Tennis is my passion so I hope to be playing into my 90s. My first obstacle is living that long. Then I’ll need to have my wits about me, which is already questionable. Then I have to be a smidgen ambulatory. Yes, it will be ugly tennis but some would say that describes how I play today. And they would not be wrong.
To be competitive in tennis, we generally partner with and play against those within our rating bracket. I’m rated 4.5. If you don’t play USTA tennis, that statement means about as much to you as the Theory of Relativity means to me. My point is, I enjoy competition.
You see, I’ve always been a tomboy. At least that’s what they called it when it was unusual for girls to be just as athletic as boys. Being a tomboy was a stigma because I wasn’t “a feminine young lady.” People didn’t know what to make of me. But things have changed. Today, female athletes are on boxes of Wheaties and the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I’ve been playing tennis 30 years now and it’s been a blast. Now don’t get me wrong; it hasn’t always been without controversy. I’ve witnessed some unpleasant personality shifts on court. Seemingly sweet, friendly ladies sometimes become like Jekyll and Hyde once they lace up those tennis shoes. It’s a small minority but I’d say I could fill a 30-seat room with women I know who are adversely affected by competition. I guess one for every year isn’t so bad.
I have a theory about this: many of these gals didn’t play organized sports in school so they never learned how to be a team player or how to lose without making asses of themselves. I could be totally wrong here; it’s been known to happen. But I never hear men whine when they aren’t in the lineup. Is that because they know it’s all part of being on a team? Probably.
I would definitely say most of the women I play against recognize it’s for the joy of playing. Sure, competing at Nationals is what we strive for. But realistically, our chances of getting there are about as rare as members of Congress agreeing the sky is blue. And on a sunny day at that.
As a USTA captain, I’ve seen a lot. One gal even took a swipe at her doubles opponent, accusing her of purposely hitting her with the ball. Hey, it’s tennis. People get hit. It’s not personal, so get over it.
Some ladies are known to cheat on line calls when the match gets close. Others play head games, trying to distract opponents’ concentration. Then there’s those who constantly question line calls. They ask, Are you sure?! I wonder what they’d do if I responded, No, not really. I’m just messin’ with ya.
Then there’s the gal everyone knows and not in a good way. Let’s call her Misty, after the psycho in the movie, Play Misty for Me. Only this Misty isn’t psychotically possessive, she’s just psychotic — an untreated loose cannon with anger management issues. (I studied abnormal psychology, so I know crazy when I see it.)
And what about the player who has an over-inflated perception of her tennis skills? Why aren’t I in the lineup? I’m just as good as anyone else on the team. (Never mind that she’s rated a level below.) When this happens, I want to say, Seriously? Are you delusional or just unobservant? These particular ladies don’t realize one little fact: they want to play with better players but it’s rarely reciprocal. And that’s totally lost on them.
Having said all this, 90% of the women I play against are a pleasure. I especially enjoy hit and giggle tennis with my friends. We meet at the club, run around the court for a couple hours then have lunch afterward. For me that’s one of the greatest benefits of playing this game — the awesome ladies I’ve met.
Truth be told, I don’t actually mind the other 10% as much as I let on. They’re like the prizes in Cracker Jacks — always a bit disappointing, but I’d probably miss them if they weren’t there.
Well said at the end.