They that have power to serve, but just serve spin,
That do not blast the woman on the net
When served to short, but just return it in,
And lose a point without an epithet -
They rightly do inherit good repute,
Regarded by opponents with affection
As having every sacred attribute
(But stay forever in the bottom section).
The talented star is to the watchers sweet,
Loved for his timing and controlléd strength;
But when he utters swearwords indiscreet
And hurls his racquet forty meters length
The tabloids crucify him on their page.
The hacker is unnoticed in his rage.
When I have fears that I may cease to serve
Balls that heat up the air as from a gun,
And be reduced to some soft-lobbing curve,
Before I make my way to Section One;
When I behold soft youths and nubile maids
Blasting the covers off their forehand drives
And think that as they float up through the grades
I must slip down a notch as each arrives;
And when I feel, as bones and muscles ache,
That I shall never freely move again,
Never have relish in the fiery power
Of freely-flowing strokes - I take a break
To let Time slowly moderate the pain
And let me have another flying hour.
When I consider how my legs are done
Ere half the games in this long opening set,
And that great backhand which I used to get
Lodged with me useless since I cannot run,
And my serve lofted, lightly spun
Is hit past my partner, standing on the net,
I tell him ruefully that I regret
Having served up another easy one;
At which my partner patiently replies,
"If it were not for you we'd have no team.
You may have lost your youthful vim and verve,
But pull out the occasional surprise.
Lurk at the back once you run out of steam.
They also play who only stand and serve."
The weekends were my cultural oasis.
Days of algebra and Latin dragged,
presorted learning meted out and bagged
to be my future education's basis.
But Sundays brought a subtle change of faces.
Humorists and scholars talked and ragged
as intellectual gossiping zig-zagged
enlivening our stumbling tennis paces.
Each Sunday still I haunt my local courts,
hoping for some relief from the week's talk
of superannuation and lump sums,
But the crowds of yesteryear play other sports,
Or work, or shop. Eventually I walk
Home to TV, whence stimulation comes.
* * *
If we must lose, let it not be as louts,
crying against the weather or the bounce,
annoying the lounging watchers with our shouts,
foolish as we petulantly flounce.
If we must lose, let it be with some flair,
smiling as aces bounce up past our ears,
and as we flounder, flail and gasp for air,
let jocularity disguise our tears.
In years to come our hiding will be lost,
each conqueror remembering himself
in anything that happened on that day.
Nothing of whom they beat will be embossed
on the glasses gathering dust on some high shelf
or printed on the flag, tucked lost away.
Shall I compare thee to a topspin lob?
Thou dost not oscillate and drift away.
Rough winds do cast a lofted ball astray
across the fence into the laughing mob.
My own tossed lob may halt and fall far short
of expectations, bringing the surprise
of catching someone's smash between my eyes;
or else fly far beyond the end of court.
Another's lob may bounce above my head,
or drop beyond my reach yet on the line;
but thou art constant, flat, and maybe slow,
always within my reach, easily read,
Although thy predilections may incline,
they lean towards me, and with me thou will go.