TAMPA — Wow.
After a miserable first set in which John Cotey and Laura Baker were out of sorts and the Hunter’s Green Machine’s sectional hopes looked to be in dire straights, a rain delay may have saved the season.
The match, which was supposed to be played at BSAC, moved to Hunter’s Green because Brandon was washed out. But after one set, and the home team in the dumps after losing 6-3, it rained and washed out Hunter’s Green. But Cindy Cooley told Phuong Cotey the 8.0 team was heading over to Tampa Palms, where it didn’t rain, to finish their matches, and Cotey yelled to the Brandon team as they walked away and asked if they wanted to do so as well.
They said sure. The rest of the Green Machine yawned as their No. 1 line headed off to their expected doom.
But Cotey-Baker — dubbed LaJohn by onlookers — staged a dramatic, cringe-inducing, gut-wrenching comeback for a 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 victory.
“Are you #^$%$&@*@*($^ kidding me?” said Laura Baker afterward. ” I mean #&$^$%^@ and #&#%&@$* but how the #&@%%&#* did #^$&**#&# hit that one #&@#&^@%&$ shot. We just #%@^^&$%@&^$ stormed @&@^%#( back with some @&^%$^@&**&$^@ good tennis.”
LaJohn won the second set easily — fighting off a handful of dueces at 5-2 — but the tiebreaker was, like, penultimate or something — Cotey had his serve broken when he hit some weak sauce out of bounds, then he hit a few into the net, and Baker began to wonder if she was playing with a guy coming off ball surgery for the second straight week.
Things were tense, as detailed in this group text exchange between Phuong, Nikki and Erik:
LaJohn trailed throughout the tiebreaker, falling behind 5-1, 7-4 and 8-6. But Baker stroked a winner down the line and made a stunning save at the net, and Cotey chased down a drop shot, poking it right back between the two opponents. LaJohn took their first lead at 9-8, but it was at 10-9 that they closed it out as Baker baited the Brandon dude into hitting a nice fat juicy forehand 4-feet long.
It took three different lineups, two changes of venue and one rain delay, but the Green Machine No. 1 line finally beat the No. 1 line from Brandon, which was 6-0 coming into Sunday’s match, including wins this season over the Slatniskes and Cotey-Torres.
But some counseling after the first set had turned the tables. During the 10-minute drive over to Tampa Palms, the other dynamic Baker-Cotey tandem of Phuong and Chris counseled their spouses in their cars.
“Laura was concerned that John wasn’t talking to her in the first set, and I told her husband Chris that John is a dick…..I mean, I told him that he is generally quiet on the court,” said Phuong Cotey.
“I told Laura on the drive over to Tampa Palms not to take it personally, John just isn’t a talker on the court. Oh, and he’s a dick. That really seemed to calm her down,” Chris Baker said.
“And I told John, get your shit together, pump up your partner, start talking and stop crying,” Phuong added. “And it worked. Basically, without Chris and me, this victory doesn’t happen. It took some serious skill to pull those two basket cases out of their funk.”
Their in-car counseling paid off, as after the match, LaJohn engaged in a kiss that lasted 45 seconds, at least.
The Green Machine now leads Brandon 1-0, with lines 2 and 3 scheduled to make up their lines sometime this week or next weekend.