Life on the tennis court

Another summer of tennis is rapidly coming to a close. It’s my 43rd in a row.
I began playing tennis at 23 years old. A lot of us did. It was the early ’70s, the height of the tennis boom.
Am I any good?
Well, that depends. I actually play better now, at 66, than ever. And I might be just as quick. Still, there are dozens of players around here, some older than I, who would clean my clock, and thousands across the country who would clean their clocks.
None of that matters. An avid fisherman once told me fishing is not about catching fish. Likewise, tennis is not about winning matches.
One thing that attracted me to the game right from the start is that tennis, as my late tennis partner “Flash” Flanagan used to say, is a slice of everything important in life.
For starters, tennis is about watching the ball. Never, ever take your eye of it. In life off the court, the “ball” is whatever is most important to you. Whatever that is, stay focused on it. On his home planet, the Little Prince, of the Antoine de Saint Exupery book, has only one possession, a rose. “It’s how you take care of your rose,” he says.
Ask yourself “what’s my rose?” Then take care of it. On the tennis court, it’s a fuzzy, neon green ball.
Another thing about tennis is that you must learn to only take care of your side of the court. The other side belongs to your opponent. You can do little or nothing about that side, other than return the ball to it. The life lesson here is to mind your own business.
Then there’s the marvelous skill of having a short memory. Miss a shot in tennis? Learn from it and forget it. There’s a new ball on its way. On a tennis court, there’s no future in living in the past. This applies to off the court, too.
Finally, there’s the concept of love.
In tennis, it stands for nothing, no points. A score of 30-0, is not 30-zero, but 30-love.
The first time Flash heard this he wasn’t sure he wanted any part of tennis. “I refuse to be associated with anything where love means nothing,” he said.
But there’s another way to look at it.
In tennis, love is where you start. Before you hit a single shot, you have love.
Imagine how beautiful your life will be if you do the same. Start everything you do with love and the rest will be easy.

Ed Ackerman