It's springtime in Pittsburgh, which means two things: (1) The sky goes from gray to grayish and (2) That's right. League season, baby! It's on!
Those (OK, you, yogahz) following League Watch know that my team made it to the regionals last season. The Princeton experience wasn't much to write home about, but it has a lot to do with my goals for this season. I will list them here:
1. To make it back to Princeton -- and to win maybe two matches this time.
2. To get moved up to the 4.0 level.
3. To win all my matches and utterly dominate all my opponents.
So, modest goals. But, hey, I can do it, right?
Well, I woke up on Saturday morning at around 10 a.m., two hours before my match. You know that pre-match, jacked feeling you get? Well, I had nothin'. Which can be a good thing. Or a bad thing.
I was still pretty blah by the time I was warming up with my opponent. Now, as we know, warmups are very important. It's when you get a feel for your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, develop a strategy. Or if you're me, it's when you think about how effed up your week was. About the one-day seminar and the six hours you spent in a car in less than 24 hours to get there, about getting reamed out for not calling when you had a defective cell phone anyway, about coming back from a two-week vacation to face immediate deadline pressure and the fact that certain things that were supposed to be done while you were out of town were not done, about having to get a new car and cell phone fairly quickly, about spending nearly four hours in a hair salon for no really good reason watching Judge Judge and Days of Our Lives when I could have been at work, about spending 30 minutes on a phone with some guy yelling at me for something that happened while I was on vacation. About the time wasted on the way to the match on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Whoo. Didn't expect to go there.
Anyway, the match. I started out pretty listlessly, and found myself down 1-2. Then, as I was standing there between points, I realized something. I wanted to, right at that moment, walk off the court and go home. I did not feel like playing. I tried to get myself into the match, but even after hitting winners and retrieving nearly impossible balls, I couldn't get interested. I might have looked at the ball I hit about three times over that two-hour match. Even my opponent's sketchy calls couldn't piss me off enough to get in the match. (OK, I have to say this. People -- ladies -- if the ball lands on the line, it's in. We don't invent different rules for your dream world. In tennis, if you hit the ball OUTSIDE the line, the ball is out and out of play. If it's on the line or inside the line, it's in play. Either you try to play the ball or you walk to the other side of the court. You don't hit the ball into the net and then call it out in order to bail yourself out. (Wo)Man up and say, "Nice shot." Yes, that happened yesterday. A few times. And yet I couldn't get as mad about it as I'm getting right now.)
So, she wins the first set on a AA (accidental ace), 6-4, and I go to get some water from their vending machine. (So, a tennis club without water on the court. Nice. What, exactly, do these people pay for? The privilege to play in a building that also has no air conditioning?) I put a dollar into the machine and absently hit A1. Nothing comes out. I also don't get my dollar back. Son of a @#$^$#. Another dollar later, I have some water, finally. It's only on the way back home (an HOUR LATER) that I realized that the A1 slot was empty. I literally selected, and paid for nothing. Yeah, folks. That's where my head was.
Set two. We start out evenly, and I feel entirely no anxiety or pressure to rebound. That might have been why every groundstroke I tried to hit almost hit the wall without bouncing and why all my drop shots landed at the baseline. It didn't help that the strings in my main racquet broke in the first set, and I was using a backup that felt a bit heavier. I suppose I could have figured out how to keep those balls from sailing, but it just seemed like a process that would injure my brain. Even when I stood at the line to serve at 5-6 to get into a tiebreak, I didn't think it would happen, and it didn't. Strangely enough, my opponent walked up to me at the net and says, "Close match."
I thought, "Really. You think? If you hadn't screwed me on about a dozen calls, it might have been even closer. What are you, blind? Do you not understand the rules of tennis? I can't believe your teammates are sitting up there, cheering, when they watched you screw me on about thirty calls! You almost screwed me on a let cord when it landed right on the line! You said, "Too close to call!" The ball was traveling EXACTLY .001 MILE PER HOUR!! And you said it was TOO CLOSE TO CALL!!! I know a good eye doctor. I can get you his name if you need it. Maybe your teammates also need his number. I'll loan you my glasses next time if you want! I don't mind. I don't need them as much as you do. Even if the prescription's not right, it couldn't hurt you. Do you understand?!"
I said, "Nice match."
Yikes. A day later, I can't explain what happened to me. I'm a little afraid that it might be the dreaded "B" word -- burnout. I've never been unable to get stoked for a match. Even when I lose, I get dialed in enough to at least have a plan of attack -- even if it's wrong. As of this second, I have no idea what my opponent's weaknesses were. I'm hoping it's general life burnout, because if I don't enjoy tennis, what the hell am I supposed to do? Start a blog about macrame?
So, the goal list took a hit, but here's the great thing about our region: Playoff system! All we have to do is finish in the top two and we've still got a chance at Princeton. Easy, right?