I met up with a former male co-worker of mine a few weeks ago at a public court. I allowed him to play with my wife's fairly girly racquet, although I swear it had more pink on it (it was mostly red).
I hadn't picked up my Prince Thunder 820 in at least a year, and probably closer to two since I had any regular action with my weapon of choice. It had been sitting in our trunk for the longest time, as I'd formed the habit of leaving the racquets and ball hopper in there not knowing if I could squeeze in a game at the drop of a hat.
Needless to say, I'm certain the strings were in terrible shape. Yes, I will blame it on the strings.
We warmed up for about ten minutes, give or take eight minutes. Nothing felt right, although I told myself that time had stolen my touch, and it would return after a few more instances of hitting the bright neon yellow ball back over the net. I had sized up my opponent. He was a casual tennis player. There was no heat on his forehand, and I did not notice any particular spin put on his shots (at least not on purpose). He's a fairly athletic looking dude, so he'd be able to run around with no problem, but most anyone that steps on the courts are able to at least do that.
Before work schedules destroyed my afternoon tennis routine with my wife, I swear I had gotten up to around a 4.5 rating. My serves were as good as ever. I could take a forehand and put it virtually anywhere on the court. And best of all, I'd really developed a sense of touch that I lacked when I played legit matches in high school about a decade earlier. The backhand was still a coin flip, but 50/50 odds aren't so bad when so much else is going right.
I figured, worse case scenario, I'd drop a couple games. I'd then shrug off the win and compliment him on what he did right while basking in the glow... the glow of showing this guy that tennis was my game... one of the handful of things I was better at than the average person (aka him).
End result : 6-1, 6-2. Victor : HIM.
Nothing was right. I'd buzzed my head recently. Maybe, in doing that, I lost my power like some modern day Samson? And then there were the strings. Surely they were popped, or loose, or something? But my serves were decent enough for not having played in so long. Lack of eye sight, or maybe not looking at the ball when I hit? Surely no one with 14+ years of competitive tennis experience would slide so much in a year as to completely forget fundamentals of simply hitting the ball. It ain't like there was any heat or spin on his shots... just simple "hit me please" marshmallow goodness. The 2009 Version of Me would have approached those shots and smacked a forehand winner down the left. He would sprint for it in vain, and I would have already turned around thinking of my next serve.
During the match, I must have hit the ball off the frame at least twice. At one point, I hit a forehand and the tennis ball became lodged in the V spot on the racquet, just above the handle but below the round frame. This does not happen under ordinary circumstances.
Then I thought back. About two, maybe three, years ago. It was a friend's birthday. She was excited because she had recently started to take up tennis. She'd either taken a few lessons, or was playing other adults in her skill level and she kept running her mouth about it. She'd challenge other casual tennis player friends, with borderline taunts.
I decided I could go for some tennis, so we arranged a match. Again, on her birthday.
She had a sporty outfit on... she'd probably only recently purchased it so she could look the part of the tennis player. I'm certain I strolled out there in a pit-stained white t-shirt, a pair of gym shorts, and my old pair of Adidas Campus sneakers.
So, on her birthday, I didn't hold too much back. Hindsight being what it is, I know I should have eased up. I should have given her a few games... something to build on. I recall playing the #7 guy in the state back in high school, and I won ONE game and felt like I had just put up a hard fought finals match at the US Open. But, no, I crushed her that night.
Did karma do me in? Would he who was without mercy now beg for it? Indeed. And, it came for me just a few days before my 30th birthday.
Embarrassment turned to frustration, which turned to anger, which then settled at humiliation.
This casual tennis player had demolished me. #1 tennis player on my varsity high school team. MVP of the 1999 season. Me... given the nickname "The Wall" for my amazing net play in doubles.
1-6. 2-6. Why did those games just fall to the side so fast? The entire saga must have taken only an hour.
Trash talk came afterwards. So did shame. Confusion.
The racquet has been restrung. I found my eye glasses. Karma should be more than satisfied. I hit around with a family member last weekend and hit a few balls back and forth (very casually). Nothing seemed THAT far off... at least not as far off as it was when I was easily defeated.
Since then, my opponent has injured himself, so the rematch will have to wait another week or two. But, until then, I want to try to regain some sort of confidence back in my game. I don't care if I am still not at my peak form of a couple years ago. I don't need that much to beat him. Mentally I need to know that I can hit my shots.
That's where I'm hoping one/some of you can come in. I need someone to spar with.
Remember Rocky III. Rocky is on top of the world, and feeling unbeatable, then he has a fight against Clubber Lang aka Mr. T. He gets his butt handled to him. Down and out, and with his manager dead, he's forced to seek help from an unlikely ally- Apollo Creed. Apollo trains Rocky to be faster... better. When he's done training, Rocky can finally take down Mr. T, er, Clubber.
I need an Apollo Creed. Would it help if you're a muscular black guy willing to wear knee high white socks and run on the beach with me to increase my running speed? I guess it couldn't hurt. But I'm mainly just looking for someone near my range to spar with. A couple years ago, I was probably around a 4.5. But seeing as I just lost to someone in the 2-3 range, I'll go ahead and state that I'm in the 3 to 3.5 range.
If you've read this rant, I applaud you. I am a bit long-winded. But every word of it is essential to know that the task you're about to take on is bigger than you. However, like the tiny pinch of salt in some perfect pot of gumbo, you're integral.
Do you accept this challenge? Are you able to meet up and play a set or two between the hours of 6 PM and 8 PM? Are you near Wells Branch? Do you know of any courts that are usually empty at that time (the locked ones near me usually have folks playing during that time, but we can wait them out if need be)?
If your answer to this is YES, shoot me a message. Ideally, it would be great to be able to play twice a week, but I'll take what I can get.
A little background- I'm 30 years old, married, with a kid. I'll play with pretty much anyone short of a Neo-Nazi.