When I first heard about the subject of Gerald Marzorati’s book, “Late to the Ball” I was thrilled. A book about someone of age (a writer and an editor in this case) making an attempt at becoming a competitive tennis player is exactly my cup of tea. Partly because I’m no spring chicken myself anymore but still dedicated to improving as a tennis player and also because I come from a writing background.
The subject of the book is compelling – can you really aim to push yourself towards a relatively high level in a physically taxing sport at the age span of 55-60? Would there be too many hurdles? A severe risk of injury? In short: how would the ageing body react?
In the book Marzorati details the amount of tennis training and exercise required for him to start playing matches on the men’s senior tour (which seems to be a very well organized tour from both reading and hearing about it). He is coached by a young ex-player, he gets his shots videotaped at tennis academy’s and seems to spare little expense in getting that extra little edge in his tennis abilities.
However, as we all know, he also becomes achingly aware of the sports’ difficulty as well as his own limitations. Tennis is one of those sports that requires a relative high quantity of training to just be able to play some reliable shots and most players think they have a good technique until they see footage of themselves.
I personally really enjoyed the parts about re-writing your tennis story which Marzorati learns about from a life coach. Something which I sometimes feel I need to do. Here’s a quote that’s quite telling:
“…Maybe you need to ask yourself: Is part of my old story that I lose focus on big points? Or confidence? Lots of players do. And then I want to work with you to start writing a new story. What I hope that new story is going to do for you is get you to a place where on a windy day, serving at deuce in a tight match, you are saying to yourself, and mean it: “We’re in tennis heaven!”
This part is particularly telling to me because I often feel that I tighten up and lose focus on big points which leads me to giving up on a game, set or even a match, way to soon instead of battling through. I think it’s from a fear of me giving my all and realizing it’s not enough, so instead I just give up. This is obviously not what tennis on any level should be about. You should always fight for every point and have fun in the process.
The clever part about your tennis story is one of my favorite bits in the book and there is some solid advice there for other aspiring players of all age. But there are many other good parts too of “Late to the Ball” and Marzorati has done a great job of keeping a book that could be, even for tennis fans, a bit boring, and made it both entertaining and enlightening.
I end this brief review with a clear recommendation to read this little gem of a tennis book with another quote which summarizes what tennis is for me and many others (besides being a beautiful sport). Said by life coach Bob after Gerald loses a match he doesn’t particularly enjoy being a part of 6-4 6-3.
“What did you learn in that match, Gerry? About yourself and your game? You are a learner, right? You took up tennis at the age you did to learn, to grow, to defy your age, perhaps. There was a learning experience in that match. I want you to be someone who learns every day. If you learn something every time you play, you will play better. And if you play better, you are likely to win more. That’s how you grow. And growing is what playing is about, ultimately, or should be.”
Buy Late to the Ball by Gerald Marzorati at Amazon (affiliate link).