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Tennis for Seventy-Somethings
A Tongue-in-Cheek Analysis
by Earle Palmer Brown

When you reach the allotted 'threescore years and ten' and find that tennis is still a big part of your life there are certain adjustments that need to be made. Gone are those days when you could play two three-set singles matches and still be up for mixed dubs. No longer do you root out three die-hards and shovel snow off the high school courts in mid-winter to hit a few.

Somehow re-stringings and new frames are fewer and further between. Apres tennis these days you use more ice on your joints than in your drinks and there's so much discussion about the latest anti-inflammatory drug that you wish you had paid more attention in chemistry class.

However, the most dramatic adjustment to aging is learning how to cope with the idiosyncrasies of those with whom you play. Whether you call it attention-deficit, daydreaming, forgetfulness, or incipient Altheimers it's a fact of life that must be dealt with.

Here are a few ground rules that might make the transition a little less stressful:

  1. Before you start the search for that elusive third ball make everyone empty their pockets.

  2. Announce the score loudly after every point.

  3. It's no longer a necessity to have new balls for every match; but don't suddenly buy one of those pressurized ball containers; they went out with racket presses.

  4. Insist on changing sides on the odd games. That's the only way you'll be able to reconstruct the set score when all players have forgotten it.

  5. Unless it's a new set check to be sure your opponents are playing the same courts as the last time you served.

  6. When the score is in question express your opinion in a loud, forceful voice. That will usually carry the day.

  7. If the set is close and your partner has the better serve let him or her serve in your place; the opponents probably won't notice.

  8. Don't underestimate the guy with the bad shoulder who serves underhand; those 'no-pace nothing' serves can be hard to return.

  9. Drop shot only when you really need the point.

  10. If your regular match is early in the morning (especially in the winter) always schedule five players. That way you'll be more apt to have a foursome.

  11. Try to have at least one doctor in the group, preferably an orthopedist, so you'll have a second opinion to lean on if your doctor tells you to quit playing after the second hip transplant.

  12. Develop a waiting list; you never know when one of your group will have to take a sabbatical for a new knee.

  13. Have the top of your racket cushioned with tape so you can use it as a cane when climbing those steps to the tennis house.

  14. Figure out the chemical balance between the amount of water you drink to avoid dehydration and the related number of pee-call pit stops.

  15. Don't let anyone suggest using those courtside metal scorekeepers. It will only acerbate the problem because invariably someone will neglect to flip it when changing courts.

  16. Don't try to play with bifocals; spend the money and get special glasses.

  17. It not good etiquette to immediately shout 'yours' each time a lob goes over your head.

  18. If you are fastidious don't hang your towel on the net; someone is apt to absent-mindedly blow their nose in it.

  19. Under absolutely no circumstances allow some newcomer to suggest using the California/Florida service order on sunny days. It will create absolute chaos.

  20. If your mother is still alive have her sew name tags in your garments. That will make it easier for the tennis house staff to put the left on the court apparel in your lockers.


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