Tennis is not just a sport for me. It's a big defining part of my life, but I came to it late in the game.
I was not an athlete growing up. Unless you count jumping rope on the playground or playing "Marco Polo" in the pool during the summer. I never had a sport. I didn't even go to PE in high school. Yes, that's right, I ditched PE and smoked cigarettes with my friends. (By the way, I love what a badass that makes me sound like.) But, truthfully, I was anything BUT a badass. I was a goody-two-shoes, who followed the rules, got good grades, and for the most part, was a really responsible teenager. I had one naughty habit. I smoked cigarettes... and I did not do sports.
There was a brief flirtation with a yoga practice in my late 20s. But after having my first two children, and my all-consuming career, there was no time for breathing, yoga... or even an hour to myself.
After my second daughter was born, I was really struggling with my "work/life balance." I would get up at 7am, get the kids to school, commute 45 minutes in relentless traffic, work until 7pm and get home about 7:45pm. I would often read scripts after dinner, or when the kids would go to sleep. On the weekends, I would try and find a chunk of hours to get through the rest of my homework.
Over time it became clear that I was burned out, and there was too little joy in my life.
My assistant, at the time, came into my office and said, "You need a hobby. You are going to implode if you keep this up and don't have a proper outlet." I said, "I've never had a hobby and I have no time for a one."
She politely ignored me and said with a smile, "Then I will make you a list and you can pick one."
I don't remember the whole list, but I do remember the first item: Take a Spanish class. This would have been helpful four years earlier, before my first daughter was born, when I couldn't communicate with the nanny I hired to take care of her.
The next item on the list was: Take tennis lessons.
When I was eight years old, my mom enrolled me in group tennis lessons at the park for the summer. Unfortunately, it was about 100 degrees in the San Fernando Valley and I didn't last long. I think I made it about 30 minutes, before I literally passed out on the court from the heat. They had to drape me over the air conditioning unit inside the pro shop to revive me. I didn't go back. When I was in junior high school, I took a few more classes (at night). I learned a forehand, but never graduated beyond the one stroke. I had a vague memory of liking it.
So in 2001, with the prompting of my assistant, I decided to start taking tennis lessons again. Thirty minutes a week. Once a week. That was all the time that I could afford. I couldn't find anyone to play with me outside of my lessons. I didn't know anyone else who played, and it is really hard to find someone to hit with you when you are a beginner.
I finally decided to join a tennis club (something that I couldn't afford to do), but I felt it was the only way to really learn the game and find other players to play with me.
I loved it. It gave me a whole new outlook on life. I had new friends, exercise and a real passion.
A year and a half later, my first husband and I separated. The tennis club became a sanctuary for me. I had friends and a social outlet that went beyond my career.
Two months after my separation, I was introduced to the best player at the club. I didn't know the difference between being a new/enthusiastic player (me) and someone who had played their whole life (him). So one day, I asked him, "Do you want to hit with me?"
He looked at me almost bewildered. His response was, "Hit with YOU?"
I was like, "Uh, yeah."
We started hitting. I thought I did a terrific job getting the ball back over the net. It was lost on me that he was hitting to me the way a tennis pro hits the ball back to make you look good.
As we walked off the court, he said, "You're not as bad as you look."
Did he really just say that to me? Who did this guy think he was?
We ended up playing mixed doubles the following weekend and about a month later we started dating. In spite of his "cool cucumber" demeanor, I fell in love and we were married a year later. Shortly thereafter, we had a daughter of our own.
We remain avid, devoted players who play socially and competitively at least three times a week.
Ever since I started playing tennis, it has always been a dream of mine to go to Wimbledon. In fact, I have never even been to London.
So, when an agent friend of mine got us tickets for the Women's Semifinals, we decided to make it into a short vacation.
We took the Tube to Wimbledon station and walked to the All England Club along with hundreds of other diehard fans. When we arrived, we walked around the courts and saw various players warming up and playing matches. We sipped champagne. We ate strawberries & caramel cream (apparently a new twist on the old tradition). The weather held and it was a beautiful day without any rain delays.
Lucky for us, BOTH Williams sisters were in the Semifinals. I love them. I love that they have broken all kinds of records. I love that they are sisters. I love that they are a rags-to-riches story. I love that their father trained them. I love that they are best friends. So, it was a magical day that we got to watch them BOTH play their singles matches and their doubles Finals together!
I have a very short bucket list. Going to Wimbledon was at the top of that list. Going with my husband, whom I would have never met unless I started playing tennis, made it even sweeter.
16 years ago, I was told that I needed a hobby to improve the quality of my life.
That hobby ended up changing my life.