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Soup of This Day #211: In Return For Grace

July 11, 2012

Yaroslava Shvedova
Yaroslava Shvedova – She’s like the Terminator of women’s tennis – A good Terminator, like Summer Glau’s Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Best not to hit a ball directly at her then – Image: Keith Allison, 2011. Keith Allison is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I last played a game of tennis when I was in my final year of high school. I thought I should write about that experience to give reason as to why I just don’t like the game – You see, it’s a little more than the boredom factor that I’ve been making out is why I’m not feelin’ the love.

To be honest I didn’t grow up with tennis so hadn’t had the kind of nurturing environment conducive to pinging a felted green ball around. Still, I was never against tennis and at times I’d watch, thinking, maybe I should give that a go. Hell, I played badminton and that involved a racquet and a net.

An opportunity to give tennis another try came along 1 fine spring day at boarding school. A mate needed a doubles partner and I was happy to oblige, mostly in truth because of who we were playing.

Some girls.

Who looked just a bit of alright in tennis clobber.

This then was my chance to shine, to stand out from the pack a little by impressing with my tennis prowess. Because 1 of the great biological cues is a woman seeing a man confidently wacking 7 kinds of @#$% out of a small, bouncy ball – It replicates the long lost skill of hunting for small, felted, bouncy animals which presumably are highly nutritious and very useful in child-rearing.

I hadn’t really thought this through.

But still I just knew that the ladies luuuurve a man who’s good with the sports and so after not nearly enough practice swings I stood by to receive the 1st serve. I should have been nervous – It wasn’t just the 1st serve of that match – It was the 1st serve I’d received in anger for around 8 years.

I definitely had not thought this through.

That gap in experience though initially made no difference. The serve came in fast and to my right, sitting up nicely as I smoothly swung through, angling the racquet head to keep the ball down to a nice height. I met the ball with a satisfying whopping sound and it arrowed back across the net like a tracer, powered by the confidence of a man who was about to have some hot girls cooing in his direction.

And early on the shot looked as good as I felt about it. It was fair on humming through the air – My racquet control had been spot on, the ball was travelling at a nice height, skimming about a foot higher than the net, around head high.

Head high for a girl, crouched, waiting at the net for her partner to return serve.

I can accurately describe that height because it was not only head high for a girl, crouched, waiting at the net – It was also zeroing in the direction of a girl, crouched, waiting at the net.

I think it caught her in the eye.

I’m not sure about the exact region of impact because I’d involuntarily averted my own eyes – Sort of a brace for impact. Now, if you look back across the history of humankind, I think you’ll find that men who accidentally wound their prospective co-parents while attempting to demonstrate their virility tend to get weeded out via evolution. Simply – They don’t get to have sex. They might as well be wounding themselves in the wedding tackle.

I would happily have done that on the tennis court that day, if only to distract everyone’s attention from my woman-hating forehand.

Fortunately the wound was not serious – The girl got back on her feet and with an angry glare in my direction indicated that we should get the game back on. Which we did and in an attempt to show that I wasn’t a macho, aggressive @#$%head I reverted to playing how a guy who has very limited experience actually plays tennis.


With the added burden of trying very hard to miss my opponents I sprayed returns left, right and almost never down the centre, unless it was a lob into the cricket nets, which were shielded by a 20-foot high fence and located behind our court. The only time I came anywhere near to hitting another tennis player was when I flayed a volley at someone on the adjacent court.

I think it was a guy so at least I didn’t rule out another prospective girlfriend.

Anyway I went on to lose us every point that I was in some way involved in, much to my partner’s dismay. He did alleviate this somewhat by winning several off his own racquet but those points were few and far between, mostly because the hot girls on the other side of the net had worked out that I was the weak link.

Either that or they were trying to kill me with their forehands, backhands and even 1 particularly malicious drop shot.

The result in any case was that the ball kept coming to me. And then going some place that was not related directly to our field of play. Taken all together, I don’t think anyone watched me play and thought I was cool.

At least I could claim to have won that 1st point. At Wimbledon recently Sarah Errani couldn’t even hold that up in her 1st set with Yaroslava Shvedova. Shvedova you see, did something that nobody had ever done in a Grand Slam before, man or women.

She won the 1st 24 points in a row to take the set 6-0.

Let that sink in for a moment. She won every point played for a whole set, in the most important tournament in the tennis world, played at the spiritual home of tennis. And Errani ain’t no Longworth72 – The 25 year old Italian No.1 was seeded 10th for the tournament and had made the final of the French Open earlier this year.

24 year old Russian Shvedova by contrast was outside the top-50 in the world and was not tipped to get past this 3rd Round clash.

She did though, and with her ‘Golden Set’ out of the traps, went through in some style, 6-0 6-4. It’s worth noting that Shvedova has a vision issue – She wears prescription glasses on court – yet still managed to win without once hitting her opponent.

I reckon everyone thinks she’s cool.

She is too and it has nothing to do with whether she looks good in tennis clobber, which she does by the way. Hopefully the press that Yaroslava generates is for her feat with her racquet rather than what she wears – She’s a serious competitor.

As are the 261 women that the US will send to the Olympics. That’s a significant number – Partly because that’s a lot of athletes who have given it their all to compete but also because the US is sending 8 less men – Just 261 of them. That’s not the typical make-up of US team – Indeed London 2012 will be the 1st such gender-distributed US Olympic team and for mine it will be better for it. 1 day perhaps, such a balance will be completely unremarkable, a non-story even, and that will be better again.

For the record the Australian Olympic team for London features 224 men and 186 women, including our youngest competitor, 16 year old Brittany Broben, and our oldest, 57 year old Mary Hanna. In that respect we do mirror the US, whose youngest is 15 year old Katie Ledecky, and their oldest is 54 year old Karen O’Connor. Mary and Karen will be facing off as equestrian riders. Women you see, rock at any age.

I guess what I’m trying to highlight is that I think I had it backwards that day on the boarding school tennis courts. It would have been far better for me if I’d taken a knee and watched the girls play from the sidelines. I could have learned how to play the game a little better and as a bonus selected a partner who could hunt me down all of the small, felted, bouncy animals I could have wanted.

And that is why I don’t like watching tennis – I don’t need to. I’ve found my woman – She kicks arse and looks just a bit alright in pretty much any clobber. I can stop searching now.

That, and it really is boring.

In Return For Grace

  1. I enjoy tennis but sometimes find it difficult to cultivate a partner to play against. My wife and I played often back in the day…until I almost killed her with a drop shot. That sounds like a post that cries out to be written, doesn’t it? Hmmm…

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