Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Power of the Ring

Over the long Fourth of July weekend-- my first weekend after moving to Chicagoland-- I played three tennis matches over four days in my new league.  I lost all three matches.  Later that week I would play my oldest brother in our annual grudge match where he always beats me.  He beat me.  That was four straight losses.

Then I got married and went on my honeymoon.  I didn't play a tennis match for two weeks.  My first league match as a married man I beat a clearly overmatched (and possibly stoned) dude 6-0, 6-1.  

Then came the biggest test of my new tennis career in my new home.  I was to play the best guy in the league-- someone who was 5-0 and had not lost a set yet.

He was cruising to another routine victory against me, up 6-3, 5-2.  He only needed to win one more game.  That's when I shut him down.  I came back to win the second set, 7-5, and went on to win the match, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Throughout that match, I kept fiddling with the ring on my left hand.  I still haven't gotten used to wearing the ring, and I'm often playing with it.  As I started my comeback against the best guy in the league, the mantra I kept saying to myself was, "Use the power of the ring."

It was corny and superstitious and irrational, but it was fun.


Since that time I have not lost a match in my new league.  After winning my last three matches in the summer league, I ran the table (7-0) in the fall league, and have now won the first two matches in the playoffs.

As a married man, I've won 12 straight singles league matches. (Full disclosure: I've lost some practice matches/sets, and I've lost a lot in doubles.)

Apparently marriage agrees with my tennis game.

This league I joined-- which I found using The Google-- has a playoff tournament at the end of the year, which is something I've never done before.  Qualifying for the playoff tournament is based on an intricate point system that ranks all of the players at my level.  I love shit like this.

My original goal was the qualify for the playoffs.  Since I hadn't been here to play in the spring season, and points were accumulated over the whole year, I knew I'd have to have a strong showing in the fall to qualify.  Not only did I have a strong showing (I went 7-0 and only lost 1 set), but of the 177 guys at my level, I had the most points for the fall session.  I made the playoffs!  

If you qualify for the playoffs, you have to be available to play in the final four in Aurora ("Wayne's World! Wayne's World!") in late October.  Aurora is way the fuck out in the southwestern suburbs.  To get there from the north shore, where I live, is 50 miles through gridlocked suburban traffic.  Depending on traffic, it could be a two-hour drive.  So I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of driving there, but my love of tennis and playoffs and competition over-rode that.  I figured if I lost before then, my consolation would be I didn't have to drive to Aurora.

My first two matches in the tournament have been surprisingly easy.  I won the first 6-3, 6-2, and the second was embarrassingly easy, 6-0, 6-1.  That match was so anticlimactic that afterward I went for a bike ride just to get more exercise.  I'm now in the quarterfinals, the round of 8, and if I win my next match I get to go to Aurora.

Now that I'm one match away, I really, really-- really!-- want to go to Aurora. I've had this date tentatively blocked out on my calendar for weeks.  The organizer sent out an email this week about the final four "Super Saturday", with schedules and details about the event.  I'm salivating at the idea of being a part of it.

Can you guess the connection between Freddie Mercury and Aurora?


I still have one match to go.  My next opponent will definitely be tougher than the first two guys I beat up on.  We're playing tomorrow, and the high for the day is 46 degrees.  I've never played tennis is such frigid conditions before. I just have to remind myself that this is for fun, it's not about winning.  But going to Aurora will be so much more fun!  The thing about a tournament is, you want to keep winning so you get to play more.   

I know by wanting it this bad, by thinking about it, and writing about it and preparing for it, I'm jinxing it. My only hope is that writing about my fears I can jinx the jinx.  If I write about how I might choke, or lose one match before qualifying for Aurora, or break my 12-match winning streak, maybe I can avoid it.  I really don't know if I've been lucky or good or what during this winning streak.  (Probably a little of both.)  I've played doubles twice in the past week and gotten my butt kicked.  So that has kept me humble.  I'm not really as good as my winning streak would indicate.

Anything can happen. I have no idea how good my opponent is or how we'll match up.  Or whether I'll play well or not. 

But I do have a backup plan.  If I don't go to Aurora, I'll just stay home and sob.  And let my wife console me. 


Did I make it to Aurora?   Read the exciting conclusion here:

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