It’s taken a while, 70 or so years, but I’ve finally achieved a version of Nirvana when it comes to tennis, and the answer, the answer for me at any rate, is to play deaf.
That’s right, play deaf. Remember the book, by Tim Gallwey, I believe, that urged you to say as the ball approached, “Bounce, hit . . . bounce, hit. . . .” Well, it’s like that once my hearing aids have been laid on the bench, but even better. The mind, void of inner voices throwing up their hands (I know, a mixed metaphor, but I like it) in the wake of blown shots, is calm, the body collected, the spirit equanimous.
In such a state you focus on and react only to the ball — nothing, either in the way of an opponent’s stalling tactics, a partner’s correctives, or one’s own inner flagellant is able to intervene: You just play. As best, and, I should add, as graciously as you can.
Where did that imploring, profane, raging antagonist go with whom many of my clubmates are all too familiar? I shan’t miss him. Nor, I warrant, will my opponents or players within hearing distance, which is to say throughout the length and breadth of East Hampton Indoor’s cavernous metal building.
I would say that deafness is to be generally preferred — especially given the cacophony that assaults us these days — but that is not true. I do want to hear, I do want to connect by and large, a wish that was made all the more apparent recently when, because of a wax barricade, I couldn’t for a few days hear a thing — which is not great if you’re a reporter, or married.
For me, working without hearing aids would be to court death, but playing deaf on the court is working.