New Guy John

There was a tall thin man named John. (We have far too many Johns in the pickleball community!) John and Bruce took us on. John is a pretty solid player. Olga and I lost this one 11-9.

We then had a rematch with John and Bruce. This time, we played better. Olga and I won this one handily 11-2.

We left at 8:33 p.m. Olga said she needed to feed her father-in-law, I believe.

I was very saddened to learn that Olga and Oleg will be moving to Los Osos, about two hours away. They have family there. In the parking lot, Janet said already knew, but it was news to me. Such a bummer.

Home

While it felt all right, I still iced my forearm when I got home. I probably should have iced my shoulder too, but it wasn’t convenient. My nephew Grant is visiting from out of town this week to do Junior Guards at the beach every morning. (He and his dad rented a house in Capitola last week, the first week of Grant’s 2-week program.)


Wednesday, July 21, 2021 (No Play)

On Monday, the tournament sent out a Paypal invoice for registration payment. I took care of that. Today, Mike, the organizer, sent out an email saying those registered for the tournament were listed on their website. I visited and that list is below. It turns out that Olga and I are listed twice. Also, I added red dots for local teams, that is, John P. and Barb and also Shawnte and Hemmie.

So, twelve teams. It’ll be fun. They will likely break us up into two leets/pools with playoffs. Playing 11 games would be a marathon, that could be four solid hours of play. With me not playing righty for nearly two years, Shawnte likely has an edge versus my skill—at least I know, I’d pick him over me! While it’s been a couple of months, I’ve played against Hemmie and unless she’s improved a lot, Olga is better. In mixed doubles, the skill level of the women on opposing teams is often more of a factor than that of the men. Women after often targets in a game as players assume the women are the weaker players. Barb S. is good player, probably on par or better than Olga, but with me playing righty, I’m better than John. As for everyone else, no idea. It looks like a couple of teams of spouses.

I have a very mild sensation of a charlie horse in my right forearm. But it’s not hampering at all.

I got email that from Mike, the tournament director, that he fixed our double entry.


Number of days on a court: 394
Number of total hours: 2,020

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

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