Trip to U.S. Open opens possibilities for playing tennis
I have confessed in the past that I stink at tennis. But, ever the optimist, I think I can get better. Gwen Ritchie has given me new hope.
As a member of a ladies’ tennis league, my greatest attributes are Y membership and appearing on time, Head in hand (although, it turns out, held with way too stiff a wrist). I enjoy the evening of play, though my failure to find my way to a court the entire summer during the league break suggests that tennis is neither my forte nor my passion.
All that began to change, a wee bit, on Sept. 1 when I went on a Y-sponsored day trip to the U.S. Open.
The excitement began a few weeks earlier, when a friend called asking if I’d like to join her on the trip. A hundred bucks for the whole day. The U.S. Open? In person? Sounds like fun. Uh, what sport would that be again? Oh, tennis. Sure!
My husband supplied me with magazine and newspaper articles about who to watch and why, which my friend and I perused on the bus ride, checking off names against the day’s U.S. Open schedule supplied, along with water bottles and energy bars, by the Y’s Rolland Leblanc.
On the bus were some familiar faces, many of whom made this trip an annual outing and all of whom knew from the get-go what sport they were going to see and who they would see competing.
The event was a real education for me. It was fantastic to see up-and-coming and famous tennis players doing their thing right in front of us. We were sweating in the shade-free stands in 90-degree sunshine, yet the players seemed unaffected, serving at 90 mph or faster and playing for hours on end. U.S. Open spectators could walk among the various stadiums and courts to see parts of the many matches going on simultaneously. The site is adjacent to the old planet Earth and towers from the 1965 World’s Fair (and the movie "Men in Black) and the new Mets baseball field, where you could see the impressive memorial to Jackie Robinson through the locked gates.
One of my high points, however, was on the bus back to Saratoga Springs, when Gwen Ritchie of Wilton, well known to local tennis aficionados of all ages, agreed to give me a lesson the following week.
"What do you need help with?" she asked. "Everything," I answered, hearing no disagreement from my bus trip friend, with whom I’d played only once. My friend was unable to teach uncoordinated me how to use my foot and racquet to bounce the ball from the ground to my hand, never mind how to actually play. Rather than strain a friendship, we silently agreed to leave my tennis training to a professional. And this was my chance.
Since then and this column, Gwen and I met twice, which I guess makes me an intermediate. I intend to pick up the pace when she returns from knee surgery.
Meanwhile, my weekly ladies tennis league has resumed playing. The first night, I arrived a full five minutes early, managing to stretch my calves. I didn’t embarrass myself – not too badly. I showed up on time. I didn’t pull anything. And a few times I even remembered how to hold the racquet. The ladies in my league are as fervent as I in wishing Gwen a speedy recovery.