Friday, September 18, 2009

At What Price Love?

We all thought Sloane left us. It wouldn’t have been a shock. She was moved to a higher level in her Spring tennis league and we just assumed that those would be the women she would play with come autumn. We all know she’s better than us. How could we not? She tells us all the time.

Ok, that’s not really true. Better, yes. But she doesn’t actually “tell us” – she simply “lets us know.”

One of the reasons I love playing with Sloane is that she’s tough as nails. She’s a powerful hitter and an unapologetic player. And she’s as unforgiving with her partners as she is with her opponents. “Did you just decide not to go for that shot?” she’ll say if you’re playing beside her. None of us would ever take that from any other partner, but from Sloane, it’s just part of her charm.

So Surprise #1 today was that Sloane was on the court. Surprise #2 was that she could barely play.

“Sloane met a guy,” they announced as I walked on the court. “It’s good,” she said and grinned. “But I haven’t played tennis in six weeks and I think I’ve lost my game.”

Her assessment wasn’t far off. She didn’t have her serve, she didn’t have her power, but most troubling, she didn’t have her attitude.

Playing tennis with Sloane is a little like playing with Fonzie. She’s got the severe look and the puffed up strut and today all of that was gone. She tried once, early on, to say something menacing to her opponents and she couldn’t keep the grin off her face.

Can you really not play tennis if you’re in love?

Sloane missed shot after shot and cursed her lover under her breath. And then, after about four games, things slowly started coming back.

First she got her wide forehand back and almost instantly she was walking a little taller. Then her serve started coming back. Her backspin was not yet consistent, but still you could see it in her step, she knew it was just a matter of time.

She and I won the first set and that helped a lot. Eleanor likes the new Sloane, but I find it unnerving. I enjoyed forcing myself to concentrate in spite of her mental shenanigans and this new Sloane didn’t have a shenanigan to her name.

We switched partners after the first set and Sloane was again not doing so well. She started berating her partner for missing things, for not running fast enough. At one point I hit a shot that she couldn’t get to and she gave me a lot of props. Then she blew the next point altogether and said, “You know why I missed that? Because I was too busy thinking about how I complimented Jessica’s last shot too much.” It seemed like the old Sloane was inching back, although perhaps becoming a victim of her own hubris.

Anyone who’s ever played with Sloane knows that she just hates to lose. And maybe being down a few games was just what she needed to get her groove back. Ultimately Sloane and Tracey pulled it out, coming up out of nowhere and winning the set.

I’m not sure about this guy – what havoc he’s going to wreak on our Thursday games. Yes, Sloane seems smitten with him, but is that really enough? It’s a lot more complicated than just meeting someone you want to spend all your time with. We’re talking about ladies tennis, after all.

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