Years ago, my friend Hal talked me into trying tennis. He said that tennis is good for one’s heart and people who stay active live longer,. (I believe that statisticians can easily calculate that the increase in one’s life expectancy equals the exact amount of time one spends on a tennis court.)
First of all, I was curious about the word “tennis.” Were there nine other attempts at this game that went by names like One-nis, Two-nis, Three-nis, etc. before they came up with the rules of this particular pastime?
My friend told me that at his tennis club I had to wear white on the court. I told him that white makes me look fat. He noted that so do all the colors in a Crayola box of 64, not to mention plaids and stripes, and he suspected especially when I was undressed. Point taken.
Before we went to the courts, he took me to buy a racket. I was very uneasy about getting involved with any sport that has a history with anything called “cat gut.”
I decided that it would be helpful to watch pro tennis players to better understand the game. What amazed me was these were some of the best players in the world and yet not even one of them managed to hit a home run over the fence. I decided to choose one pro and concentrate on how he played. I selected John McEnroe. So, according to what I learned, I needed to curse the line judges, the ball girl, the people in the stands and whoever caused the sun to be in one’s eyes. I also practiced throwing down my racket in disgust. Then I had to go buy another racket.
When we got to the court, Hal told me that I needed to serve the ball from the far corner of the court. If the object is to get the ball to the other side of the net, then shouldn’t one serve the ball closer to the net? Really?
Repeatedly, Hal served the ball but failed to serve it to where I was standing. Come on. He knew where I was, so why not hit it where I can return it? He told me that I needed to move around and not stay stationery. I did as I was told. Hal said I resembled popcorn kernels on a hot stove.
It occurred to me that when players are attempting to hit the ball, they should see if they can make it stick into the chain link fence. That would be great. Imagine the images and words that a really good player could accomplish.
After beginning the game, Hal said, “15-love.” I did not know what he meant by “15,” but I told him I was not comfortable with his calling me “Love.” He explained that in the scoring system for tennis, zero is love, one is 15, two is 30, three is 40 and 4 is game. What? Why can’t they count like normal people? After all, in ping pong (aka table tennis), players manage to keep score in a reasonable and understandable manner.
Throughout our games, Hal kept shouting strange words like ad, dink, double bagel, inside-out, let and spank. He must have been suffering from sun stroke.
After Hal won the match, he jumped over the net to thank me for a good game. (Put in the best possible light, let’s just say I did all I could to keep “love” in the game.) I decided that I was not interested in having to ever jump over the net, so I stopped playing tennis then and there. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.