Man in white t-shirt on sunny tennis court eyeing a tennis ball above his head

#107 Hickory Park, Torrance

Theo went up 2-0 by passing me on my backhand. I’m flailing left-handed, tapping back dribblers, shaking my head ruefully until — here’s a new idea!

Get over to the backhand side a little quicker, Marko.

That’s right.

That’s all it took: a little boogie-oogie-oogie to the left and now all those balls that were ailing are now sailing.

Hip-hip-hooray for Marko making an adjustment! I’m proud of noticing what was going wrong and figuring out something to do about it, as opposed to wallowing, moping, etc. Making an adjustment is way more lively.

There’s a life-lesson there, and also here: I noticed that even once I had righted the competitive balance of our friendly game, I still felt a certain amount of ugh.

As in, “Ugh, I have to play all the points left in this game, this set, this match — so many points — ugh!”

It was an agglomeration of points.

A too much-ness.

But I adjusted!

Play-to-play, that was my note to self. It worked like a charm. Instead of playing to win, I played to get the ball back to Theo so he could return it to me and we kept going like that, in synch and flow.


This is one of the things I most love about tennis, when everything is all about the ball that’s about to come, the ball that is coming.

Synch and flow let instinct kick in and thus I unintentionally started hitting these just-right winners, ohhhhh yeahhhhhhh.

Very pleasing.

The entire outing was very pleasing. The one court at Hickory Park in Torrance: it’s not gonna win any best-kept court awards. Lotta cracks in the surface. The net full of holes and lacking a strap.

And yet. Not littered! Yes, pine needles piled up against the fence, but that’s natural. So are the lizards prowling the perimeter.

The surface cracks bring unexpected texture to the game, balls richocheting off the jaggedness with where-did-that-come-from giddy-up.


Theo is from some huge city in China I am abashed to have never heard of, near Hong Kong. Impeccable, diplomat-level English. He is just visiting Torrance for a couple of weeks and intrepid enough to put up a social media post looking for partners.

He really liked the Hickory Park court because it is so private. In China he said there would be a billion people milling, bustling, pressing all around the court. Here it was just us and intermittent pedestrians and the lizards while we shared sunscreen and thumbs-ups and frolicked.


  1. I’m seeing a pattern in your writing.
    1. Improving Skills
    2. Appreciation for new friends and nature
    3. Extinguishing the desperate will to succeed.

    Perhaps a future book? A non-competitive approach to improving ones tennis skills while expanding ones appreciation for all that live in our 21st century world.
    I like the title “Play to Play”.

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