Monday, September 3, 2018
The 2018 tennis season is winding down. It's a good time to reflect on the year, and perhaps on the game itself.
My love affair with tennis began in 1948, when gifted by my Aunt Catherine with a wooden Bancroft complete with genuine gut stringing, I ventured to the sideline of a tennis court. Sideline, not on the court as a player. For the next couple of years, I was manager of the college tennis team. I learned a lot by observing and observing and observing our players in action. Eventually, this loyalty paid off by being promoted to playing status. On the third doubles duo to be sure, but varsity nonetheless. My rise up was aided mightily by the team captain, Taney (pronounced “Tawney” ) Willcox, and player John Bateman. My college record was mediocre. However, I did earn my letter.
Off campus, I battled in singles play with my lifelong pal, Hugh Jones. This competition was marked by rare brilliance, nonstop bickering as to whether a shot was in or out and a bedrock of fraternal affection that has served both of us well over more than a half century. So here I am now in my 90th year, rich in tennis memories of the Greats I saw play the game and of matches where I worked the lines as an official. (Not the least of which was calling the center line when Pancho Gonzales was serving. Unable to move fast enough to avoid his blistering serve, he nailed me twice in the chest.)
The equipment has changed dramatically from the days of my 1948 wooden Bancroft. High tech racquet innovations, plus an emphasis on player physical conditioning have resulted in booming serves and volleying from the baseline, a far cry from the all-court movement that was the hallmark of those long ago days. Young spectators today know only baseline play. Any departure from slugging it out “long distance” causes gasps from the gallery.
I gasp too. But mine is more of a sigh of regret that the game has become so one-dimensional.