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Game, Set, Match

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Andrew Carnegie once said that “anything in life worth having is worth working for.” Tennis did not come easy to me when I first started. There would be more balls outside the fence than there would be in the court. The sport hated me; it did not want me to succeed. But for some odd reason I had this urge, a hunger to keep playing.

Losing had a major role in the first few years of my tennis career; I had come to almost expect it each time I walked on the court. Nerves would take over my body before each match. Waves of nausea would come and go as I imagined myself losing the match before it even began. This went on for fifteen months. Fifteen straight months without a tournament win. That’s four hundred and fifty days of being nothing but a loser. I felt that I didn’t deserve to even step onto a court let alone get the privilege to play a match.

Many times I contemplated quitting the sport that seemed to hate me. How can something meant for pleasure cause so much pain? Everyone else around me would win, adding salt to my wounds. There didn’t seem to be an end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel. That is until my junior year of high school. I managed to salvage a few wins here and there but never winning more than one or two in a row. My confidence was slowly building to a modest amount.
By spring I had become a new person. Confidence oozing out of every pore of my being. It was time for the district tournament, the most prestigious tournament of the year. The nerves I had once felt had vanished. For once, instead of losing in my mind, I was winning. The first few matches flew by and I found myself in the finals, foreign territory to someone accustomed to losing. My eyes stared in disbelief as my body hit shots I never thought it could.
The only sound that could be heard was the soft thud of the fuzzy, neon yellow sphere as it was bounced up and down on the forest green concrete. Sweat dripped from my crisp white hat as I wiped the moisture from my forehead. Sunlight brutally attacked my eyes each and every time I tossed the ball in the air to start my serve. That didn’t matter; the only thing that mattered was winning. All those tireless practices of monotonous hitting until my body was numb, until the bright yellow of the sun had turned to a deep red, came down to this. This one point —one moment frozen in time. I look up and gazed across the court to see my opponent twitching and jerking with a nervous energy. Within a few seconds the ball was tossed in the air and over onto my opponents court with a loud “bang” like a gun being discharged. From there time seemed to move at a sluggish pace. My mind went blank, the only thing I had in sight was the weak “floater” that was waiting for me at the net. Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I sprinted to the net to claim my prize. Racket behind my head, body coiled like a king cobra, I unleashed my might on the ball. Disgusted, my opponent hopelessly watched as the ball skidded by him. My hands went straight to the skies in ecstasy. I was now a district champion—a winner. Tennis no longer hated me.





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