Justine Henin-Hardenne is only two inches taller and three pounds heavier than I am but, unless I take up steroids some time soon, she hits a tennis ball at least twice as hard as I can hit it. I don’t expect to meet her or anyone like her in league play. Then again, I haven’t met any women in league play. For the past two and a half seasons I’ve only ever played against men in my singles matches.

My identity crisis in not a gender issue though, I’m pretty sure I am a woman, and even in tennis I’m taking care of that. I’ve found a women’s USTA 3.5 team whose players seem happy to see me.

This identity crisis is more a matter of aggressive versus passive, the human hammer versus the human backboard. I would love to go for the sharp short cross-court winner or hit a backhand slice down the line then approach or hit an inside out forehand deep into my opponent’s backhand corner.

And I can, in practice. My singles league matches, though, are one set long. You don’t get three or four tries at a half volley or an impossibly angled winner, they now count against you and the set is over 3-6 before you know it. Many times it turns out that the most effective strategy is to hit the ball back to my opponent in the middle of the court and let them play too aggressively and hit it out.

The paradox here is that an aggressive tennis player has to be able to “just get the ball over the net” consistently enough to stay in a match and get the opportunity to hit a winning shot.

I’ve often wondered why tennis is not a more popular sport. Kids play soccer and kickball, not tennis. The new hot game in youth sports is lacrosse. You don’t even have to know how to cradle the ball very well if the stick has a deep pocket. You just pick up the ball, run down the field and shoot at the goal.

No doubt there are a number of reasons that tennis is not more popular. It can be very expensive and it’s not a team sport. It’s also not so easy to learn how to hit well enough to hang in there through long rallies. It takes years of practice and patience.

The paradox here is that an aggressive tennis player has to be able to “just get the ball over the net” consistently enough to stay in a match and get the opportunity to hit a winning shot.

Evidently I have more of that these days. I had my usual periodic appointment with my homeopathist today. I used to be a nux vomica homeopathic personality. Nux vomica personalites tend to be workaholics and are very impatient. In my case, I also tended to call people stupid instead of sympathizing with them.

I now take causticum. People who take causticum tend to be emotionally sympathetic to other people’s problems and fight against injustice. Don’t get me wrong, when I read about a man who’d had bypass surgery dying the day after he completed a 2400 mile bicycle trip, I did say to myself, “that’s stupid, why would you do that if you’d had quadruple bypass surgery?”

But I do now seem patient enough to realize that becoming a good aggressive competitor is not a matter of being an impatient workaholic, it seems to involve sympathy for the learning process and a fair amount of time.

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