The dirty snowbanks are melting. Temperatures are climbing into the mid-50s. There, in the distance, I can see it: spring.

“Do you need a singles player?”

“Please register by March 12.”

“Do you know if Agassi’s still looking for a team?”

It’s League time. The emails have been burning up my FIOS connection, all of us searching for a spot on a roster where we’ll  have a chance to play and achieve self-actualization on the potholed asphalt at our local courts. Why the excitement? Why does League mean more than the informal matches we arrange throughout the rest of the year?

I think the answer is as simple as TennisLink, the USTA computer system that commits your wins and losses to posterity. In an unofficial match, the outcome is subject to interpretation. Yes, mabye you lost, but you can obscure the brutal reality of the score with the “real” story. Your opponent was hooking lines. You haven’t played in weeks. Your opponent was a pusher, and, frankly, you have too much self-respect to play that game.

It’s much tougher to refute the electronic record. No matter how good your story, it’s always there–unembellished facts forever preserved in computer code on TennisLink. It counts. So you’re going to do your best to make sure it reflects favorably on the tennis player you believe yourself to be. You’re going to win. You’re going to stack up the Ws, and put them where others can see them.

For the past five months, I’ve been rising before dawn for early birds tennis. I’ve been working on the kick serve. I’ve tried to make the forehand a more fluid, penetrating stroke. And I think I’ve made some progress, maybe enough to win some matches this year and put last year’s ignominy behind me.

Six weeks until our first match. Bring it on.

–A. Clarke


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