Hartson's Adjustments Led To Finals Win
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
May 16, 2014, 10:14
Jonathan Hartson sets up a back hand during the first set of his number one singles matchup against Poquoson's Sam Washburn.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS—Coming into his Conference 25 Team Championship match against Poquoson’s Sam Washburn, Jonathan Hartson and Colonials Coach Mike Smielecki had developed a game plan they felt would give Hartson an edge.
In their previous meeting, which went to a 10-point tiebreaker, they noticed that Washburn had trouble handling deep volleys to his backhand.
That gave Hartson an opening, but would make him have to turn away from his favored baseline style and play more serve and volley during the match. The objective was to push Washburn deep, and handle the resulting soft backhand return.
The logic seemed sound, and Hartson felt like he would be able to pull off the change to his game. In the first set, a 6-1 washout, the game plan worked perfectly.
“It takes a lot of out my game; I’m more of a baseline player. But you have to adjust to your opponent’s weaknesses. The plan worked pretty well in the first game; I was coming to the net and winning most of the points,” he said.
The second set would prove to be the challenge. Hartson was pushing a little too hard early on and fell behind 0-3. At the break between changing sides, Hartson was visibly troubled by his performance. But as is the case with most athletes, he refocused and got back to what had worked in the first set. The result was a 3-4 score, as he closed the gap.
“I was pushing too hard, and sometimes that’s the hard part. I came back to what I had been doing in the first set,” Hartson said.
Two games later and he was sitting pretty good with a 5-4 lead. At that point, Washburn rallied to take a 6-5 lead and had a chance to win the set outright, and send the match to a 10-point tie break. Hartson, however, wasn’t about to give in.
He rallied to tie the match at 6 games each. Then came the 7-point tie breaker to decide the set. Hartson had a 3-2 lead, when there apparently was a contested point. Washburn had called the score at 3-3, but with the wind Hartson said he didn’t hear him make the call at 3-3 or otherwise he would have argued it at the time. It became an issue when Hartson called out the score as 6-2 on his own serve.
“I expected it to be a tight match like that; I was surprised with the end of it—the miscounting. He (Washburn) doesn’t make very loud vocal sounds for scores. When it comes to a tie break with Sam, John has the advantage. Most of the games Sam won were long drawn out points. A tie break is much different, you can’t afford to fall behind by two or three points,” Smielecki said.
As the dispute continued for several minutes, Hartson opted to allow the score change to 5-3 on his serve. On his serve, he smoked a ball to Washburn’s forehand side for an ace, that made the score 6-3, and championship point. Washburn served for the next point, but Hartson was prepared and dispatched the point quickly to end the Championship Finals.
“It feels great; it’s awesome. Qazi finished quickly and when you see someone come off the court and they won it just gives you confidence,” Hartson said.