Tennis worth watching in Calabasas

Down at the Calabasas Swim and Tennis Center there was some excellent tennis to be seen last week at the USTA's Men's Pro Tennis Championships. One night fans were treated to the featured match of the tournament, between the former world #9 player Nicolas Massu from Chile and Matheson Klein from Australia. Klein, currently ranked #527 in the world, is 23 and seemed to be at least 4 inches over Massu's 6 ft frame. Massu, 10 years his senior, currently ranks #574 and this was to be his comeback match.

Calabasas is hardly Indian Wells, but the fans turned up. Massu got off to a slow start and Klein easily won the first set 6 -2. The crowd expected Massu to shift gears but constant errors gave Klein a 2-1 lead in the second set. Klein stayed focused, showing no noticeable nerves, and once the match got going he pelted back relentless attacks from the heavily grunting Massu. The tennis was first class but did lack some of the expectant flair; there were few successful drop shots and sparse net play, just the yellow ball relentlessly pummeled side to side from the baseline.

As the match stretched on into the third hour and the cold night air rolled in, the crowd started to disperse. Massu pulled out the 2nd set 7-5 and, gaining confidence, took an early lead in the 3rd set 2-0. Klein proved to be no slouch and momentum shifted his way with a beautiful backhand volley giving him 1-2. After that Massu lost both his serve and his nerve and his game quickly fell apart. With constant audible complaining, he dug himself into an even deeper hole at 2-5. His focus drained by futile arguments with the umpire, he faced an insurmountable hurdle with Klein's first match point. But these next few points proved to be the best of the match. Massu played from the gut, experience took over and he saved five match points to bring him back in the set 4-5. To Klein's credit, after failing to close the door on five match points he regrouped, stayed loose, and gave back everything Massu threw at him. Though fans would have loved to see Massu tie the set up to 5-5 in the 3rd, Klein deservedly closed the door, winning the 3rd set and the match 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

So here's the thing. Fans want to be inspired by not only great tennis but also by a great story. Massu has a great story. His fans are excited about a comeback, let the "vampire" suck the blood of his opponents once again, and the fact that this will not come easy should not deter him. Grinding it out in a few humiliating losses should embolden his resolve to fight for the game he loves. So this message to Massu; suck it up and think. Perhaps arguing with the umpire when you're serving 40-30 and have momentum, does you no favors! Let your fans judge you by your tennis and not your petulance, as each time you step on court you have a chance to win a fan. It was a tough loss for Massu, but his opponent had the last word when during one of Massu's many mini-meltdowns Klein retorted, "Welcome to my world, mate"! Welcome to our world, Matheson Klein, we're happy to have you!

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