As I stepped onto the tennis court, staring down my arch enemy, I paused and took a deep breath before I hit my first serve.
My opponent didn’t know what was about to hit him. I tossed the ball into the air and time seemed to slow to a crawl. I began my serving motion, made contact with the ball, and watched with anticipation to see my sure-fire ace.
I heard the ball bounce once, then twice.
Except there was one small detail standing in my way. My serve didn’t exactly make it in the serve area. Or in our court at all.
My opponent, really my friend who had the lack of foresight to agree to my pleas for a tennis match, shook his head and started to jog to retrieve the ball.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I took tennis lessons. I was the star pupil (at least in my head I was). Clearly those lessons haven’t stuck with me through the years.
Instead, I’m stuck with a forehand that is semi-dependable, a backhand where half the time it goes in the general direction I want it to, and half the time it appears as though I’ve closed my eyes and just swung wildly at the ball and just hoped it would land somewhere on the court.
In my defense, my friend wasn’t a whole lot better than I was.
The good news, we were a good match for each other.
The bad news? There wasn’t a ton of actual tennis being played. It was more: hit the ball once or twice, watch it sail out of bounds, pause, retrieve said balls, and repeat.
Riveting, I know.
There were whiffs, balls sailing over the fence, balls being hit into the net and balls hit all over the court. The only place that proved difficult to make the balls land was in our own court. Not the most promising development, especially with the Monmouth-Independence Fourth of July tennis tournament looming.
But I have a trump card — one that I expect to give me an edge to tournament glory (or at least not hit any innocent bystander with a wayward shot).
Dallas hosts an open court Wednesday evenings. Among the people there will be Thomas Gniadecki, Dallas High’s foreign exchange student who placed third at the 5A boys state tennis championships.
Will he be able to pass along his knowledge, skill and athleticism to me in time to triumph on July 2 and 3? No. But, I do intend to pick his brain, learn a few tips and maybe, just maybe, go from a terrible tennis player to a slightly less terrible one.