Last evening my wife and I watched a bit of Wimbledon after putting our ten month old to bed. It was Roger Federer playing a rank unknown (later identified at ranked 116) Ukrainian Sergei Stakhovsky. It was the first set that went to a tiebreaker. My wife observed, a bit soulfully, that players these days do not approach the net as often as their counterparts a decade earlier did. Tennis on grass was about serve-and-volley. By the time the final would be played, the center court would sport two prominent bald patches on the otherwise brilliant carpet of green. One patch would span horizontally at the baseline and the other at almost perpendicular along the center service line. The second patch represented the path of risk. It was that line players took to approach the net. At the net they would expose the entire court behind them – a total blindspot. And positioned there, the braveheart would expect to intercept the ball much before a bounce or air friction took the sting out of a return. It forced players to accept a reduced reaction time and a possibility that they might have to dive to reach the ball without having recourse to rising again to play the point. But players went up to the net and accepted all these risks – all for the possibility of meeting the challenge head on and catching their adversaries unawares
Last evening we noticed that Stakhovsky was approaching the net far often than Roger Federer was. He was losing most of the net points but that did not deter him to run up. That’s perhaps what a 116 does when facing a number 3. As sleep deprived parents we went to sleep just after Federer pocketed the first set, half assured that we’ll catch a longer viewing of the next match he played. But then we clearly undermined the rewards of risk taking
In life if you have the opportunity to approach the net, won’t you take it?