Our National Championships were concluded on Long Island on Sunday. The quality of play was nothing short of spectacular. The athleticism and shot making was astonishing to watch. These skills were shared by all of the participants in the final rounds, but while that was amazing it isn’t the most impressive part of our sport.
Watching Juan Arraya and Mark Parsons play several close, but seemingly out, balls as in, I couldn’t help but feel pride. When Mike Stulac, Steve Derose and Scott Mansager all called balls as having hit them, when no one else could tell, my admiration grew. Seeing Johan Durandt and Matt Porter locked in a battle for their lives, but continuing to play the close calls as in, I was impressed. When Patricio Misitrano called one of his own shots out, it reinforced the quaint notion that our sport maintains its own set of standards that supersedes winning and losing.
As I drove out of the Huntington Country Club on Sunday I realized that as the years passed these were the things I would remember. Not who volleyed well, or who won or lost, but who were the men that I respected and wanted as friends. What makes our wonderful game special is the people who play it. The people that you are proud to point to as your friends. Obviously we all want to win. We compete as hard as we can and win, lose or draw, we grab a beer together afterwards.
Having grown up playing tournament tennis I understand how different our culture is from the tennis world. Watching college tennis is a painful contrast. When the close balls are all called out I cringe. Is winning worth that price? Maybe to some, but not to me. I cherish the culture of platform tennis.
When I walk off the court I don’t really care what someone thinks of my game (which is pretty mediocre, by the way). I care how they view me as a man. I don’t intend to please everyone all the time (a good thing since I have never been successful at it), but I hope that I can conduct myself with the same class and dignity that most of our top players do. A tip of the cap to the guys who can compete as hard as they do while maintaining an understanding of what is important. You make me proud to be a platform tennis player.
See you on the courts and please keep calling those close balls in!