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Point of View: It Takes Effort to Be Effortless

Thu, 12/16/2021 - 13:46

You might think it strange that one who had hurled his racket earlier at one of East Hampton Indoor’s thick scrims would suggest to one of his doubles opponents afterward that he “play looser.”

I can only say in my defense that throwing my racket once, rather than several times, during a match attests to the strides I’ve made lately toward achieving equanimity while under pressure. (Or could it be that my testosterone level has dropped precipitously as I’ve aged?)

My 12-year-old granddaughter, as I wrote recently, has been my mentor when it comes to playing calmly. She remains composed while on the court, treating victory and defeat as the impostors they are. Nor does she stomp upon or throw her racket, or make — as I am wont to do when things aren’t going well – excuses, one of mine, though by no means the only one, being that “I’m getting no action off my racket.”

The young Turks, I’m told, string theirs very tight, though, when you’ve reached the age where you’re stiff in all the wrong places, as I have, you’ll want some give in the stringing.

Yes, “play looser” is good advice, good advice in general, I’d say, even though, in my case, more honored in the breach than in the observance.

Peter Burwash, two of whose California pros recently gave me some clinic lessons, says that a loose wrist is important when you’re serving. “It should be effortless,” Jim Leupold told me.

Somewhat later, I said to one of the clinic-takers, who nodded in agreement, “It takes a lot of effort to be effortless.”

If I could just keep myself from getting in my way. You know, that censorious inner voice. . . . My God, man! How could you miss that floater? It was sitting up there for you and you blew it! You blew it!

Get off my case! I’m trying to be insouciant.

You don’t TRY to be insouciant. . . . If you try to be insouciant you’re not insouciant.

I should just BE. . . ? Like Ella. . . ?

Yes, just be.

Promise you’ll not weigh in anymore with your critiques?

No, no, I’ll tone it down. Listen, don’t listen to me. Pay me no heed. Play looser. I’ve got a good book to read.

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