Tennis, like life itself, is full of various experiences. Our goal should be to learn from these experiences in order to make ourselves better human beings. After all, it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game . . . right?
A couple of weeks ago, my son asked if he could play in the US Open Sectional Qualifier tourney that was being held at a local club. The entry fee was higher than we were used to paying ($100 for singles, $65 for mixed doubles, single elimination in both draws), but my husband and I agreed to let him play. We figured he might have the chance to play against some very high-level players which would be a great opportunity to see how his game holds up. We were right.
In the first round of the tournament, my son drew David Hopkins (see photo above), the recently-graduated #1 doubles player and #1/#2 singles player for Wake Forest University. One look at David and I immediately thought “football player” – he’s a 6’2″, All-ACC player who is built like a linebacker! During the warm-up (in the 100+ degree heat, I might add), David simply stroked the ball on both sides, moving very little, looking like he was just out for a simple pick-up match at the local park. But, once the match started, the All-ACC player came out in full force and didn’t leave until the match was won. He hit double-digit aces. He had an inside-out backhand that was so flat and so hard that you didn’t even see it coming. And, he just didn’t miss.
During the match, one of David’s teammates, Adam Lee, was sitting next to me, and we struck up a conversation. He told me how David had been continually recruited by the Wake Forest football coach throughout his college career but chose tennis over football time and again. He told me how David is a gentle, unassuming character whose fierceness takes you by surprise on the court. He told me how everyone feared coming up against him in a tournament. Later, I spoke with both David and Adam about my son and his tennis goals. Both young men were very complimentary and encouraging about my son’s chances to play D1 tennis. David’s words: “Tell him to keep working hard. He’s way ahead of where I was at his age. It just takes lots of hard work.”
In the mixed doubles, my son again had the opportunity to play against very experienced players. In fact, the man on the opposing team played on the 2005 Davis Cup team for Puerto Rico, and the woman was a 4-time ITA All-American at Georgia College & State University. Our kids held their own.
After the tournament, I gushed to my son about how well he played and what incredible opportunities he had to play such experienced and accomplished opponents. In typical teenager fashion, he replied, “I wasn’t out there for a good experience, Mom. I was out there to win!” Sigh.
At some point, he will realize where I’m coming from with all this “good experience” talk. It will sink in, and he will see that he’s on the right track to achieve his tennis goals. He will understand that it’s not always about winning the match but sometimes about having a barometer to measure your progress.
Maybe he’s getting it sooner rather than later. Last night, he signed up to play the ITA Summer Circuit tournament at UGA. The tournament overlaps the Georgia State Junior Open by one day. When I pointed that out to my son, he said, “Mom, I’m going to be in a draw with college players. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the Finals. It’s okay.”
I love it when the lightbulb turns on!