Match 4: Mike Drain def Al Warwick 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
It was a much tighter tussle than that damning score-line suggests, but this repeat match-up provided me with little more than a glimmer of hope that my game is coming back.
After a rusty start from yours truly Mike – as he so often does nowadays – started solid and efficient.
While seemingly irrelevant, it’s a huge factor as in the past he would take time to find his range, and I would always sneak the first set.
But today, at 0-2 down I suddenly hit the coveted ‘zone’ and couldn’t miss the ball. The serve was back and I began to carefully craft points and hit down-the-line winners at ease.
But after winning three straight games I faltered once Mike found his own serve and was able to throw some varied stuff my way. The backhand and particularly the drop-shot and general net-play have yet to come back to me.
Mike looked comfortable throughout but had to work this time on his returns which had to be as good as they so often were, elsewhere he can be pleased again with his movement (despite those blisters) and mental clarity, crafting points of his own in the second set.
Whilst the first two sets could’ve gone either way but for a net-cord here and a fractionally wide groundstroke there, the third set was always in my opponent’s control.
Shoulders relaxed and hitting freely, the power and precision of Mike’s game blew me off court on more than one occasion – annoyingly, usually on the big points – whilst I struggled once the serve which had saved me so often throughout, began to miss its mark. I was also guilty of spraying UE’s long as I tried to hit my way into form.
So closer in truth, and I felt much better fitness-wise despite the heat, but unless I can find that level of play in those first few games consistently it will be a similar story again.