Nov 6, 2012, 2:09 PM EDT
A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday of the Tom Fallon Invitational, I walked into the Eck Tennis Center at Notre Dame to pick up the day’s results. Fortunately I was a little bit early, and I got to see the last few games of a doubles match. It was the first ND tennis match I’d ever seen. Axel Lagerlof and Simon Formont of Northern Illinois University were squaring off against Michael Fredericka and Dougie Barnard. They were playing tennis at a level I could only dream of. The rallies made my head spin as the ball traversed the net with incredible speed and spin.
If you don’t know, doubles matches are first to eight games, and you must either win by two games or via tiebreak in the event that both teams end up at eight games apiece. The match was close; in fact it was 6-6 in games when I arrived. As I watched the game fervently, an older man dressed in Notre Dame gear approached me and started talking. He was very forthcoming, and answered all my questions about the scoring of the match. Aside from his friendly demeanor, it soon became clear that he had an intuitive knowledge of the game. He successfully predicted each of the last two games, and the tiebreak.
I had no idea I was talking to the great Notre Dame tennis coach Bob Bayliss. 42 years of coaching tennis might be the key to that ability to read a match. His past 25 years have been here in South Bend coaching the Irish to a 434-219 record, 20 NCAA Championship berths, and a trip to the finals in 1992. That’s just a small portion of his resume, but I think you get the idea.
Although the Irish lost the match in a tiebreak, Coach Bayliss kept calm. With so much experience and success, he and his staff would have some answers for the frustrated players. I left the Eck Tennis Center without knowing who that man dressed in Irish gear was, but when I found out, it made complete sense. I now know for myself that Irish tennis is in great hands as they look forward the rest of this season, and specifically the Tribe Invitational in Williamsburg, Va. that’s coming up this weekend.
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