Gordon Forbes, A Handful of Summers
“Without knowing it, we became addicted to it; inexorably infected by its very deepest urgings, by the whole wide character of the game: the touch of a new racquet, the smell of varnish on gut, the way a slice backhand could float on heavy air and bite into a surface of damp clay.
The way spins drifted and what they did when they bounced. Floppy hats, sunburnt faces, the ache at the end of the day. The lonely matches on outside courts–the hostile eye of opponents’ parents. The last sixteens, the mixed doubles, the number one seeds.
The wins, the losses, the postmortems over tea and cake. We got into all that–endless successions of arrivals, first rounds, victories, defeats, triumphs, tears. And throughout our tennis lives this order of things never changed in nature, but only in stature. In every close match ever played, you always fought two things–your opponent and the fear inside you, and the worse of the two was the fear. That was what made you miss the easy volley at 40-30, or serve the double fault at 5-4 in the final set.
But wait, I’m losing ground! What I am really trying to say is that there is an eternity of backhands and forehands, of serves and volleys, of matches won, matches lost, of good luck and bad luck, of triumphs and disasters which must be ploughed through before you can stand on the Wimbledon center court and, in a gesture of mock despair, hand your racquet handle first, to a ballboy to indicate to the crowd that he might be better equipped than you to continue the match!”0
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