Around 9:00 p.m. last night, one of my fifteen year-old students played her first professional tennis match. Meanwhile, the other fifteen year-old I brought with me, sat observing, learning and hoping to get into the draw as an alternate. She waited until 12:30 a.m., before retiring for the evening and, as I’m writing this, we’ve just completed a solid 90-minute 7:00 a.m. hit. That is exactly the kind of dedication that will make this kid great. Study the game, deprioritize sleep, and work your ass off when given an opportunity. We hit again today at 1:00 p.m.
As for the one who competed, it was more Darwinian adventure than tennis match. After the application of bug spray, game prep, and a last-minute bathroom purge, she nervously took the court to face a big hitting but very inconsistent qualifier. While the tennis was less than fantastic, other forces took hold. Fifty or so giant moths spent the entire match attacking mosquitoes and settling onto the court in the middle of play. Neither girl was comfortable but my player was born with a entomological phobia, so this insect interjection proved terrifying. Imagine walking through a hundred yards of spider webs and you get the idea. Factor in the bird, which came down to take hold of one of the moths, and then the iguana which had to be chased from the court, and the whole predator/prey dynamic played out on myriad levels.
As the scoreboard lights dimmed, my player too, served as victim.
After the match, we had a long conversation, which included the following:
“What was your strategy?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Do you remember who served first?”
‘Do you know where her weakness was?”
“What did you do well?”
“I think I playedwell, but I really don’t know.”
While some won’t understand these responses, because they make her sound like she should be wearing a helmet, if we’re being honest, this is pretty standard for a first pro match. These kids are so overwhelmed by their surroundings – the crowds watching, the foreigners talking and pointing, the primal screams from nearby courts, the thought of battling players far more senior to them – that they tend to go mentally numb. On the plus side, I’ve asked the girls to take notes every day since they’ve been here, and I’m now seeing the pages evolve – more insightful, more mature, more detailed. This is why we bring them onto the professional stage early. Ask anyone trying to climb mountains – acclimation takes time.
Update on the towel situation: I’m not sure what happened. Yaneli and I were going great, me with my extra cloth, and she with her animal artistry. I’m not sure if someone tipped her off about my blog or if she just tired of me, but the animals have stopped, the towels no longer appear, and today she didn’t even clean my room. I’m assuming it’s an oversight, what with all the extra attention she gave me this weekend, however, I’m currently sitting on some very sweaty sheets and I can’t shower and the floor is sandy and my minibar is empty and I’m pretty certain I’ve lost a pillow and something reptilian seems to be scratching very close to me at night and now here comes one of my players yelling at me to “Solve the problem.”
Tomorrow: The Training Continues