Whatever Happened To Service With A Smile?
I always obey highway speed limits. Always. But let me tell you about the time I was once clocked at 147 km per hour. Yes, that's right. At 147 km an hour. That's 91 miles per hour.
But I wasn't driving.
I was serving - a tennis serve.
You see, it was during the Australian Open tennis fortnight some years ago. While I checked out the tents that fringed the playing arena, my attention was drawn to one zone where any member of the public could rock up to have the speed of their service measured by the same mechanism that functions courtside for the stars.
From memory, you just paid a couple of dollars and you got three serves – and the pleasure of seeing your speed recorded on a huge digital screen.
Just the sort of callenge I love - and yes, I love a challenge or three.
I leant how to play tennis by hitting against the garage wall when I was a little fella. I went to Wimbledon from 1981 to 1987. Okay, so it was not in the role of competitor - I went there as a tennis writer, covering the tournament that I dreamed about as kid.
I've even got a couple of tennis trophies to my name. So I'm not just a mug player with two left feet. I can actually play. But allow me to get back to the story, instead of meandering.
It was a long line. It was a hot day. I didn’t have much time before play got under way at Centre Court. But as a clay courter with a decent serve and a (slightly) erratic baseline game, I just couldn’t resist the lure of a finite figure. So I stood there in the queue that didn’t really seem to be moving.
I was a bit self-conscious for the first serve. Pressure, y’know. All those people watching. Okay, so there were a couple of hundred spectators. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the digital screen flashed 142. That slow?
The second time around, the ball toss wasn’t perfect. I should have caught it and tried again. But equal measures of pride and stubbornness fuelled my attempt to make amends. Hmmmm. 135. Not good.
I really concentrated on the final serve. Racquet head steady. Knees flexed. Clean toss. Rotate at the hip. Wham. Surely that was up around the 170 mark. But it was only 147.
Dang speed cameras. Never work correctly when you want them to. Not happy when they say you're too fast. Even more disgruntled when they say you're too slow.
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