Monday, April 11, 2011

Four To Three

TigerBlog's preferred mode of exercise these days is squash.

If you're looking for a great workout in a relatively short period of time, then squash is your game. As long as there are 11 courts in the building in which you work, that is.

For years, TB was part of the big lunchtime basketball game in Jadwin, in which he scored several thousand points without ever 1) making any shot other than a layup or offensive rebound put-back and 2) dribbling. Of course, that's all for another day.

As for squash, TB the ball hardly bounces, so unlike racquetball, the player has to chase the ball down.

The scouting report on TB is to keep the ball in play, because eventually, he'll do something dumb. He's also not a great fundamental player, since he has absolutely no idea what the correct way to play is.

And so tomorrow, TB will have his first-ever squash lesson, with men's coach Bob Callahan. Of course, this comes after five years or so of playing, so it's probably fairly timely.

TB's assumption is that Callahan won't say "keep doing exactly what you're doing, especially the part with the big backswing. Oh, and the way you whack the ball off the front wall and side wall so it comes right back to the T is perfect too."

Actually, most of TB's approach to squash comes - incorrectly, he assumes - from tennis, a sport that TB played in high school.

Not that TB was really good at tennis either, but he wasn't horrible. He played doubles, and his partner his senior year was a kid (or at least he was then, now he'd be closing in on 50) named Mark Primack. As doubles partner's go, Primack was a good one, and he was also a funny one.

Primack and TB would signal each other from behind their back, basically to say whether or not the one at the net would cut across the court, leaving the other to back him up. Often, Primack would simply extend his middle finger to TB as his way of saying that he was going.

Looking back, TB assumes he was doing it to be funny. Whatever his motivation, it worked, as Primack and TB rarely lost, and the team won the league title.

When TB got to college, he thought about trying out for the tennis team, but he never did. A guy named Ray Peterson, who lived down the hall from TB, did try out and was the last guy on the team when he and TB were freshmen; TB and Ray played a few times, and Ray was definitely better, though not by an extraordinary amount.

Perhaps the highlight of TB's tennis-playing career came when he worked at the newspaper and played the boyfriend of a woman who worked on the news side, a woman about five years older than TB whom TB had a big crush on.

With that extra motivation, TB beat her boyfriend - a much better player than TB - in a marathon match on a 90-degree summer day.

TB hasn't played tennis in years, and just holding a tennis racket now makes it seem like it might as well be a 25-pound dumbbell compared to a squash racket.

Still, TB's conversion to squash doesn't mean he's completely forsaken tennis. This weekend, for instance, he was immensely interested in the Princeton men's tennis scores.

In case you haven't been paying attention, something wild is going on this year in Ivy League men's tennis.

Princeton and Cornell are both undefeated, though Cornell has played one fewer match. The teams meet Sunday in Ithaca, after the Tigers play home against Columbia (1-3) Friday at 2, at the same time Cornell is at Penn (1-4).

Cornell also plays at Columbia on April 23.

Besides Princeton and Cornell, every other league school has at least two losses. Since someone has to win Princeton-Cornell, it's almost - but not quite - mathematically impossible for any of the other schools to get even a share of the title.

That's not the wild part.

This is: There have been 17 league matches contested to date, and of those 17, an amazing 13 of them have been decided by a 4-3 score. The remaining four were all 5-2, meaning there hasn't been a 7-0 or 6-1 match yet in Ivy tennis.

Obviously, this means that there is great parity among the Ivy schools, and a bounce or two here or there could radically change things.

As a point of comparison, on the women's side, there have been 18 league matches, of which five have been decided by a 4-3 score, while eight have been decided 7-0 or 6-1.

Princeton is 5-0 in the league - all by 4-3 scores.

Cornell is 4-0 in the league - all by 4-3 scores.

It would normally stand to reason that the Princeton-Cornell winner is going to win outright.

With the way this season is going, it's a better bet that the the Princeton and Cornell matches against Penn and Columbia will be as close as the one between Princeton and Cornell.

Figure somewhere in the 4-3 range.

1 comment:

CAZ said...

Don't be so modest -- you & Primack won the Shore Conference! Of course beyond your collective talents on the courts I beleive it was the way Mark would "intimidate" your opponents while they were warming up that gave you the competitive edge... don't you agree?