Winning Ugly


Last year I played my first ever competitive tennis match. It was in a French competition. This year I repeated the experience and the following verses describe the experience.

Winning Ugly

Separated by the net and the hot, red concrete
My opponent stood; younger, stronger and taller,
His shots all flourishing and looping arcs,
The racket providing the sweep of a paintbrush.

Nothing about this match would be pretty,
If I was to equalise his skilled finesse,
There would be no artistry from me,
Instead the clumsy carves of a butcher’s apprentice.

As expected I lost the first set quickly,
This was my practice, my first shots for a year.
I was warming up and digging in,
For hopefully, a long battle in the heat.

I needed him to play my game, the ball,
To become my friendly, willow the wisp,
I chopped and sliced, hitting short and long,
Making him run side-to-side, forward and aft.

His greying T-shirt signalled my plan to be working,
I knew even fifteen years his senior, I could still
Run and run, and then run some more,
I coldly watched his legs weaken and shots become wilder.

A second set tie break was my aim and,
Shot by shot, point by point I dragged myself clear,
Like the evening mosquito buzzing round our limbs,
I nipped and pestered till seven points were mine.

He was gone and the match was mine for the taking,
Locals realised their friends was losing,
Sucked into the non-tennis battle I had created,
Each shot slower and lower, shorter and softer.

My French was limited and the gloomy match was paused,
To go under floodlights, I wanted to keep playing,
But no they insisted and I had no choice,
Sadly with each passing second so was the win.

The third set mirrored the first,
My tricks now explained and his energy returned,
The scoreboard relentlessly marched away,
No time to weave a new set of spells.

There was to be no victory reward for me,
Instead my souvenirs, a sodden t-shirt,
Aching calves, blooded and bruised toes
And the memories of winning a set ugly.

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