Saturday, July 4, 2009

Anyone for tennis?

As a long-standing tennis fan and with Wimbledon having given us such great matches during the past two weeks, I'd like to post two poems as a tribute to the game and to the people who help us play it.


Eyes lasering in
on the ball,
top spin,
side spin,
no spin?
Legs running,
feet jumping,
toes tripping,
arms swinging,
heart pumping,
blood rushing,
lungs bursting,
mouth gasping,
cheeks blazing,
sweat pouring,
ball hitting,
ball missing,
ball in,
ball out,
hands clapping,
mouths shouting,
tongues cursing,
lips screaming,
racquets throwing,
movement thrilling,
endorphins fizzing,
exuberance peaking,
exhaustion winning,
eyes glowing.

Copyright © Helena Harper


Not one of your green youngsters this one,
wet behind the ears,
oh no, not he,
the once lithe, young body of twenty or so years
marked now by middle-age spread and dubious knees.
Physically unprepossessing without a doubt,
fitness not what it was,
victim of recurrent infections
and numerous operations
on those annoyingly painful, troublesome knees,
but execution and choice of shot mesmerizing;
years of experience honing his craft
at home and abroad in countless foreign countries,
a teacher par excellence,
able to explain in few words and wise
varying techniques and match-winning strategies,
assessing the pupil with expert eyes,
for effective coaching an essential,
yet a mystery to younger colleagues
who have learnt but one way
and teach from the book
whether suited to pupil or not,
though it’s clear to all
once you know the difference
and properly look.

A tiny detail here,
one word there,
and understanding and game
start to transform,
for it begins to dawn
with ever increasing light
how mental attitudes affect shot selection
and the outcome of the fight,
and finally one comes to know
what “eye on the ball” actually means,
all so totally different
to what happened before
with the other “normal” pros
who coached by rote
and made lessons a bore.

And thus it shows once more
that appearances do indeed often deceive
and one mustn’t judge books by their cover or sleeve,
for if we do we shut out all kinds of possibilities
not thought of and wonderful,
which can lead us to paths
both surprising and joyful.

Copyright © Helena Harper


  1. I have just watched the Ladies Finals at Wimbledon, I enjoyed your blog very much, it just sums everything about Wimbledon.


  2. Thanks, Yvonne, for your comment. Wimbledon is a great tournament, but fortunately we don't all have to be Wimbledon champions to enjoy the game - and it's a game that everyone can enjoy, no matter what their ability. Don't you agree? Have fun watching/playing tennis this summer!

    All the best


  3. Very appropriate and extremely descriptive.

    For me, these lines evoked some childhood memories - of tennis lessons (although I never became too adept. Just couldn't keep my eye on that ball. aha!)

  4. Thank you, Linda. Glad you enjoyed the poems. I know how hard it is to keep your eye on that illusive tennis ball and it takes a very good coach to teach you how to develop that skill. My 'tennis director' was such a person and I shall be for ever grateful to him for teaching me that and lots of other things as well.