|Halloween '12 is still a fave.|
Just drilling them!
So we arrived at the non-fancy neighborhood and the regular, non-fancy outdoor courts had big puddles on them, and the host team was walking around squeegeeing and drying them with towels. It was gray and cold. I don't think the temp was below the mid or low 40's, but the wind was absolutely biting. I thought, "Winter tennis can go suck an egg. What are we doing out here? I'm not doing this next year."
But I probably will.
One thing I noticed about this team right away was that it was mostly older ladies. Like, it's hard to tell, but maybe 60ish? Which means one thing: Look out. When I was a newbie, I would sometimes make assumptions about someone's playing ability based on how they looked. Young and fit? I would expect a tough match. Older? Out of shape? I would think, "Oh this will be a snap!"
O ho! That was folly. I can tell you, these days the opponent who strikes the most fear into my heart, just by stepping onto the court, is a heavyset, white-haired lady with two knee-braces. God, I quake just thinking of it. When you see her coming, you're about to get your ass kicked. You better dig deep and have your best game, but it probably won't be enough. An old lady who is still out there playing? It does not even matter that she has bad joints and is wearing a medical alarm button. She will stand her ground right on the service line and stick her racquet up in the air and absolutely punish you. You better love to run, because she's going to jerk you from side to side like you're on a string. And she can hit the ball like a laser. She can hit it where you can't get it.
She will probably do all this while wearing earmuffs. And possibly a knitted shrug.
I wouldn't kid you about the accessories.
After one such match, my partner summed up our opponent, "She had all the old lady tricks." Incredibly patient and consistent lobbing, crazy backspin that she can apply to seemingly any ball, sharp angles, and down-the-line winners. We played this lady one time--she was probably over 70--she hit her serves as slice drop shots. Her serves! They sneaked over the net, hit the ground, and died without bouncing. We were like, what just happened? How do you even hit that shot from behind the baseline? Is she some kind of wizard?
Today after Peg and I finished our match (winning!), I sat and watched Pretty Neighbor and her partner battle some old ladies. Our coach was sitting with me. She goes, "This is going to be tough. You watch." But our girls found the Little Old Lady Achilles Heel. The little old lady does not like to run forward. If you can manage to hit the balls short enough, you'll usually win the point. Unless you make her mad and she runs up and fires the ball straight at your throat.
Be careful out there.
So I was watching the rest of our team play, and my body cooled down, and my sweat wicked away, and I was sitting on a stone wall, and it was so cold that before long, I was wrapped in a blanket that came from PN's car. Truth be told, it was an entire bedspread. I had it over my head and I was peering out with just my visor bill.
Seeking an "atta girl" for the match I'd played, I turned to our coach and said, "Did you see that moment up at the net when I LEAPED LIKE A CAT?"
She goes, "I saw a leap."
Then--you didn't think we were done?--tonight, I went out in the chill again and played a flex league match with Kelly Ham. We drove over the literal river and through the actual woods to get to where this neighborhood is supposed to be, and then I'm driving and it's pitch black and I pass a rusted out RV and then I'm driving through an honest-to-god graveyard. Like, there are gravestones. And then we arrived at a tennis court. Very odd.
Then we double-bageled those girls! That means that we beat them 6-0 6-0, so their score looks like two bagels. I don't know who dreamed up that terminology. But that doesn't happen very often. It sure feels like hell to get beat like that. But they didn't even seem to mind that much. And of course, the farther up in the score we got, the more lovely and gracious we became, until we were ready to be crowned joint Homecoming Queens. Then we shook hands with them and exchanged gossip and drove ourselves back home in the mist.
Now you know basically everything about my day. It's a panoply! Mostly I wanted to warn you about the old ladies. God I hope to be one of them some day. xo