By: Brian Faig
After winning the 2013 Platform Tennis Junior Nationals, my partner, Will Kleeman, and I were sponsored to participate in the 2013 National Platform Tennis Championships. This was the big time, the APTA Nationals- where all the top players converge once a year. It was a thrill. I realized that this was a real opportunity for me to improve my paddle game not only by playing great competition, but also through watching great players. I started looking on the APTA website daily in anticipation of the release of the draw. I was eager to find out who we would play- and whether or not I knew those players. When that day finally came and the draw was posted, I found myself amazed at the depth of the tournament and sympathetic to how tough the draw was for everyone! I saw players that I knew from the New Jersey A League having to play a seed first round! It was hard to imagine that guys who are levels above US were playing guys levels above THEM. It was a bit humbling. It confirmed to me that this tournament was going to be spectacular.
Friday morning we went to the Indian Trail Club, checked in and had a great lunch. Fortunately, the bad weather of the past two days was about to clear. Our first round match was a heartbreaker. We lost in a third set tiebreaker! We had our chances, but still managed to lose. It was a tough match to lose, but just reminded me that paddle is a game of momentum, mistakes and persistence. Unfortunately, our next match was against two guys who qualify in my first paragraph description- good NJ players who hit a seed first round. That match went pretty quickly against us. The good news was that Will and I knew that we had at least one more match the next day and we were ready to make the most of it.
Friday night we went to the Player’s Dinner. It was a wonderful night. I got to meet many new players as well as talk to many players who I have met previously. I was able to watch David Ohlmuller’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Listening to all that he has accomplished was awe-inspiring. Those who spoke about him showed me how deep the respect and love of this game is. And, after a semester of college dorm food, the buffet was amazing!
The next day went much better as Will and I managed to pull off two hard fought wins before losing in the quarterfinals of a back draw. It was great to have won two matches in our first Nationals. One of the greatest parts of the experience was the sportsmanship and competitiveness of each of our opponents. Everyone was leaving it all on the court- but still remembering that it IS a game. Everyone treated us as men- and I really appreciated that.
After our loss, we went back to Indian Trail where the tournament was just heating up. I watched amazing paddle- including a come from behind victory by Lubow and DeRose, ate some more amazing food and talked to many amazing people- some of whom I had just met or played.
Reflecting on my experiences at the Junior Nationals and the Men’s Nationals, I had no idea how much I would learn. I took away a lot of paddle technique and strategy for my own game. I gained even more respect for the talented players at the top of this game, and added appreciation for all the levels below! The biggest impact on me was watching the camaraderie and love that all that participated have for the game. It was fantastic to be a part of the whole event.
Once Nationals were over, I know that many paddles went into their bags where they will remain until October. Fortunately for me, I’ve been given the opportunity to participate in Paddleplayer.com’s Connecticut Summer League. With a lot of top players participating, it is going to be a great opportunity for me to continue to learn, to sharpen my skills and to try out a few new tricks. I am looking forward to playing and having a great time with both old and new paddle friends. It’s a great life!