Vol. 2, No. 1: "Drop Shot Valley" photo

Pure TennisParker Young

The television broadcast displays the fifth set score in the upper left-hand corner, the game count rising steadily for each player at exactly the same rate, the rate of service, because neither can break the other’s serve. Tournament rules state that the fifth set cannot be decided by a tiebreaker. If there is to be a winner, one must break the other’s serve. What if the decisive break of service never occurs? This worries me. We’ll be trapped in this moment of extended ambiguity, an undecided tennis match, forever. I feel my life constricting. Lunch is in the freezer. I have nowhere to go but here, which is nowhere. Death, I guess, is having nowhere to go but nowhere, it’s the same idea, so maybe I shouldn’t think about it, wherever it is I have to go. Think about perseverance instead. Think about tennis, I tell myself, true tennis¸ pure tennis, if such a thing exists. Those who play tennis persevere insofar as they keep hitting the ball, or at least trying to hit the ball, because hitting the ball leads to winning, winning leads to money, and money leads to more tennis. Which leads to more hitting of the ball and, if all goes according to plan (and assuming it’s possible to break the opponent’s serve even once), more winning; in conclusion, it creates an endless cycle of tennis. There must be a better reason to win, I think to myself, a more compelling goal than more tennis. Otherwise, every time you hit the ball, you effectively condemn yourself to exponentially more tennis. Unless you happen to miss the ball, which leads of course to losing, which leads to less money, which must lead, according to the formula we’ve established above, to less tennis, tennis in steadily decreasing quantities until you arrive ultimately at no tennis, a total tennis content of zero, having nowhere to go but nowhere, meaning death. Now I understand why they try so hard to win. They don’t want to die. Few of us do. I can’t stop watching. Will it end? I tremble secretly before this seemingly obvious question.