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The Doubles Did Me In—(or, ‘Oh Yeah, I Play Tennis, Too)

April 19, 2016
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(Over the years, on Tennis Talk, Anyone?—the “big brother” blog to this one—I’ve written occasional posts about my own playing. Recent events prompted me to write something along those lines here, too!)

It’s been a little over a week now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever recover.

Physically, mentally…any kind of “-ally” you can imagine.

Of course, I’m being a tad dramatic, but I am beat up—all from a couple of hours of doubles. This, however, wasn’t your casual, squeeze-everyone-on-the-court doubles, but rather a couple of hours of drilling that I couldn’t have been more ill-prepared for if I tried.

It started with my goal to play as much tennis as possible in 2016, which is how you have to think living in New York. Playing as much as you’d like is a near-impossibility with court availability and expenses all at a premium. It’s always been hard for me to get used to that, and I’ve lived up here almost 19 years now. I was lucky growing up because we lived in an apartment complex in Mobile, Alabama, that had a court for residents to use. Once I started taking lessons and falling in love with the game, it was nearly impossible to get me off it.

Over the years, I’ve tried to recreate that, but the best I could do is playing three times a week at my old haunt, Roosevelt Island Racquet Club, which happened to be the site of my most recent beatdown.

Anyway, back to my efforts to play more: I decided I was going to give USTA league tennis another go. I played in a mixed doubles league about 10 years ago, and in a men’s league three years past. I reached out to the local league coordinators and got put in touch with the captain of a team. I was invited out for a tryout and I thought I’d be OK. After all, how hard could it be? I’ve probably played more doubles over the years than singles—mainly due to the lack of courts thing—and acquitted myself all right out there.

Which, not to brag, should be expected. After all, I was a pretty highly ranked junior in Alabama in doubles and I do have a few titles under my belt. (Considering where I’m at in my game right now, though, my past accomplishments should actually be rendered null and void, along with that prior sentence.)

So I get out to the courts and there’s six of us out there. We start off with some mini tennis to warm up, then get into crunching volleys at each other from the service line. My volleys have never been my strong suit, but I’m doing OK for the first minute.

And then I wasn’t.

It’s easy for me to start catching the ball behind me and I got caught doing that more than a few times. After that, we get some feedback from one of the coaches out there and I’m already feeling a little gassed, just from the warmups.

That was bad because I didn’t know we’d be in a state of constant motion afterward.

I mean, the drills were endless: overheads, returns, swinging volleys, volleying low balls from mid-court, baseline duos against two at the net, covering the middle. Just nonstop.

It wasn’t only my lack of being in shape that did me in, but the various nuances you have to be up on in doubles, like sliding over to cover gaps if your partner is stretched out or disguising your serve when setting up out wide.

In fact, let’s talk about the serve.

We got into a serve-and-volley drill and by the time that started, my left Achilles tendon was killing me from all the moving forward, which is the key to success in dubs. Maybe I’m too hardheaded for my own good, but I refused to “tap out,” even though I probably should’ve because I’d been essentially useless out there for a while at that point. I remember sticking a couple of volleys and hitting a good forehand pass—not too much good to take away out of two hours.

When the bell rang, I was probably the happiest and saddest man alive: happy it was over and sad because my leg was killing me.

As expected, the next day, I got an email from the captain telling me I didn’t make the squad. I wasn’t bummed about that because I knew I wasn’t ready. (Maybe 20 years ago…)

However, I am bummed because of the injuries incurred. Injury is now plural because since I spent a couple of days limping, my right leg has taken a lot of strain and that Achilles hurts. Also, I’m supposed to run a 5K this weekend, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off.

And I really don’t know when I’ll be able to get on the court again. Cutting and running is a tough proposition any time, but with a couple of sore Achilles’…

I guess a positive from the league experience is that I learned a lot about where I am as a tennis player, which is that I’m nowhere near where I want to be. And league tennis might not be the best way for me to go right now with its heavy doubles emphasis. I have so much to do basics-wise, it’s ridiculous.

I’ll get there, though. At least that’s what I have to tell myself! And next year, if I’m in a doubles-drilling sitch, I (and my aching Achilles’) will be better prepared.

 

 

 

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