Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Feb 18

Cawongla, Monday 6.45pm:

I reckon I’ll go for a kicker down her backhand side. She’ll have to slice the return giving me time to race to the net and put the ball away with a volley. And I’ll win the match.

She is crouched and weaving, awaiting my serve. She twirls her racquet in her hands like Federer. She’s cool like the Fed Express too. There’s no emotion, just focus. A bang of hair falls across her face and she blows it away with a puff of air from the corner of her mouth. That’s cute. But it doesn’t distract me from my purpose.

I bounce the ball in front of me – once, twice, thrice...

I look to her forehand, pretending I’m going to serve there – four, five, six times...

“Oh for God’s sake!” she says, rising from the crouch, putting hands on hips.

Now’s the time to strike.

I toss the ball high into the air. It’s silhouetted against thick clouds that hide a bigger yellow ball. My knees flex, the racquet swings from behind my back and I grunt loud like Nadal. I hope this puts her off.

It might have – I hear a chortle from the other end.

My follow-through is perfect and I use the forward momentum to charge the net. But the ball has connected with the rim of my racquet and flies sideways at ground level.

“Aaaaaaargh!!” I yell to the pregnant clouds, kicking the artificial grass and glaring at the stupid racquet with its stupid rim in the wrong place.

She rises from her crouch. She’s not laughing at me. Not outwardly. But I know inside she is. Oh, she’s clever. She’s playing mind games with me. Trying to freak me out.

At five games to four, and 40-30, this is match point. At second serve, it’s a critical situation.

I want to win. I’m not sure why. It’s not like I have to constantly prove myself. Surely.

Maybe there’s just so few situations in modern life where you can exert control. I can’t save whales; I can’t harpoon politicians; I’m powerless. Except here and now, I can win this mother.

I turn and face her. I rub my serving shoulder, wincing bravely. (Plan B: Have a good excuse ready.)

Earlier as I was changing into my work/swimming/tennis shorts in the tin shed beside the Cawongla tennis court (or Cawongla Arena, as I call it), I thought to myself, winning doesn’t matter. I even thought that if I got too far in front I might throw a few games just so she doesn’t get upset. (You know what some people are like.)

This is about fun and fitness. I haven’t played tennis in years but since I decided to give up drinking for a month (I chose February; it has the least days), I have so much free time, and my drinking elbow has been getting stiff, so...

Second serve. She crouches and waits. I bounce the ball. Just twice. I toss the ball. Not so high this time. I hit the ball. Not so hard this time. It arcs over the net and... is good! Yes!

She dances around the ball to her forehand side and deftly smashes it down the line to my left. I lurch towards it but my reflexes are sober and slow. (And I have stupid shoes.) The ball beats me easily.

She whoops in delight and then does this sort of victory duck dance. That’s so immature.

I smile at her like a good sport, and then rub my serving shoulder, wincing just a brave bit.

I may let her win this one.


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