Play to Win, Win by Playing
Haters, should I start calling you Lovers now? I've been having so much fun on the courts, it's thrown me -- and my husband -- for a loop.
Earlier this week, I teamed up with Worthy Opponent Nelson Simon against my Mark and Worthy Opponent Henry Strozier of the cranberry commercials. It was a beautiful morning. We've been having a run of them in New York City: bright blue skies, just this side of cool temperatures, a smell of damp wood and dry leaves in the air.
I'm so glad to be here! I thought. Well, what do you know about that.
My blogging buddy over at Road to 4.5 Tennis recently wrote about how gratitude has helped his focus and enjoyment on the court. It was easy to feel grateful on this particular morning. The weather was conspiring against my natural propensity to start worrying about how I was going to perform, and whether I was going to behave myself on the court. I stepped right over that dust bunny in my head and into the pretty world all around me.
I continued my latest focus mantra, telling myself as Nelson and I got into position to recieve Henry's serve, "It's a game, and the rules of the game are, get the ball over the net and keep it in between the lines."
I also set up mini-goals for each point. "Okay, let's see if you can move your feet into position and close your stance, rather than having all the rotation come from your waist up, Ame." Or, "let's play this next return as a slice! It'll be fun."
Haters, I haven't found my Bethanie Mattek-Sands eye black yet or my knee highs, but in the spirit of play, I pulled a John Isner and gave myself a backward cap look, even though the low late summer sun was blinding. Yes, I was actually willing to put myself in a strategic disadvantage to keep this "I'm playing" thing going. I've really lost it.
We didn't lose it, though. We stayed focused and communicated on the court. We were both having a good time.
"S&V, Nelson?" I'd ask, to see if he'd serve and volley.
"Sure, let's go for it," he said. He's so good coming in and taking those first volleys. And I, thanks to my Saintly Pro Al Johnson, was not afraid of the lob service returns Henry sent high to my backhand. Ka-ching! Winner. Now THAT'S fun!
I even approached my serve as fun-in-the-making. "Let's see if you can get this first serve in that far corner, to Mark's backhand," I'd think. "Let's play at putting the ball up right where you can really whallop it." Oops, let's play that again, since I just flipped that toss all the way over my head and behind me.
Okay, fun for me, not a lot of fun for Mark and Henry. They had to keep their minds on the game while I fiddled with my here, there and everywhere toss. No one could believe it when I held serve, especially me. Mark was muttering to himself and Henry was doing his best voiceover of a diabolical evil genius bent on world domination through chaos. That was me and my serve. And I held my serve, twice, thankyouverymuch. Next, I'm going to build the Death Star.
On Mark's serve, at 2-4 in the second, he tanked. It was all too much for him, he later told me. "You were having fun, and I remembered all the times you didn't have fun. I got sad, and then I got mad. It's been such a waste!"
Yes. Yes, it has. We should have a little funeral for those years. Bury a tennis ball far behind the baseline of one of the courts at Prospect Park. Maybe stuff one down the hole that's opened up between Courts 4 and 5 at the Prospect Park Tennis Center. Who needs sand and Har-Tru for court maintenance when I can offer truckloads of old tennis hate?
No tennis hate on this day, Haters. It was all love and good feeling on my side of the net. Nelson and I won handily, 6-2, 6-3. We were playing to win, but we won by playing.
Year to date:
Nelson and I: 1. Mark and Henry: 0.