18 Years

One of the things that I don't boost about in close company (or any for that matter) is my athletic ability. Thanks to a near British public school education in Hong Kong (wiki), I was taught to play in many sports. And I don't mean just played it once or twice in P.E. classes. I mean I know the rules, the techniques, and know enough on how to play as to not make a fool of myself in front of regular players. Track running (100m and 200m sprints, 110m hurdles, 400m), cross-country running (15 km run), swimming (all the different stroke types with breast stroke being my strongest, while I can never master butterfly), basketball, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

Out of all these sports, my love remains tennis throughout the years. Thanks to my mum's foresight, she signed me up for tennis lessons (ran by the Hong Kong Tennis Association) when I was still young (~1988 and before the Michael Chang phenomenon). After a few years of continuous tennis lessons every Sunday I was good enough to be the school's tennis team captain but emigrating to UK in 1990 put a very short end to that. And Britain, being the birthplace of tennis and Wimbledon, is actually very difficult to get access to tennis training for a non-privileged (read non-public school) Chinese teenager. So I more or less gave up playing tennis as a serious sport. I did not play tennis regularly (i.e. more than once a year type regular) until I've moved to NY and my friend T.J. wanted to play tennis a few years back.

My skill did not really improved with age (as I always secretly hoped) and was pretty much stuck at being a 2.5 player (NTRP Rating). This year though, I was determined to improve and after playing the first time I hit an epiphany! The racket that I have been using since 1991, the Wilson Pro Staff Classic, was a great racket. It was used by Jim Courier, etc. but it was so the wrong racket for me. It was too head heavy and thus requires way more power to generate racket head speed for spins. Heavy head also means it is more difficult to react to shots such as return of serve or volley.

So just over three months ago I tried out three new rackets, one Wilson, one Head, and one Volkl. Of the three, I was pinning my hope of the Volkl since I've played them before when I picked the racket for T.J. To cut the long story short, I discovered that I liked the feel of the Wilson most even though it was added to the list of rackets to try out as an afterthought. And to my complete surprise, it was the Wilson that gave me the best all round feel. I was able to make shots that normally would either mean too long/wide or into the net. Suddenly I was able to swing freely and think about where I want to hit the shot, rather than whether I can even hit the ball back to other side of the court.

Anyway, after a bunch of lessons and playing in a tennis league every Monday for the last three months, I am now easily playing at 3.5 level. And on a good day, I can be a 4.0 player! Only take me 18 years to get here but better late than never I guess!

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