Sep/18

19

Cal Hits Binghamton

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There is a combination of anticipation and anxiety that leads up to and builds to a crescendo when playing an Eastern Junior tennis event, especially possibly the last one for Callum in his current age group, the 12-and-under category, as he moves on now to play mostly 14’s and 16’s. Especially, when the tournament is a Super 6 event, supposedly the top 32 players in the East or the top 32 in the rankings who choose to show up, in this case, in Binghamton, NY, about a 3 1/2 drive from New York City.

The way the Eastern section of the USTA divides up, the top players reside in either New Jersey, Long Island, New York City and Westchester County, but Binghamton is in upstate New York, only one hour south of Syracuse, two hours from Rochester and three or so hours from Buffalo. There are only a few top players in the Eastern 12’s rankings who live in upstate New York and the reason has to do with money (there isn’t as much upstate and in a sport where a private lesson can cost $350 you need it),and  tennis’ popularity is stronger closer to New York City, and the fact that most of the top junior players in the 12’s at least are either Asian/Indian, Jewish with Israeli roots or children of immigrant parents from either Russia, Poland or Bulgaria of which there are a fewer in upstate New York. Suffice it to say, you don’t see too many Protestant or Catholic white American-born players or any black American players at the top of the ranks.

Maybe this excitement/tension/anticipation is more my own emotions than Callum’s, who seems to take these tournaments mostly in stride by now, since he’s been playing them for a few years now. He had finished his summer playing in a week-long baseball tournament in Cooperstown, New York, another upstate trip (yes the miles on my car odometer are piling up) so I got him back into a tennis groove by playing a 16’s event at Queens College during the US Open where he won a round against the No. 2 player on the Scarsdale Varsity tennis team (Scarsdale is predominantly a powerhouse in tennis in Westchester County) and hitting with Eric Scharf, a former No. 1 player at St. John’s University who once took James Blake to 6-4 in the third set in the NCAA Singles Tournament and going back to the McEnroe Academy where he takes lessons with Fritz Buehning and trains.

The afternoon we left to take the car ride up to Binghamton, Cal hit with a high-ranked boy in the 14’s on hard courts, because McEnroe’s is all clay courts and the Binghamton tournament was on hard courts. It had been his fifth day in a row he had played. I had not told him he would be playing that afternoon and because he wasn’t playing that well and he lost the set to the boy who he usually beats in practice sets, he was none too happy with me for arranging it. He scowled at me, even cursed at me, but I ignored it for the most part because I felt he needed to get out on the hard courts and learning to lose the right way (going for your shots; not playing passively) is what I’m trying to teach him.

Still, the tension was still in the car as we drove up with my wife to Binghamton. Maybe it was why at the Chester Diner on the way up, I left my cell phone in the diner and didn’t realize it until we almost pulled into Binghamton around 10:30 pm. (Later in the week, I met a boy in the tournament’s father. Six months ago they had moved from Israel to Tarrytown, NY and the boy was starting his tennis odyssey in the US after being–his father said–the no. 1 12’s player in all of Israel. The father had six children that he was bringing up with his wife, five of them boys, and he had been–again this is what he told me–on the Israel National Junior Basketball team, but he said he liked watching tennis now more than basketball. Anyway, he told me he didn’t want to be his son’s coach. He only wanted to be his father. It made me think because sometimes I think I prefer being Callum’s coach more than I do his father).

I got Callum up at 8 am the next morning. He wanted to get breakfast, but I told him we’d hit first at public courts nearby and then go get breakfast at Panera’s. He was the No. 3 seed in the tournament and was playing an un-ranked boy at 12:30 am and then if he won, another match at 5 pm. We went to the courts and I started jogging around the courts and told Callum to join me. He reluctantly did. I started jumping rope, but he didn’t want to jump his rope. I got him to stretch perfunctory and then we walked on the court and started hitting mini-tennis, only hitting in the service boxes. We did this for awhile and then we started playing mini-tennis games to 11 points.

As we did, the No. 1 seed and his father drove up to the courts. The boy is 12 like Callum and would be Callum’s potential opponent in the semis. His father is a small, but very determined and ubiquitous man on the junior circuit and he hails from Israel and his son, who I’ll call Ariel and he are very serious and professional in the way they go about their business. They travel everywhere for tournaments, playing the Winter Nationals in Arizona last year and the clays, hard courts and zones all over the country this year. Together, the father and son form a very formidable team. The boy yells out during his matches, “Oh boy” or other annoying come on’s when he wins points and the father, who totes around a portable cart of balls, stretching bands, a footwork agility ladder and other accoutrements (but he clearly was not once a player; he’s a marathon runner and is always in running shorts), often yells out encouragements to his son during tight matches. Ariel  preceded to go through an elaborate warmup in the parking lot of running, stretching and band-strengthening exercises. Ariel is very small, maybe 4-foot-8 (Cal is not tall, maybe 5-foot-2, but he is much stockier than Ariel).

In the first match, Callum wins the first set relatively easily against a boy who trains at the USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, but in the second he follows a pattern which besets him in many matches, where he starts hitting the ball down the middle of the court too much and doesn’t build on his first set domination. He goes down love-3 to his opponent, who is a younger boy, probably only 11, but has no fear of hitting freely and going for winners from the baseline. But Callum steadies himself and wins in straight sets. The boy’s father, a blond man I don’t know, smiles at me during and after the match and tells me he likes the way Callum plays and the boys had some nice points. I say thank you, but I’m a little wary of fathers who are too nice like this boy’s father seems to be. Frankly, most of the parents are nice, a few like the No. 1 seed’s father, are nice, but distant and much more nicer when their kid is winning.

In the second match, Callum plays an Indian boy from Jersey who he’s played since he was 9 years old and never lost to. The boy’s father is exceedingly nice, drives a Tesla, and always brings either his father or father-in-law to matches. The boy eats homemade Indian food, naan and all, in between his matches. The boys’ parents had moved from upstate New York to Jersey even though it meant the father has a long commute now so his son could live right next to Court Sense in Jersey where he trains with a coterie of boys who are all entered into this tournament and many others.

One of the boys is a really skinny kid named Zen Uehling, I think he’s another boy who’s playing in the 12’s, but is really only nine or 10. There’s another boy named Sebastian Beilin, who’s only 9, but his mother, was around 100 in the world from Poland, and she shepherds the boy all over to play tournaments and he’s exceedingly good. Uehling’s father, Gordon, is a seemingly nice man and very rich. Novak Djokovic stays at his house during the Open and it’s supposedly a compound with tennis courts of every surface. Zen was in Djoko’s box for the US Open finals. I notice Uehling goes out of his way to tell his son, “Have fun!” before his match. I do the same with Callum, but I feel a little like a phony saying it because at this stage, realistically, having fun is winning. If he loses, its not going to be fun. That’s just the way it is. He’s too competitive and maybe when he’s playing up in the 14’s and 16’s and loses he has fun, but not in the 12’s.

This Indian boy is smaller too so many of these junior players are. I don’t know if tennis attracts smaller kids mostly because they can’t play sports like basketball, baseball or football so well being smaller or as John Mcenroe always says, American tennis is just not attracting the top athletes, period. Tennis seems so important to these children of Indian, Chinese, Russian, Israeli and Polish descent. They play usually every day of the week but Monday and when you see them shoot a basketball for example, they’re pretty lame at doing so. I was talking today at the McEnroe academy where Callum trains to a father of a girl who’s 10, but has been training six days a week for the past few years and has had stress injuries and recently lost in the first round of a 12’s event. He said his daughter doesn’t seem to have the drive she used to and often gets distant and non-competitive in matches. He wonders if tennis is really her love and if he’s wasting a lot of  money. I thought like saying, “Maybe you should have her only play three times a week and see if she’s more into it then,” but I’ve learned for the most part to stay out of giving advice. Tennis training for these kids and their parents is a sensitive touchy subject.

The Indian boy tries to out-hit Cal and succeeds at times, but Callum basically manhandles him 3 and 3. I stretch him out. We get back in the car. Tournaments on the road are a maze of hotel, eating for the most part decent to bad restaurant food and going to the tournament site to play and public courts to practice. We go to a Japanese restaurant and literally have to wait an hour from ordering to receiving our meals. My wife gets mad at me for mumbling under my breath to the waitress when she asks us how the meal is going.

We get up early the next day, at least I do, and I do my yoga practice by the pool, lift weights and take a little run on the treadmill. The reality is is that I don’t get to workout or even play tennis (I usually find another boy in the tournament for Callum to warm up with before his matches) much when I ferry Callum to these events. In the quarters, Callum plays another boy he’s known since he was 9 and met him at a Gilad Bloom clinic. This boy was Gilad’s prize kid, but like so many coach-student relationships, it ended a year or so again. Maybe it’s because Gilad charges $350 an hour for a private lesson (I’ve known Gilad for years and he told me he’d coach Callum for whatever I wanted to pay him, but I know Gilad likes money and if I said, “Ok, how about I pay you $100 an hour for a lesson,” it probably wouldn’t go over well and I wasn’t driving Callum into Riverdale to take lessons).

The Israeli father I met at this tournament told me he knows Gilad too and wanted to say to Gilad, “Why don’t you move back to Israel and help Israeli tennis at home,” but then he found out what Gilad makes for lessons here and he knew why Gilad lives in New York and not Tel Aviv. This boy warmed up with his Amazonian mother, a beautiful woman who hits a great ball, she played at Princeton, and the two of them discourse freely in Spanish. Callum takes the first set relatively easily, but then the boy starts playing exceptionally well, strategizing effectively to hit deep heavy-topspin balls to Callum’s backhand and then either hitting forehand inside in or cross court winners or coming to the net and knocking off volleys.

Again, Callum goes from being the aggressor in the first set to playing passively in the second set. He goes down 2-5, but I say to my wife who’s sitting next to me (she thinks I talk too loudly at these matches and she’s always afraid the other parents will hear what I say…this drives me crazy of course, but she’s my wife and I’ve got to put up with these kinds of things as well as the fact that she never knows the score of the match, set or game and is always asking me), “This boy doesn’t nerve to win this match.” And I’m right, Callum proceeds to win the next five games and the match 6-3, 7-5, not because he plays so well, though he does battle, but because his opponent mostly falls apart. You see this a lot in the 12’s, a boy who’s very talented, but doesn’t really have the stomach to beating a top player when it comes down to the nitty gritty.

Callum is in the semis against the No. 1 seed, Ariel. Both Callum and Ariel have not dropped a set yet. The only other time Callum played Ariel, he lost to him 1 and 2 because Ariel moon balled him the entire match and Callum was clueless as what to do to combat this tactic. Now Callum is a lot more versed in taking the ball out of the air with a swinging volley on both wings. The match starts, all three Israeli fathers and their sons, who are by now out of the tournament except for Ariel, are sitting with me and Ariel’s father on the uncomfortable metal stands set up on the side of the court. These Israelis have big families. I hear one boy tell another, “I don’t hate my little brother. I just find him to be the most annoying little kid in the world.”

Callum goes up 3-1 by over-powering Ariel, hitting some absolutely blistering swinging volleys. The boy starts to come close to crying on the court. There are tears in his eyes, but he’s a battler and his father is encouraging him, “Right here, Ariel, right here.” I clap my hands before almost every point and say, “Come on, Cal!” Ariel proceeds to win the next five games, out-smarting and out-hitting Callum. He resorts to the moon ball, but not exclusively, mostly he gets Cal to hit short than adroitly runs to the net and drop volleys Cal or hits flat drives into the corners Cal can’t retrieve. It’s impressive how this little kid who looks like he weighs around 80 pounds can hit the ball so hard, taking it on the rise.

Ariel takes a bathroom break as he always does. His father has already once with the umpire’s permission, walked on the court to give his son an energy bar. The second set Cal doesn’t go away easily, he takes a 5-2 lead, but Ariel battles back and has a break point to even the set at 5 games. Callum tells me later that if he lost that game, it would’ve been over. But Ariel makes a crucial mistake on a key point, popping up a volley, and Callum pounces on the ball Spadea-style (Callum does remind me of Spadea a lot, just the way he’s built and the way he walks on the court and the fact that he can hit pretty ridiculous passing shots; on one point in this match, he passed Ariel with an acute angle backhand crosscourt passing shot after a long point and pumped his fist and it was very Spadea-style), and quickly dispatches the ball into a corner.

Callum takes a bathroom break before the third set Super Tie-Breaker, up to 10 points win by two. This is giving Ariel some of his own medicine. He doesn’t like to be the one waiting. His father, nicely I thought, comes up to me at this point and says, “There will be no loser in this match. Both boys are playing very well.” I think he’s being gracious, but I know he’s also lying because he thinks Ariel will win. But the pressure and Callum’s forays to the net to hit vicious swinging volleys into the far corners of the court get to Ariel. He misses some returns of serve, something he never does, and goes down 5-9. He wins the next two points, but serving at 9-7, Callum comes in off a floating ball to his backhand and runs around it and daggers an inside-in swinging volley into the corner where Ariel who’s been digging these out all match, doesn’t even chase it. Match, 3-6, 6-4, 10-7. I let go a big “Yeah” and pump my fist while jumping off the stands. It is times like this that all the hours, all the clinics, the lessons, the trips, the tennis talks, the talks of quitting, seem all worth it and tennis feels like the most beautiful experience in Cal’s and my life.

Ariel’s father doesn’t come over to shake my hand I don’t remember. I tell Ariel “Good match” while he’s collecting his trophy, but the boy is clearly distraught. Neither his father or he thought he’d lose, not to Callum. My wife said to me earlier in the tournament, “These boys all play like they think they’re going to beat Callum.” And I told her, “Yes, they do, because they think they can. They know he also plays baseball and they can’t believe that he can play baseball and tennis and still really be good at tennis.” Ariel’s father has asked me a couple of times, “When is Callum going to stop playing baseball?” It’s almost an affront to these tennis parents and kids that while they practice 6 days a week, Callum plays maybe 4.

Callum loses the finals to another small Indian boy from Jersey, but this one is really good. He’s had a shoulder injury that has made him miss a large chunk of time and made him unseeded in this tournament, but he beat the No. 2 seed 6-1, 6-2 and he beats Callum 6-2, 6-4. Callum can’t handle how this boy, who often comes to tournaments with his own private coach, but this time is only with his parents, who shoot pictures of their son accepting the winner’s trophy and then outside, near the horse stables directly across from the courts and the “Binghamton” sign outside as we start our 3-hour drive home.

Callum puts his hands up during the match and babbles to me, “What can I do?” His opponent is taking everything early and hitting flat drives into the corners. He’s giving Cal very few chances to attack him. I don’t like when Callum makes this gesture. Tennis is a game of problem solving and besides, he knows I can’t talk to him during a match. It has been a good tournament, but driving home, there is tension at first as invariably I tell Callum what he had to do to win the match like its so easy, I say it and presto, if only Callum could’ve figured it out on his own, he would’ve won. My wife tells me to write down the three things he has to do to get better and to play and beat this boy the next time they play. We settle in for the long car ride home, but I’m already mapping out what Callum has to do so he won’t lose again, ever.

 

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18 comments

  • Hartt · September 19, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Dan, thanks for a terrific account. I felt as though I was actually seeing those matches.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 19, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks Harry. It’s sirreal how nail-biting these points, rallies and matches can be for me even as I realize these results aren’t really important until he gets into the 16’s and 18’s, but I want to se and feel like he’s on the right track.

  • George · September 19, 2018 at 9:24 pm

  • catherine · September 20, 2018 at 1:49 am

    That’s not much use. WSJ is paywall.

  • George · September 20, 2018 at 6:13 am

    “realistically, having fun is winning.”

    “there is tension”

    “he won’t lose again, ever.”

    Be careful not to become the typical tennis parent living vicariously through their child. Tennis should be an enjoyable, outcome independent way to spend time with your child.

    My business partner burned out his son by beating down on him to win. His son still plays high school tennis, but refuses to ever play tennis with his father again. He is about to leave for college, and my business partner is full of regret over his behavior at tennis tournaments.

    In the grand scheme of things, it won’t matter if your son wins or loses a tennis match. There is a 99.9999% chance he will not earn a living on the ATP tour.

  • catherine · September 20, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Thanks.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 20, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Wow, what a fantastic gripping read and what a performance again by Cal, as a marked boy at these big tournaments with a big X on his back but he continues to subdue the best players in the country. They have the belief then can beat Cal but Cal is able to break their wills. Finalist is an excellent result. maybe the better result. Let the other kid be the best in 12s, think long term big picture. Cal enters this tournament in a negative state of mind but his competitive instincts and his superior game carry him to the finals. This junior circuit is so very interesting and how the parents interact. Congratulations to Team Markowitz.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 20, 2018 at 8:15 am

    George,

    It’s a somewhat difficult situation. Great in the sense that he’s a talented player, enjoys playing (never says he doesn’t want to play a tournament or rarely begs out of a training session), has cultivated a skill that I frankly, who’ve been playing tennis all my life, find simply somewhat amazing, how well he can hit the ball even against top kids who are 4-5 years older than Callum.

    It’s burdensome or tension-filled because he’s on scholarship at McEnroe’s; to stay on scholarship he has to make clay and hard court nationals and this year that’s a bigger task as they expect him to make 14’s this coming summer and he doesn’t turn 13 until May. There’s also expectations Callum and I have set for him.

    If he loses a 12’s match to a kid ranked lower than him, is it the end of the world? No, but there’s a concern that he’s not moving forward, getting better and that maybe we aren’t following the right training schedule. Baseball makes it more problematic. I think its good he plays another sport, a team sport, which none of these other top junior tennis players do, none that I’ve met, but it takes away days he trains for tennis.

    Will he be a pro? No, you’re right, 99 per cent he won’t be. Can he play at Stanford, Princeton, Univ of Virginia on scholarship, yeah that’s a real chance I’d say from my educated guess. And it seems to me important that we make the right moves now to ensure that he has a chance to make that big goal a possible reality.

    But you’re right, I don’t want to burn our love for tennis over the tension of competition and rankings and he can still enjoy a match even when he loses and I, for my part, have to emphasize the good parts, his effort, his courage in playing big matches, and not the winning or losing when he comes out on the short side of a big match.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Dan, it’s an interesting choice to follow the path the others follow or to blaze your own trail. It’s working to this point that Cal plays baseball and tennis. Maybe in some immeasurable way it’s an advantage. Maybe the other tennis kids feel extra pressure and a sense of slavery to tennis while Cal has his freedom to enjoy baseball which is an excellent release outlet and also it broadens his athleticism and his competitive spirit and competitive instincts in immeasurable ways. I say keep going and doing it YOUR way. There is no path of certainty to become a top player otherwise all these kids would make it. I think there is better potential in having the courage to do it a different way and so far it’s working.

  • George · September 20, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    A member of my tennis club, who is a bank vice president, has a son who was a top national ITF junior, highest rank of 32. His son won the club championship as a 13 year old, beating an adult 6-0,6-0 in the finals. His parents invested in his tennis and sent him to Florida to IMG Academy. He played alongside Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic. He played for two college teams, where he burned out. For unclear reasons, he stopped playing for both teams mid-season.

    Flash forward to today, he is in his mid-twenties and is a junior pro at our club. He spends all day in the sweltering heat giving lessons to old ladies, uncoordinated rich guys, and bratty kids. He has no medical benefits or 401k, and when it rains, he does not make any money.

    His father told me he regrets not putting more emphasis on his education. The irony is that he was one of the kids that actually went to high school at IMG academy. His father told a story about when they invited Kei Nishikori over to dinner, and Kei asked him, “Why does your son go to school instead of playing tennis full time?”

    Maybe it takes playing full time as a junior to make it to that level?

    Getting a college scholarship would not be bad. However, a father of a local junior who got into Stanford for tennis told me that they want her to practice all the time. How can you have an academic load such as in a STEM career and play tennis all the time? There are only 24 hours in a day, and it is not possible. Maybe play one year while taking underwater basket weaving, then quit and focus on finishing your degree for the remaining years?

    Just be cognizant that your son may end up being a local club pro teaching tennis, because if that is what he does most of the time, that is what he knows.

  • Hartt · September 20, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I hope the junior players do finish high school at least. I suppose if you are as incredibly talented as Kei you don’t need a backup.

    I read that Felix Auger-Aliassime was finishing up his high school courses last spring, and I hope he did. When the youngsters are training at the National Centre in Montreal, their schooling is part of the deal, although I suppose it is harder to enforce that once they turn pro and are on the road.

  • George · September 20, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    What is interesting is that the father told me that Kei was separated from the other kids at IMG. They brought in touring pros to hit with him exclusively.

    How did they know that Kei had such potential at such a young age?? What are they looking at? He is not that big or strong…

  • Dan Markowitz · September 20, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    George,

    You obviously have some pretty negative views about serious junior tennis. Look I can reel off a lot of positive accounts of juniors getting admitted into colleges they never would have if not for their tennis prowess. I agree with you that its a slippery slope if your kid doesn’t study and just plays tournaments and trains. But my wife and I communicate to Callum that he has to do schoolwork and broaden his horizons outside the tennis court. What good is it if he gets into Stanford or Columbia largely by his tennis ranking and then can’t handle the academic load or feels intimidated in the classroom?

    I can also argue that the skills it takes to become a champion tennis player go far beyond a junior’s athleticism or strokes. They have a lot to do with his ability to handle pressure gracefully, focus intensely for long periods of time, and learn to express yourself to opponents, umpires and travel to new places and get yourself ready to compete.

    Yes, it is somewhat a shame when a player knows little but what he’s learned on the tennis court and can’t also have interests and skills outside of tennis.

  • George · September 20, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Dan,

    Looks like you and your wife are well grounded tennis parents.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 21, 2018 at 5:37 am

    I’m sure from a young age, Nishikori was showing signs of greatness. Whether it be his instinct for the ball, his fleetness, his superior ball-striking and just his drive to be great. I wonder though if they had Kei hitting against touring pros when he was still in his teens, whether the physical toll of doing that is why he’s had so many injuries during his career.

  • George · September 21, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Dan,

    Here is an interesting podcast about role of the tennis parent:https://parentingaces.com/role-tennis-parent-todd-widom/

  • Winston Smith · September 21, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Really enjoyed the write up about Cal in Binghamton. While clearly B-town is not a tennis hotbed, I will provide a bit of perspective on the town’s place in US tennis. I grew up in the next town over, played just a little bit of tennis, but remember people talking about the many tennis greats who played in Binghamton over the years…Laver, Gonzales, Segura… There is a long tradition of professional tennis tournaments being held in Binghamton, dating back to the days of Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, looking at the records: on 8/10/69 Laver beat Gonzales in the final of the Pro Masters, 6-1, 6-2. To this day there is a pro tournament a Challenger at the start of the US Hardcourts.

    On the junior tennis journey: it’s a real thrill to see your kids compete and (sometimes) win, hard to describe the emotional roller coaster of a tight match, sometimes after a long match I’m mentally drained, and by the end of a long tournament, I am worn out! There’s certainly a lot of craziness out there, crazy parents, crazy coaches, crazy parents. With 2 kids playing USTA sectional and national tournaments sometimes I’m not sure all the effort is worth it. My doubts are starting to creep in as I questions whether it is the best use of resources…but…off we go to the this weekend’s national level tournament! There may be a bit of an addiction to it!

  • Dan Markowitz · September 22, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Definitely a bit of addiction to it, Winston. And yes, I saw the black and white photos on the wall at the Binghamton Tennis Club of the old greats including the women, Rosie Casals, etc. who came to Binghamton to play in those pro events and yes, the Binghamton Challenger has survived–even though play it on public courts–though many others at Forest Hills and Crotona Park in the Bronx, have come and gone.

    You know, people talk about crazy parents on the junior tour, I haven’t seen so much of that except for myself actually. I mean there’s this one kid who’s a top player in the East 12’s, Russian parents, and they let their kid get away with absolute murder. Twice in this last tournament I went up to the tournament director and said to him, “When are you going to stop this kid? He screams at the top of his lungs, smashes his racket and he doesn’t get any warnings or penalties.”

    His parents either baby him way too much or are way too hard on him. He lost in the Consolation Finals in this last Super 6, when he was up 9-3 in the 3rd set Super Breaker and proceeded to drop the next 8 points and lose.

    I do think monetarily it would be harder to have two kids playing regularly, but if they’re comparable in age and ability, you’ve got natural practice partners for each other. Although, one tennis father told me that he took his oldest son out of tennis when his younger brother started beating him easily and the oldest brother was taking a lot of ribbing for it and the father saw he wasn’t enjoying the game anymore. Now he mountain bikes.

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