Return to Tennis

After a 15-year hiatus, I returned to tennis. I don’t know why I picked this time, but it was time. I’d talked about it. I’d written about it. You can talk and write about something to inertia, even death. Not so with tennis, which was once one of the most important and joyful activities of my life.

Everything was arranged for my comeback:

I had a racket ready—a thrift store beauty for $1.99, Belgium-made, a wood and boron composite, probably one of the last models made with wood. For my backup racket, I had a Jack Kramer Autograph, in perfect condition, that I really didn’t want to use, for fear of damaging. I mean, it was most likely 50 years old.

I bought a can of balls for $2.99, approximately the same price I paid in 1981! Preposterous! There’s nothing comparable to this lack of increase in American sporting life, or American life in general, excepting of course, the Big Mac and the Whopper.

I had an outfit picked out—loose brown corduroys with pockets large enough to hold balls, a baggy blue and white Western shirt that would give me plenty of room to swing and serve, and some black Puma low-cut sneakers that seemed perfect for tennis.

The outfit was obviously ludicrous, and I relished in its ludicrous nature. I didn’t care. No one would ever see me play anyway. I’ve driven by rural tennis courts the past 22 years and have seen exactly two people play. Two! Most of the rural tennis courts in Oregon were turned into skate parks or abandoned 15 years or so ago, so the tennis player in rural Oregon has gone nearly extinct. I would be the last Rural Tennis Player in Oregon (Cannon Beach and Gearheart don’t count) and get a book out of it!

Yes, I was poised for the return. It was summer!.My fitness was sound. I knew how to play. All in needed was a tennis court. If there was one tennis god or goddess left in America, he or she would reveal one to me, one not yet totally gone to seed. The court might even have a backboard! A glorious backboard where I would fall in love with the game all over again and recall those hundreds and hundreds of hours in my youth of hitting against a backboard in Rivercrest Park in Oregon City, defeating Connors, Borg, and McEnroe in five-set Grand Slam Finals. Tennis reigned supreme in that era. Everyone played. And I would again.