People say a tryst with tennis can be an awakening of the soul, a peek into the joys of sport and something that will energise you through the day.
Actually, I’m not sure if anyone said that, but it sounds good in retrospect and as a motivator. A picture speaks a 1000 words. Now, if you look at this one below, you’d assume that I played tennis. You’d be right, but that’s not the whole picture, which is why we need words.
Now that I’ve mentally prepared you for the verbal onslaught ahead, here goes.
Yesterday, in a bid to encourage the kid to be up early even during the vacations, I suggested that she could play tennis with her dad in the mornings.
It began with my expounding the value of waking up early, getting some fresh air into those lungs and working out the limbs and other necessary parts of our anatomy. As I spoke, she rolled her eyes and said, ‘Fine, but what about you? Will you play too?’
In that moment, I had two choices. Shake my head violently and refuse or buckle down and agree. Bear in mind that I’ve played badminton pretty regularly but tennis? Let’s just say it’s a wholly different ball game (ha ha, pun intended!)
Having said this, it was now left to me to follow through. This is how it went:
5.25 am. Roused myself from bed and blearily looked at the alarm.
5.30 am. Sat bolt upright in bed, energised by the thought of tennis.
5.35 am. Did some warm up and stretching at home.
5.45 am. Laced-up shoes: Check
One enthusiastic and physically fit husband: Check
Butterflies in the stomach: Triple check
5.50 am. Reached the tennis court and did some preliminary stretches. The cool air made it a thrill to just stand on the court.
6 am. And so it began. With practiced ease (or so I thought to myself) I flung the ball in the air and brought my racket down on it, sending it coasting over the net in a perfect serve. It caught the line and made me stare in amazement. Okay, I wasn’t ‘bad’ at this! I could do this! Ah, my dear, have you never heard of beginner’s luck?
Grinning, I then gripped the racket and readied myself to return the serves. V served and I watched as the ball sailed past me, mocking me with its speed. I was literally standing still. Not done! Had to pick up my feet.
A few useless attempts later, the racket became me. I allowed the energy from my tennis idol, Federer, to flow into my being and muttered a prayer under my breath. I could do this. Yes!
As the ball careened down the centre of the court, my racket swung and connected with it. I erupted in joy until I saw that my wild swing had sent the ball sailing not just over the net, but the high fence that surrounded the court.
Drat! This wasn’t going well. I seemed to have channelised Chris Hemsworth’s spirit instead. That was a shot worthy of Thor!
After 20 minutes, the momentum picked up and I continued to randomly hit the ball here and there. Hey, at least I was finally hitting the ball. Plus I prided myself on the fact that one of us was running. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t me.
By now I was huffing and puffing out of sheer exhaustion, of bending to pick up the ball and running to get the ball from the playground, the basement car park and the adjacent basketball court. Let it never be said that I wasted the space available. I covered all the bases.
45 minutes later, my ever-sporting husband said, ‘Shall we go home?’
I should have said ‘Yes’. But pride is a strange beast which makes you do stupid things. So I shook my head and said, ‘Come on! Are you tired? I’m just getting warmed up here. Let’s play for another half hour.’
Raising both eyebrows he chuckled and wisely said nothing. So the swinging and connecting of racket and ball continued until the muscles in my legs woke up and started protesting.
Give us a break and head home, you idiot!
Never one for being told what to do, I ignored them and gritted my teeth. I was having fun, that was the important thing, right? After 15 minutes though and one more ball that roared with laughter (I’m not kidding) as it left the tennis court like an albatross, I had to admit I was tired.
That wound up my first day on the tennis court. But, you know me. I always look for lessons in everything. What did I learn today? Here are some of them. The rest I will share when my body can pick itself up off the floor again.
- Tennis is a game that will test the existence of every muscle in your shoulders, arms and legs. Occasionally, your abdomen will be summoned to duty as you bend to retrieve the fallen balls on the court.
- Play the game early in the morning before the sun starts to shed his warm glow on you. This way you’d enjoy the running too. Pro tip: Ensure your opponent is facing the rising sun so you can return serves while he is blinded!
- Get ready to run. When I say run, I don’t mean dawdle, amble, saunter or stroll. I mean, pick up your feet and cover the court. Or invest in a runner who will hit the balls back while you stand stylishly on centre court and serve the ball. This may work too.
- If you have large yellow bushes lining the court, be prepared to spend 15 minutes hunting for the ball that escaped your skilled backhand and landed in that patch. This activity will build character and patience. Trust me on this.
- Invoke Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic before you begin playing. After 12 minutes, throw all those prayers out the window and hit the ball any way you want. It doesn’t matter.
- Most of all though, just have fun. This one is a serious tip.
Now excuse me while I go and apply ice to my calves, knees, ankles, wrists and forearms. What? That’s for all the energy it took to sit and type this post.
Am I going back tomorrow to play? You bet! I’m just getting started! Serena Williams, watch out. I may just meet you some day.