The B Champs with their salad bowl trophies

The B Champs with their salad bowl trophies

I admit it: Winning really feels good. On Labor Day, I was part of a doubles team that won the B Division at the tennis club I joined three years ago. How sweet it is. I really wanted it…and not for the 15-inch diameter glass engraved bowl that I can use for salad and fruit.

Two years ago my team made it to the finals, but lost. This year we played that same team in the semi-finals–although I had a different partner, Jim Wu–and we won 6-2, 6-2. I began the match believing we could win. And best of all, I was doing my best without worrying if the other team would feel badly if they lost. As my tennis therapist told me, if they can’t handle losing, it’s their problem, not yours. I still don’t have a killer instinct and can still learn to play more aggressively. But I no longer feel so much sympathy for the other side that I subconsciously create my own errors and poor shots.

The most demandinging match was in the quarter finals, where we won 7-5 and in a tiebreaker 7-5. I served at the end of both sets, and I was ecstatic that I never choked. There were around 20 people watching and cheering me on. What a difference it made to hear people applauding and encouraging me after an especially good point. One experienced friend said I was playing the best game of my life…certainly that he’d ever seen me play. He may have been right. I was in the zone, anticipating better than ever and returning many balls that seemed ungettable. Now I understand a tiny bit of what the pros like Monfils and Djokovic feel, when they motion to the thousands in the stands to clap and shout louder after a winner or a victory. It feels terrific.

But I was a bit sad to learn after that close match that one of my opponents lost on his birthday. Both guys looked very disappointed, and I was glad that my sympathy didn’t kick in until AFTER the win.

For the finals I was really concerned about one of the opposing guys…a lefty with a powerful serve and a very strong net game. He volleys incredibly frustrating drop shots too. But he was a bit off in the exhausting, low-80s heat…and we won that one 6-2, 6-3 in front of an appreciative crowd that was often focused on the A Division finals two courts over. But some watched my game and applauded our victory. Many people were happy for me when I saw them afterwards. Very satisfying…even thrilling. I definitely wanted to win this final after losing it the last time.

Who knows? Maybe some year I will enter the A Division and see if I can win a match or two. Some of those guys are like semi-pros, were on college teams and are super fast. Many are under 50 and have astonishing capabilities after years of practice.

For now I am totally pleased. I have a year to relish my success and prepare to defend my title next time against all newcomers, wannabees and guys seeking revenge. The joy of sport…the challenge of athletics. My quest to keep improving. Pretty lucky to have this passion so late in life and be able to do it…I am savoring every minute…