I apologize to non-avid tennis-fans, that you have to read about tennis YET AGAIN because that is all I seem to be able to write about anymore (conveniently not the case when I sit down to work on my thesis, which is also about tennis. Funny how that happens), but I have life lessons to share.
JUST fyi, I had another tournament this weekend. I don’t know why I keep signing up for these, honestly. It’s like I enjoy paying money to have my ego smashed and walk away with a nice logo t-shirt. But whatever.
So, I haven’t played singles in a tournament since last October. Therefore, I considered this tournament to be exciting because I like singles. I’ve been fretting over doubles for the last three months, but SINGLES I CAN DO. Or so I thought. That’s when I learned a fundamental tennis lesson: every time you mentally position yourself on a high horse, you get thrown off of it rodeo-style.
I wasn’t that nervous going into it. I claimed to be, but that was just false humility. I’ve been lounging in my comfort zone, and since I wasn’t going to be playing any high schoolers or anyone near my age at all, I figured I’d do just fine.
How many times as a blogger have I put the word Wrong in bold? Well, here’s another: Wrong.
I competed in a Women’s Singles Open, so there’s no age restrictions or level restrictions, sort of a free-for-all. There were only two other women signed up. My first opponent was Laurie, and she was in her late 30s/early 40s.
Well, as I’m losing the first set, I’m thinking how I shouldn’t have signed up for 3.5 (a level in tennis), and then I realized this was an Open and didn’t matter what level we considered ourselves because they’re all together just floating around. So maybe I had a good excuse because she was actually better than me? Maybe, I thought, she plays at a 4.0 so I can still maintain that I’m a 3.5 player! Meanwhile, she executes a lovely drop shot, and then I think, Man, I really need to learn how to drop shot.
I wasn’t a total loser, though, in my first match. I couldn’t direct my shots very well because I’ve gotten lazy in my form and so most of them went well out of bounds (for which I blamed the thinner mountain atmosphere), but I did get a lot of balls back that she didn’t think I would. I wore her out. She was panting in between every point and I just stood at the ready, doing few jumping jacks and high kicks at the baseline waiting for her to serve–you know, to intimidate her. If only I had the strokes to back it up!!! bahhh.
I managed to string out enough long points that our 2 setter took almost two hours. Then I texted Partha, my super amazing tennis coaching friend, because I knew he’d give me advice. He said Michael Chang made it to number one in the world by running his opponents all around the court, wearing them out. He said FORGET technique. Just get the ball back.
Then I saw my second opponent. She was a white-haired lady wearing a green polo and matching visor and reading a John Grisham type book. Oh my God. She’s 65 years old, at least, so I thought, run her around the court? I’ll give her a heart attack. The image of the big “W” floated upon me as a dove alights on an olive branch, and I was confident I would win no problem. This old lady was going down. I almost felt disappointed because who takes pride from beating an old lady? That’s worse than me being proud I beat a 6th grader (which I was…in October).
Good news: I needed not worry about the embarrassment that comes from creaming an old lady. Oh, no. I only had to worry about the embarrassment that comes from an old lady WIPING THE TENNIS COURT with me. I sensed a bad omen during the warm up when her shots came skidding at me with barely enough time to get my racquet up to return them. All the balls ended up on my side of the net in 30 seconds. Hmm.
She won the racquet spin and chose to serve first. I assumed she’d have a super loopy slice serve since that’s what most older women have. The slices are confusing to hit, but not hard once you get the hang of it.
She aced me with a flat serve down the T going 90 miles per hour. (FINE. It wasn’t 90 mph. But it was the fastest serve I’ve received from another female, barring the high school State Tennis Champ/Roswell tennis pro’s little sister.)
Needless to say (then don’t say it!), it was a humbling experience. I didn’t get goose-egged, so I considered that a success. And I have to admit, she was extraordinarily nice. There was something very assuring in the way she called me kiddo and hon that took away from the harsh reality that I was, overall, doing a very bad job. “Great shot, kiddo.” “Excellent serve, hon.” She was sort of like those teachers who give insanely hard tests but are proud when their students do well…She hit great shots and great serves and was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t shank a return. She was, perhaps, my biggest fan.
Speaking of fans, or rather, spectators, I was not happy to have them. I felt like there’d be a scrolling caption across their line of vision: Hello, there. Young, twenty-something year old Jenny–the one galloping around like a charged rhinocerous–folds like a lawn chair against a woman who could be her grandmother. Cast your eyes away from this humility!
(But, in Jenny’s defense, Vicki’s been playing tennis since before Jenny was born.)
THEREFORE, lessons from this weekend:
1. Whenever you get to thinking you’re awesome, tennis will remind you you’re not.
2. How old someone is in tennis years is far more important than how old they are in actual years.
ALSO, I guess I was reminded of the fact that:
1. Tennis is a GAME, and it is supposed to be FUN. Enjoy the time, dude.
2. I got lots of Vitamin D with little wind to hinder my experience. There is much to be thankful for.