Try not to rush it, Jack Fischbach thought as he paced back to the baseline after dropping a volley into the net.
He took a deep breath and stood at the ad side of his court, staring down at his snow white racket. Blocking out the cries of nearby construction trucks at Crystal Lake South’s tennis courts, Fischbach readied himself to return a serve from Marian Central’s Charles Shin in the first set of their first-round boys’ 18 singles match in the McHenry County Classic. Their match was one of many held on the first day of the biggest tennis tournament in the county, one that lasts until July 21 (most singles championships are Saturday and Sunday).
Shin fired a flat serve off the service line, one that Fischbach stuttered on and returned into the twine.
Fischbach didn’t fare well the rest of the set – and the rest of the match. He lost, 6-1, 6-1, dropping into the consolation bracket of the annual tournament.
“I try not to get down on myself,” he said. “I love tennis.”
Fischbach, who will be a junior at Woodstock, played in the tournament as part of his mission to gain experience and subsequently improve at tennis. That’s why he goes onto the court and faces tough competition, even if the outcome isn’t favorable.
Fischbach reflected his shy, calm temperament on the court in his match against Shin. A tan-haired kid of average height, Fischbach was overcome by the taller opponent’s quick, aggressive play. The match lasted less than an hour.
“I’m going to hit some tomorrow to warm up a little [and] calm myself down,” Fischbach said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Fischbach first came to love the sport in second grade and later picked up lessons in fourth grade. He learned the strokes and practiced the technique alongside his twin sister, Amy. Fischbach improved as he grew and, after changing his mind about playing baseball in high school, landed himself a spot on the varsity team his freshman year.
But there’s the catch.
He plays in Woodstock, where boys tennis has consistently finished near the bottom of the Fox Valley Conference. Wanting to improve and break free, Fischbach has worked year-round at tennis with hopes of becoming a better player. That meant more tournaments to shake off the nerves.
“I started playing tournaments so I could see more match time,” he said. “I’m a lot better in practice, and I kind of choke in games, so if I get more practice time, it’ll pay off during the season.”
That’s why he’s playing in the McHenry County Classic, where streaks of brilliance shone through in his first-round match. When Fischbach followed keen approach shots into the net, he won more than half of his points, putting delicate touch on dancing drop shots.
His serve was consistent, and it set up forehands that would’ve gone any other day--that’s why it’s no surprise that he finished the season with a winning record. Thursday, however, most sailed wide or fell short. In the face of frustration, Fischbach practiced a swing and carried on. He learned that self-control from playing against his sister, where matches quickly get heated.
“We usually play our best tennis against each other,” he said. “It teaches me to calm down because I get frustrated.”
That lesson was apparent when Fischbach was knotted at 30-all in the first game of the second set against Shin. Fischbach served to Shin’s backhand and followed a slice return into the net. Shin popped the shot into the air, and Fischbach loaded up for an overhead. He pounded it, but the ball sailed wide and bounced into the fence. Fischbach groaned, and then he took a deep breath. He paced back to the baseline, ready to serve again.