Match Point This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 10, 2007
“Court four! Good luck, girls.” The tournament director popped the lid off the can and handed me three new, fuzzy tennis balls. The smell of the crisp May morning and the aroma of the can floated around the check-in desk at the tennis center.

This was the finals of the girls' qualifying tournament. I'd been waiting for this moment for most of the off-season. This was the moment when I would either succeed and dominate or fail and fall. The outcome of my summer schedule depended on this match, and I could feel the pressure.

It started in my stomach – the normal butterflies that appear before any tennis match. The feeling of nerves and anxiety fluttered up through my chest and landed in my windpipe. I breathed in the cold morning air as I approached the court where my fate would be decided.

Letting my heavy bag slide from my shoulder, I placed my water bottle on the hard court. I pulled out my racket and adjusted the strings nervously. I dropped one ball in my pocket, kept another in my hand, and tossed the third across the net to my opponent. Walking toward the baseline, I bounced the Penn ball on the court.

Ping! I hit the ball across the court, officially beginning warm-ups, the start of the match. The first set was a catfight; you could not tell who was winning. The lead bounced back and forth, with neither of us gaining control. It was a battle to the bitter end, but I managed to pull it out and won that set 7-5. During the two-minute break, I drank some water and shed my sweats.

I dominated the second set, getting up 5-0 before she started to make a comeback. My nerves took control and I started thinking about winning. After letting her creep back to 5-2, I decided that I could not let myself lose this one. So I put on my game face and moved my feet twice as hard. I played with more determination than I had in the entire match.

Match point: here we go … do not lose this one. I tried to give myself an extra boost of confidence before my opponent served the ball. The serve landed in and I hit an angled cross-court shot that landed a foot inside the lines. I held my breath as she returned the ball; it came soaring over the net and landed just out.

“OUT!” I screamed in excitement.

As I ran up to shake my opponent's hand, I could hear the cheers of friends and family behind me. I was in shock as I handed the balls to the tournament director and accepted my trophy.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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