Briones: Getting inspired

I’M not a sports columnist.

But allow me, just this once, to pretend to be one. All the recent killings have left a bad taste in my mouth.

I have always been a tennis fan since I was first introduced to the sport at a tender age.

I must have been eight when I watched Jimmy Connors battle Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon on our black and white TV in the late 1970s.

I didn’t understand the rules then but watching two guys hit a ball back and forth across a net was almost akin to ping pong, a sport that I was familiar with since everyone in my father’s side of the family played it.

It wasn’t until we moved to Sto. Niño Village in Banilad that I actually picked up my first racket, a Yonex RX 7.

Back then, there were two shell courts in front of our house. As kids, we didn’t play basketball. We played pelota, using tennis rackets, on the pelota court right next to the tennis courts. We were only allowed on the tennis courts after the grownups had finished, or were too busy drinking or playing cards.

Oftentimes, we played against barefoot ball boys who used wooden paddles. And oftentimes, they beat us.

When our family left the country in 1981, I continued to play right up until college when I joined a fraternity and discovered that binge drinking in a basement apartment was way much better than waking up early morning to practice.

When I returned alone in 1994 from the States, the tennis courts were still there but my passion for the game had fizzled out. It didn’t help that my weight had ballooned to almost 300 pounds.

I continued to play, even though that meant standing in the middle of the baseline while I waited for the ball to come my way so I could give it a whack. That went on for a couple of months until I regained my footwork.

It was during this period that I became good friends with players from San Carlos Talamban, who practiced in Sto. Niño.

We had animated discussions on who our favorite players were. I was a Courier fan, while most of them were behind Pete Sampras.

Sampras was king of grass, having won Wimbledon seven times, until a 19-year-old Swiss player by the name of Roger Federer stunned him in the 2001 quarterfinals.

To the millennials out there, he’s the same Federer who recently wrested the No. 1 world rankings from his indefatigable Spaniard nemesis Rafael Nadal after more than five years of playing second fiddle to the likes of Djokovich and Murray.

At 36, almost 37, Roger—yes, we’re on a first-name basis although sometimes I just call him ‘Ger—he’s the oldest No. 1.

With that said, maybe it’s not too late for me to pick up that racket again.
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