Saturday, November 05, 2005


True Bounce Tennis Tournament

I finally was part of something which I could never dream of a few months back. I took part in a doubles tennis tournament held in my club. It wasn’t a big tournament. Just played for the fun of it since the club members decided it would improve our game and also get to know each other better. So it was an intra-club affair with attractive trophies to take home for the winners and runners up. Now, before the readers think that I am a big shot tennis player, let me make one fact clear. I am an amateur (not even a budding one) who picked up a racquet for the first time some three months back. My service is pretty pathetic, my forehand goes awry every time I try to hit the ball hard and my backhand is unreliable. However since the prerogative of the tournament was to ensure that enough balance is achieved between the teams, with a so-called novice pairing up with a stronger tennis player I was hoping that I get a really good partner to make amends.

The organizers (who I refer to as M, T and team) laid out the rules of the tournament. There would be two pools A and B with 4 teams in each of the pools. Each team would play the other team once in the pool games. The two best teams in each of the pools would make it to the semi-finals. The preliminaries would be played on a best of 19 game bases that meant the winner had to win 10 games to win the match. At the end of the first stage if there are more than two teams in contention from a pool to the semifinal stage, the teams that have conceded the least games would make it through. With the rules agreed upon, the weaker players were asked to pick up a chit to decide the partner and the pool. It was soon my turn and my partner turned out to be one N. I had never met him before and barely knew how he played and would get to know him only on the first day of the tournament. I was to be a part of Pool A, a pool where I felt I had a good chance. A good chance of losing.

The first day of the tournament dawned bright and clear. I arrived at the club and was introduced to my partner N. The moment I saw him I knew we were safe. Tall, athletic he looked exactly like tennis players should look like. I was surprised when he mentioned he was only just around 15 and was playing the game for some 7 years. Pretty soon I was telling how “good” my game was and how he much contribution he can expect from me in winning. N turned out to be a confident youngster who knew the strength of his tennis so he assured me that things would go to plan if I just do what he asked me to do. I was happy to comply.

Our first opponents turned out to B and V. Since they were last minute entrants to the tournament, they weren’t exactly the big guns so we knew we had our chances. B was the stronger one with no real weakness in his game, so we decided to target V. We made a rollicking start winning the first few games. N turned out to be a great partner and an amazing tennis player. Great serve and solid groundstrokes, he had it all. I had never previously held my serves with the ease with which I did that day being constantly encouraged by my partner. B and V put up a decent fight but we were a little better team and showing some amazing camaraderie. We won the match 10-5 and thought we had a great chance now to get through.

All games are great levelers and we did not have long to wait to find that tennis is no exception to this. Our second hurdles were in the form of P and S. P is among the better players in the club who plays those strokes with the insouciance of a professional tennis player and is a treat to watch. S has a decent game himself but has one of the most unorthodox but effective forehands I have seen. We started well and the game was tied at two games all. It was soon my turn to serve and somehow I lost all the confidence I had gained from my first outing, I double faulted three times and we lost the service. Before we knew it we were 2-6 down and staring at defeat. It was time to re-strategize and get back into the match. We partly recovered but it was a bit too much. My partner started making some unforced errors of his own and some easy volleys that were put away in the first match could never clear the net. The end result 6-10 in favor of P and S. Disappointed and tired from the grueling battle, we were now not so sure of our chances.

Fast forward to our last match, which happened the next day. We were pitted to play S and S (the S guys as I choose to call), probably the strongest team in our pool. No great strength in their games except for an amazing asset: they never make unforced errors so we knew we had to do all the hard work to win this one. They had won their two previous games (having demolished P and S by 10-2) and had come expecting a clean sweep. They started strongly winning the first three games with me dropping serve as usual. N however strung together some amazing points and I put in a lot of effort to get the ball back across the net and we were back on serve at 3-3. With our confidence building up we raced ahead and I can safely say this was one of the best matches I have played, I put in some deft volleys and cheered on by a few spectators we were up to a 6-3 lead. The S guys weren’t the best players for nothing. In the next few games, they displayed their entire repertoire of shots and we were back level at 6 games apiece. The next few games produced some amazing tennis. There were long rallies and for once I held my serve and produced some surprising winners of my own. My partner N was not to be left behind, serving some great aces and some wonderful returns. To the surprise of many we won the match 10-7.

Ideally, that should have sealed our prospects to enter the semifinals. It wasn’t to be. We had given away too many games in the matches we won so we could not make it to the semis since now there were 3 teams with two victories each. The other two teams had had more convincing victories. Looking back we weren’t really disappointed, we had thoroughly enjoyed playing the tournament and had a feel of both victory and loss. N and I consoled each other saying that we had played to win and that I feel is the most important thing when playing any sport.

The semifinals and the finals happened on a Sunday. There had been a lot of rain the previous two days and the clay courts were wet and we had given up any hope of play. The organizers however had other ideas and when all of us arrived at the club we found the courts in pretty good condition thanks to the rollers and the sand that was sprinkled in the wet zones of the court. In keeping with the spirit of the tournament, almost all the participants turned up to cheer the players. The rules had now altered slightly with the victors to be decided in a best of three set encounter.

The semifinals were a trifle let down, each ending in straight sets. Our conquerors P and S showing they had their eyes on the trophies pulled an overwhelming victory. In the finals they would face an inspired G and N who had a convincing win leaving us plenty to anticipate in the match up. G is easily the best player of the club and N is not bad either so we knew this would be a keenly contested match. The finals did not disappoint and there was a lot of drama in the court coupled with the customary cheering from the sidelines. P and S wrapped up the first set and the second set was keenly contested and would have gone to the tiebreak had not G and N produced an amazing game to take it 7-5. The third set was a test of stamina and determination what with both the teams playing their second match with a very short break in between. G and N produced a little too many unforced errors so P and S consolidated. Pretty soon it was three championship points for P and S. G and N weren’t giving in so easily and produced some great points of their own to save the three match points but P and S some grit still left in them to close out the match and emerge deserving winners.

The rain gods had waited patiently for the grand finale to finish and soon the heavens opened up but not before the prizes were distributed to the winners and the runners-up and the snaps of the participants taken. As I write this and reflect, I realize it was a very eventful and satisfying week. We are so often taken up with our monotonous daily routine that these lighter pleasures of life take a back seat. On that day, P and S were victorious but all of us were victors in our own right. It had been one-week of fun and excitement, sure to linger in our memories for sometime. More importantly, it was something different to look forward to from the rigors of everyday work.

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