Forgive me, but I still don’t fully understand how the Davis Cup works (and, by extension, the Fed Cup). The semifinal is tomorrow, apparently.
My lasting memory of the Davis Cup is when I went to tennis camp while in elementary school. In my youth, my parents were terrified of my sister and me being completely sedentary at home during the summer, which, while a noble concept, led to many a day spent in increasingly strange and draconian summer camps across the TRI-STATE AREA!
I also ended up in various camps that were supposed to enhance my athletic skill. This did not go well. I tried golf camp, which is an entirely different story. I tried baseball camp. I even went to a soccer camp later in my life. But for two summers, I went to tennis camp.
The only part of tennis camp I liked was running in the mornings. Shocker, I know. The morning run was only about 1-2 miles, but it was actually quite fun because we sometimes got to run around the playground or just run casually through the streets. It’s good to know that my sense of entertainment has not progressed since age 10.
Anyhow, tennis camp was not very fun because summers are hot and the hard tennis courts of Goshen, NY are not exactly an air-conditioned palace. There was one occasion in which I suffered heatstroke and threw up on the car ride home. Our packed lunches would occasionally rot in the sun, but I survived through vending machines and massive amounts of water.
There were about 30 children in tennis camp aged from middle school to high school. The best tennis player played for a high school team and was actually decent. I was among the youngest camper the worst tennis player by far. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because my sister was also quite bad at tennis. But at least she had a winning mentality.
I was not alone in my endeavor. One of my oldest friends who lived down the street from me (I have no neighbors because I live in the countryside, so this is actually like 4 miles) also went to the camp and helped us carpool.
All our parents worked, leaving us with little to do other than go to a tennis camp with two coaches who clearly would much rather actually coach serious tennis players rather than children.
I don’t want to blame the two coaches too much because I played tennis with the resigned flair of a depressed high school junior. I did not run for balls that were not hit directly at me. I hit fewer than 5 first serves in per summer.
I didn’t even buy my own tennis racquet, which you’d think would be mandatory for a tennis camp. Instead, I borrowed equipment and promptly chucked the equipment at the ground when I lost a point or a game. Keep in mind I was throwing a rather expensive (but used) yellow Babolat racquet that I did not own. I am, quite honestly, a terrible person when I am losing anything. I had zero interest in playing tennis or participating in the camp, and in response, the coaches just didn’t know what to do. For these behaviors, I was semi-regularly kicked out of the camp for 30-minute intervals while everyone else played. In one particularly hilarious punishment, the coaches forced me to use a racket designed for 5-year-olds for an entire morning. Even I found it a bit funny.
But let’s switch the focus from me, for once, to the Davis Cup. The Davis Cup was the camp event on the last two days of the program that was supposed to “showcase” the talents we had acquired. The camp was divided into countries and competed against each other in various events. Some of them were tennis related, others involved doing suicides across the court. None of them were fun, in my opinion.
Of course, there was also a large singles tournament in which each member of the camp played against someone matched to their skill level. I think we played to 10 points, but I can’t fully remember. The actually good tennis players played each other in the “highlight” match at the end of the day, which the entire camp got to watch. It was fun for everyone, except for me.
As one final kick in the balls, the tennis directors decided to match someone at my skill level. This meant I had to play a 7-year-old kid named Eric in a singles match. Remember, after two years of this nonsensical tennis camp, I have turned 10. I should have had a massive advantage in skill, desire and strength.
I think I lost 10-2, which could be wrong because I can’t remember the exact scoring, but I did get absolutely demolished. I also remember complaining to my parents that I had gotten drawn against such a weakling the night before, which, in hindsight, was not the smartest decision. For the first time, I wasn’t angry at myself. I didn’t throw anything. I was just really embarrassed. There were a bunch of people watching me.
I haven’t picked up a tennis racquet in the ensuing 8 years of my life, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve become a rather avid tennis fan in that span of time, and tennis is really too stressful for me to handle. I’d much rather play professional poker than tennis, which is ridiculous, but true. In tennis, there is an illusion of control, but realistically, your opponent, the wind and the bounce of the ball is completely out of your hands. As a reckless control freak when it comes to competition, tennis is just not the right game for me.
(The only part of tennis I really miss is volleying. I was really good at volleying. At the camp there was this game called “Space Invaders” in which stood by the net and practiced volleying with players on the opposite side without the ball hitting the ground. It’s done to improve hand skills and reaction time. I was actually really good at Spacer Invaders. The best volleys are made with minimal thought. You stick out your hand at a ball and suddenly it bounces for a lightning fast winner. In activities where I didn’t have to think and ponder what I was going to do, I could survive.)