September 7, 2010

when they turn on the chair
somethings added to the air



Jim Franklin, Under Aires, 1972

* Excerpt from Andrei Aggasi's biography: In this passage Agassi writes about the final tournament of his life and the preparation for a match that may be last of his career. And about the loneliness of tennis:

"Now I can take a nap. At thirty-six, the only way I can play a late match, which could go past midnight, is if I get a nap beforehand. Also, now that I know roughly who I am, I want to close my eyes and hide from it. When I open my eyes, one hour has passed. I say aloud, It's time. No more hiding. I step into the shower again, but this shower is different from the morning shower. The afternoon shower is always longer - twenty-two minutes, give or take - and it's not for waking up or getting clean. The afternoon shower is for encouraging myself, coaching myself.

"Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athletes talk to themselves like tennis players. Pitchers, golfers, goalkeepers, they mutter
to themselves, of course, but tennis players talk to themselves - and answer. In the heat of a match, tennis players look like lunatics in a public square, ranting and swearing and conducting Lincoln-Douglas debates with their alter egos. Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely. Only boxers can understand the loneliness of tennis players - and yet boxers have their corner men and managers. Even a boxer's opponent provides a kind of companionship, someone he can grapple with and grunt at.

"In tennis you stand face-to-face with the enemy, trade blows with him, but never touch him or talk to him, or anyone else. The rules forbid a tennis player from even talking to his coach while on the court. People sometimes mention the track-and-field runner as a comparably lonely figure, but I have to laugh. At least the runner can feel and smell his opponents. They're inches away. In tennis you're on an island. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement, which inevitably leads to self-talk, and for me the self-talk starts here in the afternoon shower. This is when I begin to say things to myself, crazy things, over and over, until I believe them. For instance, that a quasi-cripple [me] can compete at the U.S. Open. That a thirty six-year-old man can beat an opponent just entering his prime. I've won 869 matches in my career, fifth on the all-time list, and many were won during the
afternoon shower.

"With the water roaring in my ears - a sound not unlike twenty thousand fans - I recall particular wins. Not wins the fans would remember, but wins that still wake me at night, Squillari in Paris. Blake in New York. Pete in Australia. Then I recall a few losses. I shake my head at the disappointments. I tell myself that tonight will be an exam for which I've been studying twenty-nine years. Whatever happens tonight, I've already been through it at least once before. If it's a physical test, if it's mental, it's nothing new.

"Please let this be over.

"I don't want it to be over.

"I start to cry. I lean against the wall of the shower and let go."

[via]


* worth a look.

* "To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make." -- Truman Capote

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