Tennis: The game that taught me to speak to Dad

Living with my dad has been the equivalent of having a cable television set to play only four channels, and 100% of the channels are sports. Hockey, football, baseball, fishing—there is a pattern here.

I take that back. One of the channels must feature coins and currency. Maybe one has firearms. Our total is six.

As the only child, and the only girl child, it was inevitable that I would lean toward one or both of my parents’ favorite hobbies and interests.

My mother ended up winning that bout of wills, and I grew up loving books, movies and all around sissy girl stuff, with some nerd thrown in.

I always had an easy, close bond with my mother, but when it comes to my father—we might as well not even be from the same planet.

My father is the all-American man who lives, breathes and eats sports. From my earliest memories, I remember how he tried to get me into one of his favorite hobbies: fishing.

When that didn’t work, he introduced me to his coin collection. And when that didn’t work, it was too late to try again, because I had already learned to steer clear of his agenda.

No, Dad, I have no idea what the difference is between monofilament and fluorocarbon line. No, I have absolutely no clue why some fish respond to jigs while others prefer flies. And no, I could not possibly explain what makes an offsides penalty in football or why that batter got to walk to first base. Why are your hobbies so complicated?

So, my typical day at home consisted of listening to my Dad explain every intricate detail of the current hobby that was on his mind at the time, all the while understanding nothing and trying not to roll my eyes.
Then I would tell him all the details of my favorite modeling show and he would try not to roll his eyes. We called each other lame. Our lameness was mutual.

But one day something incredible happened. I discovered tennis.

Now, tennis might seem like one of those sports that shouldn’t be taken as seriously because it doesn’t seem as athletic as a bunch of burly men smacking into each other from two different sides. While it’s not a team sport, excluding doubles matches of course, it is one of the most rigorous.

But, most importantly, it was a sport that I finally understood. I picked up on all of the rules and regulations easily, and even the names of the players weren’t difficult for me to place.

The best part wasn’t even just being able to understand the game: I could now understand my Dad.
Rafael Nadal? Yeah, I know the guy. Novak Djokovic? He’s cool too. So is John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka and even Caroline Wozniacki, to name a few.

I can name players of the sport and know who they are. Which, for me, is sort of a big deal.

I can tell when someone has faulted, or will soon double fault. I know what a let is, and what will happen if the tennis ball is struck at a certain angle with a certain amount of force. I understand the parameters of the game.

I can have a conversation with my father about it, and I can even cheer at the right time with him when a player has scored a winning match point.

With tennis, we have a bond and an understanding of each other.

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