It was Relief. It was Elation. And maybe even a bit of Redemption in one of the most nerve-wracking tennis events I've played in. But after six consecutive victories (up to 8 games, tiebreak at 7-7) over two days on the grass, we were finally victorious.
In our fourth, and ultimately final attempt at the prestigious grasscourt title.
Redemption? Well yes, for a quarterfinal showing the previous year - when we were outgunned 8-3 by a formidable mother-son combination.
You should know that any family mixed combination where both players are pretty even in standard, is considered formidable, by the way. Only this time we snuck past them in the semis as Lucy played steady, consistent doubles, with a couple of sneaky down-the-line forehands at critical moments.
And even after this writer somehow lost his serve at 7-6, 30-0 up.
Family mixed doubles is a fun but somewhat torturous form of tennis pitting two contrasting ages on the same side of the net, and all the family dynamics for any casual country tournament spectators to pass judgement upon.
At another grasscourt tournament I saw a parent (who also happened to be a coach) tell his daughter to stand near the doubles alley, and proceed to hit close to 100% of all balls on their side of the net. She was instructed to pretty much stand in the doubles alley the entire time while he slung himself around the court, diving here and there in a tactic so brazen and shocking it worked.
They won a lot of matches that way, but it wasn’t a popular move with the locals.
You have to try and win, BUT ONLY JUST.
In the final, we played a mother-daughter
combination who had steamrolled their way to the final, obliterating the number 1 seeds and everybody else along the way.
But Lucy held her nerve and, critically, her serve - with service games mesmerisingly tense. Lose a point to the stronger player (the parent), win against the weaker (the child) as I tried to not-too-obviously intercept and hit a decent-but-not-too-obvious (but not outright) winner to keep us in the game.
Back to deuce. And repeat.
And our adult opponent was doing exactly the same thing. Rallying cross court with a controlled ball to Lucy with just enough force to cause her trouble. That almost imperceptible increase in tempo on the return which, for a 10-year old, was too-much-to-handle. But only just. The panther-like stealth of it.
But when it was parent vs parent from the baseline there was absolutely no holding back. Trading blows from the baseline as our partners looked on like spectators, neither one of us daring to rip the ball at the other’s child.
The unwritten etiquette of family mixed doubles that (most) teams abide by.
The same went for line calls. At another critical moment I hit an ungainly backhand volley which definitely felt wide - but our opponents somehow didn’t call out. Even in a final. That’s something you wouldn’t find at a local junior points tournament in the city.
But two service breaks gave us a 5-2 lead, and a couple of slice backhands skimmed low on the grass gave us an edge in a couple of pivotal game points. It might have been 8-3 in the end, but it felt like a five-setter.
Back to Melbourne we drove, victorious with a hat and towel each for our trophies, the proud winners of the 2019 Echuca Easter Family Mixed Doubles Crown.
Sadly, we (along with 500 competitors) weren't back this year to defend our title.