Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tennis, Anyone?

In high school I was introduced to the game of tennis.  And loved it.  That was, of course, a long time ago.  Recently I completed two semesters of tennis at the community college, starting with beginners.  Well, I was no beginner.  I could serve, volley, and hit forehand strokes pretty darn well for having had a decades-long break from the game.  Yeah, I was feeling pretty good about my game.  The other newbies were out of control.  Their balls sailed over the fencing into the parking lot, or they missed the ball altogether.  Some cowered as the ball came their way, using their racquet as a shield.  Silly kids.  How utterly uncoordinated, and so young and athletic looking.  My, have they got a lot of skill building to do.

So, I joined the USTA, United States Tennis Association.  Big league.  They put me in touch with team captains.  One of the many was willing to take a chance on me.  I played doubles with a seasoned partner. I planned to wow her with my one-handed backhand and hard driven serve.  Our first match I was transformed . . . in a bad way.  My balls sailed over the fencing or I missed altogether.  My hard driven serve took out the diamond stud from my partner's pierced ear!  My, I had a lot of skill building to do.

I took more classes and was ready to join friends on the court.  I had improved my serve and my forehand, and was already fine tuning a two-handed backhand.  Boy, would they be impressed.  I bought athletic clothes for the court and new tennis shoes-- to be worn only while playing tennis. Slowly I was becoming a tennis snob, like the country club set.  I was ready to compete.  Bring it on, sisters.  During that match my partner and I won one set, lost the other.  We left with the sets tied, one and one.  How very cordial are lady tennis players.

The next step in my progress at the game I loved again: play with a man I have admired for years.  Surely, he will appreciate my attempt to get involved in a sport he adores.  Surely he'll be a good coach and mentor.  Maybe he'll even ask me out.  I put on my sportswear, my court-only tennies, just a touch of make-up-- going for the natural look with a healthy, athletic glow.  During the games, my balls did not sail over the fencing, I did not take out anyone's earring and I did not fall into the net and hang up my nose--I didn't, I swear.

These particular games were really only practice for the man I had admired for years and his mixed doubles partner.  They were preparing for a league match.  My partner and I were faux opponents.  We gave them a run for their money, though.  What with me being able to get the ball over the net and between the lines pretty often.  I just knew there were kudos awaiting me after the playing was done.  The man I had admired for years would give positive praise for my ground strokes, and fuss over my powerful, newly mastered two-handed backhand.  We would play again--maybe even on a regular basis.

I had my chance to ask him about my game as we all were putting equipment away and having much needed gulps of water.

"So, Man-That-I-Have-Admired-For-Years, based on my playing tonight, what comments do you have to offer?" (Kudo coming, wait for it.)

"Just two things," he said, "practice more, and uh, don't wear spandex."

"Gee, thanks."


Rich Neher said...

Pretty interesting and funny story, Tina. You pretty much captured the essence of a tennis player's quest to become more consistent and thus make a reliable doubles partner everyone would like to play with. Over the years I have played on league teams and worked with leaguers and league coordinators a lot. My analysis of a good league player is summarized like that:
1. Do NOT double fault on serve. (Sure fire way to piss off your partner BIG TIME)
2. The net is your friend. Learn to love volleying and every player on your team will LOVE to play with you.
3. Practice good shot selection, the key to opening up chances for scoring. (e.g. don't hit a ball directly to your opponents when they are waiting at the net, LOB THEM!)
4. Learn to end points quickly. Practice those drop shots, angled volleys, softly angled overheads.
5. Angle, angle, angle. NEVER hit into your opponents' comfort zone. Angle your shots and MAKE THEM RUN for it.

Boy, I'm sounding like a pro, don't I?

Tina Holden said...

Ya know, I think it will be easier to just follow the advice of The-Man-I-Have-Admired-For-Years: practice and no spandex.

susan k said...

Wow. The years-long-admired-man has a way with words. I'm going to interpret his spandex comment as a compliment; an admission it was secretly a welcome distraction. ;) Loved the piece, Tina. And good on you for getting back out on the court!!

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