Tennis has been a huge part of my life since high school started. I am fairly athletic and chose tennis as the sport I would play throughout my high school life simply because it didn’t seem to tenuous. Some things about high school tennis to make this story make more sense. In matches, it is usually 6 singles matches and 3 doubles, and each team member is ranked 1-6 based on a ladder system which is if you were ranked 5 on your team and you played a challenge match against the #4 player and won then you would be ranked 4 and he would move down to 5.
Freshman year, there were 7 seniors on the team that took up the top 7 spots but there were 4 freshman on the team. Me and this other freshman, Roger, were the next best thing in tennis at the school but we had to wait a year for our time. One of the other freshman, John, had never hear of tennis before but he was a freakishly tall athletic guy that was super friendly and interested in learning more. Roger and I took it upon ourselves to teach John everything he needed to know to get started. After a while, I would bring both of them to a local teaching pro who was new to the area but had a lot of experience teaching Junior players. Roger was always better than me at first because he had more experience when it came to playing matches. My lack of experience would lead to me being nervous in matches and never really able to play to my full ability, but I was fine being #2 mainly because I just loved to play tennis. Sophomore year rolled around and Roger was undefeated all year long and I only had 1 loss leading into the post season. Roger lost in the final of the district finals in a tight match and together we won the District doubles tournament rather easily which then gave us a spot in the regional tournament. This was our first major achievement together and sadly one of our last.
John continued to get better and better due to his size, athleticism, and hard work. When Junior year rolled around, all three of us were around the same level. Roger continued playing number one because he still had a great winning mentality. After becoming such great friends with these guys over the years, I found it hard to compete against them. Eventually I would start losing to John too. So going into the season Roger was 1, John was 2, and I was 3. We had a very successful beginning of the season and things were looking unstoppable until one day John and Roger came over to my house and while I was getting some lunch, They were outside riding my family’s 4-wheelers around my property. My father called me while I was eating and I had noticed that the noise outside has subsided, so I went out to check it out. From about a half mile away I could see a body laying on the ground and another body standing over it. I rushed over to see what had happened while informing my dad to get home as soon as possible.
Roger and John were racing trying to see how fast they could go. Roger then forgot about my long gravel driveway that was in between two cornfields that were raised on both sides of the drive. Roger was going around 60 mph when he flew over the driveway crashing into the raised dirt mound on the other side of the driveway. When he crashed, the collision sent his body hurling into the cornfield about 20 yards. John had remembered the driveway and slammed on his brake. Not knowing the fate of Roger, John rushed over to see Roger laying on the ground. Roger was in a tremendous amount of pain with a huge gash in his shin, now believed to be from the key of the 4-wheeler. We got him in my car and rushed him to the emergency room. Other than the hole in his leg, Roger only suffered a compound fracture in his back miraculously, but it would mean that he would miss the rest of the season. John and I were understandably shaken by the event but we were able to step up. John began playing 1 and I moved back up to my familiar spot at 2. I went the rest of the year not losing a match, but John struggles some at the 1 spot because of his lack of experience.
Before I go on about tennis, there was a lot that went on junior year that had nothing to do with tennis. John and Roger started to hang out a lot with some of our other friends and they started to drink and experiment with drugs before the tennis season started. I never got in to drinking or smoking because I never wanted to. John and Roger stopped including me and friends stopped inviting me to things. At the same time, I had a pretty serious girlfriend that had recently moved away and before tennis season she had broke up with me and I was devastated and hugely depressed with only tennis to look forward to.
By the end of the season, Roger was ready to force himself back on the court. With him being recently injured, we had no idea how he would be able to play and at what level. He started out playing some matches at 3 to get back into it, but by the time the post season came around we needed to play challenge matches to determine who would play in the individual tournament. Our coach then told John and Roger that they would play a match for the 1 spot and the loser would have to play me for the 2 spot. They would play on a Saturday morning and we had planned that the loser would then play me on the next day. While they went out playing Saturday morning I went to the local tennis pro and trained for a couple hours. When I was done I got a call from John, who was noticeable upset. He said that he had lost, and that he was unable to play the next day because it was his mother’s birthday. He was ready to just give up the 2 spot unless I was willing to play him right then. Knowing I was tired, it was a difficult decision, but I respected his plans and felt bad for him so I agreed to play him. In the match, I went up big but then hit a wall. With John being tall, his tired game was better than my tired game because he could easily out power me, and I ended up losing a tight match. I never like losing obviously but with him being one of my best friends, I accepted the result and moved on until the next day anyway. On the day that we were originally supposed to play, I had believed that John had made plans with his mom on his birthday. I would come to find out that, that was not the case. John had actually gone hiking with a group of our friends from school. I cannot accurately describe the feelings that I felt when I had learned this. I was still upset from losing, on top of that I was still struggling with the break up that I had earlier in the year, and I was beginning to get more and more upset over the distance that was coming between me and my friends. When I saw the picture that was posted of John with our friends hiking on the day he said he was busy with his mom, I felt some thing that I never felt before in my life, Betrayal. In my eyes, my best friend had just lied to me just so he could keep his tennis spot while still being able to go on a hike with his friends. This completely changed our relationship. I supported John and Roger throughout the entire post season.
The entire summer leading to senior year, I don’t think I could have been more depressed. On top of all my drama, another one of my best friends told me that he had attempted suicide. I, however, didn’t turn to drinking or smoking during this time, instead I became distant. I spent most of my summer days on a couch playing video games or watch shows on TV. I also turning to texting ex girlfriends seeking some sort of comfort which lead to some empty one night stands that have scarred me for life.
Eventually, I found some comfort in little things like hanging out with a friend that I had, had since kindergarten and going to YoungLife. By the time fall started to roll around I was at a point where I was ready to get back in to finding someone that I could have a serious meaningful relationship with and I found one with someone I met at YoungLife. This relationship turned my life around.
Pretty soon after it was time for tennis season. I was excited because of the fact that it was our senior year, and we had the best team in our whole division, and we were the favorites to win states. Before tennis season got into full swing, the school had a random drug search where cops came and had dogs sniff around. Some people were nervous but people like me had nothing to worry about. Rumors spread around throughout the day and by the end of the day one rumor became true. Roger was caught with drug paraphernalia in his car. He was immediately put in night school for the rest of the year and banned from all sporting events, meaning no tennis. Great. Now for senior year it is me and John, whose betrayal was still fresh in my memory. I wasn’t able to play a match against him without some sort of emotion distracting me from my tennis, so inevitable I played 2 again, but was content with my position on the team. We went on to have a very successful season even without Roger, but when postseason came around our team failed to win states. We ended up losing to the team that won states 5-4. Leaving John and I to think that we would have won states had Roger not gotten in trouble. In the individual tournaments, John and I were State runner-ups in doubles, and John was state runner-up in singles.
Tennis was over and I was ready for college, new friends, and no tennis. John and Roger stayed my friends through the years, but I still feel the distance, and I have found that over the years not only was I #2 on the tennis team but I slowly became second in their lives to drinking and smoking.