I wasn’t the greatest tennis player in the world, but I played on a team that was usually in the top 2-3 in our district and the top 10 in the state. Mississippi was a pretty competitive tennis state, so that wasn’t a small achievement. I was on the varsity team in the 10th grade, playing mixed doubles (basically the #4 guy on the varsity team). I just missed the cut to letter, but by my junior year I was up to the #2/#3 guy on the team, playing men’s doubles, and a few times I even played at the #1 position. By my senior year I was pretty much in a good position to challenge for #1 although there were definitely two guys much better than me on the team (both seniors, like me), and one junior who was probably better although not really “into” it that much – he tended to skip practices and miss tournaments, which obviously meant the coach didn’t trust him much.

I had a love/hate relationship with tennis throughout high school. It dominated my daily life more than anything except my studies, really. However, the day I played my last tennis match as a senior, I more or less quit forever. I think I played sporadically that summer but basically I quit playing for anything more than just idle “hit-arounds” at that point.

Things I like about tennis:

  • Tennis is an incredibly athletic sport that requires dexterity, strength, flexibility, speed, endurance and focus. I can’t think of another sport that is so demanding in terms of total physical workouts, except maybe – maybe – basketball as played on a “street” level. A lot of pro basketball and even college basketball is standing around passing the ball back and forth.
  • It’s a fairly simple sport. The rules aren’t that tough to understand and at its base the rule is basically “hit it back over the net before it bounces twice”. Nothing like baseball, for example.
  • It’s international in appeal. There’s nowhere in the world where tennis, or some form of it, isn’t a fairly-well recognized sport. There are other sports that approach it, such as basketball, and one that transcends it, football (soccer), but generally it is one of the few worldwide sports.
  • It’s not a team sport. I’m excluding doubles tennis, which I always hated, from this, but basically you’re on your own. If you miss tackling a receiver in football, the cornerback may save the touchdown for you. If you miss a baseline shot in tennis, there is nobody backing you up.
  • Anna Kournikova played tennis.
  • Things I don’t like about tennis:

  • It’s elitist. Now, golf is far more elitist, but in much of the US you still see tennis restricted to similarly well-to-do areas. Where I live in New Jersey, for example, the tennis courts are few and far between. Most of the ones I’ve seen are in pretty poor shape. It’s not a sport like soccer that you can just pick up in the backyard.
  • It’s strenuous. My wrist still aches today from the pounding it got in high school. Heard of tennis elbow? It’s real. It hurts.
  • It’s not a team sport. I learned a lot playing lacrosse that I didn’t learn from tennis. Even though I was on a team, you don’t really learn the ins-and-outs of reliance on others that you get from a team sport. I sincerely loved the camaraderie of a team sport. I never had that with tennis. Sure, I had friends on the team, but they were my friends from school, not because of tennis.
  • It’s boring. This is the main reason I don’t follow it today or care about any of the players or even really want to play it myself, anymore. Although I played it for years, watching tennis is almost exhaustingly boring. I can’t think of a way I’d less like to spend 6 hours than watching two guys thunder 100-mile-per-hour serves at each other with one/two stroke volleys. Dull, dull, dull.
  • Nowadays I don’t watch sports like I used to; I don’t see much except late-night football after Little Buddy hits the sack. I certainly don’t follow tennis, and my nagging wrist problems keep me from being anxious to play again. When I was in college, and had not played in about three years, I was challenged by a fraternity brother of mine who thought he was pretty good and had never seen me play. So I borrowed a racket and beat him 6-0, 6-0. But the painful ache in my wrist the next day made me decide that was it, period, and to the best of my recollection it’s been about 17 years since I played a set. I tend to imagine that unless Little Buddy takes it up I won’t ever play it again. Better to play golf.

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