Mellow, not melodramatic -- that's my Worthy Opponent Jackie Ruvolo. We've been playing together for so long now, it seems I've always had her name and number in my list of tennis contacts. We met during USTA League matches, so I guess the image the USTA uses of smiling, happy people hugging each other is true: you CAN make good friends playing competitive tennis.
Jackie's got a great righty forehand. I admire her topspin. She uses it to great effect in her return game, with short cross-court returns against my attempts to serve her out wide. In doubles, I don't want to put anything near her at net; she knows to put volleys deep and down the T. In singles, she prefers duking it out from the baseline, so I try to bring her to net to pass her or lob her. Try is the operative word here, Haters.
Jackie got good in a hurry. She says she started playing when she was 32. You're 33 now, right J?
"I think it was a summer [when] I was new to living in Manhattan, so I wasn't mountain biking religiously anymore," she told me in an e-mail. This begs a follow-up question: where was she living in NYC that she mountain biked religiously? Riverdale??
She lived on the Lower East Side, near the East River courts. "I was freelancing and thought, since I had some time and needed the exercise, why not take some tennis lessons? And then of course I became obsessed!"
Ah, right. The obsession. Haters, we know all the symptoms. First, the love.....
"Right now what I love most is that it's taking me out of stressing over work and the worrying going on in my life in general for a few hours....you can't think about anything else! [Editor's note: Oh, but somehow I seem to find a way.....] And of course I love that I feel great afterwards (slightly less great when I've played badly, but still)."
But still. Perfect segue, Jackie, to the Dark Side of tennis obsession. The hate....
"I'm not a terribly competitive person so I'm usually pretty mellow," Ruvolo told me, and it's true. She's calm, friendly and contained on the court. "It's just all those unforced errors can really get me!
Interesting. DO go on....
"I hate to admit that I've come close to smashing a few racquets out of complete and total rage or frustration during league matches. There's lots of cursing myself out there which is horribly unhealthy."
You're among friends, J-Volo. And that's very healthy!