Today I beat a better player than me. Also younger by a dozen or more years. It doesn’t happen often. It might not happen again, because David is a strong player who hasn’t had the court time I have had this summer.
He was inconsistent, firing some spectacular winners, but missing, too. I was also inconsistent, but I played well enough to win today.
Tennis is my sport now. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to stop playing sports. First to go was hockey, in my early forties, then basketball, around age fifty. Mountain biking–the serious kind, where falls happen and hurt–about three years ago. I’m a slow runner now.
But I can still compete on the tennis court as long as I can find players on my level, no matter their age. I’ve been playing Graham, age 16, a varsity high school player. He’s on an upward trajectory, getting better each month. I’m holding even, starting to veer down, and our playing arcs happened to intersect this summer. He’s beaten me almost every time, but the matches are close, and I’ve taken some sets.
I’ve also found some tennis friends. People to play and hit with that approach the game like I do: loving it, wanting to play well, competitive spirit, fun above all else. It’s healthy to have tennis friends. Ben is my friend outside of tennis too, and some of the others I want to get to know better outside of tennis.
But what I mostly want to talk about is playing a sport as you get older. Jimmy is a damn good baseball player in a men’s over-55 league, where I saw skill and desire on display. It gave me such an empowering feeling. If there’s a sport you love, keep playing it, for as long as you can, however old you get, because when you’re done, you’re done, and likely not going back.
My father and my father-in-law both played tennis well into their 80s. They were good men. I strive to be like them.