I owned him. Each time we played, I beat him. From the first time playing him, I was better. Even if he won occasionally, it had more to do with what I didn’t do than what he did do. Yes, I play more often than he does and that’s an advantage. So be it. Bottom line, he couldn’t beat me. The last time we played in league competition, I beat him in straight games, I think. Never was much doubt about the outcome.

That was then, this is now. He beat me two games to none the last match we played. A couple of days ago. I went into it feeling pretty cocky about my chances. Nonchalant at the start of the match. Allowed him to build a five to six point lead. Figured I’d drop the hammer, get really serious and dominate him with my serve. Couldn’t do it, though. As per usual, he ran down everything. And I mean everything. I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was his shot making. He was better on the backhand, better at establishing his position at center court, tied me up more with his serve. Hmmm.

His style always annoyed me. The way he always says, “Service” right before serving. The way he holds his racquet. The way he hits so many ceiling shots. I find myself getting short with him, even during games where I’m beating him. But he had his way with me this last time out. Running down shots I was already counting as winners. Forcing me to reduce my margin of error. He rendered my serve impotent. I couldn’t dig myself out of the hole he had dug for me in the first game.

Before the start of game two, I mustered up some false confidence. Then the game began. His defense seemed almost impenetrable. I had to call up a better strategy to beat him, make some serious adjustments. But I failed to make the necessary adjustments. I lapsed into what was comfortable, what was instinctual. The power serve that wasn’t getting the desired results – at least not consistently. Hitting full volleys when I should have exercised more patience. Not getting into the proper position to strike the ball with greater power and direction. In the past, I could get by with cheating on the fundamentals. Not now. He was better, more forceful, seemingly more quick, if that were possible.

At my suggestion, we played a third game, just for grins. He hesitated at first, then relented. For my part, I had to know whether my superiority had totally disintegrated or was this just a temporary lapse that could be overcome by a more appropriate approach. I jumped out to a 7 – 1 lead and wound up beating him 15 – 10. The game was never in doubt. A multiplicity of serves – lobs; drives; hard Zs; garbage Zs — kept him off balance, gained me the advantage to follow up and dictate play. He got within three points at one juncture (7 – 4) but the final result was never in doubt (for either of us). I won in an almost casual manner, seeking to re-establish my dominance. Despite the fact that he had beaten me in match play, he seemed shell-shocked at the ease in which I beat him in the ‘for-fun’ game.

Mission accomplished.

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