Life on Tour With Jean-Yves Aubone (@JYNole) May 2015 Update #6 Tallahassee Renewal
Jean-Yves Aubone, Tennis Atlantic
After losing 6-3 6-0 in the qualifying of the Savannah Challenger a week ago, I felt completely lost. It was one of the worst moments of my career. In practice I was playing the best tennis of my life, but when it counted, I couldn’t beat my mom who stopped playing tennis years ago (yes a part of me believed this). It had been about a month and a half since I won a set. I couldn’t understand it. Usually when a player reaches their career high ranking, they are full of confidence; for me it was the opposite. I became more nervous and anxious with each match. Just by looking at the scoreline and my recent matches, one might think I lost on purpose. I wish that was the case. At least I would have understood why I could lose so badly every tournament when I was playing so well in practice. The reality was that I tried until the very last point. I even told myself when I was down a set and 5-0 that at least I had the opportunity to make one of the most epic comebacks in my career. It didn’t happen.
After the match I went straight to one of the practice courts where no one could bother me and I sat alone. I tried to gather my thoughts but I was so angry that I couldn’t think. I sat on the bench looking around hoping that I would find something, anything, that could make me feel better. Unfortunately it started to rain. I thought about going back in the clubhouse but I couldn’t do it. The last thing I wanted was for someone to ask me how the match went. After showering in the fitness center that was a mile away from the tennis clubhouse, and where I knew I wouldn’t be bothered, I went to Starbucks for a few hours. I didn’t want to go back to the hotel because I was staying with Greg (Ouellette) who just beat me!
I called my coach Joseph O’Dwyer and explained to him that I wanted to leave town. I wanted to get away. I felt so frustrated and lost. Even though I didn’t want to quit, I did want to get away from the game. This wasn’t fun anymore. Joseph reminded me that there are ups in downs in tennis and that every player goes through it. He gave me examples such as Ernests Gulbis, who recently was one of the top 20 players in the world and somehow can’t win a match.
Joe also reminded me that someone trying to reach something great has to stay the course no matter how hard it is. Nothing great happens after a smooth ride. I agreed and said I was going to stay in Savannah and practice but I still wasn’t happy. I was so upset that I couldn’t even talk to my fiancé. I felt terrible because she was being punished for something that had nothing to do with her but I couldn’t help it. My frustration had completely taken over my thoughts.
The frustration at practice the next day was very evident. I considered it a victory that I stayed until the very end without throwing my racquet into the woods. As I walked off the practice court I ran into Stanford Boster, one of the USTA’s national coaches. After speaking for a few minutes to him about what I was going through he said something that later on in the day clicked in my head. I don’t want to give away what he said to me but it changed everything. It was so simple yet I’d never thought about it. I now knew what was wrong, and it was fixable. I spoke with Joseph about it and he completely agreed with what Stan said. I was so happy, so relieved. I couldn’t wait to play the next tournament.
The next tournament for me was in the main draw of the Tallahassee Challenger. I was fortunate enough to have a wild card into the main draw. My coach and fiancé were both at the event and in my corner for the first time all year. The timing couldn’t have been better. The combination of them being there and my new mental approach helped me tremendously. Mentally I played the best two matches all year. I was nervous but not anxious. I played free. I played like myself again and I can’t even put into words how happy that made me.
After losing in the second round to Tiafoe, I found myself upset at a few execution mistakes I made. Joseph stopped me and said, “you just got off the court upset at execution mistakes, which can be fixed, rather than being upset at how you couldn’t get a ball in the court and and complaining that your head is a mess. Today is a win, not a loss.” Immediately all my anger went away when I heard that. He was right. Mentally, I was back. I was me again.
I just want to thank my fiancé for her patience and support through all the good and bad moments in my career. I want to thank Joseph for convincing me to stay in Savannah when it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Finally, I want to thank Stanford Boster for the short conversation that I’ll never forget. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.