I learned to play tennis during my last year at Thacher–1976. Thacher’s fencing instructor (fencing was offered at Thacher in the ‘70s), an architect named Albert Urenda, and his wife Irene were beautiful, exemplary and largely unseen members of the Thacher community. Committed, loyal, caring…I couldn’t have asked for better mentors, and friends.
The rains had stopped; the smell of orange trees bloomed everywhere. Spring was so beautiful; Mr. Urenda suggested it would be a good idea to play some tennis.
Wood racquets, early preparation, flat strokes. Keep your wrist straight. It was a wonderful feeling to play on courts overlooking the Valley. Like every student, I worked the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament. That year I learned about Connors, Borg, Lendl.
In June of 2010, I decided to pick up the sport again, because I wanted more physical exercise in my life, but not the three-times-a-week dreadmill of 24 Hour Fitness. The game has changed–new equipment, new skills. Graphite racquets and compact, whipped strokes. Flick your wrist. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic.
The sport gives endless puzzles to solve–speed, spin, placement. Tennis is oxygen; I practice every day. I’m learning how to “play the ball,” to solve the specific problem in front of me.
A favorite tennis quote from Nadal compels me. He said, “Your opponents may get injured, one month out, 3 months out, plus the mental fatigue…everybody has their chance.” Time to get back on the court.