Our state qualifier for the Southern Closed was this past week. For the first time ever, my son knew when he applied for entry to the tournament that he would get in – he had worked hard all year to move his state ranking into a proper position. Now the challenge was getting far enough in the Qualifier to secure a spot in the Closed.
The Tennis Gods smiled upon him with his draw, but it was still up to him to capitalize on some great opportunities to get to the Round of 16 (or further) and get that guaranteed entry into the sectional tourney. It was going to be a challenge, for sure. His track record with “gifts” in the draw wasn’t all that great – in the past, he had often lost to players with much lower rankings than his own, so he was going to have to draw on all the training he had been doing with his coach to stay focused and get the job done.
After winning his first match in less-than-ideal weather conditions, he got to play his second round on center court at the main tournament site with several of his friends and other coaches standing around and periodically watching him. He won the first set 6-0 in about 12 minutes, absolutely crushing his opponent at every opportunity. But, old habits die hard, and he wound up falling behind 0-4 in the 2nd set before fighting back a bit then losing it 4-6. Thank goodness for the 10-minute break after splitting sets! I have no idea what my son’s coach told him on the phone, but he came into that 3rd set swinging away, jumping to a 5-0 lead before finally closing out the set and the match 6-0, 4-6, 6-2. He had made it to the Round of 16 and had his spot in the Closed!
The next morning, he was slated to play the 2 seed, a boy who he had never played before, a boy who is a 5-star rated player, a boy who wins big tournaments on a regular basis. This was my son’s chance to test his game against the Big Boys, to see how he held up and where he needed work. What an opportunity! He went on court ready to do battle. He pushed the 2 seed hard in the first set, making him work for every point and every game. My son lost that set 4-6, but he proved to himself that he could compete at this level, that he has what it takes to keep moving forward with his development. The next set didn’t go quite as well, but, still, my son walked off the court with his head held high, knowing he had left everything he had out there.
Day 3 brought the Back Draw and another opportunity to play a 5-star player in the day’s second match. By this point, my son was exhausted – mentally and physically – and the match ended quickly though not in my son’s favor. The tournament was now over for him, and it was time to reflect:
- He reached his goal of qualifying for the Southern Closed.
- One of his favorite college coaches saw him play and crush his opponent then congratulated him afterward on the great win.
- His former coach saw him play the 2 seed and commented on how far he’s come in the last year.
- After playing the 2 seed, he immediately got a text from another player asking him to play doubles in the Southern Closed – his Tennis Clout jumped about 100 places as a result of his effort in that match.
- His current coach watched his first back draw match and got the opportunity to coach him during a rain delay following a sloppy first set. My son went back on court and did exactly what his coach told him, winning the match at his first opportunity. His coach was beaming!
- His tennis peers told him repeatedly over the course of the tournament how well he was playing – that does a teenage ego good!
- He used his mental toughness training and stayed calm throughout each match – you have no idea how huge that is!!!!
- He saw what he needs to work on between now and the Closed and is ready to put in the hard yards. The next level is finally within his reach.