Back to Tennis

22:27 Mon 25 May 2009
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Despite having written at least twenty-one posts about tennis over the last two years, I haven’t really been playing any. I’ve been on court several times with Monika, which is fun, but she’s a beginner and we don’t play actual games, and seem to have reverted to playing squash instead. Several years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) I used to play with Lara, who was at about my level (although her technique is better than mine).

Yesterday an ex-colleague, Jeremy, got me out on court in Dolores Park to play, and I remembered how much I love the game.

We’d been trying to organize it for months. I was always a little reluctant because I thought I would be embarrassingly bad and thus fairly useless as a playing partner. The former was probably still true, but the latter, happily, was not.

Much to my surprise, I was able to rally adequately, and could even occasionally hit some decent first serves (the serve has always been a terrible weakness of mine, so I really didn’t think I’d be able to do that). Jeremy was nursing a leg injury, which gave me enough of an edge to win the two sets we played 7-6 (0), 6-4.

The fun of it, though, was really in the fact that I was playing competitively, in every sense. Jeremy and I are fairly evenly matched, I was able to go for my shots (missing most of the time, but the thought counts), the critical points felt important, and it was just great to play, even when I was coughing up double faults, hitting backhands halfway up the court fence, and dumping easy forehands into the net.

Jeremy was a little irked because he felt that I had misrepresented my ability, but that really wasn’t intentional. The USTA has a rating system to help players describe their level, which in retrospect we probably should have used to approximate how good I was. Jeremy claims I’m a 3.5, summarized by the USTA as:

You have achieved improved stroke dependability with directional control on moderate shots, but need to develop depth and variety. You exhibit more aggressive net play, have improved court coverage and are developing teamwork in doubles.
‘General Characteristics of Various NTRP Playing Levels’, United States Tennis Association, 08 July 2003

My own feeling is that the concept of stroke dependability is sadly foreign to my game, and that I’m more like a 3.0:

You are fairly consistent when hitting medium-paced shots, but are not comfortable with all strokes and lack execution when trying for directional control, depth, or power.
‘General Characteristics of Various NTRP Playing Levels’, United States Tennis Association, 08 July 2003

However, it’s possible that reasonable court coverage and some tactical awareness push me to 3.5, and in any case I’d be happy to play people at the 3.5 level since that would probably be better for me anyway.

That brings me to the next issue: I’ve always been reluctant to play games, particularly one-on-one sports like tennis, with people I don’t know. This is extraordinarily limiting, particularly when many friends don’t play sports I like to play. After yesterday, however, I feel like the desire to just play tennis is enough to overcome this reluctance, and I’ve started looking for leagues or other playing opportunities near me. I’m hoping that this persists, and that I succeed in playing tennis regularly.

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