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My Life Without Tennis

By Jean Kirshenbaum

Like fans of football—a sport I detest—I yell shriek and holler during tennis matches on Tennis Channel.

No one can hear my silly outbursts except my husband, Gary, who watches with me, but does not play tennis. Because of a long-term injury, I can’t play right now. This is true frustration in a climate that offers year-around tennis.

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So you would think that the timing of the Coronavirus is perfect for me, sort of. If I can’t play, at least I can watch.

Uh uh.

The repeats of old matches, which Gary has dubbed “dead tennis," do not interest me. Doesn’t interest Michele, my college roommate, who usually gets into my articles for this reason.

Why not? Aren’t encore matches—a fancy term for old and stale—just as good? You must be kidding.

Because of a previous injury that kept me off the courts for four months in 2002 (I have been through this before) and in front of Tennis Channel, I have seen every one of the (dead tennis) matches when they were played. Not just the majors, but every match of every tournament! I can’t cite shots, scores and match winners, but I enjoyed the excitement, talent, victories and heartbreaks. It’s all entertainment to me.

In fact, all my favorite sports must be live: basketball, baseball, boxing, and golf. (I don’t like soccer and ice hockey, dead or alive.)

Why watch dead sports if you already know who won?!

That’s like reading the last chapter of a mystery novel, or a “spoiler” book or movie review. What fun is it to watch a Mets-Yankees game if you know the Mets were clobbered? Watching it again may lead you to hope that magically there will be a different outcome.

I am envious of my tennis friends who—because the public parks here were closed—fashioned a kind of stick-ball tennis. For those who don’t know it, stick ball is played with a broom handle and rubber ball in South Philadelphia, where Gary grew up, which Mara and Tom and a couple of others played doubles in a neighborhood cul de sac—no lines, no net, but a lot of grass backcourt—until the parks were opened up.

So, you might ask—and I even ask myself—what in hell have I been doing since tennis died in March from COVID-19?

Not all that much, I am embarrassed to say. Every day I check the cable listings for LIVE sports. Yup, there were two—Mexican soccer and horse racing. Nothing as good as playing—and even watching—tennis. Thank God, though not the same, live exhibition matches are on TV. Not the top-of-the heap players, but good enough to be interesting. Not good enough to overcome COVID-19, however, since several players tested positive, including Novak Djokovic.

It should come as no surprise to you that my friends tell me “Jean, GET A LIFE!”

I took their advice.

I‘ve been watching old movies that I have seen before (dead movies?) Midnight in Paris, Dr. Strangelove and some old 50s Westerns (ain’t that exciting?). I have NOT cooked, cleaned, or organized the house, closets, kitchen drawers, learned a new skill, played Words with Friends, or done anything new or different or productive.

I have scheduled doctors’ appointments. I have also gone back to what had been an enjoyable pastime. I have begun reading again. During my first injury time out in 2002, I read three books by John McEnroe, and three by Monica Seles. Most recently I stormed through three excellent tennis books by Scoop Malinowski: Facing Nadal, Facing Federer, Facing Serena Williams/Facing Steffi Graf. And Close Encounters with Donald Trump (gag me with a racket handle).

So, see, friends. I have a life. Not a new one; but one that’s been right for me right now. Plus three extra pounds.

Jean Kirshenbaum is a Tennis Now contributing writer and long-time tennis player based in Sarasota, Florida.

Photo credit: CameraSport