Not only is there a seniors’ league in the USTA but there is also a super seniors’ league – for players over 65. On the WTA tour, thirty or over qualifies you for super seniors and today we have a super seniors’ final.
We are in Carlsbad just north of San Diego and the beach isn’t far away but it’s hotter than hell and the players can’t wait for the marine layer to roll in and cool things off. ESPN is televising all US Open Series finals every Sunday in August. There are good things and bad in a calendar dictated by the television schedule. You get excellent exposure but you play when they tell you to play. In my league, we fight like cats and dogs for those early morning match times. Middle of the afternoon match time in August? You better hope you have a lot of team members because a good number of them will not show up.
Not much is happening in this match. Pierce is up 5-1 in the second set having already won the first set 6-0. Though she did break Pierce once, Sugiyama hasn’t had a game point on her serve yet.
Pierce hits three winners to get to her first championship point. To give you a picture of her dominance today, consider this: she now has more than ten times the number of winners Sugiyama has. She looks like a prize fighter out there just wailing on her opponent. If she continues this level of play, she has a chance to win the U.S. Open.
Then it gets interesting.
Sugiyama saves the match point and throws her hands up in the air as if she’s just tossed the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. If your down 0-6, 1-5, a little humor helps. Pierce loses her second and third championship points on errors and Sugiyama takes the fourth with a winner. Another Pierce error gives Sugiyama a break point then Pierce double faults to lose the game. Uh oh.
When you’re close to getting something you really, really want, your heart starts pumping faster, your throat gets dry, your mind jumps into the future.
It’s been four years since Pierce won a Tier I tournament and four years since she was in the top ten. Being right on the edge of reaching those two markers after such a long time would make anyone anxious . Pierce is usually the queen of routine. Nothing takes her out of her slow, methodical service preparation. I always wonder what she’s thinking about when she stands at the baseline and looks in her opponent’s direction with empty eyes for a good five to ten seconds before bouncing the ball a few times and finally starting her service motion. Here on defense, however, she starts rushing. Sugiyama runs everything down and finally gets a game point, which she wins, to get to 3-5. Nobody wants to lose a match that doesn’t go at least an hour long. That’s embarrassing.
Another strong serve gives Pierce her fifth championship point. She pushes Sugiyama around until she gets a sitter but her volley clips the top of the net and sails long. Worse than that, on the next point she sets herself up for an easy overhead and totally shanks it. She hits it with her racket handle! Her brother, David, who is also her coach, is doubled over in laughter and, luckily for Pierce’s state of mind, so is she. What else can you do?
When you’re close to getting something you really, really want, your heart starts pumping faster, your throat gets dry, your mind jumps into the future. “Hmm, one hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars, that’s a lotta money.” “Wow, maybe I can win the Open!” “O.k. now, CONCENTRATE!”
But you can’t concentrate. Your mind has gone off on its own and it’s very hard to rein it back in.
Pierce goes back to the ballboy and towels off then stands at the baseline and stares in her opponents’ direction even longer than usual. If she can get herself back into her routine, she can gather herself. It must work because she settles right back into her dominating game on the next point. She moves Sugiyama around like a puppet yet again and gets her seventh championship point. She gathers herself one more time then hits an ace to finally win it, 6-0, 6-3.
Pierce is done for the day. She’s peaking as she moves towards yet another slam and even those hiccups at the end of the match will probably be laughed off. Sugiyama still has a doubles final to play. Luckily for her this event is being played at the La Costa Resort and Spa. She might want to sign up for whatever treatment boxers receive after a good whupping. She’s been a good fighter but she got beaten badly today.