Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back into the swing of things

It's been more than ten years since I've been involved with a tennis league or any kind of tennis competition. But I've joined a local group, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.
No one in my family played tennis until I came along. Then I watched the 1982 US Open final where Hana Mandlikova (pictured left), lost to Chris Evert. For some reason this south Georgia boy grew to love the Czech Mandlikova. Through the years I followed her ups and downs as a devoted fan. Hana would eventually win the US Open in 1985. She defeated both Evert and Martina Navratilova on successive days to win the crown jewel of her tennis accomplishments.
Hana was the female McEnroe in more than one sense. Like Mac, she was wildly talented and a brilliant shotmaker. She was also graceful and silky smooth. She and Mac both made the game look so easy. But also like Mac, Hana was prone to occasional temper tantrums. Sometimes it was because she struggled with English language. And sometimes it was simply because she hadn't learned the art of losing gracefully. Both maddening and thrilling, it was all a part of her charm.
Another similar player was the Frenchman, Henri Leconte (pictured above). He too was flashy and erratic. But like Hana, when he was good, he was very good. Each of these players made me want to learn how to play just by watching them. And I did.
I pounded he wall behind the house until my mom put a stop to it. But she and my dad decided to sign me up for lessons. From the age of 10 all the way through high school, I played in junior tournaments and was also a member of my junior high and high school tennis teams.
So now I'm back to practicing my serve, sharpening my volleys, and grooving my groundstrokes. Maybe the time away from tennis has dulled my competitive fire for the game. All I know is that right now, it feels so good just to hit the ball once again. But before long I'll be excited about matching strategic wits with an opponent.
In the last week, I have found that the old saying is true. Your footwork leaves you, but your hands never forget. So for the time being I'm going to stick with doubles and pump up my footwork. Besides, I love working toward a common goal with another human being.


Steve said...

The angles are hell on my feet! I am the worst in the world at that sport.

ET said...

I pitch a fit when things don't go my way too. Maybe I'm a sportsman and don't know it.

Button Gwinnett said...

Steve, since you're a basketball guy, basketball is a great way to improve your footwork for tennis. Martina included it as part of her daily routine back in the 80's.

And Eddie, I'll never forget playing tennis with the nicest guy in the world in high school. He was quiet, smart, athletic .....everyone loved him. He never said anything out of the way to anyone. He was a tough competitor, but in a quiet way. His mother was so proud of that.

And one day his grandmother was visiting from out of town and came to watch us play. And I'll be a monkey's uncle if I didn't see him throw his racquet hard enough to break it! I probably played him 20 times over the years (only managed to beat him about 5 times) and I never saw anything like that from him before or since.

He went on to earn a scholarship to Furman University. But from the look on his mother's and grandmother's face that day, I'm surrpised he lived to do it!