The other day, one of my tennis buddies said to me, “Let me ask you this question because you know more about tennis than I do…”
I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing good ever comes from that set-up. My face-saving instinct kicked in right away.
“What?! No, I don’t know a lot. I just write about it and pretend I do.”
We had a chuckle and then she asked her question. Naturally, I didn’t know the answer. I’m not sure I even got the question–something about the difference between clay court and regular tennis shoes.
This is why you never set yourself up as the expert. You will be humiliated.
Case in point: During a match earlier this spring, my opponents and I were drinking water between sets. My partner and I had just won the first set in a tiebreak, and my partner had run off to use the bathroom. We had a little time to kill.
One of my opponents said, “So who serves first in the next set?”
This question comes up a lot in my matches, and it is actually one of the things I do know.
“We serve first. You guys served first in the tiebreak, so you receive first in the next set.”
“Oh, is that the rule?” she said with a shrug. “I never knew that.”
“It actually makes sense when you think about it. If we were 5-6 in the first set, and I served to bring us to the tiebreak–”
“Oh, don’t bother explaining,” she interrupted, shooing away my words with her hand. “I won’t remember.”
I’m slow picking up on social cues. I blundered on.
“Well, actually, if you understand the logic of it, it’s easy to remember.”
“No. Don’t explain it,” she repeated. And she turned away from me to talk to her partner.
I know. Rude, right?
The most important thing to take away from this interaction is that my partner and I went on to beat them.
The other takeaway, if you choose to actually take it away, is the logic of the post-tiebreak serving order.
Say we’re on serve in the first set. I’m serving at 5-6. I hold serve. We now begin a tiebreak, which equals one game. Because I just served, you serve first in the tiebreak, and the tiebreak will count as your service game. After the tiebreak, it will be my turn to serve.
There. Not so painful to sit through, was it? Meanwhile, my opponent will continue to wallow in ignorance, asking after every first-set tiebreak, “So whose turn is it to serve…?”
But I’m not an expert. I just happen to know that one thing.
Anybody else know about clay court shoes? Probably has something to do with the tread, right?