Last Sunday Brent and I went down to Roger Williams Park, for a little Sunday morning tennis-league that they have on the clay-courts there. I was actually rather excited about the prospect of playing a competitive tennis match, seeing as I haven’t done so in about 3 or 4 years. I was also curious to know how I would play now that I am no longer encumbered by the desire to be a professional tennis player.
The guy I played was either a 5.0 or 5.5 level player. In other words, he was pretty good. We started warming up and I felt good–it was fun to be back in the feel of playing a match, the nerves, the excitement, etc. I was also a little concerned about my poor ankle, which necessitates that I wear a very firm ankle brace whenever I play. In fact, two sundays ago I was playing with Brent when I tripped, and if it hadn’t been for the brace, I would have most certainly sprained the ankle again.
I served the first game, and boy did I come out swinging. I was playing better than I ever have: serving aces, hitting winners left and right, approaching net and knocking off volleys. . .Of course, when it came his turn to serve, well, my return is a little rusty and he has a very hard first serve. So on we went, holding serve, all the way into a first set tie-break. The quality of the tennis was pretty high all along. I felt like if I had a better backhand return, then I would much more easily have been able to break his serve, because he wasn’t coming close to breaking my serve. Anyway, I lost the tie-breaker 7-3. Then something amazing happened. Instead of getting angry, I decided that I was just going to keep playing, learning from my mistakes and trying to come up with a good strategy to win. It sounds so simple, but that mentality is worlds away from the way in which I used to approach the game. It used to be that if I had a defect in any part of my game, or if I felt the match wasn’t going the way I wanted, then I would simply give up. It was almost an aesthetic reaction: everything had to be pure artistry or I wasn’t interested.
So I stayed focused, but I also started to get tired and my poor ankle started hurting. He broke my serve and then held again to lead 4-1. At this point Brent had finished his match and had just come over to watch my match. Well, I didn’t want to lose in front of Brent, so I summoned all my energy and really started moving better. I broke his serve (mainly by chipping my backhand return deep to his backhand, thereby getting me in the point and, once I did that, I usually won) We got to another tie-breaker, and this time I played very well and easily won. We didn’t have time to play a full third set, so we played another tie-breaker to determine the third set, and I won that as well!
I really enjoyed playing because I was very relaxed. I was almost never this relaxed in tournaments back in the day! Not only that, but I played a very high-level of tennis. Sure, I made errors, missed a lot of first serves, and struggled on my backhand return, but I haven’t played tennis in so long I’m bound to be rusty! The point is that I enjoyed the tennis and I felt very fluid and talented. I also felt much more mature and smart on the court. I have really learned how to set goals, take things little by little, keep a perspective on what’s important and what isn’t, and relax and enjoy myself. Unfortunately, when I got back home Michele noticed that my ankle was fairly swollen, and my knees and hips were hurting quite a bit as a result of favoring my ankle. So it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to play more than once a week, but it’s definitely good to know that all those tennis lessons didn’t go to waste. And it’s interesting to know that I am indeed a good player, and to wonder what might have been. . .