“Deuce,” I call to my opponents. We’re playing doubles tennis, and I’m serving to “Flinger,” a man with a reputation for flinging his racket when angry. He and his female partner exchange words and I catch the word “fault.” Are they hoping I’ll double fault like I did the last time I served?
The thought is in my head as I toss the ball. It doesn’t reach the height I usually get, so I have to compensate, and my serve veers too far to the left.
“Wide!” Flinger yells, turning to his partner. I had detected a didn’t-I-tell-you jeer in his tone. Flinger takes a few steps closer to the net anticipating my second serve will be softer.
I bounce the ball. Time to reframe my thinking. A Henry Ford quote comes to mind. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” I remind myself that the serve is the only shot in tennis where I can be in total control, and attitude is as important as skill.
I picture myself serving a deep and powerful slam to Flinger’s backhand and making him scramble to receive it. I toss the ball, the picture still in my head. My serving arm reaches behind my back and in one fluid movement, it solidly connects to the ball. My opponent has to run back, but he’s in time. His racket meets the ball, and although awkward, he manages to send it over. The ball hits the net tape, and for a second I think the weak return will bounce on his side. But then it spins and dribbles over.
My partner and I run, but we’re too late. Tennis is like life. Luck plays in. Problems arise. We wonder how we’ll solve them. But there are solutions. I serve to Flinger’s partner. She has a great return to the back corner, but my partner is there and returns it to Flinger’s alley. Flinger, not quite there, swings but misses. He grumbles under his breath. He’s frazzled, thinking about his mistake.
“Deuce,” I repeat.
We battle. Flinger returns a ball short, just over the net, a difficult shot, but I run. Seeing the middle is open, I aim. Our point.
“The Pessimist Sees Difficulty In Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity In Every Difficulty"Winston Churchill
“Ad in,” I call, signifying we’re a point ahead. This time, when I hear Flinger and his partner’s mumblings, I tune them out, concentrating on the perfect serve to Flinger’s backhand.
I toss the ball, and “Pow!” Flinger swings, but the ball hits wood, not strings. It dies before the net.
He cusses and flings his racket toward the fence. It scrapes hard against the cement. While the three of us meet at the net to say the customary, “Great game,” Flinger picks up his scratched racket.
I’m tempted to share a favorite quote by the president of New Missions, Tim Detellis. “Be the attitude you want to be around.” But Flinger has already walked off the court. Alone.