Tennis and Old Age
July 28, 2006
Richard J. Garfunkel
It was decently hot here yesterday. We played tennis Saturday, and I was asked to fill-in in a 50+ year-old tennis match representing Armonk Tennis on Sunday. It went off at 12:45 pm, so it was quite warm. It probably was over 100 on the court. I had never played with my partner before, but I heard he was decently good and demanding. Ironically the starter, one Esta Sands, who is a client of mine and I know her personally for years, recommended me to play. It seems that someone was unavailable, and she knows I play a strong game, but I rarely play in tournaments or team, inter-club events. I just never think about doing it and would rather play earlier in the morning and relax in the afternoon by the pool. Mike Ansbro (Beaver), of MV fame, wanted to play in that slot, but Esta told me that my partner, Bob Bernstein did not want him. She said that if Mike asked me, I should tell him that I was asked early in the morning to fill-in. Meanwhile he never asked.
But, be that as it may, we faced two decent players from the NYAC and the match proceeded. We got behind early 1-2, and eventually even it up at 3-3, were down 4-5 and tied it, and than won 7-5. I was quite happy. The rules in these matches call for a 10-point tie-breaker if both sets are split. Well my partner was not happy with my style of play, but I was. I don't like to force the play at the net because, a lot of players at this level lob constantly, so I play back on return of serve to my partner and do not rush to the net after my serve or after my return of serve. My forehand and serve are usually strong enough to set my partner up at the net, if he is quick enough. Well he was steady but his shots were soft, his serve was accurate but, with medium pace and frankly he won few points. But he rallied well. The problem was that he was volleying but not getting the put away shot.
The second set opened up badly. I lost my serve because of little support from him and before I turned around it was 1-4 and then 2-5. My partner was wilting a bit, but I am usually much stronger after I catch my breath from the first set. I'm always a bit winded over the first 8 or 10 games. He said to me that maybe we should take it easy, sort of concede the 2nd set, and concentrate on the 10-point tiebreaker. He obviously didn't know my style. I said that I usually take each game as they come. We rally to 5-5, lose the next game and go to 5-6. On my serve I get in two aces, and even up the games to 6-6. We go into the tiebreaker. We win the first point, I serve and win the next two, and we go up 3-0, then 4-0 and 4-2 as my partner loses two points, but we rally and I serve again and eventually we win the set 7-2 in the tie-breaker. It was an aggressive two-hour effort in the midday sun, which only mad dogs and Englishmen, as the late Noel Coward, would have warbled, “go out in!”
Linda and a number of others were there to cheer us on. She asked me in the middle of the set whether I wanted a soda and I said “bring it on!” My partner said (Princeton, Class of 1970) “drinking caffeinated soda served to dehydrate one as opposed to drinking water!” I said, “I could care less!” But that drink helped immensely. Problem was that the water in the jugs had gotten as warm as camel p-ss. Meanwhile I made only a few mistakes, no unforced errors, just some bad shot selection for one reason or another. I was never beaten on my return of serve, but kept the ball in play with very strong low forehands, some flat and hard and some with a lot of topspin. Ironically our club had already one the match. If we had lost the second set, there would have probably not been any tiebreaker. The guys form the NYAC knew some of my old wrestling colleagues from the distant past and we parted as gentleman. The next stop was the pool. Boy did I need that!