My 10-year-old played his first competitive tennis match yesterday. We are lucky to belong to a lovely pool and tennis club, and we all play, with varying degrees of ability. My husband was on the team in high school and is a natural athlete but rarely has the time for tennis now. I am an uncoordinated 49-year-old who learned four years ago. I have no stamina and love the game. Both of the kids have been in tennis clinics for the past 4 springs.
Luckily, Dale seems to take after his dad, so I signed him up for the tennis team and the juniors tournament at our club. For his first match, he was pitted against a 9-year-old. When I told Dale the boy's name, a look of panic crossed his face. "That is so unfair," he said. "What's the problem?" I asked insensitively. "He's nine years old. You're almost 11."
Dale knew this boy from camp. He apparently has played USTA tournaments. Not sure why someone so good was pitted against an inexperienced player, but that's how it works, I guess. As my husband explained, in professional tournaments, the bottom-rated players play the top-rated players in the first round. I don't understand this system, and how anyone ever gets to move up if this is the case, but Dalton has assured me that it does, and that's why we got to see Federer and Nadal in the French Open finals. (Which Dale watched with great attention in preparation for his big match.)
And so it came to pass that my boy was playing his first match at 4pm on a 95 degree day. He lost both sets, but he was spectacular. I was truly impressed. I have never witnessed Dale in a situation like this before. There he was, all by himself, losing point after point. His face and even his arms and legs were beet red, and he was dripping with sweat. I was worried that he was getting overheated.
My son never lost hope once. He got the vast majority of his serves in, and some of the rallies seemed to go on forever. His sportsmanship was excellent. He never seemed angry. I learned by watching this match that my boy is a tenacious person with a strong sense of self. I was bursting with pride. Sorry for the cliche, and for the bragging, but I was just bursting.
Dale knew this better than I do: if you are losing, you don't give up. Just keep on doing the thing, the best that you can.