Written by: Aws Laaribi
***Aws Laaribi is a Tunisian-Canadian Junior tennis player born in Quebec City, Canada in 1994. He has since lived in Tunisia and New York. In September 2010, he moved to Burlington, Ontario to train at ACE Tennis, an academy run by Mr. Pierre Lamarche. As Aws leaves family and friends behind in New York, he is looking to document his tennis journey toward College Tennis, and ultimately a professional career. He currently plays ITF Juniors tournaments, Canadian tournaments and from time to time some USTA tournaments. If you would like to learn more about Aws and his tennis journey, please follow him on his website www.awslaaribi.com.***
In the first round singles match of my current tournament, the match went in my favour against a player from Jamaica. My second singles match was a tougher match. Scouting Ryan Newman (my opponent for the second round) from his first match, I had an idea of the game plan I wanted to use against him. The game plan was to keep steady from the baseline and change it up with short slices and short angles since he is very tall and does not move very well. The first set of the match was very tight. He broke my serve and so did I, and then we held each of our serve once. At 3-2, with him serving, I knew I had to break him once again to regain a better lead, which I was successful in doing. As I went up 4-2, I became calmer and looser in my strokes which helped my performance. As I won that first set 6-3, I had the momentum of the match. I played steady with less unforced errors and returned well throughout the second set and I won 6-0. It was a good match for me because I knew as I became calmer and looser, I would play more comfortably and my performance would increase.
My next match with Del Nunzio (#196 in ITF Juniors) was mostly a test for me to see if I can play smart tennis and execute my game plan. The first set of the match did not go very well. I missed many easy put away balls and I stayed far behind the baseline, which did not give me any success. So for the second set, I knew I had to change my game plan and style for a possible comeback. I took every ball early and attacked on every short ball possible. I realized that the more pressure I put on him by coming to the net, the more I force him to miss. So I maintained that pressure and won the second set 6-2. I now knew I had a chance to win the match, but for some reason I was still tight. I was thinking too much about winning or losing, resulting in a loss of concentration and a poor start to the third set, trailing 2-5. I decided that I could still come back if I took risks and the momentum could shift in my favour. I came back up to 5-all and from there I became more confident on winning the whole match. I was now leading 6-5, a mere 4 more points to victory. After a couple of points, I realize now that I am up 40-15, with 2 match points. I take a deep breath and serve it out. Miss. I hit a second serve and I play the point very safely since my legs felt so tight that I knew that if I would force it, they would probably cramp. I lost that point, and I became even tighter. For my second match point, I also play it safely, just waiting for him to miss. But to no avail; he hits a winner on me. Next thing you know, I am in a tiebreaker at 5-all, and I hit a double fault. Match point for him, he hits a kick serve to my backhand and try to hit a passing shot down the line but it was very risky and too late. Till this day, that loss still lingers and hurts me.
The lessons I learned from this match is, at important points, I have to learn to take as much as time as possible to be mentally ready for the point. I also have to learn to calm myself on tight points so that my legs won’t cramp up. It is also important to take risks at match points because it could be the end. Hopefully, I will apply these lessons on my future matches. In doubles, I reached the finals and we lost to the Austin Siegel (finalist of the singles, losing to Del Nunzio!) and a guy from Panama. It was a tight match, and we lost it in the super tiebreaker, 10-7.
As for now, I am off to the Dominican Republic for my last tournament in this Caribbean tour and it is a G4 as well. I might be facing my doubles partner in the semi-finals or Del Nunzio in a re-match. I feel good about my tennis and confident about possibly revenging my defeats and winning my first ITF tournament.
***Below is the video of Aws Laaribi and Tristan Meraut performing at the ITF Jamaica 2011 G4 Doubles Final***: