Monday, April 06, 2009

Love all

I have rediscovered one of the fine sports I grew up playing, and it might just save my sanity.

A few weeks ago, I was unexpectedly called upon to play tennis on a Sunday night to help fill out a doubles game. Having not played in more than 10 years, it was the most fun I had enjoyed in many a month. On the back of this, we hastily assemble a four to play regularly starting next week, and the cherry on top was being called upon again to help out last night.

My love affair with tennis was unavoidable. If I ever get back to the house I grew up in, I will take the time to measure in paces the number of steps it takes from me to get from my old front door to the tennis courts across the street in the park opposite. My estimate would be about 25.

From the first dry day of the year (sometime in April) and all summer long, I would play tennis. It's the rare sport that allows you to work up a sweat but never really be exhausted, even in the many set marathons we would partake in as teenagers. Sunday mornings when I was maybe 10 or 11, I would play mixed doubles with my mum or dad too, although unlike in the games when they weren't around, when the park-keeper came along to collect the payment, my parents would pay him. When it was just us kids, we would run away and hide when we saw him coming, and then when he came back, we would run off again.

There are two misconceptions you are probably assuming at this point:

1) That I am good at tennis. The truth is, I suck. Like every other thing I do, I never bother with the fundamentals and just jump in. So, my backhand is awesome... maybe once in every four swings. I can really put back spin and top spin on the ball... apart from the majority of the time, when I will catch the ball on the metal frame of my racket, or skid the ball harmlessly into the net AGAIN. I have this one move when I will return a volley at the net with my back to the ball and it's pretty much unreturnable... on a ratio of 1:16, the 16 being the times it either hits the net, or drops to the opposing player for a lay-up smash winner.

2) That tennis is a game for rich types who are physically fit and like the straight-laced nature and tradition of the game. Not the way I play it. There wasn't any white on display when we took the court yesterday. I was wearing the same shorts I had played soccer in that morning and a grey football t-shirt, for example. Also, as with every other game I play in, the trash-talking is what made it so enjoyable, and that is a constant that goes back to my games as a teen. Some examples:

"Don't feel bad - nobody could have returned that..."

"Careful! That ball is probably still hot from the ace I just put past you."

"It's OK, I'll only need one ball [as opposed to two to serve with, implying an ace is coming]."

And so on. I'm glad I've been reunited with tennis. With some many memories from my younger years so far away, playing now with a new bunch of friends after a 10-year break genuinely feels like picking up right where I left off with nothing changed.

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