Monday, January 20, 2014

Game, Set, Couch

With the recent heatwave done and dusted, it's finally cool enough to settle back down onto the couch and into my favourite summer sport: watching the Australian Open on telly.

To some, the Open is just another tennis tournament, a televised parade of extremely fit people hitting a small fuzzy ball from one end of a court to another, mixed up with a pastiche of grunting, drink sipping and towel wiping.

To others, like myself, the Open is the holy grail of the summer experience. It is better than lazy days at the swimming pool or keeping cool in the frozen section of the supermarket, and right up there with having your significant other scrub the shower and toilet while you take a sneaky afternoon nap.

There is something quintessentially Australian about lying spreadeagled on the couch under a pedestal fan, with remote and beverage in hand, yelling swathes of ocker encouragement and dismay at the players, and grunting in perpetual disagreement with the umpire.

There is something even more iconically Australian about catching an overloaded tram to Melbourne Park and sweating through a five-setter on an unshaded outside court for four hours, with only an expensive hot dog and your ground pass for sustenance.

It's oddly addictive, this Open watching business, a sweaty fortnight of chance and upsets and possibilities. Can Lleyton do it again? Can the Feds hold off the young charge? Can the new kid knock the socks off the number three seed and blow the tournament wide open? Will the compere say something completely inappropriate during his off-the-cuff interview and throw the whole affair into scandal? Will the roof stay open?

If you had a spare afternoon in the beer garden, I could buy a jug and bore you into a siesta with the minute details about the most memorable matches of the past decade, or the picky reasons I prefer one commentator over another, or the sixty-seven plus reasons why I will always barrack for Federer.

But for the life of me, I could not get out on the court and show you how it's done. As so often occurs in the world of passionate sport enthusiasm, my love for the game belies my complete inability to actually play the dratted sport in any way, shape or form.

My lack of skill was not borne from a lack of effort. As a child, I spent countless summer days standing on the tennis court in direct midday sun, smothered in an unfortunate mix of sunscreen and shambling embarrassment, trying my uncoordinated little heart out.

My repeated attempts to hit the ball resulted in little more than wild air swings, dull thuds, tangles with the net, endless double faults and exasperated friends and coaches. My mind had trouble focusing on the ball, wandering off to the choose-your-own-adventure book I was reading or through the latest piece of choreography from jazz ballet class.

I put it in extra effort. I tried hitting the ball against the wall like the famous Australian tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley did as a kid, I tried marathon totem tennis sessions in the backyard, I tried sticking my tongue out at all sorts of various acute angles on the hope a bit of concentration face might help - but it didn't.

Eventually, I had to put tennis away in the 'not for me' basket - along with Nippers, basketball, netball, athletics, squash, trampolining, kanga cricket, volleyball, body boarding, BMX riding, mini-golf, roller blading, ice skating, table tennis, frisbee, rope climbing and competitive swimming.

It took the majority of my childhood and teenage years to work out I could dance, and I could run long distances reasonably well, but that I couldn't (and shouldn't try) participate in team sports or go anywhere near a ball or bat of any sort, without at least wearing protective headgear and an inflatable suit of armour.

While I love teaching my daughter new things, sport is the one aspect of life where I will happily step aside and leave all the lessons to her infinitely more physically coordinated father.

I will sit on the sidelines with my fingers and toes firmly crossed that she can throw and catch, hit and bat, putt and bowl, and jump and sprint with even a modicum of the sporting grace and coordination I dreamed about from the chilly icepack embrace of the first aid office.

If sporting prowess was measured in effort, I would be a World Champion with an impressive trophy cabinet and several lucrative sponsorship deals - but as it's not, and I'm not, I will stick with cheering the tennis gods and goddesses on from the physical safety of my couch. 

Thirty, love. Hit on!

Do you follow the tennis?
Do you enjoy watching or playing sport?

M x

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