K. wanted to rally directly straight back and forth. Sometimes you run into guys like that. It’s a control thing. Not my style, but okay for practice.
I thought things were going copacetically, but apparently not straight back and forth enough for K, because after half an hour he announced, “I’m done” and left without another word or glance in my direction.
OK, K. A little rude to walk off like that but I’ve been a little rude and also a lot rude at various not-proud times in my tennis career, so, let’s just say thanks for hitting with me. It let me practice putting my weight (which is down ten pounds to 200, here comes 199!) on my back leg, while also keeping my knee bent. Those unbent knees = lotta balls dumped into the net. That is my current theory.
And now I can say I played at Queen Anne’s, in a bird-chirpy Mid-City neighborhood with a flat playground surrounding four clean courts. The nets all look to be in good shape and adorning the windscreens there are many banners for this park’s USTA league championship teams. Congrats! The place is empty except for a father and son heading to the baseball field carrying a bucket of balls for December batting practice. That’s the spirit!
This low-key outing on the second day of winter gives me time to reflect on what I have learned about tennis this year.
- I like singles better than doubles. Singles lets you own your mistakes. It’s not the other guy who isn’t bending his knees and therefore dumping balls into the net. The person who is missing shots when shots are being missed is me. So, bend those knees, please. Thank you! I still like doubles, though — especially when I’m playing with a partner who is better than me. And I can also amuse myself playing all by myself. Singles is the best, though. It’s everything all the time.
- “Play-to-play” vs. “Play-to-win.” I can’t strategize and play well at the same time. Sorry. Maybe if I had drilled for many more thousands of hours as a kid, but it’s too late for that now, and my stamp and record collections — which I still enjoy — would be much smaller if I had been a hardcore tennis animal growing up. Also, my parents were never the YOU WILL BE THIS TYPE OF PERSON people; they let me be my zigzagging self. Thanks, Mom & Dad! The point being, it is self-defeating for me to try and beat my opponent. I think too much and tighten up. Keeping the point going — that’s the sweet spot for me.
- The “duh, duh, duh,” theory of serving. This is another non-thinking exercise that has resulted in 2022 being the year of me getting my first serve in way more often than ever before. This comes from The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. Instead of thinking things like “Don’t double fault” or “Let’s smoke this mf,” you think nothing other than to say out loud “duh” when you take aim, “duh” on the toss, “duh” on contact. Then I usually add in a hearty grunt just because that is one of the great unsung benefits of playing tennis, the public grunting. It frees your soul.
- Los Angeles is tennis paradise. What a bounty of lovely courts we have here in LA County. Thus far on my quest to play ’em all, I have been as far north as Valencia Glen Park, south to Charles Wilson Park in Torrance, east to San Angelo Park in La Puente, and west to Santa Monica’s Ocean View Park, which I haven’t written about because that was pre-quest, but those courts are right on the beach! My game had plateaued on my home courts, love them as I do, but I have gotten much better between August and December as a result of playing with all kinds of folks all over the place. You can still re-invent yourself in Los Angeles; at least, you can as a tennis player. LA is certainly not without its dire problems, but lack of wonderful tennis courts is not one of them.