Almanac Tennis (and life): Great Wall

I don’t really go for communal spaces and so I hadn’t meant to be in the hostel’s kitchen for long. I had a packet of instant noodles and some chopsticks but needed to grab a bowl from the cupboard while the kettle boiled. And perhaps a fork from a drawer while no one was looking. There were a few of us in the kitchen, shuffling around making space for each other. All the while, trying not to make eye contact.

The guy in front of me at the cupboard was reaching up as high as he could. I couldn’t really make out what was up there. Just big trophy looking pots and pans. He was straining, fingers out stretched and spread apart. And yet he didn’t look right. He had big Nike hi-tops on his feet that should have helped him, but the heels were planted flat and firmly on the ground. And his back was slouched over like his head was tied down. I told him he should try getting up on his toes but he wouldn’t. I asked if I could help but he just smirked and said I couldn’t.

I introduced myself and asked him if he was here to see the great wall and he said nah just here to play some tennis, that’s all. I queried whether his back problem was tennis related. He said only in so far as his talent forced him to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or at least that’s what I thought he mumbled under his breath.

The kettle whistled. I asked if I couldn’t give him a foot up or grab a chair for him to stand on and he said he’d ask for help if he needed it. He said I wouldn’t understand. He said I wouldn’t understand, but he’d actually be done sooner if I stopped paying him so much attention. I said I knew who he was and that I thought he could hold his head high this year. I said, what about the Davis Cup. You seemed to have given that your all. He said yeah but what about all that other stuff on the tour.

I said I didn’t really follow the tour much, on account of being a die-hard nationalist mostly. I said unless you’re wearing the green and gold, or you won, I don’t much care for individual pursuits. He said he had no time for the fanatics, but amen to team sports. He actually said amen to team sports, brother. My kettle clicked with the water having boiled. I spied a clean fork in the drainer by the sink. I asked him what he was reaching for up there anyway. He said he had no idea. He said he never really knew to begin with. He said he had a playstation in his luggage though if I had a couple of hours spare.


  1. I’m guessing John Millman. Great ambassador for tennis.

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