It was pitch black at 7am, at the high school tennis courts, and tryouts for the middle school tennis team were being held. It was pitch black and freezing cold. Chills rushed through my body and light from the sun began to wash over the courts. The coaches shivered while they drew names, the paper trembling in their hands. The contestants could barely hear the names that were being called out due to the loud noise of chattering teeth all over. As the names were being drawn, I was having a hard time breathing. My chest was tight and it felt like I was gonna die . . . like my life was on the line. I nonstop had to tell myself to calm down. I rocked back and forth, wondering if I was good enough.
My name was called out last. The name of the person I went against didn’t click for a second until I dragged myself to the courts. I put my stuff down on the benches and saw my friend on the court. I wondered “Why is she here? Did I come to the wrong court number?” It was then that I realized she was my opponent. My friend marched on to the court with such power and force, as if she was above everyone else. There was a flame in her eyes that somehow forced me to quiver even more. After exchanging words of encouragement, we shook hands. She shook my hands with much force and tightened her grip. She was crushing my hand as if her goal was to grind it into the sand.
I then placed a yellow Wilson ball on my hand to test the bounciness. The ball was very rough, but a perfect sphere and it was squishy meaning it bounces more than others. We warmed up before the match started and I took this time to analyze my friend’s strokes. I hit her a variety of balls: low balls, high balls, volleys, slices, and approach shots,I made her run by aiming the balls away from her. In the end, I noticed her weak spots were mainly slices and approach shots. Every time we braced for impact as the ball reached our racket strings, we could hear a “TOCK” sound. Non-stop. However, if one hits a slice, you get a “SPRING” sound. After the warmup, I noticed that she lacked footwork but had amazing aim and power in her shots. I then put this newfound knowledge into use. I made her run from one side of the court to the other and up and down. However, to my disadvantage, she also found my weakness. We went back and forth winning points, and eventually, the game resulted in a 2:2 tie. When the game ended, my friend and I shook hands and reported the score to the coaches. As we waited for the results, we both sat next to each other on the uncomfortable bleachers and I noticed her hands were shaking. “I-I . . . ca-a-an’t . . . fee-ee-eel my ha. . . hands,” she said, with her trembling voice. As she spoke, I began to think about how tense I was initially compared to after the match. I realized there was no need to stress. I had overestimated her experience in the game and learned that things aren’t always as they seem.
Chaithra Yarlagadda is a freshman in high school. Outside of school, Chaithra plays the piano (6 years), plays tennis (2 years), and participates in Indian classical dance (1 year). Her pastimes include reading books or writing. Chaithra loves to write all types of poetry, including songs, and fictional short stories. She loves volunteer work, and is even in various volunteering clubs in her school. Though she is not 100% sure about what she wants to pursue as her career, she is currently aiming toward business management and marketing.