Friday, July 15, 2011

Playing in jeans

Yeah, the title says it all. I was crazy like that.

Actually, it's an easy explanation. Being the son of a contractor, I helped my father out in the summertime. Even in the blazing heat, you couldn't wear shorts, so the only thing I knew was jeans. I'd work with him, then I'd go in the park with any of a number of buddies and play tennis right afterwards, no matter the heat and humidity(and trust me, it'd get over 100 in the park).

One guy in particular was named Brian Mathews. We were pals from junior high on, and we both played a lot of tennis together, and I mean a lot. Probably 3-4 matches a week at times, depending on how busy we were. We didn't play best 2 out of 3 like most did either. We really challenged each other and went best 3 out of 5, like the pros did it.

And again, I did this in blue jeans.

You couldn't tell me anything back then. Yes, I knew that my legs were so white, I could blind the sun. Yes, I knew that it wasn't the right thing to wear. Yes, I knew I was going to get laughed at relentlessly. Oh well, who cared? Besides, it saved me time going home and getting changed.

This guy and I were DEAD even. He'd win a match and I'd win a match. If anyone won multiple matches in a row, the other would come right back and do the same. I wouldn't be kidding if I'd say we played .500 tennis. He didn't really play anything but park tennis, but he could've really gone farther if he wanted to take it seriously. Brian had good talent.

There's only one match, out of all the matches, that I still remember to this day, and it went 5 also. It was the day after the Pete Sampras-Alex Corretja match at the US Open...the one where Pete got sick and threw up on the court. It was like 97 out that day, and heat index was about a million degrees. Brian and I split 4 sets, all at 7-6. I was getting a bit sick at set 2, but kept going. End of fourth set, I'm sick and am getting dizzy. Brian's talking trash to me that I'm trying to be Sampras, and I'm not really sick. Couldn't blame him for thinking that, but it was true. I was feeling like crap.

One great thing was that, for some reason, I turned in an awesome fifth set and won 6-2 in the fifth. So yes, the final score was 6-7 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-2. 3 1/2 hour match in that heat, and in those days, I didn't bring water with me. I was dangerous as hell in a lot of ways.

Usually I'd go to his house and play video games afterwards, but I still felt like crap, so I went to my Grandma's to stay the night(she had cable, we didn't). I went to bed early, thinking I'd sleep it off. Two hours after I went to bed, I woke up and threw up then. Threw everything up.

Turns out that, between working for Dad, and that whole match, I dehydrated myself to the max. Got completely sick. Drained me for about four days. You'd think that would've taught me a lesson, but not really. When I was better, I was back on the court in that heat. Didn't get sick anymore in the summer, so I guess I didn't learn a lesson.

Don't worry, I wear shorts now. In fact, I have everything the pros have and more. You could do a bag check like The Tennis Channel does. But I have to say that wearing jeans and playing all summer, in searing conditions like that, did give me one thing...stamina. Crazy stamina, in fact. I've worn better players than I am out. I've had three better players tell me that if we went to third sets, they would've quit.

So I look back at that in that way. If people wonder why I used to wear jeans, or why I have a wood racket for warming up before matches, or why I always take the hottest court during the hottest summer months against my opponents?

Just remember...there's always a method to my madness.

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