Deb Larkin is in her second year coaching the women’s tennis program at Mount Anthony, and she is leading by example. The MAU coach and his doubles partner won doubles gold in the 65+ division of the Senior Olympics in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this weekend.
It was not easy. Larkin and Helga Immerfall had to battle the Florida heat – the temperature was north of 90 degrees during play – and stage a comeback in the final game.
They dropped out of the first four games of the league game, but stayed the course and eventually sealed the win. Larkin and Immerfall lost the first set 2-6, won the second 7-5 and clinched gold with a 10-0 tiebreaker victory.
Below is a first-hand account of Larkin’s action sent to Banner.
Well, we played the final today. The team we played against had beaten other players from Vermont who told us the opponents were deceptively good. My partner, Helga and I entered the match with confidence. We had won all of our matches, losing no more than 2 games per set. Helga had just played a singles match in the semi-finals and won. Yay! But we didn’t take anything for granted.
It’s a good thing because before we knew it, we were down 0-4. They were much better at lobs and a player could take a medium high ball and really hit a ball which was effective. They had good angles and a crosswind was a factor (but you all know that from the Vermont wind).
We came back to 2-4, but lost the set 2-6.
It’s hot – mid 90’s – we had to figure that out. More water, ice and understand. Second set, we started well and were serving 1-2. It’s my serve – it was the game to win to keep us in the game. I played a bad game – I missed one in the net, one lasted a long time. Lose the game.
I was so angry. I said to Helga very loudly “I’m so angry.” They served, I came back, I came to the net, the opponent sent me back, I smashed it for a winner. I got 3 points this way.
We won the game, it’s 2-3. I told Helga that we both had to play net. It was the only way. I am always angry – which means I have a goal, a plan and I will stay aggressive. I can’t be attracted to their type of game.
Helga and I said no matter what, we’re going to fight. One ball at a time.
We caught up 3-3, then we lead 4-3, 4-4, 5-4. In the service of Helga, we lead 40-0 but we lost the match. Now Helga is really angry that she lost after leading 40-0. We stay focused, telling ourselves that we are winning this set. It’s 5-5 and we maintained our strategy of going to the net.
It’s hot, in the 90s. We arrive at 6-5. We are both determined, impatient, playing offensively. It’s my service. I have to serve him. I struggled to earn my serve, but I can do it.
It’s a very tight game – we took it to 40-30. We win this set. Our opponents had a shot that just missed. Yay! We win the second set.
Now we play the third set tiebreaker for gold.
It’s hot—we’ve run out of ice and water—I’m drinking my Gatorade. Putting ice around my neck, on my arms – excuse me but on my bra – it was hot.
First rule in a tiebreaker – get the first point – make every return – get your serve – play the score, which means aim for smart shots, don’t try trick shots, especially if you’re behind.
It was windy so you know what that means – play in the middle and if you put it up don’t go deep or you risk it blowing out. All the basics and if you read this again you will see that I have positive thoughts. There is no room for negativity or self-doubt.
I play side two so they serve me the first point. I hit a good return, she hits a short lob, my partner puts it away. 1-0. My partner serves next to the ad side. Opponent still hits, still hits a lob trying to get it over my head – so I back up – of course she hits that lob but I get it, hit it down the line. 2-0.
We played a perfect tiebreaker and won 10-0. We have done all services and returns. It was a very hard and mentally exhausting game.
Maybe we won the second set and even though they were from Florida, I think the heat got to them. We hydrated and felt good.
Our opponents played a very different game from what we liked or were used to. And if we had continued to play to their strength, we would have lost. But we got it and our game was stronger and more consistent when it mattered most – we didn’t (obviously) miss the tiebreaker!!!
It was a game to remember.