As I played in my second ever adult tournament last weekend in Beverly Hills, I needed to utilize every possible physical and mental resource (even ones I didn’t know I had) to get through the match. I was playing in the 5.5 division (one below the open level), and in my first round match I unfortunately ran into a 6 foot 3 Lithuanian who played college tennis at LMU. What a draw!
No time to ease into this tournament.
Luckily he was playing his first tournament in a while and came out rustier than the Tin Man. I won the first set 6-4 and thought I was well on my way to a straight sets W. Unfortunately, my opponent got much of the rust off, and as soon as the second set began, I knew I was in for a war. He took the second set 6-3, and we were set to go the distance.
Up until this time, it was a friendly match with great calls (I even think he gave me some pretty generous calls), but things quickly began to heat up in the deciding set. He hit a few balls early in the set that just missed, and when I called them out, he started to give second glances. Then, midway through the set, when I was serving at 2-2 40-15, I hit a first serve that he swung at, broke his string, and missed in the net. The serve was either on the back line or perhaps slightly long, but he played it, so I started walking to change sides.
As he was walking to get a new racket, he surprised me when he said, “oh, your serve was long.” I was shocked. I told him even if it were, it does not matter because he played it. This clearly angered him. The next game, when he hit a few balls way out, and I did not bother to say “out” he said, you didn’t make a call (even though they were well out and I was not making a play on the ball). Also, every time I missed he shouted “out!”
This started to make me mad. He would not let it go.
Then, came the big moment. It was 4-4 deuce and I was serving. It was the point of the match; he was running me ragged and I was retrieving like a mad man. I hit a short ball and he pounds his approach to my forehand. I run over, and with my last ounce of energy, hit a passing shot that he dives for and gets by him. I give a huge c’mon! because the ball landed well inside the line. But then I hear “out!”
First of all, I know that there is no way he could have seen where it landed because he was too busy face planting, and secondly, I knew it was a good couple FEET in. I try not to, but I start to go ballistic. I threaten to get an umpire unless he will change his call, and since he won’t, I go get an umpire. I later realized this may have been a mistake, because there is no way she can over-turn the call (and there is also no way I can get REVENGE and call his next two shots out to get to ad-in where we should be!!!). I have to play it as ad-out and I am so distraught that I lose the next point to get broken and go down 4-5.
I walked to the bench at the changeover fuming and ready to quit. I was going to hit four balls over the fence at walk off in a fury without shaking his hand. I had had it. But then a simple thought came to me:
WHAT WOULD RAFA DO?
He would not quit. He would not let a bad call get the better of him. He would be resilient and break back. Instead of WHAT WOULD JESUS DO, I had to reframe the question to: what would my sports idol do? What would the greatest competitor in the world do?
I broke back, and ended up winning 12-10 in the breaker after saving four match points.
THAT is what Rafa would have done.