Just Stay Calm

A Tennis Match for the Ages (Not Really)

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Landen Walker '22

Benjamin Hoppe ’24 serves at a tennis match last spring.

Benjamin Hoppe, Reporter

It was a bright, sunny day in Fort Worth, Texas on that fateful match day. The sun never seemed to stop blinding me like my phone does when I first wake up in the morning, but that wasn’t going to be the deciding factor in that match. Not on my watch at least.

“Two games down, and I need to break to stay in this thing,” I said to myself. “Come on. Just keep a straight face and just put the ball in play.”

It wasn’t until after the match how much keeping a straight face would affect the match going forward.

It was deuce at this point, and I was down five games to seven in a match to eight games. We were playing no add, so I needed to win the next point, or that was game, set, match for the other player. 

Bam! “Out,” I said as the ball came whizzing by my face like a rogue missile. Bam! “Out,” I said again as another ball flew by. Six games to seven.

As I started heading over to the bench with that nervous-out-of-my-mind look, I heard a loud noise.

“Argh,” said my opponent. His racket started careening towards the ground but stopped just an inch before destruction.

A smile crept onto my face. A laugh nearly escaped. Everything felt better again. Everything just felt right.

“40 to 15,” I said before I served the ball. The ball zipped off of the racket, hit the line of the service box, and Bam! Another ball soared past my face as the ball hit the fence behind me. “Out,” I said yet again.

Seven all. It was time for a tiebreak to seven points. The match would end up being the for-all-the-marbles match as FWCD was tied with All Saints in the number of matches won. Thank goodness I did not know that during the match.

I walked back onto the court for the last time that match. “You can do this,” I told myself. “My opponent is frustrated right now. Take advantage of this.”

Ten points later and it was 6-4 in my favor. It was my serve. My time to shine.

“Let’s end this game with an ace,” I said as I approached the service line.

“Out,” my opponent said with that haha-you-missed look on his face.

Second serve. “Just make him miss,” I said to myself. The ball zipped off my racket and landed very short in the box.

“Uh-oh,” I said as I backed up as my opponent rushed forward. But instead of hearing a loud bam, I heard a soft boing. A drop shot.

This time I rushed forward, my racket held high, the crowd, albeit a small crowd, held their breath.

The ball zipped off my racket for the last time that match. It hit the baseline, then the fence, then the ground again. Game, set, match.

I went to the net, with an extra spring in my step, to go shake hands with my opponent. We shook hands. His grip was firm. Almost too firm. We finished our interaction at the net and went to grab our tennis gear.

As I was putting some of my gear in my bag, practically shaking, I heard some people talking. It was my opponent and his teammates.

“Great job,” said his teammates. “I lost,” said my opponent with that disgruntled teenager and pouty seven-year-old tone. His teammates went quiet.

I stared blankly over at him from the bench. I thought to myself, “I don’t ever want to act like that.” I also hope I have never acted like that before either. That’s not how I want people to see me.