Monday, November 7, 2011

Back Home From Nationals

We dreamed big.  We trained hard.  And this weekend we returned to the Palm Springs area to play on the same tennis courts where eight months earlier we cheered for Nadal, Federer and other top pros competing in the annual BNP Paribus Open.

We met seasoned tennis players from all over the country.  Day one was a triumph; we defeated a solid New York team.  That evening, we attended the players party where we hoped to meet Billie Jean King, the co-founder of World Team Tennis.  Unfortunately, she was ill and the airlines would not allow her to fly.

Day two was more challenging.  In the second round, we battled a savvy team from the Midwest but came up short.  Our only hope of advancing to the semifinals was to beat a young team from South Carolina.  We faced adversity many times on our road to nationals; to keep our national championship dream alive, we needed another come-from-behind performance from our top aces.  With the match even and the final pivotal game tied at 3-3, this time our opponent's shot stayed in.  That meant the best we could do was 5th place in the Sunday morning consolation match.  Our Jersey opponents brought their youthful players for the final match of our fun-filled weekend.  Once again, it all came down to one last sudden death game.  This team from a small town in Southern California eked out a 5th place win by just one team point in the final match of a story book season.  This writer is thankful for all the memories created along the way.  What a remarkable journey this has been.

The beautiful thing about tennis is the longevity of the sport.  While competing at Indian Wells, I noticed other senior teams - players fifty and older, and "super" senior teams - competitors at least sixty, competing for national titles in their age groups.  As much fun as I have competing with opponents thirty years younger than me, at fifty-one, it may be time to find my place in the senior tennis crowd.  I just hope my honorary captain, Elliott, can get out of the hospital soon and return to offer some coaching advice.  At 85 years old, he is considered one of the most clever and cunning players to grace the courts.

It's in my blood.  I love to compete.  Now it's time to start thinking about next year. I wish to give special thanks to my Smashin' with Passion teammates from Ramona for sharing the dream with me.  This was the kind of weekend they write about in fairy tales.  An amazing chapter ended yesterday.  It's time to begin the next chapter of my life today.  Whatever the future holds, I'm ready.

Here's a WTT link with the results from the weekend...


JP said...

Let me try this again. I thought I sent you a message yesterday, but . . . it doesn't seem to be here.

You are all heros to us. You showed integrity, honor and respect.

I'm not a tennis fan, but your writing made me feel like I was there. The excitement of the weekend, your descriptions, your obvious joy in participating came through loud and clear.

Michael Mulligan said...

JP, Thank you for taking the time to comment on this story. I never thought there could be a greater passion for me than tennis. I train 6-8 hours per week on the courts, however, my average writing time now exceeds that.

When these two passions are combined, it's nirvana. I hope to be pursuing both all the days of my life. Thank you for your kind words.