Elijah is very enthusiastic about tennis. Like I told him today, I think the reason I have been so tired in the mornings and having major difficulty getting out of bed before 9am is because our tennis sessions are so intense! We play two sets, sometimes three (like on Monday morning!), if there aren't people waiting for a court; and after the sets, we have a hit for about 20 minutes or so, or until such time as one of us is too tired to continue.
I am sitting in bed now at 10.30pm after a day of packing followed by an intense tennis session followed by more packing. My current physical state is such that this shitty college mattress and duvet suddenly feel like a bed of pure fluffy cotton. My right arm hurts; in fact, it's been uncharacteristically sore for the past few months, to the extent that it is sore even from carrying a kettle of water, or pouring water into my Aeropress from the said kettle. I think there's actually something wrong. Maybe I will see someone at the NHS...wait, who am I kidding? I can't stand the NHS. Nobody has time to wait six weeks or something ridiculous to see the doctor, and I still do not understand how anyone is able to predict that, in a week's time, he/she will fall sick and so make an appointment to see the GP a week in advance. That's usually how the appointment system works anyway.
Anyway, the point is, my whole body is in pain, including my wrist and, quite randomly, left thumb. But it's a great sort of pain; it's the sort of pain that tells you that you have treated your body well by working it hard (and so my curry dinner tasted especially delicious), and so leaving you in a state of mild euphoria, a positive mood, wasted only by the fact that it's almost bedtime. This is why I like to exercise in the morning; the chemicals (whatever they are called) that are released in the process make me feel good.
What also felt good was winning the first set today from 0-5 down. I had the thought at the back of my mind that I would get bagelled and it would be embarrassing because the first time we played, a few months ago, I won 6-1, 6-0 or something along those lines. Yes, he's improved a lot since then; an impressive amount, even. But still, my pride was on the line, and so I made myself hold for 1-5, then somehow broke his serve and won another game. At the change of ends, he joked, 'Would be an amazing comeback if you won it in the end.'
Well...I did. I don't know why, or how; but here's the difference between the first few games and the games from 1-5 on. I started off sluggish, disconnected, my mind still on the packing; made a lot of errors, didn't know what I was doing. Holding for 1-5 and then breaking for 2-5 helped me get the focus back; above all else, I think I just wanted to play the shots well. And so I'm pleased that my backhand was absolutely amazing today. I can scarcely believe that I used to miss so many backhands and allowed myself to let it down in so many of my friendly matches, such that one opponent commented that my backhand was weak. No, my backhand is my best shot; has always been, will always be. In fact, my backhand alone determines my level of play on the day. If I'm feeling it and hitting it well, everything falls into place; otherwise, everything sucks and I play like garbage.
Today, my backhand was on fire. It feels so good to hit the backhand when I have my eyes on the ball and my body is turned to prepare the shot; body side-on, right shoulder pointed towards the ball, racket drawn back; feet shuffled into the position, then right leg stepping forward, and left arm pulling the racket to the ball and, depending on the shot that I want to hit, either slapping it flat across the net, usually cross-court; or hitting it with more control and a sense of where I want to direct it, the cross-court being the default but sometimes up the line to switch things up. My backhand was so good today that I was upset when I missed a few shots, i.e. hit them into the net, because I was in such a good rhythm that I just didn't expect to miss.
It's interesting, the strategy that I go for when I really want to win a big point--it's always 'kill the return'. It's never 'just get the ball in play'. Similarly, when I figured that he'd figured out where I'm going to hit my backhand return on the deuce court because the backhand down the line from the deuce court is one of my favourite shots (especially when I run around the forehand to hit it) and started to hit it cross-court to mix it up, I ended up reverting to the default shot when it was crunch time and I wanted to gain the upperhand. It was for the simple reason that it is an aggressive shot that I can hit well most of the time, and so when push comes to shove, I will go for not just my favourite shots, but the aggressive shot that allows me to impose myself on the opponent--and it is precisely because it's the style that I like to play. I play aggressively; I hate defending, chasing down balls all the time. I like, and want to, live and die on my own sword, not somebody else's mistakes.
Of course, it's not always pragmatic or smart to do that; sometimes, the better gameplan is to wait for the errors, e.g. the opponent is hitting every other shot into the net or out. Regardless: it just feels better to win because I'm making my shots, not because the other person is missing everything. I made so many of my cross-court backhands today. That felt amazing.
The second set was won 6-2; he was making a ton of errors, probably the hangover from losing the first set from a huge winning margin. I can totally relate. There have been so many times when I mentally imploded mid-set because I made a stupid unforced error on an important point and went on to lose. It's hard to get the mental focus right when you feel as if you should have won but suddenly find yourself in a losing position, and then losing. It sucks.
On the subject of things that suck: when the hell am I going to make 1) a forehand down the line; and 2) a runningish forehand cross-court? I literally have a not made a single of the latter shot in the past few months. It is that bad. I always hit it wide when I'm forced to go wide on the forehand (and on the backhand, always hit it too late and so wide down the line). It is super annoying.
Anyway. Was a good day today, so I'll leave it at that.
On Second Thought, I Can't Be Arsed Right Now
I wanted to write about something else but I am honestly too tired and can't be arsed, so I shall end this with:
I AM MOVING TO LONDON ON FRIDAY. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. I CAN'T WAIT!