Sometimes Things Are Not What They Seem ....

 
 

... for his second gold ball and win the whole thing !!! With Jared we have come to understand that anything is possible, he always seemed to get better as things got tougher, so we were very comfortable knowing that even though he wasn’t the #1 seed, he still had a great chance to win.

    The only real new ingredient we have had to deal with, was Jared’s new height. Before one of the smallest, skinniest kids, all of the sudden in 8 months he was one of the tallest !!! With that there are a few problem you have to address, “growing pains”, his footwork got clumsy, he was always a little to close to the ball, normal problems for a kid that is used to be 5’, and 8 months later is 5’9 .... but hey !!!! This is a good problem, being small at the beginning (12 and under), is an advantage as it helps you develop your tennis “IQ”, instead of just winning because you are a “bigger, taller, and stronger” kid, you have to win with strategy and wit. But after a kid leaves the 12’s and into the 14’s, it is nice if you hit a growth spur, and Jared was right on time, we were very happy of his “timing” as far as growing was concerned, of course he complained from joint pain, and feeling weak, on the court, at times he looked like his stamina had being cut in half, but we thought his body was taking all his energy and using it to keep on growing. And so we moved on without paying much attention to all these aches and pains and there we were, at our first test of the summer, clay court nationals at Ft. lauderdale, Florida, and match one was on the books. Jared played very well, but as far as tests were concerned, this was not one, the kid was not bad, but he was about 5”1’, 80 pounds, and although he looked good, his ball seemed way to slow for Jared and he had no problem at all winning 6-0 and 6-0 in about 40 minutes. Second day the kid was much better, usually as it is in any tournament, the further you go the toughest it gets, but although this kid was good, if Jared on a normal day showed up to play (not even on a good day), he should win 2 and 2. But things got interesting, Jared’s signature shot, his forehand, was not working at all, racquet head speed wasn’t there and ball kept on sailing out one after the other, and eventually Jared was confined to “grind” (which means, keeping the ball in play, and he is not even close to be in the top 100 in the country doing that !!!!) It wasn’t pretty, fortunately, we had being practicing a lot of volleys, and his serve had become a big weapon (mid 90’s), so he starting to serve and volley, and it worked. For the first time in his life, Jared had won a match strictly at the net, the score ? 7-6 and 7-6, no exactly what we had in mind but a win never the less, and to the third day we go .....

    As usual, we go out to dinner and talk about the match, good things, bad things, how not to repeat mistakes etc., etc., and we all ended up at the same point that his forehand’s racquet head speed was not as usual, and Jared said that it was really hot out there, and he felt weak and tired, but we were so happy that his serve and volley had developed so much, we sort of dismissed the rest and went on with the same routine.

    The next day, we had in front of us a real test, this kid was not seeded, not because he wasn’t good, but because he usually plays 16’s or 18’s, and open tournaments. He was 6’4” and 180 pounds, last time he and jared had played, he had pounded Jared 6-1 and 6-0, and trust me when if tell you, it wasn’t even that close. Long story short, Jared did all he could to stay in the first set and lost it respectfully 6-3, and then out of nowhere Jared goes up a break in the second and after a few great plays and his forehand looking more like what its always being, wins the set 6-3. We all were very happy, Jared already had surpassed expectations on this match, and anything else was a bonus. He does look a little tired though, but to his credit, he had been in a battle for 2 hrs against one of the best kids in the country, honestly ? I had my doubts about this one, but Jared has a way of surprising you when you least expect it, where we about to be surprised ? The 3rd set started and lasted 25 minutes, unexplainable “Goliath” could not put more than 2 ball in the court anymore, and Jared was hitting the ball very well, 6-2 ???? Really ???? Yeap, he won 6-2 in the third and we were all stunned !!! Of all the kids that we were working hard to get up to their level and beat, he wasn’t even in our site as we thought we needed another year to get to that level. But like  I said, Jared has a way to surprise you, and surprise us he did that day.

    Fourth round, we have Javier Restrepo, a clay courter, I knew he was very good as I grew up with his father and knew that he had trained him to be a very efficient player, a smart player, but we had confidence that if Jared played well, it would be to tough a task for Javier. Jared won the first set easy 6-3, and was up 4-3 serving in the second, when inexplicably he started to hit the ball at half the speed he was, and Javier at that point stopped feeling rushed and uncomfortable, and started to play much better, we thought Jared got nervous and was playing not to lose, but we later found out that night, that he felt as if all his energy was taken out of his body, and his muscles couldn’t even gather the strength to hit the ball. He lost 6-4 in the second, and 6-1 in the third, an astonishing 1 game he won since he was up 4-3 in the second, we had never seen that with Jared, and we were left running around looking for answers .....

    To make a long story short, exactly the same happened in texas and also at the Nike tournament, eerily it was almost exactly the same scores, he would play a very good kid, play an impeccable first set, half a second set, and literally die half way through the second, always up 4-3. His practice sessions that used to last 2 hrs., he was barely making it through, and as we keep thinking it was a stamina problem, or a nutrition problem, or a mental problem, we did all we could to fix those 3. New diet ....., better fitness program, and of course talking to him about why he was not able to close this matches against kids that were good, but that never the less he made them look silly through 1 and a 1/2 sets.

    After we got back to Rhode Island and got back to practice to address this new problems, I came down on him pretty hard one day, as he didn’t seem to be trying very hard. as I was talking to him on a not very soft tone, he put his head down, lifted back up and said: “Mario, I don’t know what is going on, I want to play, I want to win, but I feel like I want to seat down all day, I feel like I don’t have any energy”, I felt terrible, I could tell right there and then, that this was beyond what we were thinking, and as his father came back, I suggested Jared to go to a doctor, and do all kinds of testing to find out what is causing this weakness in him. 3 days later on a sunday night I got a text from jared that said: “ I know you are busy with your daughter, but I just wanted you to know that a test came back positive for Limes disease” .....

    According to the doctor, jared had contracted the virus in the spring .... wow !!! We were in september !!! What we thought was growing pains, or a nutrition problem, or lack of training, or a mental problem, or lack of a better strengthening program, was a virus that causes all those plus a break down on muscle tissue. No wonder he couldn’t play more than an hour, or his shots would get weaker as the match went on .... still at the end of the summer he had managed to win enough matches to be in the top ten, and he seats today as the #8 player in USA U14’s, and as he just finished his first year in the 14’s. He will now skip the second year and go into the 16’s. He has been on the proper treatment now for almost 3 weeks, and he is starting to feel much better, we are confident he will be back to his old self by the end of the year, just in time for the Orange Bowl.

    The moral of this story is probably obvious to you by now, and as all of us in the tennis world (parents, coaches, players) wake up every day and hear from our kids, or someone else’s kids about how something hurts, or how the energy level is not there .... do yourself a favor, slow down and take a good look, because sometimes things are not what they seem. Yes, most of the times it will probably be nothing, but every now and then it could end up being something, and trust me when I tell you, it wasn’t easy to look at Jared in the eye after we found out that he had actually been very sick for 4 months, and all I did was telling him we just needed to work harder .... “they are just growing pains “J” “.....