Tennis, Anyone?

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A standing tennis date on Friday afternoons is tabled for nearly a year as two stubborn tennis partners have a difference of opinion about the importance of the game.


Ten years ago, Commentator Heather King started playing tennis. She's always enjoyed it, but six years ago she really came to relish her time on the court. That's when she got together with her regular Friday tennis partner.

HEATHER KING: When I found Rochelle, I met my match in more ways than one. She's got the power. I've got the speed. And we both have the tenacity of bulldogs. Rochelle once excused herself during a game, threw up in a wastebasket and finished out the set. I once played for weeks with what turned out to be a dislocated finger. As Rochelle observed one afternoon following another bruising match point, neither of us has a benign personality.

Neither of us was benign, but Rochelle was by far the more social. At the courts where we played, someone she knew always seemed to be strolling by. Always, it seemed, right when I was about to serve. Yoo-hoo, Steve, she'd call, totally blowing my concentration. One Friday afternoon, things came to a head. I was trying to hold serve at deuce, ad out, when some hotshot tennis instructor walked by. Vilas, Rochelle called, Love ya, baby. I stopped mid-toss and raged at this egregious flaunting of every rule of fair play. I am done, I said. I packed up my bags and stomped off the court. All the way home, and lying in bed that night, I replayed the incident in my head. I might not have gotten quite as hot under the collar if I'd been winning, but still.

Rochelle called the next day. This isn't going to work for me, she said. I'm just not that competitive. I can't be playing tennis where I'm not allowed to say hi to people who are passing by. I mean, it's just a game. Well, I replied. It's a game I happen to be passionate about. That's why sports are so sublime, because they call us to be our highest selves. So if that's the way you feel, then you're absolutely right. We shouldn't play.

There it stood for a year. I took a group lesson, hoping to pick up another partner, but nobody was remotely as good or as fun as Rochelle. My racket lay forlornly in the truck of my car. Then, one morning several months ago, I picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice. Heather, it's Rochelle. We have to start playing again. I didn't even take time to stop and think. Friday, three to five? I replied. We've been back ever since, our bond stronger than ever.

Rochelle puts up with my ever so slight poor-loser-ship. And when she challenges the score, always just when it's gotten extra tight, I tell myself it's part of the game and let it go. She's developed a mean crosscourt backhand, and my serve's gotten scary fast. And, just for the record, last Friday it was 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, me.

BLOCK: Heather King lives in Los Angeles. She's the author of PARCHED: A MEMOIR.

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