“Um…I’ve never actually played singles before,” I said as I shook hands with my opponent. “It’s been a couple years since I last played tennis. We’ll see how this goes.”
I was preparing to be seriously embarrassed, and I thought some verbal preparation might soften the blow.
Senior Lara Kong had kindly given me a summary of the rules for singles tennis while we walked to the courts, but I had some serious holes in my ability to play. At the last practice I’d attended, I’d made about 10 percent of the serves into the proper area. I rarely managed to hit the ball over the net. And I couldn’t even remember how the scoring worked.
I was playing Number 2 Singles, which meant that I was the second best girl on the team. Second best out of two girls. At any other school, most singles players have years of experience with tennis and are extremely skilled. But at Country Day I, with my complete lack of ability (the last time I held a tennis racket was freshman year), must play singles.
Luckily, my opponent was friendly and patient. I had no idea what the rules were about switching sides and serving, but I took my cues from her and faked competency. By the end of the game, I still wasn’t sure how to tell when to switch sides or servers.
Here is what I did learn about playing tennis:
The outfits are ridiculous. I do not wish to play sports in a skirt.
It takes a really, really long time. I initially thought “best two out of three” referred to sets. But no, it referred to matches, which were made up of six sets. I don’t have that kind of attention span.
Holding a racket for over an hour creates nasty thumb blisters, the remnants of which are still visible weeks later.
If I ever want to be taken seriously, I need to stop uttering high-pitched “no!”s whenever I miss the ball.
And lastly, hitting the ball successfully is incredibly satisfying, and makes the game overall mostly enjoyable.
I ended up losing in a tiebreaker, the rules of which I found confusing. In fact, we were both clueless – after we nearly forgot that we had to play a tiebreaker at all, the other team’s coach walked us through every step of the unnecessarily complicated procedure.
The benefit of going to Country Day is that no matter how bad you are at a sport, you will almost always get a chance to play. However, this opportunity comes at the price of a lot of humiliating situations for unathletic people like me.
Still, while I’m dreading having to play someone who will truly destroy me, there’s something to be said for being thrown into the deep end. By the end of the game, nearly all my serves were going in, and I rarely hit balls into the net. And the weirdest part was that I actually had fun.