Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tennis Match

Last month had a great opportunity to watch top-flight tennis action at the San Jose ATP tennis tournament. Saw Andy Roddick and Fernando Verdasco in action. It was an awesome experience to watch live tennis, we had some good seats just behind the baseline. It was an indoor arena, the lighting was fabulous. One of the best ways to spend an evening.

First up, the home crowd favourite Roddick demolished his opponent in straight sets. The famed Roddick serve was a treat to watch ,one could hear the the thump of the ball loud and clear whenever he blasted an ace. It was also a learning experience to observe the footwork and movement of the players off the ball, as those are nuances we do not always see on TV, another thing was that by watching live action you get to see the gulf in the levels of the Professionals and Amateurs, because when you watch on TV playing and hitting shots look quite simple.

Verdasco was up against Benjamin Becker from Germany, it was a tight match, with Verdasco's vicious spinning forehands, against Becker's solid groundstrokes, some of the rallies were engrossing, I could identify more with Verdasco's game as I am also a leftie. We tried to cheer Becker up by shouting the name of his other illustrious namesake Boris. But he couldn't match up to Verdasco and lost. This experience has certainly whetted up my appetite to watch more live tennis action. Next stop is hopefully going to be one of the Grand Slams.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Have been a regular tennis player since I came to US in 2008. Almost every weekend I play around 2-3 hours of tennis with friends. Have been an ardent fan of tennis ever since I was 10 years old. Followed the Grand Slams quite closely then, including the earlier rounds. Waited for the Quarters and Semis because from that stage onwards, Doordarshan used to telecast the matches. My childhood heroes were Becker, Edberg, Sampras and Steffi. Used to spend hours watching tennis, and celebrate wildly India's Davis Cup wins, of which were quite a lot during those golden years of Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes.

First played tennis when I was 11 years old, in Srinagar. There was a tennis court in the army area we were staying.My father used to play tennis with a colleague, my sister and I usually turned up to watch. Dad decided to buy us racquets in due course, then we started knocking around but it was lot of effort to get the ball across the net, and it wasn't lot of fun. So I decided to shun actual play and take my racquet and ball, and start hitting against a wall near my house. I used to like the rhythm of the shots there, it was more under my control. I started treating the wall as an imaginary player, drew a line on it and on the floor, and devised a couple of rules for points. I became hooked to this format, thereafter I used to play for hours. Take cut-outs from the Grand Slam tournament draws from the newspaper or from Sportsstar magazine, and conduct my own tournament, keeping records of results. This became one of my favourite pastime, also since we were in quite a remote place, there was no one else of my age-group, so there wasn't much else to do after school. Continued playing like this for many years, both in Srinagar as well as in the next place Panagarh, where I found the terrace wall a convenient place. Then gradually grew out of it. For almost two decades of high- school as well as college and work did not play any tennis at all. Though always used to love watching it on TV.

In early 2008, suddenly I decided one fine day, that I should learn to play actual tennis. I enrolled for coaching classes in Bombay, the instructors were quite pleased with my rapid progress, little did they know the countless hours I had spent hitting in my childhood. For one month I rigorously practised tennis, used to get up before 6am regularly for the classes, which was a big sacrifice for me. My quest to become a decent tennis player got another boost when I came to US. US is a tennis lover's paradise, abundance of courts and many interested players. Got good friends Hirak and Atul as enthusiastic partners, kept playing on a regular basis and also improved my game by watching online videos and reading tennis books from the library. At this stage I feel good about my game, and hopefully keep getting better. I enjoy every moment I am on court and am grateful for that. I feel it has been an interesting tennis journey for me, from those early beginnings to the resurrection in my thirties.