On Monday I got a last-minute call-up to play tennis that evening. We played the doubles first - we were well beaten, 6-3 6-2, by a pairing who (unlike us) were competent at the net. I don't know what we could have done differently. While the doubles was a straightforward match, my singles was anything but. The very first game had nine deuces and pretty much set the scene for the rest of the match. I led 3-0 in the first set but really it was a much harder contest than that and it wasn't going to get any easier. The frame of my racket, which had a hairline fracture after coming into contact with various non-ball objects in the last two years, suddenly went "CRACK!" and I had no choice but to bring out the spare.
Changing rackets threw me a bit and I lost four games on the spin. I recovered to move within two points of the set at 5-4, 30-15 on my serve but my opponent played some excellent points to break me and I surrendered the set in a tight 12th game after nearly an hour. In the second set we carried on where we left off: long rallies, long games, my opponent hitting most of the winners while I tried desperately to hang in there. The winners I hit were generally on the run when he'd earlier dominated the rally. I won most of the big points in that set to win it 6-2, but it took a much greater physical toll on me than that score might suggest.
In the third set I was struggling. "Come on legs, move," but they wouldn't. From 1-1 I lost the next four games in ten minutes and it was surely all over. I then seemed to get a second wind, hit a couple of winners, and suddenly the match took on a different complexion. I still had a mountain to climb though and I had to rely on luck to some extent. He possessed most of the big shots and I sensed that if he really wanted to go for the jugular there was little I could have done to stop him. My legs were moving now, a lot, mostly a few feet behind the baseline, as I tried to chase down every ball. At least I was giving myself a chance. By 10:45 I was the winner, 7-5 in the final set. I never faced a match point although I was two points from defeat. I'm still not sure quite how I did it (I'm sure it involved a healthy portion of luck) but it goes to show that you should never give up.