The last time I checked in, I had just won my first round qualifying match at the Sayavedra Club en Estado de Mexico 6-3,7-5. It had been a while since I played my last tournament match (mid-February in South Texas) so it was good to compete and battle through a tough second set especially given how crazy the tennis can be at 8200 feet.
Day 2 began a bit earlier with my match being one of the first scheduled matches of the day. I was set to play my second Mexican in two rounds Rudolfo Jauregui Sainz de Rozas. As opposed to the first round matches, all of the Day 2 tennis was to be played on the main bank of courts. The day before, as is customary at many of the Mexican Futures tournaments, we had a ballboy who helped quicken the match pace by keeping the server stocked with balls at all times, what a privilege! But when we moved to the main bank of courts on the second day, we had 3 ball boys, partly to quicken the pace of play, but also to serve as mobile fences to keep balls from rolling between courts as there were now 4 matches playing in adjacent courts. Concentration and focus were premium advantages as there were always balls rolling around or ballboys scampering to pick up a stray pelota. My opponent was the #8 seed (#1522 ATP), and at first glance Rudolfo looked like a younger version of Tommy Robredo. This comparison may be a slight stretch as my opponent’s backhand may not have been quite as elegant as the perennial top-20 Spaniard’s but my second round opponent did posses a feistiness that caught my attention and heightened my focus. My game plan became quite clear in the early going of the match. I was both bigger and stronger than my opponent so I felt comfortable playing through the middle and waiting until I earned a shorter ball to attack. I quickly found a rhythm and played a very clean match. A high percentage of first serves and minimal errors off the ground helped me get off to a good start and keep the momentum as I secured a 6-2,6-2 victory.
Dinner after my Day 2 win was an absolute pleasure as our host family took us out for a great Argentinean dinner (pictured above). Classic steak dinner with a salad and a uniquely South American potato dish.
The next morning was the final round of qualifying, and I was set to play another Mexican #1722 ATP, Jorge Eduardo Orozco Rangel. The conditions this final morning were a bit different than the previous two days, it was colder and I couldn’t quite get the same feel for the ball. My opponent was clearly very comfortable in these high-altitude conditions and while he was patient and content to work the ball around the court, he would also step up and be the aggressor at opportune times. I started poorly and got down a break early. In the early going I had tried to be consistent and out-rally my opponent, but it soon became quite clear that I would need to play more aggressively and force the action to push him out of his comfort zone. I made a strong push after falling behind 3-1 early and took a 5-3 lead. To this point I was balancing steady tennis with aggressive tactics and was able to keep him off balance. Then at 5-3 I made a tactical error and decided to play more conservatively. This was a poor decision as I lost my serve and thus lost a chance to serve out the first set. He raised his level and we played 3 more close games, before he toughed me out to win the first set 7-5.
I started the second set determined to get back to my aggressive game plan. I held to start 1-0 and quickly broke. Then serving at 2-0 and 40-15 I again had another chance to swing the momentum decidedly in my favor. My opponent was obviously a little down and took huge cuts at the ball on the next two points to get back to deuce. Another series of points saw chances for both of us to take the 3rd game, but after several more deuces he broke back and we were again on serve. The next several games were very close but I again took a 5-3 serving advantage, a chance to force a 3rd set, and equally as important a chance to play with new balls, something that would definitely aid my aggressive tactics. However, I missed another chance to serve out a set and lost my serve in a long, close game. Looking back, I am happy that I had maintained my aggressive game-plan but I simply did not execute as well as I needed to. Eduardo again held for 5-all and following a similarly frustrating script, the second set was a mirror image of the first set. I again found myself down 6-5, but 30-all on Eduardo’s serve. I was unlucky to lose the next two points, both on mis-hit forehand winners by my opponent, but given my earlier 5-3 advantage I shouldn’t have given him the opportunity to sneak back into the set. Serving 5-3 in both sets should have been a straight-set victory, but credit to my opponent as he was able to hang tough and play his best tennis when he was down.
I learned some valuable high-altitude tennis lessons during that match and look forward to several good days of practice in Queretaro with former UT teammate, Miguel Reyes Varela before the next tournament in Celaya.
Lucky for me the road rolls on, and armed with these new lessons I look forward to improving each and every week.