On the same course as last week, I’d like to think that not thinking is the goal when it comes to doing something athletic, tennis in my case, which is why I thought a couple of months ago that it would be good to attend East Hampton Indoor’s weekly “stroke of the week” clinics, so I could think about what I was doing wrong and could take heedless satisfaction in what I was doing right.
In tennis there are many mnemonics; if it were not so, I would have told you. Think of sliding your racket along the seat of a chair when striking a backhand volley, for instance. It’s A-C-E when serving, which is to stay toss the ball away from the body, keep the chin up, and extend through the ball, snapping the wrist downward with authority.
Just as it’s head up when serving, it’s head down when hitting groundstrokes. Turn the shoulder, bend the knees, bring the hips around if it’s a forehand, following through up and over the opposite shoulder.
If yours is a one-hand backhand, follow through high, flipping the lead wrist at the end to impart topspin. Chin up when hitting overheads. Step in to the volleys. And, rather than “bounce-hit,” say “one” when the opponent strikes the ball, “two” as you take up a position arm and racket’s length away from the ball, and “three” as you make contact. . . .
Much to reflect on, you’ll agree, but when these truths of tennis are transformed into pure reaction, into beauty, as it were, then thought and sensation are transmuted into transcendence.
Timing is beauty, beauty timing. And that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
Of course, if you jerk your head up when it should be down, or jerk it down when it should be up, or forget to bend the knees or turn the shoulder, or get too close to the ball, or swing late, and thus mess up, there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth and things will go south.
But that, too, is part of the game, part of the hacker’s game, whose best moments bid fair to be even more golden than those of the elite given the base metals from which they come.
All by way of saying I’ve thought enough for now. It’s time to play. And, oh yes, keep your eye on the ball.