This story began three years back around June of 2012. We were eight of us, all with families and careers, and all New England sports fans (Go Patriots). Fitness was the missing piece. We decided to play weekend recreational tennis to increase our fitness and have a way for us to get together for a few hours every week to catchup on our friendship. We were playing doubles with the simple goal to send the ball to the other side with minimal technique on any aspect of the game – serve, forehand or backhand. It got us moving a little bit, but I don’t think it was increasing our fitness, and definitely our game was not improving much. However we were enjoying the time with friends and catching up on our lives.
This enjoyment took a different turn around September of 2012. One of the friends enrolled the eight of us into a charity tennis tournament. Most of the players in this tournament were rated under 3.5 and a few were close to a 4.0 level. With two months of exposure to tennis, we thought we would do well in the tournament. To our shock at that time, we were crushed in the first round. Only a couple of us went to the 2nd round and got beaten there. For the first time, after several years, we were exposed to real sports competition, and we were humbled by our limited tennis ability . The eight of us looked at each other and without saying much, we felt a stoic determination to improve our game and get back into the sports related competitive spirit that we had during our teenage days. A few of us were intense table tennis, badminton, and cricket players while growing up in India. This spirit and the pledge moved our friendship to the next level.
We thought the only way to improve our tennis was to play more and to play with a variety of people at different levels. We went ahead and enrolled in an indoor tennis club. Now we were faced with some real competitors at 4.0 and 4.5 levels. Little did we know that our travails had just begun. We were beaten every which way.
Returning the serves was an endeavor as there were many aces, there were many out balls and the few of our returns that made it to the other side were smashed out of the court by the opposing net player . For many weeks we would go in hoping not to lose 6-0 again. The ultimate travesty was a Friday evening round robin format at the club. We lost matches to every kind of combination -men, mixed teams with much older men than us, righties and lefties. And then there were two nice and kind ladies – much older than us and much slower than us. We were hoping for our first win. This kindness ended as soon as the match started. They used every kind of skill and trick on us, we were just mesmerized and beaten.
Now this was around November of 2012, and though our game has not improved much, our tennis IQ started to build. We realized that we needed to change every aspect of our game – serve, forehand, backhand, volleys and overheads. We realized that we needed to undo the little skill we had and rebuild ourselves from scratch. We also realized that playing at a higher level is not a few weeks task but could take a good year.
We took some group classes at the club, having endless rallies, and serving baskets full of balls every week. We also joined a team that played in the Northshore tennis league. After a few months, we started having some close matches and even started getting an occasional win. We started enjoying the game much more as the forehand topspin was working and the serve speed and consistency increased. Our passion for the game started increasing. Our spouses were amused at this passion but kept encouraging us as it was helping with our fitness. Of course the most important thing was that we started enjoying tennis with the friends and our discussions and strategies on tennis had gone to the next level.
The word spread around the social circle; we started to enroll our neighbors, colleagues, relatives and additional friends into the group. The initial eight became a good twenty five people by mid-2014. We now have our own team in the Northshore league to accommodate this strength. We now look forward to every Saturday for our league match. As a point of reference, these matches give us more thrill than watching NFL football games. Of course we still love watching the New England Patriots. For the year 2014, our team of friends went to the semifinals in the Northshore league. In the tournament where this all started, for the year 2014, three of the four doubles teams in the semifinals were from our group. Everyone in the group had crossed the 3.5 level, a few had also crossed the 4.0 mark and getting even closer to the 4.5 level.
Finally, now where do we want to go with this? We want to keep up this friendship forever and keep enjoying and improving our tennis. It is our hope to play long into our lives. We are always cajoling our spouses to join us, it’s the next endeavor for us to get them into tennis. A couple of our kids are ranked players in New England and some don’t want to touch the racket We still have hope for them to build interest in this sport someday, after all we did it in our forties.
To give more meaning to this passion and friendship we had decided to have our own annual charity tournament. The hope is to collect some money and make a small difference to a local charity in Boston. We are committed to giving a very valuable and enjoyable experience for the participants of this tournament. Who knows, besides helping a good cause, this tournament could help build some other tennis stories like ours.