“Stop bouncing around so much,” Jean, a master tennis instructor, had coached me. “Plant those feet when you’re hitting the ball. And relax!”
No more acting like a Jack-in-the-box, I tell myself later, when facing my opponents. If my partner and I can win this next game, we’ll have the doubles match.
“No pressure,” my male opponent, whom I’ve secretly nicknamed The Intimidator, calls out. He grins as he hands me two balls. He likes to mess with my head, I’ve noticed.
“Love all,” I call out. As I prepare to serve, every muscle in my body is as tight as a coiled spring. I don’t want to let Craig, my partner, down.
I tell myself to relax, but as I toss the ball in the air, I worry about keeping a smooth rhythm, and that slight hesitation prevents the serve from having the power it needs. The Intimidator returns it with a smash. My partner can’t reach it in time.
Love fifteen. Prepare, focus, position yourself in the right spot, watch carefully, swing, follow through—every tennis lesson is a mini life lesson.
I serve to my female opponent. Sandy returns the ball with an effective fast, low ground stroke. I counter with a drop shot, but The Intimidator’s long legs and arms help him reach it. He lobs it over my head. This time my teammate is there. Craig returns it with an alley shot that Sandy can’t get to.
Fifteen all. Like in life, players need to depend on finesse, skill, endurance, and determination.
My next serve is fast and low. The Intimidator swings and misses. He glares at me.
Thirty fifteen. The game of tennis tests focus, discipline, tenacity, confidence, and the ability to master one’s emotions.
Sandy returns my next serve to my backhand. I swing too late. She wins the point.
Thirty thirty. Inner strength and teamwork help bring success.
When The Intimidator returns my next serve, he hits it hard to my partner. But Craig is there. He catches Sandy out of position and sends it spinning to her alley, earning the point.
The Intimidator is not pleased. “Will she do it?” He barks out to me like a sports announcer. He whispers something to his partner and then gives me “the look.”
I take a deep breath. Calm and confident, I silently chant. Trust myself. Follow my instincts. And relax.
I serve. Sandy returns it down the middle. “Mine!” I call. I try to lob it over The Intimidator’s head, but my attempt is too low. His eyes light up. He grins.
Simulating a tornado, he arches back. He’s going to slam the ball so it comes fast, hard, and devastating.
The ball rockets toward me. But I’m in position, my feet are planted. I watch the ball. Strategize. Relax.
I simply brace my racket and block the ball, guiding it just over the net.
The Intimidator realizes what I’ve done, races for the net, but the ball’s slower pace makes it gently bounce, bounce.
Game, set, match.