Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The South China Athletic Association have tennis courts available
across Hong Kong; there's some in Wan Chai, close to where I live for
the next week, and also up in Jordan, near my friend's place.

Now it's been over two years that I've lived in Happy Valley, in
reasonable range of a public tennis court, and in all that time I've
played precisely zero games, so in order to maintain this immaculate
record, I took the train to Jordan.
In England, I always played in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a secluded square
just around the back of Holborn station, where if you lob the ball
right on a summer's day you'll blind your opponent, and there's
sometimes an audience of tramps applauding you from the benches
outside the courts. For those who favour trick shots, court number 1
has an overhanging tree that you can occasionally bounce a shot off.

The courts at Wylie Lane have none of these amenities; on the other
hand, they have thousands of cicadas buzzing away while you play, as
though you're inside an enormous electricity transformer. And they
also have all the humidity you could ever wish for.

At 9:30, I was on the court for the first time. At 9:35 I was sodden,
and shortly after then it rained.

It didn't begin to rain. It just went from muggy like Jason Statham's
armpit, to torrential downpour, and then back to humid, in the space
of five minutes. I suppose the air is just as damp when it's not
raining; the only significant difference is that it's not moving.

So we swept the water off the court, and went back to rallying the
ball between us. It's been so long that I was getting confused by the
dimensions of the court - was it longer than I remembered?  Was I not
as good as I remembered?  All the while, I continued to sweat.

Playing in these conditions is hard work. Occasionally I'd
absentmindedly wipe my sweaty hand on my shirt, but because that was
saturated with perspiration, my palm would end up even sweatier, to
the point where I couldn't hold the racquet. The muggy air and the
still damp ground meant the ball flew slower than usual, and with my
weedy arms from no match play in the last 24 months I couldn't play a
power game.

Or indeed, play a game properly. My partner, Tonia, didn't even
realise we were keeping score for the first game and still beat me by
two points, and out of six games I lost four. Still, $60 for an hour's
play meant that it won't bankrupt me to get some more practise in;
it's just a matter of whether I can survive the heat.

I got lost on the way back to the MTR; it's good to know that even at
10:30 in the morning there are men on Nathan Road touting watches and
suits to sweaty people staggering under the weight of their tennis
kit. Went back to Happy Valley, ate ice cream and panicked about
packing for my impending move to Tin Hau.


Post a Comment