13 April, 2007

Why Do You Love Tennis?

I got to answer this on another site. Thought I'd echo it here just because.

I was having a perfectly awful night, receiving doubles in the ad court (usually my favorite.) I had stayed put after my return, and the rushing server decided to squeeze a drop volley wide. And it was a beauty.

I took off. He didn't know it, but that's my favorite part of tennis. I'm a little gray, and I wear a knee brace, but I love to "get there."

I got there.

And I got there with enough time to put about a 40 mph topper on that little spot between them where neither had a chance.

I love tennis because they both dropped their jaws and gawked. They knew the heart, training, control, creativity, and luck that shot took, and they took the time to admire it. I love tennis because that one shot felt so unexplainably good the whole night was redeemed. I love tennis because you all know exactly what I mean. I love tennis because for three hours, every passion of my heart gets to push my body as hard as it can go but is punished for imprecision. I love that when I hit the ball, I cannot look at the target. Mostly, I love to feel the force of my pinky toe channel up through my palm and drive a ball to a target I only see in my heart.

I love tennis because every character flaw and weakness I show at work and home and church, bleeds out onto the court. You can't lie about who you are on the court. If you're a choker, you'll choke. And I love that when Dunlop Maxply and others gave me tips to fight choking, I could test them on the court, and find out they worked at home with my son.

And I love tennis because after 35 years I still let the point of impact on my backhand drift in toward my body, and wonder why everything goes wide left.

This game is just amazing.


Milly said...

I Love That You Love It!

Sidd said...

Oh... my.. god. I am so amazed by your description. I feel exactly the same way and couldn't have said it better myself. I'm 14 and absolutely OBSESSED with tennis. It's my LIFE outside of school:)

That one serve or overhead smash will always make up for even the most horrible day.

Kevin Knox said...

Hey Sidd,

Drop me a line if you ever want to talk about mistakes to avoid and joys to embrace, or just to tell me about your latest match. I'd love to listen.

(I've changed my screen name to my real name, but it's still me.)

Sidd said...

Hey Kevin,

Thanks:) I'm a 4.0 level player, so I'm pretty good but there's lots of room for improvement. Do you play competitively or just for fun? I play tournaments and stuff.

Can you recommend a good racquet for me? I'm an aggressive baseliner, but I'm also good at touch volleys. I want a racquet with very low or low power, please, 98 sq. in or smaller. Any recommendations would be great.

Kevin Knox said...

Tough call on recommending a racket across the internet! Not a chance!

I'll tell you this. I'm discovering the worth of a good slice - not the kind that has millions of rpm of backspin, but the kind that just drives flat with almost no spin. I'm just starting to use it heavily off the backhand wing, and I'm learning it off the forehand. I think it's going to give me a good change of pace against the heavy topspin hitters.

What's cool is that the same stroke is giving me a good foundation for a net game. I've been trying to build a volley for years, and it's never happened. I think it's not possible to volley convincingly without a good flat slice. I've been practicing my volley and my slice together, and find they're advancing at the same pace. It's very cool.

When I come to the net, I know I draw twice the errors from my opponent. The only problem is I need to not make twice the errors myself! If I can give them a ball on which they don't really want to hit that perfect winner, then take 75% of the court away from them by standing at the net, I can force them to try for too much and give me a free point. And if they hit it to me, all I have to do is give them another uncomfortable shot and let them take another stab at hitting an amazing shot.

I'm starting to get comfortable with that thinking. I'm not good at it yet, but I'm getting better.

I played my first tournament 1 1/2 years ago, and I've been learning just how bad I really am. I thought I might be edging above 4.5, but the fact is I'm probably a strongish 4.0. It's cool to find the truth about my game, though.

I'll tell you what I use, but I wish I'd demo'd some rackets. I have used the Wilson Pro-Staff since 1992. These days I use the nCode 6.1 (90 sq inches) strung to the max. It feels a lot like hitting with a sheet of plywood, and I like that. I feel like I can control what the ball is doing.

"Technical Tennis" will give you a real insight into what you want in a racket, and what you should not care about. There are a LOT of illusions out there, many of them held by very good tennis players. This book gives you the actual physics, and it's a blast to understand.

The ball is actually on the strings for like 4 inches total, and hundredths of a second. You simply cannot possibly react to the feel of the ball. Before your brain knows what the hit feels like, the ball is gone, so your stroke must be solid and direct every time. The book explains why.

The book also explains exactly how to calculate swing weight, and what a good swingweight for what you want to do should feel like. When you're done with the book, you'll know exactly what you are demo'ing for. But be sure to demo every racket you care about twice, because the first time you're just getting familiar.


Sidd said...

I use a Head Agassi Extreme and am switching to a K Six.One 95 soon.

I did demo the K Six.One twice, it felt great, especially on returns and serves. Fits my game so perfectly I can't believe it. Great racquet!

Do you like the nSix.One? How does it compare to the K Six.One?