Ellen Bradley wears a football helmet to play tennis – when I’m her partner.
My first serve during a recent match bounced off her noggin and popped over the net, but for some reason did not qualify as a “let.” The second almost took off her ear. The third, she assured me, only grazed the edge of her racquet.
Ellen is lucky that my serve has all the power of a thrown noodle. And I’m lucky to play doubles with an incredibly patient and encouraging group of women.
Toss higher, I was advised. Point your feet toward the net corner pole, was one suggestion. “Give me a second to get out of your way,” pleaded my next scheduled partner. Take up tiddlywinks, thought everyone else.
This summer I took tennis lessons, hoping to surprise my fall league-mates with a big girl serve instead of the side-arm Lob of Death. Sometimes I win the point because the receiver has dozed off waiting for the Lob of Death to land, but each time I feel like Smalls in “The Sandlot” when he hand-delivers the ball instead of throwing it.
Our league plays “first in.” If it’s your first serve of the set you get as many attempts as needed to reach the service square. My opponents have time to get a pedicure, air dry their toes and re-tie their laces before smashing my Lob of Death down the alley.
I’m reluctant to name my tennis teacher, because it’s not her fault that I’m in the Double Fault Hall of Shame. “What should we work on today,” she would ask. “Everything,” I’d reply, feeling like everyone in “Groundhog Day” except Bill Murray.
The other day my father re-told a story about a not-very-good golfing buddy in Florida who bragged that he was the No. 2 golfer at Kings Point. My incredulous father said, “If you’re No. 2, who’s No. 1?” “Everyone else,” his pal replied.
That’s me on the tennis court, with a well-earned lack of confidence.
A friend recently asked if I’d like to learn bridge. I’m tempted. In bridge, it’s no insult to be the dummy. No one’s ever been injured by a crazy card shuffler. The only thing hurt by a poorly played hand would be my pride.
But I’m not ready to retire my racquet. Despite Einstein’s riff about insanity, I’m determined to keep trying. Please watch out, Ellen: Don’t endanger that great smile by looking my way.