The Sweetness of Playing on Grass 187

There is nothing like it. All the players in all white clothes. The smell of the grass that is cut each night. The spongy feeling of walking on a big lawn. And when playing…it is quiet. Like no other court, there is no sound when the ball bounces. Playing on the grass is a spiritual experience. And it is where we connect with the history of the game. It is where tennis was first played. And we channel Bill Tilden, Jack Kramer, Fred Perry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Chuck McKinley, John Newcombe, Margaret Court. The legends of the game. And we are here sharing their argons.

The game is different. Soft balls barely bounce. Slice backhands and serves slither like snakes. Big shots accelerate. Most of all is that we feel like kids on the grass and all of us keep talking about how lucky we are to compete…and especially to compete on the grass.

Tuesday was a successful opening day for me. I won my singles 6-1, 6-1 against a though, crafty player. He knows how to play on this surface, using drops, slices and misdirections. I created one big problem for him. I covered way too much territory and was able to get my racket on most of his shots. A big part of my success on the grass is my mobility. I think that there is no ball that I cannot get. I run for every single shot. It is the kid in me. I love how, at the end of our matches, we are all so respectful of each other, complimenting each other’s play and sharing in the joy of competition. 

I am playing doubles with Michael Beautyman, a long time great senior player who has won a bunch of National titles. We have known and competed with each other for more than 30 years but never teamed up before. It is such a cool learning experience to develop and execute a team concept in a short time for a very specific reason. To try to win a gold ball. We have spent time getting on the same page about style, attitude, communication as well as leadership and support roles. To be effective we will need to be able to move back and forth seamlessly in all the roles of a team. Each day we have practiced we have made progress. Our first match on Tuesday had some rough spots. In particular I was pretty wasted from the oppressive heat and humidity and my energy in the doubles was low. Michael picked up on it and took the lead on energy. We won our match.

Today we played a very strong team and we talked about the importance of getting a fast start. Talking about this before the match is part of being a team. We certainly were dialed in together as we took the lead right away and held it to win the first set, both of us playing really well and always supporting each other. We avoided doing anything on the court that would work against our goal.The second set required the same mindset and we executed deep levels of focus together, giving our best joint attention to each and every point. We dominated the second set to end with a 6-4, 6-2 win. Tomorrow we play in the semifinals.

My singles went really well as I played a very clean match winning 6-0, 6-2. A sign of my focus was my service return stats. I didn’t miss a service return for the first ten games. I made full effort for every single ball that came to my side, regardless of the score. I ran for every ball even if it seemed unreachable. I gave away nothing. I was relentless. That is the way I like to play. Tomorrow is the quarter finals of the singles.

I have hit my stride and feel much better than when i first arrived with my worries and doubts. I am free of concerns of winning or losing. I am dialed in on playing my best tennis, point by point. Shot by shot. I am loving problem solving during my matches, figuring out what I need to do if something is not working. I continue to live my mission on and off the court. 

And of course I love to write, as it provides a mirror for me of who I am and who I aspire to be. 

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