I’ve been learning tennis for five years now. I suppose, after five years, one could just as easily say “playing” tennis, rather than “learning” tennis. But I’m still learning.
To be honest, I’m struggling. When I started learning, I picked up surprisingly quickly. I earned much praise from both Amit and my tennis coach. I even surprised myself.
Since then, it’s been largely downhill. I improve for a while, then, suddenly, I completely lose it. I work and struggle and despair as my game unravels, and I slowly claw my way back up to an acceptable level; then, suddenly, I lose it again. A bit like Roger, actually.
I’ve been in the “struggle-despair-claw-my-way-back-up” phase for several months. No doubt part of my difficulty was due to the Chronic Fatiuge Syndrome; retrospectively, I’m beginning to see just how great an impact it had on my physical ability and my state of mind. In the past few week, Tennis Sir has been making a real effort to put my game back on track.
Sir normally either doesn’t play at all, or plays only with the weaker members of each batch; the more accomplished players can play well against other players or against the markers. But in the past three or four weeks, Sir has been playing exclusively with me and it’s done wonders for my game. He has allowed me to slow my game down to snail’s pace while I work on fixing all that was wrong with my stroke. Of all the people on our courts, including Amit (who is a superb player), nobody can control the game as well as Sir can, especially when it comes to playing really gently, against beginners or erratic players.
And my game had become so bad, it was worse than that of many of the beginners or more erratic players I have seen. Only a few weeks ago, I watched a beginner rallying against Sir and envied her slow, regular stroke that allowed the rally to run on uninterrupted for a very long time. I felt extremely despondent – I used to be able to play like that when I was a beginner, too. Where did it go?
But it’s improving. Playing exclusively with Sir, at a slow pace, focusing on my stroke, my game has slowly become more consistent and better controlled.
The proof of the pudding is in the rally. At my worst, I couldn’t sustain a rally beyond five or six shots. My shots were too wild for even a fit and enthusiastic opponent to retrieve. Plus, of course, I didn’t always manage to get the ball past the net.
Now, at last, I’ve managed to bring that under control. Last time I played, I managed a single rally of 49 shots, and several other rallies of 20+ shots.
Today? My first rally lasted 85 shots! And close to the end of the session, another rally went to 58 shots. In between was at least one rally of 30+ shots and two or three of around 20 shots.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small victory. I haven’t won a tournament; I haven’t even played a match. But 85 shots is a personal record. It’s a testament to the power of sheer, dogged determination. And it means a lot to me.