Knowing his pregnant wife, Colleen, could go into labor at any moment, Rob Pietrucha kept glancing over at her as she sat on a bench near Baker Park’s 2nd Street tennis courts. Meanwhile, Pietrucha’s men’s doubles tennis partner, Luke Grimshaw, was growing increasingly frustrated with his tennis game.
And even though the tandem found itself two breaks down in Monday’s Frederick Tennis Series men’s doubles final, Pietrucha started focusing on all the positives of this experience. He and Grimshaw were playing in ideal conditions, with cool breezes making a match played under overcast skies that much nicer. Pietrucha’s brothers, sisters-in-law and nieces also flocked to Frederick to take in the match.
“I just said to Luke, ‘You know what, let’s just have fun with this,’” Pietrucha said. “We don’t do it very often. We have our lives outside of tennis now. Let’s just go out there and enjoy it, and I think we did that.”
Soon enough, Pietrucha’s sharp forehands started finding their marks. And Grimshaw began making his presence felt at the net. Suddenly, the two got on a roll and never looked back, defeating the tandem of Collin Parker and Mickey Poirier 6-4, 6-3.
It’s a match Grimshaw, who has served as the Frederick Tennis Series director the past four years, feared wouldn’t happen. It was originally scheduled for July 15, but extenuating circumstances pushed the match back. Poirier, a 2007 Thomas Johnson grad, was dealing with an urgent family matter. Grimshaw, another TJ alum, sustained two herniated discs in his back after playing in a recent USTA singles match in Columbia.
“If the baby comes today or yesterday, knowing what it’s like to have a kid, I would not ask him to get back out there a week from now,” Grimshaw said. “It’s a life-changing event. Then we’re starting to deal with [it being] too far from the actual tournament itself.”
But some anti-inflammatory medication gave Grimshaw enough pain relief, and Pietrucha felt comfortable enough to play even though his wife is due to give birth on Wednesday. The two had served beautifully in their men’s doubles semifinal match, but Parker and Poirier started the final by breaking serve three straight times.
It seemed that Parker and Poirier were poised to build on their 4-1 advantage in the first set. Parker blasted a serve out wide that Grimshaw couldn’t return.
“Too good,” he told Parker.
Shortly thereafter, however, Pietrucha and Grimshaw started digging in defensively, extending rallies with some well-timed defensive lobs that led to a few unforced errors. Better serving then opened the door to more potent offense as the two rattled off the next five points.
“They kind of settled in, and their level went up, and ours went down,” said Parker, who will enter his third season as TJ’s boys tennis coach. “They played well.”
A blistering forehand by Pietrucha and a powerful overhead smash from Grimshaw closed out the first set.
“I felt almost better at the net because [the movements] are quicker,” Grimshaw said. “It was almost harder for me to move on the return of serves, when [Parker] would kick [his serve] out wide. My body, it just took a while to move and twist. The net, I felt as if I was a little more comfortable at times.”
At some point in the match, Pietrucha put his concern about his wife aside and settled into the match.
“I think we just said to ourselves, ‘Next point,’” said Pietrucha, who played collegiately at Clemson. “We made one, we made two, we made three. All of a sudden, we started rolling.”
Pietrucha, who has lived in Middletown for the past two years, first met Grimshaw at Baker Park, when the former was giving his wife tennis lessons. At the time, Grimshaw was overseeing a tournament, and Pietrucha’s bright orange Clemson shirt — and his play — stood out. A conversation led to a strong friendship — and eventually helped Grimshaw give his men’s doubles draw some much-needed depth.
This year’s bracket featured 26 men’s doubles teams.
“I took a lot of Advil, and Rob carried me,” Grimshaw said.