Starting a new sport can be daunting. It’s easy to get all up in your head worrying about looking like a fool, but when you actually get there and give it a go you’re having too much fun to care.
Of course, it always helps to ease yourself into it and keep it casual – which is the idea behind the new Open Court Sessions. Think the barefoot bowls of tennis: you basically play tennis-related games but not full matches and with zero pressure.
Bring mates or make mates there. Bring gear or borrow gear there. Have a warm-up, have a whack, then have a socialise with food and drink in hand. FACT: All sport is better with music and a bevvie.
If, however, you’d still rather have some tricks up your sleeve, here are my top three recommendations for pretending you’re a tennis pro when you’re absolutely not.
1. Get the right gear
Some would say an over-the-top outfit is the number one way to prove you don’t know what you’re doing, but others would argue that SURELY only the pros spend money on the pro-iest sports outfits, right?
For tennis, that means you need a crisp white shirt and matching pleated skirt. Or shorts but tbh I feel like the skirt is more tennisy – and yes I stand by that no matter how you identify.
Top that off with some brightly coloured sweatbands around your wrists and forehead and one of those forever-out-of-style-unless-you’re-on-the-tennis-court visors. Boom, you’re ready to go.
2. Practice the lingo
Nothing says ‘expert’ like using the lingo, or at the very least, understanding it. This will require only the briefest of internet searches on your part, so it’s probably your best bet in a pinch.
The important thing is to know when to draw the line. You want to stick with common terms like ‘backhand’, ‘forehand’, ‘serve’, ‘let’ and ‘deuce’.
Absolutely stay away from more colloquial terms like ‘bagel’ (when a player is beaten in a set 6-0) and ‘moon baller’ (someone who relies on high lob shots to annoy the heck out of their opponent). If you misjudge the situation and say slang like this to someone who has no clue what you’re on about, you’re going to have explain yourself and then you’re screwed.
3. Keep them distracted
If all else fails, you’ll need to rely on a method of distraction. At this point feel free to go with your gut and do whatever feels necessary, but I can offer a few suggestions.
Personally I love a classic ‘look over there’ method. It worked all throughout high school so I have no reason to believe it wouldn’t work here. In essence, every time the ball is coming your way and you don’t feel like you’re gonna hit it right, simply scream something to the effect of “OMG WHAT THE HELL IS THAT” while looking over the heads of your opponent and no-one will see your terrible hit.
I mean, you could always go the simple route of starting a food fight. I guarantee no-one will remember anything about your tennis prowess when a sausage is flying at their face.
Of course, your other option is just to relax. In a fun environment, like Open Court Sessions, no-one is Rafael Nadal and everyone is just there to enjoy themselves (and the food, and the refreshments, and getting social), so just get into it.