On a cold and windy Wednesday afternoon in late May, Shabbir Affridi and Nirupan Yoganathan (both Strathfield Sports Club tennis members) rallied it out on court 5 for the 2021 Round Robin Men’s Single title. The final score was as tough as it looked, 2-6, 7-6(7-4), 6-3 in Affridi’s favour.
Affridi, a Division 1-1 Badge player was down a break in the first set and it was 30-40 on his serve to Yoganathan, a younger and fitter player. Affridi’s legs weren’t moving and he started to feel the pressure. Being an all-court player, Affridi chose to stay back at the baseline to counter Yoganathan’s returns. After speaking with Affridi, he said he had to dig deep mentally early in the match especially as he was at the risk of going down 3-0 in the first set.
‘I thought you have nothing to lose. Let’s do it. Let’s do it for Mark Padd’s dad. I also thought about my two kids and that they would be happy to see their father win,’ affirmed Affridi. ‘I told (Mark) that I’m going to win it for your dad as a tribute.’
During the quarterfinal round, Affridi learned about fellow SSC member Mark Padd’s father becoming ill and it further motivated him to keep pushing on. Affridi’s initial motivation came from having played in previous years and never quite accomplishing what he set out to do. In 2019, he was not able to be here and last year, he reached the final but due to a back injury had to retire. This is a classic example of what sheer determination can do if you set your mind to a goal.
‘This year was my redemption year. I wanted to prove that without injury the result would be different.’
With that in mind, Affridi served an ace and went on to hold his serve and broke Yoganathan right back to make the score 2-2 in the first set. For the majority of the match, Yoganathan kept Affridi at the baseline but in the rallies that Affridi could dictate, he would come to the net to try and finish the point. In the third set, Yoganathan suffered a cramp in his arm but declined to postpone when asked by Affridi. And it just wasn’t the same.
At 41 years old, Affridi has been playing social tennis on and off since his twenties and consistently for the last 7 years. But he’s keen to work on the parts of his game in order to improve. He analysed Stan Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand and Pete Sampras’ serve on Youtube.
In the last 6 months, he put in the hard yards during the two or three times he hits at SSC and prioritised on working on his volley and serve technique. And Affridi gives credit where it’s due, thanking Coach Shaun for teaching him to transfer his weight in his legs when he’s serving.
‘I didn’t volley before. I changed my serve completely and now it’s a weapon. It’s something I’ve worked on really hard for 6 months.’ ‘Coach Shaun taught me to use my right leg in my serve at the start.’
Out of a draw of 18 players, Affridi, who uses a HEAD racquet came out on top with a prize of $200 Club Cash. Pretty swell if you ask us.