How tennis ruined my life
Image courtesy of Wix
I know what you’re thinking. Joe, how can tennis ruin your life? A sport as synonymous with strawberries and cream and Robinson’s squash as its greatest players, how could that possibly have ruined your life? Well, I’ll admit the title is somewhat hyperbolic, but you’re here now, so at the very least it was an engaging title that has led you here to hear my tale of woe. So, you may as well stay and read it. And whilst it might not be entirely accurate, that is not to say that it is untrue, as tennis very much did ruin my life.
It was particularly early on Monday morning, and whilst I was rather groggy due to the perverse wake-up time, I was still in high spirits. It was Day 2 of Varsity, and although various sport societies might tell you otherwise, I was looking forward to a full week of a wide range of sports, and looking at my personal schedule, “wide range” is a phrase that describes it perfectly (Kayak Polo might be a story for another time). In my sleep deprived state, I was not anticipating all the trials and tribulations to come. I was heading out to Polo Farm Sport Centre on the outskirts of Canterbury with my fellow InQuire editor, Rory, to cover Men’s Tennis, which was due to start at 8:30. Casey, the Website Sports Editor, was to join us later on, but due to car troubles that would not be until late morning.
Rory and I arrived and set-up camp on the balcony above the indoor tennis courts, nothing untoward just yet. We divvied up the two initial doubles matches between us and used the UKC Tennis Societies’ Instagram page to work-out who each player was. This is where the trouble began. As the players were out on court warming up, we assumed we had some time before the matches began and so were relaxing, as the schedule had us there from 8:30 until 4:00 that afternoon. Both of us looked back up and with absolutely zero warning, realised that the games had begun. We looked at each other, panicking about how much we had missed, had a full service game been completed or was it just fifteen-love, we had absolutely no idea. We frantically scrambled to try and get on top of things and before long it seemed that we had things under control.
However, our problems definitely did not start and end with the start of the first matches of the day. A few minutes later I turned to Rory and asked him what the current score of his game was, as we decided the evening before that I would be writing the match report and so I wanted to have the results of the matches in my notes. He responded that he wasn’t sure, that it could be 2-2 or 3-1 or something completely different, his incompetence might have irked me had I not been having the exact same problem. Something we had not accounted for was the lack of an umpire. I must admit that I’m not an avid tennis watcher, I usually watch the latter stages of Wimbledon and if Nick Kyrgios is on TV, because he’s always good value, but that is the extent of my tennis fanaticism. Even so, I did not think that this would hold me back too much watching this event. However, something you never think about when watching tennis is that the umpire yelling the score before every point and the judgement of any controversial calls is probably the only reason that you know the score the whole time. The players on the court were communicating their judgements in a language only they can understand, leaving Rory and I firmly at sea. This coupled with potentially missing a crucial point due to your attention being distracted, even briefly, which in a day that was set to last seven and a half hours is understandable, meant that a game could have gone by that you had no clue what the outcome was.
It was at this time that we hit the panic button and messaged the specially created group chat for the event, containing Rory and I and then our overlords, those in charge of InQuire Varsity coverage, Casey, Meg, and Caitlin. We said that they shouldn’t expect anything too ground-breaking on the match report as we didn’t even know the scores, let alone how each player was playing. The response we received proved that they didn’t really understand what we were saying, as they said that a factual report would be fine, just containing the scores. Then Casey informed us she wouldn’t be too much longer. We hoped that would bring with it sweet salvation from the difficulties we were facing, but once again that would not be the end of our winter of discontent.
Before long the 1st seed doubles was over, with us none the wiser to the victor (soon I overheard the CCCU tennis captain telling Unified what the score was, letting us off the hook), but then they dived immediately into singles matches. That would be fine as it would give us a chance to reset and cover these effectively, unfortunately Kent’s players had been too good, and two singles matches were starting whilst the 2nd seed doubles were still on court. Meaning that three matches would be going on with just the two of us there to watch them. If covering one match each was bad enough, watching a game and a half each was impossible. I turned to Rory and said that there was no way we could watch the singles on the far court, we would just try and ask the players afterwards.
About half an hour later Casey arrived, gleefully naïve of what she had just walked into. Before long she realised what we were talking about when we messaged the group chat in panic. We could all tell that Giacomo De Carlo’s game was an incredible tennis match, we just didn’t know what the score was. So, Rory had the bright idea to go and ask the Kent tennis players who were watching from the outside section what the score was, maybe we were just idiots and people who knew what they were doing would be fine. Rory returned and informed us that they knew Giacomo was winning, but they didn’t what the exact score was. This response was certainly bitter-sweet. On the one hand our struggle was universal, but also, we still did not know what the score was.
We eventually got through all the full 1st team matches and scrapped together most of the scores through a combination of asking participants and looking at the Christ Church Tennis Instagram. We concluded that the matches we didn’t know the exact scores of, we could just be slightly vague in the report. We then had a bit of time to prepare for the 2nd team matches and make sure we were ready. Looking up who all the players were and then deciding who would watch what, Casey and Rory both downloaded tennis scoring apps to see if it would help. The answer is not really.
For a glorious ten-minute period, we had it. We knew what was happening in both matches. I’m not a religious man, but after the purgatory of the day so far, I imagine this is what heaven feels like. But as quickly as it came, it went. I don’t even know how, but suddenly like herding sheep something happened and we were all befuddled once more. That was largely the story of the 2nd team matches, we would have it and then lose it about ten times during the three hours. There was a point where I noticed that Robert Ren was leaving and I had to quickly dart downstairs to check what his scores were, and when he told me I realised that I had been nowhere close to reality. My brain was completely frazzled, in doing a history degree I was not used to having to concentrate for this long.
By this point we were all delirious and making less and less sense. Meg then called Rory to find out what was going on, and I still don’t know why but we all burst out laughing for the whole call and could not stop. As much as there were no words spoken during the call, I think it was pretty obvious how we were doing.
Then it was all over. We went down to the courts to get the mandatory photos and interviews with the Kent players (definitely not using it as an opportunity to ask them all what the scores were). And mercifully we were done.So now you know what I have been through. A full day of feeling like Chris Kamara on Soccer Saturday. If you still can’t comprehend why we couldn’t work out how to score a simple game of tennis, then I have a challenge for you. Go to a local park with tennis courts on a sunny day and try and keep up with every game that goes on throughout the day. If you do that then you might start to understand.
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