Tennis Europe Final for Joel

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any warmer! The thermometer at the tennis club was estimating a 35 degree high! This was going to be a nice battle. Luckily the match was scheduled for not before 10am and with a lot less matches today, Joel was going to get on before the real heat kicked in.

It’s always nice getting to the business end of tournaments. The start of the week, the club house is full with players, but day by day they begin to depart. It definitely becomes easier to find a spot for your bag in the storage areas!

The Semi-final

Joel’s opponent today was Clovis Benichou, who is a national French player who regularly competes for his country in tennis Europe events and team competitions. Joel first came across Clovis in Paris last year during his trip with the GB team. On that occasion Joel was fortunate to have a couple of wins over the big French Boy. It is not often Joel goes onto court and is the smaller of the 2 players! Clovis is probably a couple inches taller than Joel. That’s probably 5 ft 8 or so at 12 years old. This would be the first time this week Joel has come up against someone that could use their height to handle spin but also give spin back.

The opening exchanges were very tense. Joel was visibly nervous and Clovis was hitting some big shots off the forehand wing. The set reached 2-2 and I would say it was pretty even in the hitting contest at this point. Joel then found his spinning forehand and got it jumping to the big Frenchman’s backhand. This tactic helped him run away with the set 6-2 and we saw the temper of Clovis reach boing point. The racket was flying to every corner of the court! If Joel could keep the pressure on early in the second he could break the kid emotionally and run away with the match. It was all going to plan, 4-1 Joel. His execution of his game plan was very good. He was playing intelligent and well measured tennis. However, what happens at 6-2, 4-1 when you are in the biggest semi-final of your short tennis career? The nerves kick in! Joel was serving and got himself to a 40-0 lead. A couple loose poinst and a blazing winner from Clovis and it was Deuce. He began to fight the demons in his head “I should have been up 5-1”, “this should be over” etc. It’s easier to say from the side-lines, relax, don’t worry about it, move on. It’s very different to be able to do it in the emotional melting point of a tennis match. They changed at 4-3 Joel, the next game on Joel’s serve would be crucial. It was quickly 0-30, I began to feel very uncomfortable in my chair! The next 3 points Joel steadied himself and with a tight call going in his favour at 30-30 he found himself with another game point for 5. This time he would not squander it, 5-3. This was enough to end the charge of Clovis, Joel breaking to love to claim the match and his place in the final.

Apart from where the nerves were getting the better of him, this was one of the most professional and workman like performances I have seen from Joel. He did the job he needed to do to beat this kid. There was no need for the normal razzle dazzle, it was smart and calculated tennis.

Rehab and preparation

The match was over by 12.30, so we could have a nice chilled out afternoon and watch some tennis from Roland Garros. Also Joel could get on with some rehab work; stretching, yoga progressions etc. That one is for you Dan! Unfortunately our hotel tv’s did not have any coverage of the tennis! In fact you can hardly make out any picture on most of the channels. After trying to find a stream all over the web, I finally came across one mid-way through the 4th set of the Tsonga/Wawrinka match! Not ideal for a tennis lover like myself!

Joel has played and beaten 4 French kids out of 6 matches this week so far. So on finals day, why not one more! This time is will be the mini Monfils, Giovanni Perricard. It should be a very entertaining match, as the French kid has some great hand skills and ball control. Let’s hope Joel can get his forehand fizzing up to the one-handed backhand of Perricard!

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