Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are those Tennis Balls in Your Pocket or were you watching Maria Sharapova?

That's now the least of my concerns when it comes to this sport that may be the most exciting "1 on 1" endeavor that still clings to stupid dress codes that make all the players at Wimbledon look like they stepped out of an afternoon lawn party with Jay Gatsby in East Egg.

Since I was old enough to choose my distractions in life, it has always been baseball and sports. That's probably why it surprised my girlfriend Lexi to learn that once I aged out out Babe Ruth at 14 or 15, I stopped playing organized sports. All it would take is to watch me shag fly balls for 5 minutes for even a primitive tribesman from the jungles of Java to realize why my competitive sports career didn't survive the .193 batting average I had in my final season of Babe Ruth. Technically, I did get a "letter" for being the scorekeeper for the high school baseball team, but I was basically a "band guy" who learned spheroids and hand/eye coordination were not my friends and I should accept that.

Lexi on the other hand was a very talented tennis player in high school and college. Hearing her talk about tennis made me realize it was just as important to her at that time in her life as drumming was for me. While I never took a personal interest in learning tennis, I do enjoy the sport and wanted to share a summer activity with her other than golf. Nothing against golf, but Mark Twain was correct when he said golf was a good walk spoiled. And considering the amount of balls I lose and beers I have to drink to enjoy my game, it turns into a wobbly, inebriated Easter egg hunt spoiled.


I took a very "male" perspective on tennis when we started. Keep your eye on the ball, hit it hard with the raquet and hopefully away from your opponent... but in those little squares. This was more my strategy for ping pong, but I figured the strateg was transferrable. After the 5th consecutive ball sailed out of the court, I realized my only shot at success in this sport was one of two options. Either wait for the USTA to change the boundaries of a regulation court to include the doubles area, the court next to you, the parking lot, the shrubs around the park and the backyard of the poor sucker who lives in my ball's flight path OR learn to hit with topspin.

In what amounts to about 5 hours on the court over the last two weeks, I've really been enjoying tennis. The last session included learning a two handed backhand, which I was so focused on learning, that I started overrunning shots to my forehad just to turn around and practice my backhand. However, I'm still disappointed to say that my biggest satisfaction is NOT losing balls over the fence. There is also the joy of the occasional discovery of other players MIA balls forgotten in the foliage fringing the park. Oddly this euphoria is similar to one of the few satisfactions I received in golf: digging 4 extra balls out of a water hazzard while chasing down my own lost Titleist. Yet unlike golf, I won't have to chase my tee shots 300 yards... er, well, OK I won't have to chase my tee shots past the ladies tees. And unlike baseball, the chase won't include me me turning tail and chasing a routine pop up all the way to the fence while a fat kid playing for Sureway Supermarkets get's an in the park home run. I guess the testament to how much I enjoy it is that I can truly forget that the 10 Penns and Wilsons' stuffed in my short's pockets look more rediculous than Rafael Nadal's "Man-Pris".

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