I played 6 sets of singles the other day. That’s right, 6 consecutive sets over the course of 4.5 hours. Not doubles. Singles where you’re running around like a maniac. With even the major tennis opens going at most 5 sets, what gives you ask? Well, one of the most exhausting and ridiculous things happened, which I’d like to share with all of you.
About a month ago, the captain of a new tennis league team I joined came over to my club as my guest. We warmed up for a bit and decided to play a match so he could get an idea of my skill level, despite both of us being rated the same. I beat him 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 in a best of 3 set match, with the third set played just for fun. After we shook hands, he immediately ran off excuses as to why he lost: Surgery on shoulder, weak knee, crooked toe, etc. No problem, as I have some ailments too, like a torn meniscus (!), but keep them to myself.
He said he wanted to avenge his loss, and I said I would be glad to give him a rematch. Allowing an opponent to redeem themselves is always the honorable thing to do. My mantra in sports and in much of everything else is to always be the underdog. In sports, it’s particularly important that your opponent underestimates your abilities. The element of surprise is very important, as such, you want to keep your skills guarded until the time is necessary to unleash.
Fast forward to now and the rematch is on. During warm up, he kept talking about how he was going to beat me, to which I kept on saying with a smile, “I doubt it, but you can try.” At the end of the warm-up, he kept on egging me on, so I said, “How about we bet a friendly $25 bucks then?” $25 is enough to pay for the guest fee and get a couple brews afterward.
He responded, “Only $25 bucks? Let’s put some real money and make it $50!?”
I asked him, “Are you sure? Because that’s a lot of money, and I don’t want to have bad feelings between us if you lose.”
He scoffed and said, “Ha, no worries Sam! I will not lose. Bring it on!”
In about 1 hour and 10 minutes, I took him down 6-0, 6-3 in the first match. You would think that he would just wave the white flag and fork over the $50 bucks right? Wrong! He said I got lucky, and that he wanted an immediate rematch immediately!
“Double or nothing?” he asked indignantly.
“You’re on!” I responded back, somewhat miffed.
The second match lasted about 1.5 hours and was closer than the first. During this match, he literally tripped on his feet twice due to exhaustion and tumbled onto the cement. I thought he was done for sure, since he was sweating bullets and gimpy. We had already played 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is already about 1 hour longer than we normally play.
Despite what I noticed was obvious injury and exhaustion during the match, we both kept battling like warriors. After all, we had $100 on the line! Alas, the results were the same and I took him down 6-3, 6-3.
While on the bench, he starts talking again! “Sam, I know I’m going to beat you. You are so lucky, and I am so unlucky! How many games was I up 40-15 and I ended up losing?”
Hmmm, maybe one? I thought to myself. I was sitting on the bench, exhausted and drinking my orange Gatorade with pleasure. I couldn’t wait to hit the showers and collect the $100. I was fantasizing about sitting in the steam room and getting a massage afterward. Phew, no injuries yet, just a lot of sore muscles.
During mid-fantasy, the captain blurts out, “Let’s play again! Double or nothing for $200!”
At this point, my quads feel a little like spaghetti. The problem is, I knew I could beat him, and he wouldn’t stop talking. Nor would he give me any respect for me beating him! He kept making excuses how something was wrong with him today, not that I was playing well.
Despite feeling weak, I told him he was on, but asked him multiple times again whether he was sure he wanted to battle, and whether he was sure he was going to pay me if he loses! He nodded, and said “Of course.”
It’s 4-all in the first set, as we both held serve. This was the do or die point of the third match as I could already feel the cramping in my right calf begin to form. Gathering all my energy and focus, I break his serve and hold my own to win 6-4. Yes! I think to myself.
One hour thirty minutes later from the beginning of the match, I take him down 6-4, 6-0 for a total six set score of 6-0, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. The 4.5 hours was the longest amount of time I’ve played tennis since high school. At the end, he finally gave me props and said that I have an excellent ability to adapt to different game styles. A little back-handed, but I’ll take it as a compliment.
We went to the ATM machine where he proceeded to give me ten, $20 bills. Oh how nice they looked in my calloused hands. I bought him some chicken teriyaki dinner and a drink and talked strategy for our upcoming match. My captain was thinking about challenging me to a rematch for $200, but he pulled back.
Instead he offered, “How about the loser pays for guest fee, balls, and a smoothie next time!” Now that’s more like it!
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Readers, have you ever approached something so stubbornly that despite being outmatched, you refused to quit and got yourself in deep doo doo? What makes people so stubborn? Is it pride? Is it delusion? Are you defiant like me? I felt there was a real risk of injury if I accepted the 3rd match in a row. But, given the stubborn and defiant person that I am, I thought the $200 was worth the risk.
Photo: Tennis Battle, SD.