Quitters never win, winners never quit, but those who never win and never quit are idiots. I run my fingers over the yellow ball smoothing out the fuzzy strands. Wilson 2 embossed in bold black letters catches my fingernail. I stuff one in my pocket.
“Match Point.” Angela announces the score.
I bounce the ball a few times. My opponent swings his racquet in anticipation of picking a side. His partner smoothes her skirt and crouches by the net. I toss the ball in the air and arch my back. My opponent skips on his toes and moves towards the forehand. I change the angle on my racquet. When the ball is at the apex of the toss I unload with all my 170 Lbs behind the serve. The serve is directed at his midriff. He’s jammed temporarily and just moves out of the way of the hundred mile and hour serve.
Thud. The ball hits the canvas behind the court. Angela throws up her hands and I run towards the players.
“Good game guys.” I slap a few palms.
“We just hope we’d given you more competition.” He points at the 6-0, 6-0 score on the board.
I pack my tennis bag. “Good game partner.” Angela slings her bag over her broad shoulders. “Do you think we can make the playoffs?”
“Dunno. Who cares anyway? We’re just having fun, right?” I spin my phone in my hand.
Yep. Who cares about Victory.
Three weeks ago I had driven out to our weekly tennis meetup with Veronica. “I’m switching partners. I’m going to play this season with Jacob.” Veronica’s voice was firm.
Before I could react, Jacob walked into the courts and they did the ‘fake-kiss-peck-greeting’ thing to each. I stood behind her. Next, he clasped my hand in his clammy palm.
Is he going to kiss me too? My pseudo-Indian alienation strategies made me want to chew my fingernails. I stiffened my elbow so much that it wouldn’t have bent if I had to drink the last gin and tonic of my life.
“Whassup bro.” He slapped my back.
So the new equation was that I and Jacob were on a first name basis and Veronica and Jacob were on a kiss-cheek basis. She must really-really want to win. I would never ever ever ever change my partner to win a league. I swished my palm flat pretending to hit a forehand. What value is victory in my life?
The very next week I and my new mixed doubles partner, Angela played our first league match. We barely knew each other. We didn’t even attempt making friends. Me; on account of not giving her the wrong message. She; on account of not caring either way.
We lost the first set in a tie-break. We were down and out in the second. A great cross-court shot that Angela made left the opponents grunting. We made eye contact and decide to make a go of it. We pulled out the second set in a close 7-5 score.
In the third set we were up 6-5 and lost the next game. In the tie-breaker, we were up two match-points. I chipped an easy return into the net because I wanted to be cute and play a low percentage drop-shot v/s an easy hard hit. On the next point Angela was standing behind the baseline. The ball was over hit and almost at Angela’s ankles.
“NO.” I yelled out, imploring her not to hit it.
Too late. She dumped the volley into the net. Ugggghhh. Two match points wasted. We lost the match on a very questionable line call. Amongst muffled apologies for not playing up to the mark we both left. I sang songs on my drive home, grooving to the music, drumming the steering wheel.
I reached home and text Angela. Well played. That was fun. It was followed by a smiley face with a halo on its head. Loss; the cost of victory? It’s easier to say who cares about winning when you lose…
Back to today’s match. We won the first set 6-0. We were up 5-0 in the second. I pondered letting them win a game, or to bagel them in the second set as well. The decision was to not give them any hope of a comeback. It wasn’t done for embarrassing them. They could’ve been boyfriend and girlfriend, or husband and wife. I should’ve cut them some slack so they won’t blame each other.
I send Angela a text message when I reach home. Good game partner. I add a smiley face. This one has a red face and the devils horns on it.
At what cost victory?
© Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Inderpal Sandhu and inderpalsandhu.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.