Doubles is hard. Yes, the game itself is more complicated than singles – less physically demanding, but often more strategic. But the real difficulty with doubles is that it requires four people. Four people who all can be at the same place for the same time for two hours and who know how to play tennis.
When I started playing tennis, this seemed like an almost impossible set of circumstances. It took me years to amass a contact list of players who were at the same level, had the same general sensibility (not too serious, just serious enough), and were smitten enough with the game that they’re willing to squander two precious kid-free hours hitting a ball back and forth over a net.
During the fall and winter, our games are inside. A schedule is set and people show up when they’re supposed to. But in the summer we play outside, on public courts and the roster changes week to week. “Can anyone play on Wednesday?” will be the subject line of my mass tennis email.
I don’t mind setting up games. It’s a little extra work, but well worth it. However the real treat is when I end up on someone else’s email list. When a “Tennis on Sunday?” email shows up in my Inbox. Unfortunately, those games come with their own complications.
Once you play in someone else’s game, you’re “in”. Meaning, at the end of the game, someone will say, “can everyone play next Sunday?” and if the answer is yes, Sunday tennis is all set. No need for an email, we just all show up again next week. The problem comes if you for some reason say no. If you're going to be out of town or you cancel because you're injured. You miss that Sunday game and then you're out of the loop. The following Sunday will automatically be set up at the end of the game you missed. Then you have to wait for someone to fall ill or expire before you can get your slot back. It’s a little like trying to get a Manhattan apartment in the ‘80s.
It took me a while to understand the ramifications of passing on a game. The whole process is so much more delicate and complex than it appears on the surface. (Once I accepted an invitation to a brand new group and I was having a bad day: I hit the ball out as often as I hit it in. That was that. I was never asked back.)
So now I play almost no matter what. Bronchitis. Hemorrhoids. Muscle pulls. I have every imaginable wrap and analgesic in my tennis bag. I only cancel if my kid has a temperature over 104 or I’m on crutches.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking to me to think that a game could go on without me, that fat, juicy doubles is being played whether I show up or not. So I try and seize every opportunity now. Doubles (like life) waits for no one.