Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In search of a good ball machine

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Fans take cover from the rain under umbrellas on day fourteen of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

It’s so hard to find a good tennis partner. I swear it’s easier to find a life-mate than it is to find the right person with whom to play tennis. Of course it’s easy to find one-off partners, brief hook-ups that you can have a kind of tennis fling with as you keep searching for the one. But hook-ups are never satisfying. You have to compromise too much and you can’t totally be yourself because after all, you may want to impress this person enough that he (or she) will return for more. Tennis.
What led up to this you ask? Well, I’ve just been having the most frustrating experiences lately. It all started when I missed the deadline for signing up for league tennis. Part of the reason was because I was really ambivalent about signing on for weekly competition. I’ve heard too many horror stories. Like the one a friend told me recently about playing a mixed doubles match and forgetting to write the score down on the opponents’ sheet of paper. The next day the male member of the other team called to say that they were going to register the match as forfeited because the lack of registered score meant that the match did not happen. And just like that, a match that my friend and his partner had won was considered non-existent.
I don’t have the patience for that kind of nonsense. I don’t understand the relentless cheating that goes on in league tennis. I don’t understand why people register for 3.0 teams when they are really 4.0 players, and then proceed to beat up on everybody on the court. I don’t get the brazen bad calls, frankoment foot-faulting, and downright lack of sportsmanship that characterize so much of league tennis. All of which played a part in my conveniently forgetting the deadline and deciding to pass.
Part of the problem stemmed from some of the negative experiences I have had with the assortment of women in my league. Like the one who starts blaming her partner the minute a shot is missed. And the other whose husband calls her every five minutes and we have to stand there, being bitten by mosquitos, as she reassures him sotto voce. And no doubt I myself am an irritant to many because of my screaming and cussing and countless other annoying habits that my tennis partners are forced to suffer.
But the result of my personal bowing-out is that I now find myself with a dearth of people with whom to play tennis. I decided to start looking outside of the town I live in to see if there were other folks who had decided to forego competing and were interested in just playing. So this past weekend, I drove over an hour to attend a Meet-Up that I found online. Ten of us had registered. Four of us showed up.
The leader decided that we would play singles and the third person would challenge the winner of the first match. So first up I played against the only guy who had showed up. I held my own until 4-4. That I was matching him play for play seemed to irk him. I’ve been here before. I’ve written previously about the challenges of being a good female player who poses a challenge to some men. He then started drop-shotting me. I was impressed. It was nice to see a man using a clay tactic on a hard court. I did not see it coming. He broke me easily and the served for the set.
Next up it was him, as the winner, against the other woman. The tough guy whom I had just played completely disappeared. Instead he started fumbling. I realized that he could handle my pace but her soft moonballs left him flummoxed. Next thing I knew he had lost to her 6-3. I was stunned. So was he, clearly. He announced that he had to leave. He had another engagement. He drove off, tires screeching.
The woman and I played on. When I went up 5-1, she stopped playing. Sure I was blasting the returns of serve but she didn’t even try to get to the ball. She wasn’t enjoying losing to me. I won the set 6-1. I asked if she wanted to keep playing. She said OK, and started trying again. Until I went up 4-0. Then again, she just stopped playing. She was disgusted at losing. She let me feed her a bagel. And then she said that she had to leave.
I felt badly for beating her. I found myself missing my league partners. I even missed the damn cheating opponents. At least they show up and play real tennis. At least they keep trying to win until the very last point. Sure we would have some heated moments on the court and would argue constantly about the score. But really, what’s so wrong with that? I started realizing that it was all good. Playing against real players was much better than settling for strangers who didn’t know me and would probably never call me to play again.
Maybe, I thought, the solution is to find a good ball machine in the meantime. I’m too cheap to pay full price for one but right about now I could handle the thought of buying a good used machine. I could set it to feed me the kind of balls that I need to practice. Sure the balls would always be perfectly placed and no doubt it would not be good for me to always be able to predict where the ball was going to land. But until league season starts again and I can sign on for the drama, I find myself cringing at the thought of answering another ad, and showing up in a random town to end up pissing off a bunch of strangers.


TennisAce said...

LOL I hear you on the cheating in league tennis. What irks me as well are those players who bring their coaches along to matches. Hello, we are not playing for big prize money here people. I recall a match about 2 years ago where this fellow, who is a doctor and perhaps a 4.0 showed up with the local tennis pro as his coach. I had to laugh because here I am a beginner who watches more tennis than she plays and this fellow brought his coach along. I lost the match but I gave as good as I got.

I miss league tennis though and frankly the cheating etc that goes on at that level is symptomatic of what is happening in the juniors as well as the pro tour on both tours. Some players never ever play with honour. The same people who are playing league tennis and hate to lose are the same ones whose children are in the junior tennis programme and the same ones who make the transition to the pro tour and behave like hooligans. They are also the same ones who pay big money to go to professional tournaments and boo players etc. and the same ones who go on message boards and berate other fans. Yeah, tennis is no longer a genteel sport. That was lost a long time ago.

happygeek said...

LOL!! @ "He drove off, tires screeching." ... too funny.