All I can say is...I mean, I know that I am a theoretical person, but there are times when one has to ditch the theory and go straight into the practice; or rather, one has to apply the theory to the practice. I would think - indeed, any normal person would - that tennis is such an occasion, but for some reason, my being, my self, my whatever, refused to execute today.
I played with an old man with a granddaughter and I lost 6-0, 6-0. I think this is one of the lowest points of my tennis-playing life, at least judging by the scoreline and what seemed to be a plausible victory on paper.
But here are two reasons why it has not spurred me to quit tennis. The first reason is his playing style. It suddenly hit me when I was trailing 0-3 in the first set that he played with absolutely zero topspin. Every single shot was a light touch of the strings against the ball, sending it skidding over the net, just within the service box, away from me. His entire game is the summation of my biggest weakness that isn't entirely within my control: short slices, balls that skid, balls with no topspin.
I realised this, I tried to deal with it, but I simply couldn't. I couldn't. My serve was actually quite decent (only one double fault) but he just tapped it back over the net and I had no time to get to it. I was dragged into his pace, his style, and I couldn't time my shots, I was rushed into errors, I couldn't set up properly, and he dictated the pace. I realised this (I would've been dumb to be oblivious to what was happening) but I didn't know how to deal with it except to just go for it, hit the shit out of every ball...but of course, the downside to that was that I ended up making loads of unforced errors, primarily because my backhand wasn't clicking at all. I knew this from the warm up and hoped that it got better as the match progressed, but the skiddy balls to my backhand did not help matters at all. I had no time to prepare, I was rushed into lunging at the ball, I was off-balance; I tried to slice a few but it did not work. The only thing that worked were my backhand returns. Even then, I did not mix up the direction of my returns, constantly hitting it down the line and leaving the court wide open for him to hit a clean winner.
So what do I do when I have no time whatsoever to get to the ball? Now I have some theoretical insights to this problem after texting my tennis coach friend Ryan; but during the match, I just tried to hang in there. This brings me to the second reason that I am not quitting tennis over this match: I didn't get down on myself, I wasn't resigned to a loss, not even when trailing 0-3 in the second set; not even when trailing 0-6, 0-5. I hung in there, tried to make something happen, got up 0-30 on his service games, and shrugged and said 'too good' when I couldn't get to his shots. It is extremely hard for me to play against people with unconventional shots; I already cannot deal with short balls against conventional players, let alone really short balls that skid away from me, barely bouncing. I also tend to absorb my opponent's pace, and so if someone is hitting the ball hard at me, I absolutely love it because it allows me to take a huge swing at the ball and redirect the pace.
Today's opponent, however, played with no spin, barely any pace, and kept slicing his backhand. He was essentially my biggest nightmare. There are clearly too many things about my tennis that I have to work on, but the ability to deal with a playing style like this is undoubtedly one of the most pressing. And so I was quite pleased that I didn't give up mentally, that a part of me still believed I could get on the scoreboard even though it looked increasingly unlikely.
So silver linings, right? I think so too.
I started the game quite well though. On 0-15 in his opening service game, I pulled him out wide with a forehand up the line, then hit the backhand to the open court. That was pretty glorious. Too bad I couldn't do more of that.