Men's Tennis Blog with Chris Camillone
April 20, 2012
I’ll admit that I’ve been slacking on the blog. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that I’ve been on top of it. That’s not to say that I won’t lie ever, I’m just saying I won’t lie in this particular instance. So we played Texas A&M last weekend for the third time this year. We split the first two meetings. Now that I’ve given you all the essential background information, let’s get down to it.
Let’s not get into a lengthy discussion about what this match means to each team. It’s a rivalry, it’s heated, and the margin for error is infinitesimally small (unnecessary adverb use-CHECK). As I hope you know by now, we start the matches with three doubles matches. Ben Chen and Danny Whitehead started off pretty hot, and, as Jon Wiegand aptly pointed out in his broadcast on Longhorn Network, they found a rhythm pretty early and pretty much rolled through the match. They set the tone across all three courts with a lot emotion, and they got off the court with a victory, which gave the remaining courts some momentum.
I used the “five finger discount” to steal the break back. Back on serve. A few games go by, no breaks, and before you know it, it’s 7-7. We got a little fortunate as our opponents played some loose points. Out of nowhere, Dave does his best Marshawn Lynch impersonation and goes “beast mode” on a return to break. Unfortunately, just before we broke, Jacoby and Soren got broken, and their opponents were serving for the match. This obviously put a lot of pressure on Dave and me to clinch the point.
As Dave and I are a point into the 8-7 game, Soren and Jacoby break back, which really relieves some tension on our court knowing that we still have chances to win the doubles point on both courts. Thankfully, Dave continued to elevate his game and played his best service game of the match, and we closed it out in a convincing manner. Sadly, Jacoby and Soren ended up losing their match. I didn’t get to see much of it, but it looked like Jacoby and Soren were playing some quality tennis. Score now: Longhorns 1, Aggies 0.
Singles is underway. Chen, Dave, and Suds (Sudanwa Sitaram) sprint ahead and all grab their first sets in an extremely convincing fashion. Lloyd (Glasspool) gets down a break in the first set but fought back to win the first set. Danny and Soren both go to tie breakers. Soren played about as good of a tiebreaker as you can play and won. Danny got about as unlucky as you can get and lost his. At this point, we are up five first sets, and things are looking pretty good.
Naturally, once you are unwise enough to even think that things are going to be smooth in this match, the world decides to punish you for it. Soren extends his convincing and imposing play and gets another point on the board. Dave’s match gets a little sticky in the second set, but he takes care of business. Score now: 3-0. The tennis gods strike, and not in our favor. Unfortunately, Danny’s opponent shook loose like a runaway train and played some good tennis, and Danny came up a little short. Score now: 3-1.
Chen and Lloyd have just split sets. It’s getting really thick. Suds is in a tiebreaker in the second set and he finds himself at match point. I’ve got a lot of faith in Suds, as does the rest of the team, so the team is confident. Suds' opponent plays a really aggressive point and forces an error out of Sudanwa, which eventually leads to Suds splitting sets. It is now a dogfight.
We are up 3-1, three matches on, all in third sets. Before you know, it we are down 5-2 in all three third sets. As the saying goes, the air has been sucked out of the building, only we were outside. So the air has been sucked out of the atmosphere - don’t question the scientific possibility of it - it happened. In the span of 30 minutes, the crowd’s emotion has gone from extreme confidence/borderline assuredness to an emotion that can be expressed by a negative remark. Lloyd and Suds lost their third sets, so it was 3-3 and Ben Chen was down 5-2 in the third, returning serve.
To put it simply, as far as tennis is concerned, the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor. However, Chen, like the honey badger, doesn’t really care; that is to say that he’s just not concerned. I don’t really know how to explain what happened at this point. Chen’s opponent let up a little, but, to be honest, Chen was relentless, didn’t give up one point, and used the crowd to fight back. To be dishonest, it’s been suggested that the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem was stolen from a freestyle track I laid down at the lunch table in the sixth grade. The value of that statement was to show you that the lying bit mentioned earlier in this blog had some value.
Getting back to the match, Chen played extremely solid tennis and got up 6-5, 40-15. I’m not sure how it happened. Once we got to that point, it was hard for me to remember how we got there. I think that’s part of the absurdity of the situation. The team had been and was still going absolutely nuts. We were in a state of disbelief. We wanted it so badly for the team and for Chen, and we knew Chen wanted it just as bad. We started thinking we had it, and the tennis gods struck down with vengeance and Chen lost the next two points.
We almost rushed the court early out of sheer anxiety. The game goes to deuce. We’ve been humbled a little, but we are still positive. Chen’s opponent double-faulted. Another match point – this has to be the one. Chen deserves it; he’s fought for it. This is our story-book ending. Chen’s opponent serves and volleys, Chen hits a good, grubby return at the guy’s feet and his opponent hits it into the net. The crowd, the team and Chen all go nuts.
Chen throws his racquet over the fence. LAD. We almost tackle him as we rush the court. We start bouncing around and screaming. It’s crazy. Coach Center and (associate head coach) Ricardo (Rubio) can’t believe it. Nobody knew what was going on. We were in a state of shock and complete, overwhelming excitement. As Alex Hilliard put it, “I’m just in a state of euphoria.” No question, it was one of the best feelings ever, and it was one of the most emotional dual matches ever played. Go to the Texas Tennis Facebook page, watch the video titled “Chensanity”, friend request Ben Chen, try to meet him, get his autograph, shake his hand, whatever. The guy achieved legendary status as a Longhorn tennis player with that victory, and he made the match one of the most epic victories in Texas history. This story will be passed on for a while; it’s a moment that none of us will ever forget.
This was an unreal win, but we still have work to do and we aren’t resting on our laurels. We play Texas Tech on the 21st, and we know that’s going to be one our toughest matches of the year. The team is full-speed ahead, still trying to play its best tennis. I’ll keep you updated as we come down the stretch. HOOK ‘EM.