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Saturday 17th July 2004

CNPS numbers spotted 10 (920).

After a morning of dedicated CNPSing (a disappointing nine numbers in 2 and a half hours of intense searching), I drove to Somerset (only one more number spotted on the drive) to attempt to defeat my nephew at tennis.
It's been a stressful week already and I have had not time for exercise and have been eating junk. I haven't been sleeping well and have not entirely recovered after my illness.
Do you begin to suspect I am getting my excuses in early?
Perhaps it is a double bluff.
But maybe it isn't.

On a positive note my sister texted me last night to say that Andy was exhausted after returning from his Duke of Edinburgh award expedition. Perhaps this coupled with what I had learned in coaching, would give me the edge.
Andy arrived at my parents house and I was immediately struck by the fact that he had grown about four inches since I'd last seen him. He was also looking considerably fitter. This was a kind of advantage that more than wiped out four hours of coaching (especially when the last two hours were mainly taken up with having photos taken). I may have left this too late. I was physically decaying whilst my nephew had been constantly getting fitter and stronger. I prepared for disappointment.
We headed down to the courts at about 5pm. I was feeling slightly weary after the drive and the general lack of sleep, but was quite pumped up. I felt strangely confident. My main plan was to keep up a consistent level of play and wait for him to make mistakes. He is an erratic player - very good when he tries hard, but a little lazy at times and prone to errors.
After a knock up in which we both looked pretty poor we began the match.
I started very strongly and Andy was making lots of errors and looking despondent. I was sweating much more heavily than I usually would, which made me think again that perhaps I was more ill than I'd realised. I was getting tired quite quickly as well. It's a shame I didn't do this before my 50 dates destroyed my health and happiness.
Nonetheless I was holding my serve and I broke him a couple of times and though most of the games were going to deuce I felt I had the edge.
I got to 5-2 up fairly quickly. I didn't want to get cocky. I'd been 5-1 up last time I'd played and he'd won the set 7-5. But this time he didn't seem to be raising his game. I was covering a lot of ground and getting back shots that I wouldn't have done before. I was very pleased and very hopeful that I was going to win. Andy seemed rattled and intimidated. I held my nerve and took the first set 6-3.
In all the times we have played I have never won a set, so this in itself was quite an achievement. But we were playing the best of three sets and having watched Tim Henman in action I knew a lot could change very quickly.
I had definitely expended a lot of my limited energy achieving this lead and my strength began to sap a little. Early in the set I had a chance to go 2-0 up, but honours remained even.
My serve was not as good as I had hoped. It was nowhere near as effective as it had been in the coaching sessions. I wished we hadn't faffed around with photos so much on the secopnd session and I'd had a chance to practice some more. It could have made all the difference.
Andy broke me and got up to 5-2 ahead. He was playing better than in the first set, but still seemed a bit out of sorts. I held my next serve and then broke back. It was 5-4. If I could just hold my serve we would be all square and I'd be just two games from victory. I still fancied my chances if we got to a tie-break.
But it was not to be. He broke me again to take the set.
Now I was feeling really tired and annoyed that I'd blown my chances. Andy however was still fresh and had a new found confidence. His serving started to get really good, whilst mine stayed average and inevitably he beat me 6-2 to take the match.
I was dead on my feet and dejected. I knew I could play him again, but was aware how tired and ill I felt. After a week of disappointments with the show and with the script being so far away (with another gig tomorrow night) I could really have done with a success.
I knew it was futile, but I told him we'd play another game straight away. I suppose I hoped that my Marathon training stamina would see me through, whilst he faltered. Or maybe he would see my battling against the odds as heroic and cut me a bit of slack. But I was in no fit state to play him and he was never going to do me any favours (which at least showed that any small victory I had had over him was deserved) he started effortlessly beating me like in the old days. Maybe I forgot my coaching advice a little, but mainly I was just reeling from the failure and worrying about how it would look if I failed too many tasks.
My nephew was too intent on the 10 pounds a match that he was set to win to show me any mercy or sympathy. Once again I was reduced to being defeated by a child who wasn't even really trying very hard. I told him we were going to keep playing til I won. But he won the next match 6-0, 6-1 and then took another set 6-0 (though I was really just hitting the ball around in frustration at this point - well when I could hit it). My hope was that if I could exhaust him tonight I might be able to take him in an early morning match tomorrow. The flaw in this plan was that I was also exhausting myself. I was a sweaty, miserable wreck.
I had lost all belief in myself, which was more upsetting given how well I had started. If only I'd raised my game for those ten minutes at the end of the second set then all would be different. He was still shaky and intimidated then. Now he'd had a chance to thrash me again, I had lost what small advantage I had.
I still have a chance to beat him tomorrow, but I would be very surprised if I do.
Is there more nobility in accepting defeat? Is there more pride in acknowledging that in this instance youth is superior to age?
No. I've got to beat the cocky little shit. Or die trying. And with the amount I sweated during the sixth set today I think that is a distinct possibility.

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