The game has evolved, with new equipment resulting in a new style of play.
IN HIGH SCHOOL, I spent a lot of time playing tennis, competing in doubles against other high-school teams in the fall and training in the summer with competitive single matches on hot Midwestern courts.
I loved tennis. Then I went to college and never looked back.
Some of my tennis friends consider this a travesty. They have bugged me to join an adult tennis league. I beg off with the original excuse: “I’m too busy.”
Tennis Center Sand Point
Of course, I wondered what it would be like to return. I spent so much time on a tennis court growing up, it seemed a shame to let the practice go to waste.
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I decided to take a lesson and find out for real whether my tennis spirit lived on.
I headed to Tennis Center Sand Point in Magnuson Park to meet tennis pro Kate Dieveney. She picked out a few rackets for me to try — I haven’t upgraded since high school — and we warmed up.
After watching me rally, she asked whether I wanted to play a game or learn the “new style” of tennis. New style? I was perplexed. To me, a forehand was a forehand.
I was so, so wrong.
Rackets have gotten much lighter since I left the game and, as a result, the swing has changed, starting with the grip.
Kate moved my hand to a “semi-western” grip slightly off center. Instead of my usual big windup, she showed me how to loop my forehand back and down, swing across my body and catch my racket with my left hand.
The setup also has changed. Players now run across the court holding their racket upright, ready to hit with a massive amount of topspin.
It felt so awkward. The first couple of times I hit a forehand, my ball went where I predicted — straight into the net.
Kate kept reminding me, “Set, Ferris wheel and pizza tray” to remind me to loop and finish by catching my racket by my opposite shoulder. She tossed me ball after ball until I started to get the looping motion. She coached me to keep my gaze steady at the contact position and to not dip my head to one side on my follow-through.
Once I hit the ball inside the lines a few times, we added in footwork. The new setup confused me, and I did a weird shuffle toward the ball while holding my racket up. I had to practice running like a normal person.
I could tell when I hit well, and saw the big bounce on the other side of the court. I also could tell my new swing required a lot of practice.
The backhand also has evolved. Kate showed me how to move my grip from a forehand to a semi-western grip with my left hand to create the same looping swing.
It was a good thing Kate is patient.
Many players return after a decade or more away, said Sand Point general manager Johann Tan. Some learn the new style, and some stay with what they know. Adults also come in to learn tennis for the first time, which I loved hearing.
I spend a lot of time trying sports I have never played. Returning to a familiar one with a new approach was super fun. I clearly need a month or two of lessons to cement the new style before playing with less-patient players. Kate and I didn’t go over my serve, but I’m sure that needs work.
As for joining a tennis league — well, I haven’t committed. Not yet.