Team tennis is a strange hybrid. In other major sports, all the players participate in the same game. At Foxboro on game day, Brady, Gronkowski, and Edelman take the same field.
In team tennis, with the exception of your doubles partner, you’re on your own. Your teammates play their own separate matches on other courts. It’s an odd marriage of self-reliance and teamwork.
The individualism of tennis suits me. Having my own match eases the pressure to win. If I play poorly one day, I’m not dragging the entire team down with me.
But I wouldn’t want to play completely on my own. USTA offers Flex Leagues, enabling individual players to arrange matches with others at mutually convenient times. It’s a good option if you can’t commit to the fixed schedule of a traditional team. Personally, I’d find it too lonely to compete that way, with no high fives and team chatter at the end of the match. I’d miss rooting for my teammates and riding the highs and lows with them. Despite being an introvert, or perhaps because of it, I need the camaraderie of a team.
Unsurprisingly, team tennis also appeals to extroverts and can elevate their game. Tennis’s current bad boy Nick Kyrgios too often looks like he’s phoning it in during his matches on the tour. Despite jaw-dropping natural talent, he says tennis bores him and he’d rather play basketball. The ATP fined him $41,500 for tanking his match against Mischa Zverev in 2016.
But get him in a Davis Cup match, and Kyrgios becomes a different player. He’s more energized, more committed, itching to get onto the court. The cheering of his teammates pumps him up. He revels in the blaring horns and chanting crowds. It makes you wonder what his ranking would be if he could just play team tennis year-round.
I’ve been thinking about all this as my current indoor season comes to a close. Yesterday my team held our season-end lunch, and I got to spend more time with these remarkable and supportive women who have been my comrades for the last seven months. There are introverts and extroverts among us, but we each find something in our team that both sustains us and brings out the best in us.
I’m so grateful to have found this sport–and this team.