11/29/13

King The Todd

It was breezy with heavy air as the players began arriving for the 2nd King Of The Court (KOtC). Keck, the tournament administrator and co-founder of the Isner Scoring Method, supplied blue duct tape to secure the brackets to the cardboard registration table. Sixteen players would battle for the title of King of The Court and a few more would become members of the Royal Court. As the players gathered around the scoring table, I reflected on the group and was proud of their commitment and eager to see them in action. The first round draws, established by the competition committee, had been set for weeks. In the Wimbledon draw, there was King James, winner of the first KOtC tournament and favorite once again, Russell Fires, and huge man from the northern woods, Keck, tournament administrator and slayer of USTA 4.0 sandbaggers, and Sergio Oporto, former ranked Bolivian player. The US Open Draw contained Mike Zhuang, with mysterious spin shots, The Todd, who lost in the final to King James in the previous KOtC, Roy Albrecht, established USTA coach willing to try alternative formats, and Duke Chase Kahn, who looks similar to Novak Djokovic. In the French Open draw, Chris Nielsen, an unknown wildcard from the Courts of McKinney, Prince Leo Escario, the Filipino marathon runner, Rueben Decoud, with his incredible leather water bottle, and myself, looking to win the Prince title with a Kramarian game. Finally, the Australian Open draw contained Marty Feldman, known as brother of The Todd and former tennis pro, Frank Friday, an intense Tarrant county player, Earl Nick Keney, who supplied the trophies for the event, and Joe Vita, nursing a plantar fascia injury. Keck had secured the courts through his friend and buddy, Justin Quest, coach of the Allen High school team and recognizer of Isner tennis culture. Without his support and graciousness, the event would not be possible. Allen ISD should be proud of this man and his partnership into the broader tennis community should be applauded by all. His lighted, wind-screened courts are always open to the community, unlike his stingy counterparts in McKinney with their locks and hours of operation. Eagles Landing Tennis Courts, where Isner tennis culture thrives. Half the courts in the complex were undergoing resurfacing so Keck, the tournament administrator, made last minute arrangements to use two courts at the Freshman Center across the street. These courts were the very courts where Isner tennis culture was born, so we Roe-Sham-Boed for the opportunity for one of the draws to play on the hallowed courts. Once decided, the players dispersed and the 5 hour test of tennis gumption and guts began. Profuse sweating was not anticipated, but the unseasonably humid air was drawing fluids from everyone quickly. King James easily won the Wimbledon draw, The Todd took care of business as the US Open group returned from the Freshman courts, Chris Nielsen easily came out of the French Open draw with 2 moulettes, and The Todd's brother Marty Fledman dominated the Australian group with his complete game and despite a tight hamstring. Fighting for the Prince title in the second round was Keck, tournament administrator, Chase Kahn, looking to upgrade his royal status, myself, with a moulette of Prince Leo, and Frank Friday, who proved to have an intimidating game. The prospective Dukes were Sergio Oporto, Roy Albrecht, Rueben Decoud, and Joe Vita. Nick Keney was set to defend his Earl title along with Mr Fires, Mike Zhuang, and Leo Escario, who dedicated his efforts to the typhooned people of his homeland. After a quick rest, the second round began and the true rigor of Isner toughness and preparation was realized. Leo took the Earl title with a final tiebreaker against Nick Keney, who fought hard to keep his title. After the final point, Leo fell to his knees and looked up to heaven. He inspired all of us and prayers are lifted to the people of the islands. Your Earl won a battle as the future brings renewal and hope. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Joe Vita, your Duke. A Duke for the people and by the people. His game, altered to accommodate an injured plantar fascia, grounded in pace and enhanced by the latest tennis technology and fashions. He is regal, he is stoic, he is your Duke. The Prince is Frank Friday, who demoralized all of his opponents with intensity and desire. His memorable and loud celebrations after each victorious point are uncommon in the passive mainstream tennis culture. He truly represents the ideal Isner player. Never before had I head the loud "Out!, Yes!!!" as he called the lines. I was very impressed with his game. For the day he demolished me, Duke Vita, and Keck (the tournament administrator) 7-3 in each of our mahuts. The Tood and King James worked their way into the final to determine the throne. In a surreal development, Chris Nielsen and The Todd were opponents in the Minnesota junior tennis scene years prior. Only King Of The Court could bring these guys back together. The Todd had progressed a bit more since then and slipped by his old nemesis. He demoralized Marty, his older brother, and faced King James with a chance to take the title. King James breezed through all opponents with little effort and looked to be a lock to retain his throne. The Todd was, in fact, serving underhand due to a hockey injury and the odds seemed stacked against him. The final mahut was observed by an exhausted group of lesser players, including Prince Frank Friday and Duke Joe Vita. The stands were wild with 'We Will Rock You' foot stomps and claps. Marty, with his ailing hamstrings, heckled relentlessly. Keck, the tournament administrator, was beaming as it went to a tiebreaker, the success of the event evident to all. King James had mahut point and The Todd battled back. In the end, The Todd became King The Todd with a unflappable game and complete confidence. King James seemed to lose focus a time or two after losing mahut point and was classy in defeat. He handed over the royal bobblehead to King The Todd with a smile, although just below the surface a steaming regret was noticed by those who knew him well. The lost mahut point will haunt him, no doubt, but he will get another chance to sit upon the throne. King The Todd is a worthy king. As he strolled into the Londoner for post tournament beers and recollections, he looked like a King. At the outdoor table, he talked like a King. He told stories of points and strategy. He recalled moments of testing and games of will. The entire group was captivated by his every word. English ale flowed and flowed. I was honored to buy him his first beer, a New Castle. We sat there for hours. Marty, King The Todds big brother, kept ordering food and tentative plans were made to gather at Keck's for a card game. We wanted to hang around King The Todd all day and night. To understand his mind and game, his insistence that the underhanded serve was here to stay, his Kaizen thoughts on improvements to the format and next KOtC. The realities of the evening took over, however, and the needed players would not, could not, commit. King The Todd was up for it--only the commoners were spares