I was watching a video on Fuzzy Yellow Balls by Jann Auzoux, a recognized tennis coach in the DC area who played on the Davis Cup team for Cameroon—though he lost all nine matches. Jann was saying that lots of rec(reational) players started tennis late, and that delay handicaps them from learning the game properly. My head was nodding as I related to his wise words immediately. After all, I played for two years, when I was 12-13, and then stopped for over 50 years! I really began playing regularly, when I was 66.

Then Jann admitted that he would have been a better player if HE hadn’t started so late. He was already 11, when he first began playing the game. Eleven??? Eleven??? What the hell was he talking about? All the top players, he explained, began learning tennis when they were five! Five?…Yes five. I had to laugh out loud at how off base I was in understanding his original statement. But it’s all relative…

This reminded me of another anecdote about my lengthiest conversation with Ivan Lendl, who lives nearby. His girls went to the same school as my daughter, and they were friends and had sleepovers. Well I almost never saw Ivan at school, but I was familiar with his wife, Samantha. So when I bought a new house, and it had a tennis court in disrepair, I called up his wife to ask her a question or two. Here is how it went:

Ivan: Hello

Ira: Hi, is Sam there?

Ivan: Why do you want to talk to her?

Ira: I have a question about tennis.

Ivan: I know tennis.

Ira: OK. I just bought a house with a Har-Tru tennis court, and I was wondering if that is a good kind of court?

Ivan: No. Definitely replace it. Hard court is much better.

Ira: Why is that?

Ivan: Because the tapes on a Har-Tru can stretch or expand in warm weather, and that can alter the length of the court by half an inch.

Ira: OK. Thanks for your advice.

You see how relative it all is? Aside from the $50,000 cost of a new hard court, which I wasn’t ever thinking of spending, the half inch that meant so much to Ivan—as it should—meant nothing to me. The court could have been a foot longer or shorter than regulation, and it wouldn’t have affected my game. I was just a beginner, happy to just hit a ball over the net. But a tiny deviation in length would have been terrible for a pro…especially one of the greatest in tennis history.

So pros see the tennis world quite differently than amateurs. And sometimes I think it’s pretty funny. don’t you?