By Pauline Makk
It all started when a young, shy girl was first brought to tennis lessons at the tender age of four. She was quick and had great hand-eye coordination. The coaches took her parents aside and told them that she was leaps and bounds ahead of many others her age.
That little girl was me.
However, that story abruptly ends there. For about the next 20 years.
I don’t remember much from that experience but my parents explained that I didn’t have any interest in the sport, despite my reported “talent”. And so, as they didn’t want to force me to stay in the lessons, my potential tennis future came screeching to a halt.
I went on to spend my childhood dabbling in gymnastics, achieving a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and being on school basketball and volleyball teams.
But there was something about tennis that always beckoned. Perhaps it was the sheer power and media magnitude that professional female athletes held compared to other sports. Maybe it was the lengthy, intense gladiator showdowns that took place on the courts. Or perhaps it was the technical skill combined with the high- intensity athletic ability that drew me back in.
Looking back now, it’s clear to see that it was all three—combined with another hundred reasons.
The Williams sisters. Sharapova. Federer. Nadal. Kournikova. Roddick. Sampras. Agassi. These are the names that I had etched into my memory. Each of these athletes have their own unique stories, filled with triumphs and struggles. As a teenager and throughout my early 20s, I began to follow tennis more steadily and learn more about their individual paths.
Fast forward to 2020 when I finally decided to pick up a racquet again. Rain or shine, every day was spent practicing—against a wall, on the court, alone, or with a partner—I simply couldn’t get enough. Tennis is such an introspective, and almost meditative, sport; where the mental game is just as important as the physical game. I began to learn so much about myself; how I dealt with the pressure of double faulting or how I was a better defender than I ever imagined myself to be.
Tennis has helped me to be grateful for many experiences in my life: being able to play with my dad every morning, later retelling the match to my mom (who doesn’t have much interest in tennis but is a wonderful listener, bless her), having access to public courts within walking distance, being physically capable to last through an entire match…the list goes on.
Now that the Canadian winter has begun, I’ve had to put my racquet away for the next 4 or 5 months. But I find myself incorporating stretches and exercises into my workouts that will eventually help me with my amateur tennis game. Why? Because I’m learning that tennis is much more than a game. It’s a lifestyle.