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Life as a Potted Plant

"Direct yourself to one thing only, to put yourself in motion and to check yourself at all times." (Marcus Aurelius: Meditations)

"Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last…" (Paul Simon: 59th Street Song)


1. If someone asks you to play singles, ask how it’s spelled.

2. Get a doubles partner with a nickname like "the rocket," "the roadrunner," or "the blur." Get opponents with nicknames like "the turtles" or "the snails."

3. Everyone has heard the expression "Watch the ball." This is particularly important in slow-motion (slo-mo) tennis, because it eliminates the need for extra compensatory steps at the last minute.

4. Another frequently heard piece of advice is to "Concentrate." This is very important in slo-mo tennis for the same reason as it is to watch the ball. Beware, however, that in really maintaining focus on your own game, you run the risk of being perceived as a snob by people around you on other courts.

5. A good half volley is key. Experts on mobility have proven decisively that backward movement is much more difficult than forward movement, which in turn is more difficult than lateral movement. By definition, a half volley (or quick pickup, as it is often called) is integral to limiting the need to move backwards.

6. Better yet, hit the ball before it even touches the ground. Not only will you move less, but you will gain the added benefit of reducing your opponents’ reaction time.

7. That brings us to the lob. Because your opponents should have serious trouble with backward movement, hitting an offensive (in both senses of the term) lob means that you will probably not have to deal with the ball coming back over the net. There is another type of lob, the defensive lob, which travels higher and slower than the offensive lob and might well be the best shot in slo-mo tennis. Not only does it force your opponents to move backwards, but, should the ball be returned, you will have bought so much time that you can walk, not run, to get back in position.

8. A first-rate drop shot is another excellent weapon to add to your arsenal, Because your opponents should have trouble with forward movement, its being, as already noted, the most difficult movement except for backward movement, you may once again not have to deal with the ball coming back over the net. 9. Now you need a weapon that will be effective against the easiest movement, lateral. Anyone can hit an overhead smash, particularly out of the court or into the net. But try this: hold your racquet head up in front of an oncoming high ball, and at the last second just flick your wrist/racquet head and plunk the ball into the left or right alley as few inches into the opposite side of the court as possible. This is a real crowd pleaser.

10. Take the plunge and get a big-headed, longbody racquet. Anyone who questions the fairness of a racquet that needs wheels can be countered with precise figures on allowable head size and length recently ruled on by the International Tennis Federation, which they will no doubt never have heard of.

11. Take the maximum allowable time between points and on court changeovers. 12. Develop a vocabulary such as, "I called a cab but it didn’t come," in case your partner gets annoyed at your deserving a nickname like "the statue" or "the potted plant."

Copyright 1997 Barbara Wiget


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