Imagine an arena filled with spectators. Two gladiators square off against each other, both entirely dependent on their skill. Mentally and physically each need to outmuscle the other. There is no time limit. The hours spent do not matter. All that mattes is winning that last duel. After one of them has won, the game restarts. A new opponent is presented until there is only one left.
Imagine a theatre filled with patrons. Two dancers emerge on stage. They mesmerise the audience with the control they have over their bodies. A pivot, a swirl, diving to the left, reaching low. The balance of a Ballet, the energy of Hip Hop and the fluidity of Jazz, they have them all.
Imagine a room filled with fans. Two geniuses emerge. Within a few seconds, they calculate angles, speed, and spin on a tiny object moving at a speed of over 100km/hr. They pose puzzles, each pushing the other to solve them, .each wanting the other one to commit the error. One of them does. They walk up to each other and shake hands, acknowledging and respecting each other's talent.
These could very easily be three different events but for me, they come together when I watch a good game of tennis, one of those rare sports which intertwine the cerebral, the physical and the dramatic into something more complex and varied.
To play tennis is to master a whole range of skills and qualities. Players have to toss a ball, strike a ball, run backwards, forwards and sideways, slide and jump. Tennis requires hand-eye co-ordination, strength, speed, stamina and flexibility. An intuitive understanding of angles and spins is a necessary requirement.
The beauty of tennis is it makes this complexity look simple. A good tennis player turns all that science into an art form and entices us to step on the court and give it a try.
But it is not just this complexity that makes tennis beautiful. Tennis teaches you to respect your competitor. There is no sledging, no mental disintegration, no trash talking, no diving, and to a large extent, no tantrums.
You recognize that the person on the other side of the court is pushing you to get better. You are both collectively creating magic and leaving people awestruck. The next time you watch a closely-fought match, watch how the two players reach when they shake hands the net. There is usually mutual respect and admiration.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King captured the sport perfectly when she said: “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.”
I don’t know know anyone who has not fallen for tennis’ charms. If you ask me, football needs to move over. Tennis is the real “beautiful game”.
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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2015 17:43:59 IST