“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
I love tennis. I love some of the players who play the game too. I’m from the John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg era and I remember their Wimbledon finals as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Steffi Graf is my all-time favourite female tennis player. She was an epitome of beauty and elegance and grace and power. I loved Pete Sampras too. Till Roger Federer came along. Today, he’s really the God of tennis for me. I’m okay about Rafa and Nole (Djokovic), but Federer is a class apart. I don’t really have too many women tennis players that I like in this era, not the kind of love that I had for Steffi Graf, no.
However, when I think of Serena and her power, the quality of play, her sheer determination, I think she’s really worthy of admiration, awe and respect, and she deserves a bow.
So anyway as I was watching Maria Sharapova play, a player that I don’t really care too much about, 4-1 down in the 3rd set of her 2nd round match at the 2015 Australian Open, she suddenly turned it around and I saw her claw her way back from almost certain defeat to 4-2, 4-3 and finally she won the match. It struck me then that tennis is life and life is tennis. Why? When I watched this woman play, I kept wondering what she was feeling, how she motivated herself, why didn’t she feel like giving up and how she could overcome her challenges and eventually emerge as the winner. While I don’t really know how champions psyche themselves up to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, what I do know is that tennis does teach us some important life lessons.
The tennis court is actually the court of life. We are the players. The singles matches are actually our life matches and the opponents are actually our challenges. When we hit an ace, it means we have actually hit a bull’s eye and come up roses on our idea. When it’s deuce, it means that we are even Stevens and are standing tall, but are trying to break through to the next game that life throws us. Games are the games that life hands out to us right from the time we’re born – learning to walk, talk, act, think, and be an adult and live a fulfilled life – for us to learn the rules, play the game to the best of our ability and emerge triumphant. Sets are the various stages of our life – childhood, adolescence, teenage years, adult hood, marriage, family, death and so on – that we embrace. When it’s a straight sets win it really means that our life has been pretty straightforward, where we’ve worked hard, played hard and won. But when it’s a 5-set thriller, it means that our lives are tossed and turned in the angry winds of change and challenge, and if we win, it means we’ve achieved success in overcoming difficulties and cocking a snook at life. The tie-breaker for me means that two people who’ve been handed the same hand by the Universe are competing to make good and only the more resilient, the determined, the risk-taker stands tall. They are not crushed by blips that come to occupy the radar of our lives and are ready to not just fight, but triumph against all odds.
And then when defeat is writ large and is certain, the player who succeeds is the one who looks trials and tribulations in the eye, says, “show me what you got”, hunches down to take the blows, readies the racket to punch the balls of depression, anger, frustration, poverty, disappointment, heart break, and hits the ball out of the park. It is when the player looks deep within himself or herself and says, ” I love you like no other. I love you so much it hurts. I believe in you. But for God’s sake, you must believe too.” And hangs in however precariously, by the skin of her nails, and looks up at the sky and thinks to herself looking down at near certain death, at the ledge and starts thinking of tactics to land on the ledge. She takes a leap of faith and lands on the ledge and then looks for another foot hold, another ledge, another way. She doesn’t give up. Inch by inch she makes her way down to safety and warmth and happiness. She’s as ordinary as you and I, but she’s extraordinary with her belief, her grit, the fight that she has in her and the loud yelp she gives of victory. There’s nothing meek about the tennis player. She uses her racket to whack the living daylights out of those that threaten her belief in herself, those who want to beat her up and call her a ‘loser’, or those who want to crush her spirit. No siree, she’s a player who’s come to play. Yes, life is tennis and tennis is life. And when it’s “love all” it really means one thing and one thing only – love everything about the beautiful life you have.
Now when I will see Sharapova or Serena Williams play, I will continue to admire their grit, their sheer willingness to draw themselves over the finish line come what may. They don’t give up. They just take small steps and then think about the next point. And the next, and the next. All we gotta do is play the next point. And the next and the next. Life will continue to unfurl its magic as we keep playing to earn our rightful place in the sun. Game, set, match.