In honor of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament returning to New York City this week – one of my all-time favorite sporting events to watch – I thought I’d take this opportunity to post about a significant tennis moment in my life. The “anniversary” of this event is coming up, but it really feels like it only happened yesterday. Unfortunately.
My wife and I have not played tennis since.
The incident if ever recounted, is done so in hushed tones.
The wife and I were playing tennis at least once a week. Never in a competitive way, mind you. We simply went out for an hour or so sticking to the baselines, volleying back and forth.
That is…until “The Drop Shot.”
It was an early weeknight when we took to the court. The temperature was 70F. No wind to speak of. No one playing on the court next to us…although there were a couple of guys playing on the court one removed from where we were, so periodically we had to serve as ball persons for each other’s play. Otherwise, absolutely perfect conditions for twilight tennis on a well-kept, public court.
We were about a half-hour into play when it occurred. Mind you, we always kept score even though our shared goal was to extend points, get some good exercise, and enjoy the outdoors.
My wife, a pretty good field hockey player back in her day, was actually beating me in this particular game. She had just returned my shot from deep in her far corner when I executed “The Drop Shot.”
To this day, my wife insists it was because I was losing and consciously wanted to win the point by hitting my shot to land just over the net. My claim to this day is my competitive mind and muscles simply converged in the moment, and I subconsciously went for a winning shot. It was without a doubt the greatest drop shot I’ve ever hit.
It was also my last.
My wife, reacting to my shortened stroke and immediately setting aside our mutual goal to take things easy, attempted to sprint all the way from the back court in a spectacularly athletic yet predictably futile fashion to reach the ball in time.
Futile intersected with fall.
My wife went down several feet from the net in a full-on, concrete face plant.
I thought she was dead.
Mind you I was gratified to have won the point, but I decided to check on my wife first before retrieving the ball. As I got to her, she was rolling onto her side and making low, unintelligible sounds…which indicated she was, a) alive and, b) able to move.
“You OK? What hurts?
“Just your hand. Great!”
“Great? No, not great. It hurts. A lot. I think I BROKE it.”
This is when I switched into ultra-positive mode. Knowing my wife as I do, it would be important to assure her she was OK, and that hand of hers would be fine with some rest and TLC. She’s as tough a trooper as I know, but in accident situations with anyone I always feel it is important to deflate any thoughts of potentially more serious injuries. Getting stressed about what may or may be wrong certainly doesn’t make anyone feel any better.
It did seem like her hand did take the brunt of the impact with the court. This was a good thing, because her head was next in line if that hand had not been extended to break her fall. The question now…was the hand actually BROKEN?
I quickly got her to her feet and into our car so, if nothing else, to reassure those guys playing nearby a hearse would indeed not be required. There was some concern on my part they might have seen my wife’s plunge.
I drove her to a Wawa convenience store (one we don’t normally frequent) to get some much-needed ice for her injury. I left her in the car briefly, returning as quickly as I could with an ice-cold drink for her, ice for her hand…and a TV Guide.
“You thought about the TV Guide during THIS?”
“It’s next week’s edition. I got it early!”
Uh-oh. She’s not laughing anymore.
Moments later, as I was getting her cooled down and set-up in a more comfortable position for the drive home, I was trying to adjust the angle of her seat to make her a bit more comfortable…when I almost made her horizontal as the seat control got away from me.
She actually managed a laugh about that, watching me being flustered getting the seat corrected.
Good sign. Laughter really IS the best medicine.
Until the next day of course, when her hand looked like one of those cartoon character balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
Off to the doctor. Then the hospital. Multiple X-rays. No break. Bad sprain. Two weeks of rest.
Since then…conversations of “The Drop Shot” usually go like this:
“You know you hit that shot on purpose.”
“I did not. I just reacted in the moment. It was simply instinct. You were so far away, and the shot was there for the taking. I never thought you’d actually try to go get it. I didn’t mean to almost kill you.”
“Well, you almost did.”
“Again, I’m sorry. You know, I really thought you were dead for a second there. I’ll never forget that sight. It was awful.”
“I still can’t believe you bought that TV Guide.”
“I got it early!”
Picture Courtesy iStock