Friday, 5 February 2016

'IRONY'

I wrote the following chapter one night after reminiscing about my European adventure. It's been sitting in another file for a while. I write a lot, sometimes I don't post it, just sit on it. The European trip of '91 has relevance I believe as it takes someone out of a comfort zone, a necessity for future growth and improvement........

'IRONY'

The tournament in Bordeaux was yet another learning experience in a long line of character building moments. For me personally being in a foreign land and trying to win a tennis match was like trying to buy a ham and salad roll, an impossibility. ( They didn't sell them, you had to get a croissant and they were nowhere near as good as a roll ). That afternoon we sat around a television and watched not only my hero but possibly everybody's hero of the 70's Bjorn Borg attempt a comeback to the tour at age 35.
Now we had heard of the attempt by the great man to get back onto the main pro tour through news broadcasts and we were simply fascinated by the whole idea. Once I knew that Borg was getting back on court again I would occasionally have a look through a sporting magazine in a French Newsagency to gain some sort of insight as to how the comeback was looking. Problem was simple though, I could not understand French so I relied on the pictures to paint a picture. I recall seeing photos of Borg training, doing push ups, hitting balls, getting his body in shape for another go at the big time and I was inspired all over again, just like when I was a kid learning to play the game.
Borg was looking in a word magnificent, he was ridiculously fit and lean for a man in his mid thirties and he looked fresh, unlike his former 26 year old jaded self who burned out of the sport in his prime.
Seeing Borg on court again was like being in a candy store as a kid where your eyes lit up at the thought of what you could get your teeth around. Borg had an aura about him all those years later and with each warm up groundstroke that he hit in the comeback match at Monte Carlo my mind took me back to my garage wall hitting days as a kid. Without Borg I would not have even played tennis and here I was in Europe testing myself to the maximum for the very first time with my hero doing the same thing, albeit after ten years away from the game. It was ironic.
Bjorn Borg retired when I was just starting my tennis adventure and the devastation of it I have documented in other chapters. Heroes are a necessity in all walks of life and Borg was my hero, he inspired me to play and to me he was larger than life , a rock star type of character who once waved to his wife in the stands at Wimbledon during an epic match. To the uneducated that may have meant almost a form of arrogance but even as a kid I perceived that as a man who knew his capabilities and he was simply letting his loved ones know that he was in control despite the score. Imagine that sort of confidence in one's own ability ? To wave and let someone know you were ok and knew how to fight your way out of a brutal battle ? That's confidence of a rare nature.
As the match wore on in Monte Carlo I could tell that the Borg fairy-tale comeback was not meant to be as the Spaniard Arresse simply had way too many answers for him yet I still took heart from watching my hero play once again for more than one reason. My philosophical mind did the sums on it all as it does when analysing matches and players and I came up with a few conclusions however the biggest factor was obvious. It doesn't matter how much you practice a sport, unless you are playing regular competitive matches it will account for very little. Match play really is the number one factor in determining whether your game has substance or whether you are simply a 'practice champion'.
I likened my own ability to that of Borg's which was silly in a way as I would not have won a game off Borg, probably not even a point but I always look at relevance in tennis, it's how you improve. I was a 'practice champion' no doubt whatsoever, someone who loved practicing and could do it with no fear of any consequence. Borg quite possibly felt the same as he started to gain form leading up to that  match against Arrese. Was he oblivious to how tennis really works or was he simply just trying to play from memory and hope it was going to be good enough ?
Whatever transpired that day in Monte Carlo I look upon it to this day as one of the greatest examples I have ever seen when looking at the intricacies of tennis. It is an impossibility to hit tennis balls either against a wall, against a hitting partner or a ball machine and expect that form to hold any substance whatsoever because it is not reality. When looking at improvement in a sport as complex as tennis you have to put yourself into a real life situation with point play that tests the thought process to the maximum.
I took heart from the Borg comeback and I didn't see it as a failure from my hero, I simply saw it for what it was, someone who was testing themselves to the maximum and not someone who was looking for a watered down version. I went to Europe to test myself against players who I knew were way better than me so I could learn just how good you needed to be and I was under no illusions just as Borg probably was also. Yet it's how you get better, it's how you get educated as a tennis player. Don't tinker around the edges, get in and get your hands dirty, test yourself.

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