After my tennis match Saturday night, I was bursting to recount my thrilling victory to someone. But since I live alone now, I couldn't just burst into the apartment and tell Rebecca what happened. I would actually have to make an effort to contact somebody. On my way home I thought of all the different people I could call, but by the time I got home, it seemed like too much effort. Recounting a tennis match to my wife right after it happens, while I'm still high on adrenaline, seems appropriate-- calling someone just to tell them about it seems pathetic.
But blogging about it? Probably somewhere in between...
They brought in a ringer to play me. My scheduled opponent for the league didn't show, so the tennis center had one of the kids who works at the main desk play as a sub. He just graduated high school last year, and was taking this year to "work on [his] tennis game." I assume he was a tennis star in high school, because his coach told him he could play at the collegiate level.
I just started playing tennis two years ago. At 34 years old.
When we first started warming up, I knew I was in trouble. His shots were way too hard for me to handle. I suspected that he was not an appropriate sub for this league, but I didn't know anything about him. When we started playing, though, I managed to hang with him. He was inconsistent-- hitting beautiful winners and then terrible unforced errors. I thought maybe he was doing the latter on purpose, just to keep the match close and interesting.
His serves were amazing, but he double-faulted a lot, which kept me in the match. I managed to squeak out the first set, 6-4. But then in the second set, he calmed down and blew through me, 6-1. Here we go, I thought, he's getting serious now.
But then a curious thing happened. I won my first service game in the third set. During his ensuing service game, I hit three amazing returns in a row to break him. The winning point in this game was my most amazing shot of the evening: I lunged to get my racket on his amazing serve, and the ball make a perfect arc over his head to fall in the opposite corner of the back court. After this shot, he bowed to me, Wayne's World-style, to indicate that he was not worthy.
He told me that most of the guys he played in high school couldn't return his serves, and here I was doing it regularly. That led to a slew of double faults on his part, including the match point, giving me a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory. I was shocked, but elated. When we shook hands, I told him I was lucky to win, and he said, "No, you earned it." He might have been sandbagging, but I don't care. (And usually, when ringers sandbag, they only do it to keep it close before winning.) It was a thrilling victory for this old man. I had no business beating someone as good as him.
Talking to him after the match, I mentioned that maybe he wasn't used to playing someone with so little power as me. I was just trying to get my racket on his shots and blocking all of them back to him. They would dribble over the net and he would mis-hit them. He admitted that in high school, it was all about power. If he's used to hard shots coming at him, it probably messed up his timing to have my weak-ass shots dropping all over the court.
Whatever the reason, it still felt good to beat the ringer.