In our Parting Shot series, readers share their experiences of expat life in Hong Kong. Here, JULIA MAYWALD shares some insights on playing tennis and what she has learnt from the game.
Bloody Good Shot, Darling!
In the taxi home after my first tennis clinic last year, I messaged a friend saying that I may as well have been wearing cut-off jeans and knee-high tube socks. Such is how out of place I felt among women in proper attire and smart visors. I was also massaging a pulled muscle from a tumble I took, in front of everyone, adding to my defeat.
She wrote back saying that the expat women’s tennis scene was a thing and to stay the course. This is the same friend who suggested that if I worked on my technique, I might return more balls over the net and become a decent player. Since then I have bought tennis shoes, wristbands, and a cute skirt, re-gripped my racket, and completed three six-week tennis clinics.
Writing about tennis may seem frivolous in light of a global pandemic, but the truth is, I spend a good deal of time on the courts. When I’m not, I’m often thinking about it. Tennis is thought to have originated in France in the 12th or 13th century, with a game called jeu de paume or “game of the palm”. Some say that the word “tennis” is derived from the French tenez, which means something like “take this”, as in one player serving to the other.
Lawn tennis gained popularity in Great Britain in the mid-1800s and with it came an air of privilege. When my parents lived as expats in Nigeria, tennis whites and light soled court shoes were required – as was the after-match Pimm’s Cup or Shandy.
Some of the best bonding with my father occurred with rackets in hand. Dad was merciless as he angled and drove shots across the net, like a cat playing with a mouse. I can still hear his chuckle as he finished me off with a perfect topspin.
My husband held a 30-year winning streak against me until just recently. We played after he had already clocked in a 15-kilometre run, and on rain-slick courts. I beat him in one set, square if not exactly fair.
I have come to appreciate doubles more than singles, although I happily will play either. Singles relies on technique and physical fitness, while doubles, as one source said, is more like a physical chess match “in which players attack and defend, exploiting angles and technical weaknesses with strokes of widely diverse pace and speed.” It’s also about trusting your partner, playing to their strengths, and covering them when needed. Analogous to marriage?
Like many learned skills, there is that sweet moment when it all comes together – the shot, placement, power, finesse, and winning the point. There’s also nothing quite like the satisfaction when your partner pays the ultimate compliment, “Bloody good shot, darling!”
And to that I say, “Tenez!
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This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!