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W with an Asterisk


I don’t usually write about my own experiences on the tennis court. They’re usually not all that interesting or useful for the readers of ParentingAces. However, today’s match is an exception.

Right now, I’m playing on two USTA 4.5 women’s teams, one on Thursdays and one on Saturdays. I typically play singles on both teams.

For today’s match, I really had to gear myself up to play. It’s been pretty chilly here in Atlanta for the past week or so, and I’m not a fan of the lower temperatures. But, I bundled myself up and headed to my match which was being held at a local public park alongside several other team matches and a junior tournament.

My opponent was much younger than me, probably in her late 20s or early 30s. During our warmup, I could tell she was pretty solid. She was a lefty, like me, but – unlike me – had the advantages of a lefty like a great serve and massive topspin. I definitely had my work cut out for me.

My opponent, Holly, came on like gangbusters right away. I was barely touching her serves, and she was killing me on her serve returns, pushing me way behind the baseline. She quickly went up 4-0. Okay, this was going to be one of those humiliating experiences where I would have to apologize at the end of the match for not giving her better competition.

But, then, something happened. I was serving down 2-5, up 30-love, when we suddenly heard yelling from several courts away. Word was making its way down the bank of courts asking if there was a doctor or nurse on site. My opponent put down her racquet and made her way over to a crowd of people about 8 courts away from where we were playing. The tennis had come to a halt on all the nearby courts as we tried to figure out what was going on. My teammates who were there waiting to play kept trying to see what was happening, but all they could see was Holly giving chest compressions to someone on the ground. About 10 minutes later, we heard sirens as a firetruck, ambulance, and EMT truck arrived on the scene. Another 10 minutes passed before Holly returned to our court.

It turns out that a man playing doubles had run for a short ball, lost his footing, and face-planted on the court. He immediately went into seizures then his heart stopped beating. Holly gave him CPR while someone else ran for the AED inside the building. Holly then hooked him up to the defibrillator, gave him one round of shocks, and his heart started beating again, thankfully. The paramedics put him on a stretcher and carried him up to the ambulance. They left about 5 minutes later.

I asked Holly if she was okay. She said she had no idea what the score was but that, yes, she was fine to continue playing. Turns out, she’s a nursing student studying to work in the emergency room. How lucky for that man on Court 18!

So, we resumed our match with me serving up 30-love. I won that game and the next 4 to take the first set 7-5. Holly just wasn’t the same player she had been prior to the emergency.

We took a very short break then started the second set. I quickly went up 3-0. Yes, I was playing well, but Holly was missing. A lot. I wound up taking that set, too, 6-2. The match was over, and I had won.

But, it was a hollow victory. I mean, how can you feel good about a win when the person you beat just saved a man’s life? If we hadn’t had to stop play with Holly up 5-2 in that first set, I’m pretty sure the outcome would’ve been very different. Yes, I started playing better, but I was playing a totally transformed opponent, one whose mind had to have been somewhere other than on the fuzzy yellow ball we were batting around. She had come to the rescue of a stranger in dire need. She had remained calm, administered the care he needed, and stayed with him until the paramedics arrived. She had done the things she was training to do, and they had worked. Beautifully. The man was alive and would likely be back on the tennis court in a matter of days or weeks because of Holly. Wow.

So, yes, I got the W today. But so did Holly. And her W counts for way more than mine.



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