After 2.5h flight we arrived to Chengdu. There was an ITF G4 tournament where Kristian was going to compete in qualifying draw. We got to the event site at Sichuan International Tennis Center, place where an ATP 250 event takes place every year in the fall.
It’s an enormous facility, with stadium court, some grandstand courts and many practice and match courts. I let Kristian go on the court and do his warm up before our first training while I went to the tournament office to ask for balls for our practice.
Then a shocking thing happened. I found out that on that day (day before the tournament) each player can be given only one tennis ball for practice. One! And also they didn’t sell any of the balls, so we weren’t even able to buy a can of official balls. I have never experienced anything similar in my 20+ years long tennis career.
Organizer’s excuse was that that was a day before the tournament so they have limited supply of balls for that day. They said from the next day they will provide more balls when matches start. Anyways, I was shocked and extremely disappointed in ITF and the CTA (Chinese Tennis Association), which ever was responsible for this. It could also be the fault of Tennis Center itself and the organizer.
Nevertheless, I decided not to let that affect us and our training in any way. I explained Kristian the situation and told him that that day we will have a special training. We will use only one tennis ball. That would probably mean picking up that same single ball dozens of times.
Or would it?
From the first shot when we started playing mini tennis, I could feel that his focus and intensity was on much higher level than usual. I noticed his intent of not wanting to make a single mistake. Same was happening to me. Both of us were getting into some kind of laser-focus mode.
By being so obsessed with not missing any balls, our footwork also drastically improved. We were dancing on court and sort of competing with each other who would miss first.
Honestly I don’t remember who and when missed first. But I know that we didn’t miss for a while. Then as we were getting more into the training and different exercises, I could feel totally different level of pressure compared to a regular training where usually you are in a totally relaxed state. Both of us really cared about every single shot. We wanted to hit each time with the perfect timing and in the smoothest possible way.
During the break we talked about all of that. Kristian seemed to be very happy with his consistency and performance. I also shared my thoughts and the feeling. It was very special indeed. We were experiencing probably one of the best trainings we had in a long time.
Especially for Kristian, who sometimes have difficulties in getting completely focused from the beginning of the training, this was an amazing way to have the first practice on the site and prepare him for upcoming tournament.
His consistency and focus reached new levels. He also practiced playing under certain amount of pressure which is so important to get him ready for the matches where you always feel some degree of pressure.
The next day we were given two tennis balls for our morning training. Result? Immediately a bit less focus and intensity.
Anyways, this unbelievable experience and very special training got Kristian ready for the tournament. He won four matches in row (all in straight sets) to eventually lose to seed #7 (367. ITF).
So? One ball tennis training? Are you going to give it a shot?