I remember about 2 years ago around this time, I was still suffering from the the defeat in Univerciate Tennis Games in Taipei. I had no burden academically, and was pretty much competing in all the tournaments possible (tennis, basketball, soccer, ultimate!). I was making the most out of my ending days in college, before moving on to the next stage – graduate school. And now, just about 2 years later, i’m closing in on my short-term goal: getting my master’s degree. By schedule, i’ve just finished my 2nd progress report, which I’ve improved drastically, and the only thing left is the defense examination that I chose not to skip in July. But what else have I done ?
One of the most remarkable participations for my 2nd year here is to play tennis regularly, something I didn’t think was do-able last year. Squeezing time out of the 15-hour lab time schedule, sweating on the tennis court was the buffer, the refresher, the savor. Playing with NCKU gunners and the seniors re-introduced me to the power-tennis world; I haven’t had much of those since leaving Canada. Yet on top of the blairing shots, there are the skillfull soft-touches that elevate the game to the exquisite level. I’ve also found my niche in the game: volleying and consistency. Consistency has always been the trademark of my game, and volleying was the initial difference that seperated me and ger. In a coincidence I replaced lil’ white of NCKU and teamed up with songsong to compete in the Orient Cup, and ran into Tsai Rong-Yi and Chen Po-He of NanRong in the round of 16…again. His baseline game plus my net volleying showed promising results, and that sent me officially into the line-up in the Univerciate Games. In the south regionals, we beated everyone, including the eventual champion in men’s doubles of Ntl. Chong Cheng Univ, and won the regional. In individual mix doubles, big-cow and I paired up and came in 2nd behind the dominating NCCU pair. Satisfactory results, but not the ultimate goal.
The real test was the nationals. We wanted the national medals, not the regional papers. NCCU was the team to beat on the way to the medal round. Unfortunately I had more hurdles to overcome: PR and the PhD examinationS. That morning, I finished my PR oral at 845, began Ph.D. entrance written exam at 900, gave my presentation in oral examination at 1300, and took the 1413 HSR to Taipei. I remember clearly that I sprinted so fast after arriving in Taipei that I skipped into the MRT train when the external door was already closing. 2 stations later, songsong rang me the news that the team had just lost to NCCU and we were pretty much done for the weekend. That desperate and helpless sensation again stormed over my head; nothing unfamiliar, plainly repelling.
I went to NTU to chat with NCCU’s coach, it’s always great to meet old friends. And just a few hours later, Ntl Chiao-Tung Univ’s 5th was eaten by the same A-be of NCCU that took the game and match from lil’ white and us. Just like that, the hope was re-litted. The fire was burning again. We are going to the consolations, the medals were still within our grasp. After chatting with some teammates and the coach, we’ve decided to move me to the singles, and let lil’ white team up with songsong again.
The next day, I was to play my real first singles match in about 2 years; I requested to play against Southern Taiwan Tech. The lefty was very powerful yet inconsistent. He also had a very wild serve that gave me a hard time. I did all I could to prevent him from finding his rhythm, and eventually broke his serve by taking a few steps back and won the match 6-2. Emotionally it felt great to be back to the singles; physically I was nowhere near comfortable stroking the balls. The match against Tong-Wu was competitive but we still had the upper hand. My turn was up again in the Bronze medal against NCTU. Hsi-cheng teamed up with "the assassin" Hong-Cheng and knocked down their invincible doubles. Knowing their powerful single players and weaker 2nd doubles, this 1st double’s match snatched the critical win we needed to push the game to the 5th match: me and the 2nd year rookie. God gave me 2 years to ponder about what I could had done better in the defeat of 2007, for this moment that laid its challenge again in front of me. I couldn’t say I had been waiting for moment like this to come, but I knew mentally I was prepared. Plus, by watching/cheering for A-be during the earlier rounds, I knew my opponent had a very good winning forehand, great consistency, and most importantly a calm heart; definitely not a nobody to be thrown at 5th. During warm-up, I found his forehand winner to be faster and sharper than I had anticipated. My last chance lied in the ever-lasting moon-shots I’ve developed in BCS.
The game was on. My strategy worked. Although the game was extremely tensioned and every point was won on double-digit ralleys, I was leading 5-0… and honestly speaking, it felt like 5-4 with the opponent serving next. I had no idea how much time had passed or how many deuces there had been; the game was tight like a drum. I was screaming after every point I won, and the whole team was behind me, buiding up this momentum that was helding the opponent’s morale in low gear. Then, in the 6th game, my leg cramped. First it was my left calf, then it went my toes. At one point all my toes were cramped and curled up, while both my calfs were on the brink of giving up. I tried to hang in there but eventually lost the game. I called for injury time-out at the end of game at 5-1. Thank goodness I had my trainer’s pack with me to rub those gel into my legs. After the trainer stretched my left leg and toes, I went back to the court and re-adjusted my pace; I wanted to buy as much time as possible in order for the medicine to work its magic with my body. In the end of the 7th set, I threw my net game into the mix and won a few points. Although I lost the 7th game and score was closing in at 5-2, I knew I had a way of winning. In the 9th game, my legs were slightly better and more comfortable moving on the court. I played a bit more aggresively on the serve and on the way to the net. The opponent was still as calm as ever, throwing me off the court on the backhand side; I returned him with high slicing backhand that landed deep. Just like every other game of the set, every point was hard-earn. All except the match point. It was the only serve and a mishitted return he had all day that threw me screaming my lungs out.
Victory, at last.
The rest were just gravey. 3rd place was the goal from the beginning, and this time we knew how small the margins were between the top 4 teams. Comparing this triumph with the past, it had been same player, same 5th set, different results. What else was different? I think i’ve found to treasure the friendship built on the tennis level much more. As much as I enjoy the interactions on the court, these encounters are transient. The real love, is that battleship, the commaradeship us the tennis players share, teammates or not. Because we all know about the journey to the glory, and how bumpy and tough this road trip is. Even for the Division I caliber player like Lu Wei-Ru, there’s no guarantee team victory. I was most fortunate to be recognized as the respectable player from KMU and NCKU, with A-be style. Many of them may think I am born to be, few would know what it costed me and the 2007 KMU tennis team. Even fewer would believe, that all of these amazings, may had all been planned. Thank you all, and thank you Lord.