Tennis is not just for pros.
Tennis is for everyone.
A DEFINING MATCH –
USTA 6.5 DOUBLES LEAGUE
August 31 & September 14, 2010
Once upon a time in Brazil a young girl named Monica found that she had little natural sports abilities. As you might expect she avoided physical competitions simply because she was not particularly good at them. In her mid-50’s the woman met a mid-50’s man who was very much into tennis, had played in numerous 4.0 USTA leagues, and had begun to instruct tennis classes. (That man would be me.) A romance immediately sprung up between the two of them but he never pushed the game onto her because of her stated antipathy towards sports. In her professional life she had singularly developed an academic career for herself as a tenured professor, spoke five languages, and majored in the Portuguese language. One day she suddenly discovered an inclination to learn how to play tennis. She became one of his students.
Although learning tennis was slow and at times painfully difficult, she improved to where she was playing in local USTA leagues at a 2.5 level. With her organizational capabilities she decided to become captain of a 2.5 team and continued to be a team captain for ten consecutive years. During that time one of her teams found themselves playing against another team which had a number of inexperienced, sub-2.5 players. Her team won the league easily and found themselves playing in the NC State Finals. To make a long story short Monica’s team was slaughtered, so to speak, because they were 2.5’s playing in a 3.0 level competition. They did not win a single set. Nevertheless, all but one of their teammates were elevated to the 3.0 level by the idiotic USTA computer formula, despite the fact that they were actually 2.5 players. Many of the team members were discouraged because no one enjoys losing almost every match against superior players. But she continued her captainship in the face of adversity. Finally after about a decade of mostly losing competitions, she decided to stop being a captain in 2009. In 2010 she signed up with the local parks and recreation department as an unaffiliated 3.0 player hunting a 3.0 team. She was invited to play with a newly formed women’s team which was registered to play in a women’s 6.5 combo league. (The USTA 6.5 rules pair up 3.0 and 3.5 players, together making a 6.5 combination.) Almost all of her new teammates had no history of playing with each other. She was scheduled to play her first doubles match with a 3.5 partner that she had never played with and never met, a less than smart circumstance.
My son had just been diagnosed with MS and I was getting together with him for dinner that evening, so I was not able to be at her first match. The match started at 6:30 PM, and I was expecting to hear from her in about an hour or so via cell phone. At 7:30 there was no word from her. At 8:30 I was beginning to worry that she might have gotten into a traffic accident. Little did I suspect what was actually going on. At 9 PM still no word. I was anxiously glued to my phone. Finally at around 9:15 PM she called saying, “Hi, I am still at the courts. We played for 2 hours and 45 minutes! Then she surprised me with the exclamation, “WE WON!” Well, I have to admit that my heart did a little flip flop.
To put this scenario into perspective, without giving away anyone’s age, she was older than one of her opponents by about 15 years, and older than her other opponent by about 25 years. For her to have played 2 hours and 40 minutes was totally remarkable, and to have won the match was something of a miracle. Particularly because in a number of ways she was the least accomplished tennis player of the four women.
When she came to my house I flooded her with accolades. I asked her many questions. Finally I asked her what she would have felt like if she had lost the match after investing 2 hours and 45 minutes. She thought a minute and replied that she still would have felt great because she had played really well. She gave me a play-by-play description of the entire match. They had won the first set in a tiebreaker. They had lost the second set 7-5. And they ended up winning the match-deciding third set tiebreaker 10-6. What a protracted duel. This, in my estimation, is the essence of competition. The winner in such evenly contested matches is often the team that wants to win the most.
I teach all of my students at this level that CONSISTENCY is the key to winning. The team which makes the least number of unforced errors will almost always win, But beyond the element of consistency, the team which wants to win the most, the team which is determined to outlast the opponents and to persevere no matter what, will usually end up victorious.
In contests such at this, victory will put a lasting smile on your face. To a player who has been daunted by all sports for the majority of her life, winning such a competition is just as rewarding as winning at a Grand Slam tournament. Nothing can deny such a victory once it has become history. Truly this was a defining match, to be replayed in the mind with the same happy results forever.
TennisTom, August 31, 2010, Chapel Hill, NC
Addendum: On September 14, 2010, Monica and her team captain, who also had never played together as a team, won another close match in a 3rd set tiebreaker. This match only lasted about 2 hours. Monica won the tiebreaker with a well placed lob over both of the opponents’ heads.
You gotta love a woman with this kind of heart.
[A Defining Match – USTA 6.5 League Doubles by TennisTom] [Rev 9-14-10]