In the game on July 1st, when the other team was behind, one of my opponents told his partner to “Play for blood!” And that partner would then really get miffed with his own teammate when a point was lost: “Why didn’t you move back to the center? How could you miss that shot?” he would ask with annoyance.

I also noticed that after a point, when the first guy fed me a ball, so that I could serve, he hit it back to me low, hard, and with lots of top spin. I usually just lob the ball over in a gentle way when I feed the server.

I think of myself as an easy-going type. Though competitive, I can’t usually forget serious problems in the world or the troubles people I know are dealing with. So I don’t get upset if I lose. I mean it’s just a game, and we are out there to have fun. If my partner screws up or double faults, big deal. My main goal is for me to play well. I may become disappointed when I hit long or in the net. I may feel apologetic that I am letting my partner down or not giving the other guys a better game. But I don’t get angry.

Now I’d also heard for years that if you watch someone playing almost any sport, you can see their personality in action. If they cheat in the game, they probably do it in business. I am gentle, so I lob the ball back easily. Someone else is tough, he fires it back with vigor. But I also want to hit a hard, fast tennis ball in the game, so of course I should do it in practice and now maybe at all times on the court. I want to be tougher, rougher, gruffer and meaner in “play” than I am in real life. In fact:


So on Tuesday, when I played the two oldest guys, one 93, I hit the ball as hard as I could as often as I could…and it went long and in the net, my opponents placed their milder shots exactly where I couldn’t retrieve them, and we lost both sets. Damn.

Then I was invited to play doubles yesterday with younger guys (in their 50’s) who are much more powerful and hit stronger strokes. My team lost 6-1 and then stopped at 6-6 next set, when one man had to leave for a dinner date. We certainly improved, and I can’t get over how I still consistently have a better serve than other players I am hitting with.

But I couldn’t even remember until now that I want to be the meanest, toughest, killer-assassin in Connecticut (on the tennis court, of course). Is it possible to change? What do you think? Can I learn to care more? And will it improve my game?

I watched Serena Williams fight back yesterday to come from behind and defeat Elena Dementieva in the Wimbledon semi-finals. I wasn’t rooting for Serena, but I have to applaud her strength and determination to be victorious. To crush and maul her opponent. When she flexed her arm with each winning point, and the muscles ripped, you could sense and see her power, her vision, her drive to defeat.

I want to change who I am in the game. I want to become less forgiving and empathetic. I want to care more, fight more, practice more and get the damn ball over the net and in the court more…with blistering speed and spin. Watch me.