The Rookie’s Guide: Tennis

Story by Eric Christenson

As far as sports go, I’m no expert. I was part of my middle school’s basketball team in seventh and eighth grade, and in eighth grade, we went undefeated!

I was one of seven kids on that team. Man, I was so proud. I didn’t start and I wasn’t great, but I was proud. One time, someone passed me the ball, and I wasn’t looking, and it hit me in the back of the head. Yikes.

A little earlier than that, I played flag football in the community kids’ league, and I was terrible. I remember playing quarterback for one play and I threw an interception. The echoes of embarrassment still haunt me.

The only sport so far that I could confidently say I was ahead of the game at was t-ball, and honestly, everyone was ahead of the game at t-ball. I was part of a triple play, though, once in t-ball. So there’s that.

But the point is: sports and I aren’t great pals. I mean, sometimes I think it’d be nice to get to know each other a little more, but it just never works out.

But I gotta say, tennis (or in French: tennis) is incredibly enjoyable.

When tennis champion and Spectator News Editor Eric Larson said he’d take me under his wing, I knew I’d be in good hands. Like All State.

Taking Sports Editor Sam Rosenberry and Managing Editor Thom Fountain along for the ride also proved to be a heck of a lot of fun, because singles tennis is way hard.

And I’m not talking about a bunch of single people getting together on a school night, drinking martinis and holding rackets; I’m talking about intense, one-on-one, passionate, steamy competition on the tennis court.

I guess my main problem with singles tennis is that there’s so much movement. I think as humans we’re supposed to be kept stable, you know? I mean if our temperature strays from 98 degrees by like six degrees in any direction, our bodies freak out. So singles tennis, running back and forth, isn’t comfortable.

But doubles. Oh man, I could do doubles all day. The amount of darting is sufficiently less, and the four of you can hang out and play Super Smash Bros. afterwards!

But seriously, tennis is way fun!

First, you have a racket. I had to borrow one. You’d be surprised at who actually has tennis rackets! Seems like everyone.

Then you have to get a canister of tennis balls from your parents’ garage or a local used sporting goods store.

Anyway, once you have your racket and a canister of balls, hit the court with your buds.

It’s generally good to warm up, because cramping up on the court is probably pretty embarrassing. I would typically warm up by hitting the ball back and forth over the net, but feel free to get creative!

So once you’re warmed up, you can start playing.

I had no idea how scoring worked in tennis, but here’s how.

Basically, both sides start with Love, which is zero (right fellas?). Then if you hit the ball, it lands inbounds on your opponent’s side, and if they can’t volley it back, you score. Then you have 15. Instead of logical ones and twos, tennis uses Love, 15, 30, 40, Game.

Wait, Love? In his frontiered expanse of tennis knowledge (seriously, the guy’s an encyclopedia), Eric Larson let me know that it comes from the French l’oeuf, which means “egg,” like goose-egg, like zero.

Seems a bit much, but I LOVE it.

What’s tricky is that if both teams have 40, you go into deuce, which is like a tie, and the person or team that scores gets advantage. So you basically have to score twice in a row to get out of deuce and win.

Then you play a bunch of games together in a set. And whoever wins six (I think) games, wins the set, but you have to win by two, so sometimes tennis takes forever.

But all in all, it’s totally worth it to play. It’s fun and easy, and what other opportunity besides your wedding are you going to get to wear all white?