Sunday, April 20, 2008

In The Shadows of Venus

Tennis players like to imagine themselves playing on Center Court at Wimbledon, the focus of attention, and at the top of their game. You might call it a kind of delusion of grandeur, the feeling that your game is a whole lot better than it really is. The sense that you could hold your own against the very best players in the world, even if you are just an above average club player competing against someone of similar ability in your own age group.

This past Saturday, my usual game against one of my regular opponents took on added significance when a certain tall, lanky, and muscular young woman suddenly appeared on the court next to mine. At first I failed to recognize her, but as soon as she completed her warm-ups and started hitting those rocket forehands and backhands, it was perfectly obvious that Venus Williams was that person. Suddenly, my perfectly ordinary and mundane match was the opportunity to showcase my talents, and to allow myself to be inspired to rise to new heights well beyond my abilities.

There was quite a crowd assembled there, watching Venus gracefully slide from side to side, reaching out with those long arms and legs to reach the far corners of the court, hitting wicked down the line shots just like at the Grand Slam tournaments. She took many breaks, resting or stretching on the sidelines, while my friend and I continued to battle it out right next door. I realized that the spectators during these lengthy interludes had no other option but to watch our match, and that in a way I really was on Center Court, even if it was not in London, Paris, or New York. This was my chance to shine, to excel, to impress.

I won my match quite easily, three straight sets, and managed a few rather spectacular shots along the way, at least by my own standards. I could catch Venus every once in a while glancing over at our court, watching two 50+ year old men trying to act like 21 year olds in their prime. Maybe one of my forehands even looked good to her, or maybe that occasional smile was her reaction to the vast gap between our games. It really does not matter all that much. After all, at least for one Saturday in April, I played tennis next to Venus Williams, almost on the same court, at the same time, and I held my own.


Rate said...

Great story :)

I bet that win felt more gratifying then any of the others before.

ASponge said...

Absolutely superb story. If any of you have some access to tennis magazines/contacts, this would be a good place to share this story.

I think tennis magazines would eat it up.