My second-first tennis tournament - the emotions

01 Oct 2019
#EMOTIONS

Nope, "second-first" is not a mistake. I really mean it!

If you got it right away, well done: it means you know my story, what I'm up to and the meaning behind TennisRematch.

If you didn't, then you need to catch up and at least read (or watch, that's up to you) the long-story-short version of my tennis "career" before going ahead with this blog. Trust me, you'll read this one with different eyes.

But now back to business. Ever wondered how you'd feel to play your first tennis tournament? Or, in case you're a tennis player and have already played tens of tournaments, do you still remember how it felt that first time?

Of course, everybody's different and your thoughts and feelings may be the complete opposite of mine. I think it's clear!

But still, I think it may be helpful anyway to know someone else's experience, especially if you're considering playing tournaments but are too afraid or shy or whatever. This may be the little push you need to sign up! I warn you, the emotion is real.

So here they are, my thoughts before, during and after my second-first tennis tournament. They are raw and unfiltered and authentic, so please don't judge me! I hope they'll help you find the courage to sign up in your first tournament, or remember and re-live how you felt the first time!

Tue 24 Sep: TOURNAMENT CONFIRMED, THE DRAW HAS JUST COME OUT

OMG. Is this even real?! FINALLY!!!!! I cannot believe I'm gonna compete soon! What an indescribable feeling. For real, I'm not even sure if I'm more scared, or excited!

Will I still remember how to behave during the match? What if I'll be nervous and my arm will be stiff and totally incapable of putting the ball over the net and between the lines? Did I sign up to the right tournament for my current level? Am I still able to call the ball out when it is actually out? What if I'm not physically trained enough to survive a whole match?

But also...

No way I'm gonna lose: I MUST win! It's kind of cool not to have ranking, and then (hopefully) surprise my opponent on the spot! I cannot wait to beat some girl with better ranking! I need to warm up well and focus! This time I'll be the experienced girl, not the young one: how weird! How awesome will it feel my first point?! What an adrenaline rush I'll have the day of the first match, I can already feel it coming! What prize will there be? I absolutely need to win so I'll know!

Yes, I know what you're thinking. That my thoughts are a bit contradictory. Maybe. But o-boy did I miss this huge wave of emotions that keeps coming and coming, and is not gonna stop until the end of the tournament. I'm so happy I decided to come back :) Competing makes me feel so alive, like nothing else!

Thu 26 Sep: LAST PRACTICE PRE-TOURNAMENT

Oh fuck! This morning I had the brilliant idea of playing tennis at 8:30 and as soon as I stepped on the court I remembered why I used to lose most of my morning matches.

Tennis in the morning should be ILLEGAL. Your brain orders the legs to move in position X, and your legs either stay still or move into position Y. WTF?! How can you even hit the ball properly before noon?!?

But then my hour ended, and a girl and a boy started playing and I decided to stay a bit longer and watch them. And again, WTF? How can they make it seem so easy?!?

Suddenly I’m sent back to planet earth and reminded of how long is still the way. Good thing is: I’m not impatient this time. I know for a fact that if I just keep working hard, good things will happen.

Although very disappointing tennis-wise, today's practice taught me a bunch of lessons that I'll keep in mind for the future. I actually feel so lucky to have (re-)experienced this during practice and not a match. I'd have been very angry at myself for being so naive otherwise!

Lesson #1: It takes about 3 to 3.5h for your body to wake up fully and for your muscles to start firing at their optimum level. Hence, next time I'll wake up early enough, I promise! For as much as I love sleeping, I still love the feeling of playing tennis at my best more, much more.

Lesson #2: I'll never ever skip or hurry again my warmup routine. It's so damn important to be reactive on the court from ball 1. Especially in the morning!

Sat 27 Sep: THE MORNING PRE-MATCH

It's 7:10am and we (my boyfriend AKA my coach, our two guests and me) are already in our seats waiting for the bus to leave. I'm more awake than expected, but the 2h30m drive will challenge my will, I know it.

I'm a sleepyhead by nature. I can sleep anywhere, even standing! But now the tension is high, plus I don't wanna end up playing like the other day. That's why I have Open by Andre Agassi with me: to help me avoid the worst.

Time flies and before I know it we're in Tampere. I didn't even sleep a few seconds, I feel proud of myself. It's proof I really want to win.

As planned, it's around 10am and we're entering the tennis club. I feel the adrenaline growing, the breath shortening.

Elena excited about her first match

I check in to the tournament and ask for the locker room, but don't understand a single word of the answer: this guy must be speaking Finnish. I'm sorry, can you repeat? It's too early for me. He says the same thing all over again, and I catch a word here and there. I say thanks, even though I understood nothing.

Not good. Am I still sleeping or his English is totally incomprehensible? Samuli says he didn't get a word either, but I'm wondering if it's true or he just wants me to keep calm. Especially after he guides me in front of the locker room.

I put on my super cute outfit, and then eat 2 biscuits. The third doesn't want to go down. I'm too tense. All normal. Then I warm up. I feel ready. My joints are warm, my muscles are warm, my head is cool. Very good. Nothing has changed from the old times.

I say my tennis rules out loud. Nothing special, just simple guidelines for my game. But hearing them helps me remember them. Then while I'm revising my goals for the match, I get called. It's time.

Sat 27 Sep: IT'S MATCH TIME

I take a breath, and step on the court. I leave my stuff on the bench, and think I must look like a refugee (I don't have a tennis bag here in Finland, so here I am with my swimming bag, my rackets in their case and water bottles in my hands 'cause they don't fit in the bag).

I go towards my opponent to introduce myself. I reach out my hand, and receive a shy handshake. She must fear me, I think.

We start warming up, and my first thought is how can these balls come from the girl of the shy handshake?! This girl knows her stuff! I smile.

When we're ready to start, I approach her for the draw. She wins, and decides to return. She must be insecure, I think.

The match starts and unbelievably I'm playing my best tennis. Ohh, how much did I miss this feeling! Everything's working: serve, backhand, forehand. All good. In no time I'm 5-0.

I close the first set 6-2. She's crying. That's good, I think. No mercy.

Then something happens. She starts playing a different game. She's not hitting hard anymore, she's just being solid. Her only goal is now putting the ball on the other side: nothing more.

Before I know it I'm 0-2 with bad cramps. I'm out of energy. I need a banana immediately or I'll faint. I want to throw up. I fight with all I have left, but lose the next game again. I'm down three games to love.

One of Elena's backhands during her first match

Samuli throws me a banana from the stand. I take a bite. I feel better, but I feel the pressure. I need to turn around this set or I'll die in the match tiebreak.

That bite of banana was gold. I somehow manage to come back and bring the match to 3-4. Then my forehand goes bananas. Every ball I hit comes out as flat as a surf board. Out. Out. Out. The more I try to hit it slower, the further the ball goes. I lose the second set 6-4.

It's time to win, I tell myself. If only my forehand would work, I think. I'm terrorized to make mistakes. I play safe because I don't dare to hit winners. But the more I try to just put the ball on the other side and make her run, the stiffer my arm feels. I lose 7-10.

I go to the net to say well done and shake her hand. Once again, that handshake. She must be tired as well, I think. But she doesn't even smile. I would punch her if I could. How does she dare not being happy? She won, I lost.

Sat 27 Sep: POST-MATCH REACTION IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT

I want to cry. How did I manage to lose a match like this? Why did my forehand abandoned me half way? I've never been so afraid of losing in all my life. I was there, playing my best tennis, and then?! What happened?

I know exactly what happened. She understood she would have never won playing clean, so she did the only thing she could do: she broke my rhythm with weightless balls. And I got tired. So tired I got cramps, bad cramps. And I started making stupid mistakes, because my legs were on strike, gone.

I want to cry. How could my legs be so tired? She was the one running, not me. How could my arm be so stiff? And my forehand so flat? Why was my mind all over the place, thinking about everything except what I had to do?

I know why. Because it's not used anymore. This huge mix of emotions was too much to handle. My brain was out of control, wild. I couldn't keep it quiet and focused. I was either in the past, thinking: again, it's not the first time this happens! Or in the future: I'll lose if things don't change, and then I'll be soooo disappointed.

I want to cry. I was the better player. I should have won. I did 36 winners. She did 1.

I cry. She was the better player (today), because she won. I'm still not better enough to win even when everything seems to work against me. I need to train so much harder.

Sun 28 Sep: POST-MATCH THOUGHTS OF THE NEXT DAY

Hope, disappointment, happiness, fear, confidence, self-doubt, anger, excitement, frustration. They were all there, making me feel like on a rollercoaster.

I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. My focus lasted no more than 5 games, just the time to show my old tennis and go ahead 5-0. But then it abandoned me, together with my legs. Out of gas. Empty tank. Red light.

Life is funny, sometimes it plays you bad tricks. Like this one: I’d have never expected to be betrayed by legs and focus, just those two things that used to be my strengths in the past.

Moral of the story... I lost. And it hurt. It still does. It’s painful. It sucks. I don’t wanna lose again. So I’m gonna work twice as hard from now on.

There's a saying that goes "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn". This time I learnt, next time I'll do better. Cannot wait.

And voilà, that is all there was in my head before, during and after my second-first tennis tournament. But now I want to know about you!

Let me know in the comments if you've ever played a tennis tournament.

If so, when and where was it? But above all, do you still remember how it felt? Were your thoughts as contradictory as mine, or definitely more coherent?

If not, why not? You're not interested in competing or you'd like it but there's something holding you back?

Hope you get to feel at least a bit of what I've felt during those days, and (if you were still on the fence) you now have the courage to sign up and get out there playing your first tournament. If so, leave me a clap (or two) so I know you did :)

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