I Love This Game

After GI Joe's, during minibikes and before BMX, I played tennis. Strictly youth league and recreational stuff, but I enjoyed the game immensely. My first racket was a Wilson Jack Kramer signature model with cat gut. I kept my uncle's hand-me-down warp-free in a wooden press. As my game progressed, so did my quiver. Wilson's steel-framed T-2000 was state of the art in the mid-'70s, so of course I had to have one. Its tiny head made Jimmy Connor's all-time favorite look more like a minnow net than a sporting implement, but I played the shit out of that medieval fly swatter until Prince revolutionized the game with their oversized technology. Since then, the sport has never been the same. Carbon fiber is commonplace, and brands run the gamut from Avery to Yonex. Despite these rapid advancements in marketing and technology, I've always remained faithful to Prince.

I've treated myself to a new racket every decade since I took up the game as a 10-year-old. In '75 it was the Prince Classic. That aluminum racket served me well until 1985, when I upgraded to a solid carbon fiber Prince Pro. In '95 I bought two rackets: a hollow wide beam Prince Carbon Pro and a Kennex Elite for my girlfriend. The former was the best racket I've ever played with; the latter was a piece of shit. However, I play so infrequently it doesn't even matter.

I love tennis with a passion few people are aware of, and if someone offered me a living wage to manage a tennis camp, I would turn my back on everything to make recreational tennis my full-time job. I've never been an exceptional player, but I love it like a kid loves his first GI Joe with Kung Fu Grip, Montesa Cota 25 motorcycle or Littlejohn Murphy BMX bike. I've had all three, but none stuck to my ribs like tennis. I don't know if it's because tennis—unlike dolls, motocross and BMX—is a game you can play into your '70s, or because it's the only hobby I never turned into a job. Whatever the reason, I love tennis a lot. So when it was time to buy my first new racket in 13 years, I took that task seriously.

Actually, I didn't. My new racket is the most advanced weapon in Babolat's arsenal: the Aero Storm. Who the hell is Babolat? I didn't know, either, so I did something I NEVER do when buying anything at a Big Box Retailer: I asked the dude behind the counter. He was actually stringing a racket, so I guessed he played the game. My hunch was correct, and the advice he gave me was super helpful. As luck would have it, the Babolat Aero Storm is designed for players just like me: no power, decent control. Against my better judgment and per Andre's advice, I went 60 p.s.i. on the strings. I've always strung oversized rackets in the 68-72 pound range, which in my better days was de rigueur for touch play.

I debuted my new racket in four sets of race-to-three with my friends Justin and Mike two nights ago, and it was great. My 47-year-old feet felt like electrified bricks the next day, but my elbow and shoulder are pain-free. And that is a first. I want to play tennis at least three times per month, and I think I can scrounge up enough friends to do it. If I can't, I may finally join Temecula's trailer park tennis club. Who's got next?



Delivererer said...

You had a Littlejohn Murphy?!

Harold McGruther said...

Fuckin' a right I did. Monoshock. Got it from CYC Mailorder in 1974. $59.95, including chrome coil-over shock.

Tman said...

Wow!....uh yeah........well there goes my impression. Between Road Fools and now this tennis Bombshell I think it is "TOO MUCH INFO"! ;) Good thing folks I know can vouch for ya!