Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gabe Weaver - A Tale of Two Leagues

      Watch out Tennis Portland, there’s a new player in town: Gabe Weaver. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he’s a newbie though. While it’s true that Gabe joined Tennis Portland only a few months ago, he’s actually a veteran who spent many years actively playing in Tennis Los Angeles before arriving in Portland.

      This recent move to Portland was a little bit of a homecoming. Gabe grew up in Palmer, Alaska, then moved across the country to study law at Boston University. He then began his legal career on Wall Street and stayed in New York for a year and a half. Los Angeles was next, and six years later, when Gabe’s wife was pregnant with their son, they decided to move to Portland to be closer to their families.

      One could say that Gabe hails from a tennis family. His dad introduced him to tennis while he was growing up in Alaska. (But summer is very short there, and there was no indoor court in his hometown, so his skills would atrophy every winter.) Gabe’s dad still plays these days—in fact, he just beat Gabe a few weeks ago in a singles game and hasn’t stopped gloating ever since. Gabe’s wife is also a good player and reliable hitting partner. Even the latest addition to the family, their 21-month-old son, is showing some interest in tennis already!

      Like many league members, Gabe initially joined Tennis Los Angeles to meet new people and also get a regular dose of tennis. He had played sporadically in the past and loved it. After all, it’s a good way to stay in shape, one that’s a lot more fun than running on a treadmill. Nevertheless, he also needed something structured to turn tennis into a staple activity. Tennis Los Angeles worked out perfectly—Gabe gives it full credit for making tennis a bigger part of his life. Nowadays, he plays doubles twice a week (on Tuesdays and Saturdays) and singles once a week. The latter is usually reserved for serious league matches. 

      One of Gabe’s doubles partners is an 80-year-old gentleman who stands at 4’11”. Gabe loves playing with him because he seems to have an amazing knack for knowing exactly where to be on the court—this is despite the fact that he doesn’t run very well. Plus, he can also place the ball anywhere. The combination of these two skills makes him a great doubles partner and a challenging opponent. Gabe said, “I love that tennis is equal parts physicality and strategy. It’s so cool that he is still getting to play the sport he loves at 80. I hope I am lucky enough to do the same. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life—football, hockey, baseball, wrestling—but tennis is the one I will stick with my whole life.” 

      As hinted by Gabe’s appreciation for his doubles partner’s game, he has high standards for tennis aesthetics and enjoys watching players who make art out of tennis. Naturally, he is a big fan of Roger Federer and Justine Henin. (Impeccable taste in tennis players, no? *This writer is biased.) He said, “Roger has a beautiful all-court game. Especially in his prime, he moved around the court so gracefully and could completely dominate a point while making the other guy work twice as hard.” Gabe is less enthusiastic about Roger’s nemesis, “I definitely respect Rafa Nadal's game, but it is not as exciting to watch him whale away from the baseline.” 

      Back to league business, Gabe points out that both Portland and Los Angeles leagues provide a really nice and non-threatening way to play competitive tennis. The people are super-friendly off the court but not hesitant to go for the kill on it. As proof, Gabe has many epic matches and blowouts in his record book. 

      He has two of those to share with you: Back in Los Angeles, he played against Jayjay Siazon in the Spring 2011 playoffs, and he was trailing 1-5, 0-40 in the first set. Up to that point, Gabe had been playing very tentatively, struggling with his first serve and relying too heavily on a weak second serve. Jayjay was playing very well, hitting the ball deep and applying consistent pressure. At that critical juncture, with the match hanging in the balance, Gabe switched to a more aggressive style of play. Instead of hanging back at the baseline, Gabe started to serve and volley, and won several points in a row at the net. Miraculously, Gabe won his service game and was back in the match. The rest of the match was competitive, but Gabe pulled out a narrow victory: 7-5 6-3. 

      The second one was more recent: The match was against Dave Allderdice in the Spring 2014 regular season. The second set was so close it had to be resolved by a brutal tie-breaker. Gabe couldn’t even recall the score for sure, but it’s something like 21-19. Guess who won it? That’s right, Gabe did! The final score was 6-4, 7-6.

      Gabe is currently a 3.5 player, but he’s hoping to make his way to 4.0. He has a solid forehand and can hit with power both cross court and down the line. He also has a very consistent backhand, which currently works more as a defensive shot, but which he hopes to add more power to and turn into an offensive weapon. Gabe’s serve can be lethal when it’s on, but consistency has been a bit of a problem. This can create a tricky situation since his second serve is less powerful. (As they say, you’re only good as your second serve, so you’d better take care of that, Gabe!) 

      This year, Gabe’s goal is to make the finals in at least one playoff season. He was on the right track in the Spring, but as fate would have it, Gabe had to face Dave Allderdice again in the quarterfinals, and this time Dave got his payback and won 6-3, 7-5. Gabe is now shaking off this heartbreak and focusing on the summer season. One player he keeps his eyes on is Munjal Shaw, whom he considers the best player in the league this year. 

No comments: