I’ve played a lot of sports in my life. Granted, not much of it in the last 15 years, but I was a regular ‘jock’ in my schooldays. I was on just about every school team, except field hockey. I played softball, basketball, volleyball, handball, football (soccer). At one point, I was aiming to become a P.E. teacher.
There’s nothing quite like hitting a home run or scoring a goal. I guess it releases all kinds of chemicals to make you feel good.
I started playing tennis at the age of 12, and played reguarly until I went to college when I was 20.
In my last year at school, I tore some tendons in my ankle. It was during the finals of the district basketball competition. I had broken through their defence on their half, but was sandwiched by two of them as I was coming down from the lay up. When I hit the floor I felt my ankle twist.
I lost my cool after that. After the operation, the ankle stayed stiff and I kept being afraid I’d twist it again. I stopped playing sports shortly after I went to college. Joined a softball team, but didn’t like the people and I couldn’t get over the ankle thing. Last thing I did was the University tennis championships around 1983. Guess what, I won. But only 3 women competed so it wasn’t that big a deal.
I picked up tennis again this year, at last – it felt good to be doing sports again, but I’m very unfit and my bones and muscles ache a little too much. I play with an ex-colleague, who’s only starting out. She’s fit, but she’s still learning how to play so it kind of evens out. We didn’t play an awful lot, maybe once every two weeks. But I felt confident enough to sign up for the Broadcasting Open. I played my first match today.
I still had stabs of pain in my head, the lingering migraine, but I went anyway. We had to play indoors, because it had rained all night and the outdoors courts were flooded.
During warm up I found out my opponent hit the ball a lot harder than my sparring partner. She told me she played regularly, at least 3 times a week, and she’d gone on tennis camps twice. I’d never played indoors before, so it took getting used to the strange surface and the way the balls skidded instead of bounced. But I like the fast ball, and the better my opponent is, the better I play.
I didn’t really feel like playing or winning – it’s the laziness in me, I didn’t want to have go out to the courts again (they’re on the edge of Hilversum, the town that I work in).
This meant that I was totally relaxed, I didn’t feel much pressure. I usually don’t play that well in matches, the pressure makes my muscles tense and I have never been very good concentrating, or keeping my temper.
So I was 0-3 down in the first set when my arm started warming up. I won the first set easily after that, 6-3. Then I lost it because I am so unfit. I started trembling and sweating and my limbs wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do. I lost the second set very quickly, 0-6!
When I was 0-2 down in the first set, my body started pulling itself together. It got back to 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and then I started floating. I mean that I was playing without a care in the world, hitting that ball instinctively. All my first serves were in during the last game. In, and hard. My opponent had problems returning them. I won 6-4.
I love playing tennis. I’ve never had lessons, never played competition. But I’m good at it. It comes naturally, like most ball games. When the ball hits that sweet spot just right – especially when it’s your backhand and you can drive that ball cross court, on the line, I tell you… it’s the sexiest thing on earth.
I’m looking forward to my second match, on Monday.