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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Conversion of a Tennis Snob

Tennis: "a lonely, dogged pursuit designed for masochists"...

More light posting during this holiday week of travel with another interesting article. This one is from the San Diego Union-Tribune and is titled Tennis snob converted after first taste of pickleball. The story is excerpted below. Please click the link to read the entire article.

Last week, I played my first game of pickleball.

Invented in 1965, the jury-rigged sport, which blends tennis, table tennis and badminton, has long had an image problem among serious tennis players.

The other day, I ran into a cranky tennis player sidelined from competition by a back injury.

“Time for pickleball?” I teased.

“Shoot me first,” he grumbled.

For years, pickleball “ambassadors” have challenged me to experience how a lifetime of tennis translates to composite paddles, a noisy (pop-pop-pop) whiffle ball, and a court about a third the size of a tennis court.

No, no, I sniffed.

Tennis is the king of racket sports. Why fool around with a dumbed-down, eased-up knock-off with a goofy name?

Recently, however, two revelations have unstuffed my tennis shirt.

First, private and public tennis clubs have started drawing pickleball lines on tennis courts, even dividing tennis courts into four dedicated pickleball courts.

Each month some 80 new pickleball venues open, the USA Pickleball Association reports.

American tennis is trying to hold on to its nearly 18 million players. Pickleball, on the other hand, is a much more accessible sport that most people, from 6 to 96, can start playing right away, currently uncorking champagne bottles of fun for some 2.5 million American players, a surging total that one day could rival, or outstrip, tennis.

Second, I learned that Jennifer Dawson, a San Diego tennis pro who regularly collects national age-division tennis championships, had won the first Triple Crown of Pickleball, 2017 national titles in singles as well as women’s and mixed doubles...

Walking to the clubhouse, I was more tired than I would have been after a set of doubles. Lots of bending, lunging, squatting and split-stepping.

“This is a chess game,” Steve told me. “Tennis is a game of fitness, brutality. This game requires 10 times more touch.”

Pickleball, with its lightning-quick pace, close proximity of players and infectious good humor, does make tennis seem a lonely, dogged pursuit designed for masochists.

On tournament days, Jennifer told me, hundreds of pickleball players gather at Bobby Riggs to compete and cheer each other on.

Look, I’m giving up tennis when I physically can’t play anymore. It’s my sun-damaged, sore-kneed lot in life.

But it’s consoling knowing that the hilarity of pickleball could be just a court or two away, waiting for the long-suffering likes of me.

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