There’s something really special about seeing your child develop such that he’s suddenly beating players that he had routinely lost to in the younger age groups – seeing the process in action, so to speak. Those victories are especially sweet when your child is just coming back from an injury. My son had one such victory this past weekend.
In the semifinals, my son had to play a boy he had lost to in his first year – first month! – of the 14s. That 14s match was extremely contentious, so much so that my son ended up getting a point penalty in the third set on his opponent’s match point after the boys had argued repeatedly over line calls and let calls. It was a horrible match to watch. My son’s behavior, as well as that of his opponent, was atrocious. Both boys were acting like total jerks out there. The opponent’s younger brother (who was also playing in the tournament) was sitting next to me during the match, trash-talking my son the entire time, which only added fuel to the fire. Truth be told, I was relieved when the official ended the match, even if it meant my son got a suspension point – I just wanted to get the heck outta there!
Fast forward 2 1/2 years to this past weekend . . . my son had won his quarterfinal match earlier in the day and was not looking forward to playing this boy again. I went into Mom Mode and offered up words of encouragement like, “Maybe he’s matured since y’all last played?” and “Your focus is so much stronger now. You’ll be fine out there!” You know, stuff like that. To make things worse, the boys were playing at the facility where the other boy now trains, and the boy’s coach was running the tournament desk, so my son’s biggest concern became making sure he got a fair shake if either of them decided to get an official during the match. Again, going into Mom Mode, I suggested that my son just go out there and play his game – the other stuff would work itself out.
The first set lasted all of 19 minutes – my son won it 6-0. There were no disputes, no questionable calls, and no need for an official. Both boys, it seemed, had indeed matured since their first meeting in the 14s. Thirty-four minutes later, the match was over. The boys shook hands in a gentlemanly fashion at the net and made their way off the court. My son had won 6-0, 6-2 and was now poised to play the younger brother in the final the next morning.
The final match started off pretty rough. Neither boy could hold serve in the first three games. Finally, my son held to go up 3-1, then 4-2, then 5-2 but was broken when serving for the first set. Thankfully, he broke back to close out the set 6-3 and then went on a complete and total rampage.
Something happened on my son’s side of the net in that second set, and he just couldn’t miss. He was hitting winner after winner, driving his opponent nuts – you could see the frustration as his opponent threw up his hands after my son hit a particularly blazing forehand pass on the run, closing out the match in just 53 minutes, 6-3, 6-0. It’s the best set of tennis I’ve ever seen him play – he hit 9 winners in that set (to his opponent’s zero) and only had 3 unforced errors (to his opponent’s 6). I was beaming and so was my son!
The match wasn’t completely free of gamesmanship, though. There were some misplaced “C’mons” from his opponent – like when my son netted a serve return or made an unforced forehand error – but, overall, both boys behaved themselves on court. It seems the younger brother has matured, too. The boys walked off the court together, talking about whatever teenage boys talk about at the end of a good battle.
Sweet victory. Sweet victories. That trophy is going in a special place on the shelf!