……. And so the boxer continued down the path, knocking out everyone that crossed him. Thinking he was invincible, he started yelling for all to hear; ‘I’m the Biggest and Baddest!’ ‘I’m the Roughest and Toughest”! ‘I’m a Boxer and none dare challenge me!’ He continued on his journey and kept knocking out everyone that stood in his way; he knocked out thin baseball players, tall basketball players, he had a little trouble with the big, strong and tough football player, but he wasn’t skilled in this form of competition so eventually he took him out too, and after a time the people grew wise and stayed shuttered in their homes, he thought he would go on this way forever and rule all he surveyed until finally, around a bend in the path, behind a dense stand of willow trees he came upon a Scrawny Little Tennis Player. Now the Scrawny Little Tennis Player barred his path and declared that he alone would defeat the Big Bad Boxer and free the land!
All lithe, long limbed and sinewy was the Scrawny Little Tennis Player and the Big Bad Boxer thought to himself, ‘Bah! This will be easy! What a waste of time!‘ and with that he lazily swung his arm thinking to swat away the Scrawny Little Tennis Player and be rid of the annoyance quickly and continue on his way, but the Scrawny Little Tennis Player was too quick and easily sidestepped the attempt and sent it back at the Big Bad Boxer, staggering him. The Big Bad Boxer, incredulous now that such a little creature would dare strike back, attempted to crush the Scrawny Little Tennis Player with another much more powerful blow, but again the Scrawny Little Tennis Player was far too nimble and easily moved this time the other way and sent the blow back again with even greater force.
By now, the Big Bad Boxer was beside himself with anger, but he was no dumb oaf, and started to understand what he was up against, the familiar feeling of being in an even contest came over him and strategy began to form in his mind. ‘Rushing in isn’t working’ he thought to himself’ maybe I should stay back and let him come to me, then when he reaches, I can take a quarter step to my right and catch him with a ….. ‘WAIT A MINUTE’ WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!?!’ the Big Bad Boxer exclaimed, he stopped then, looked at the Scrawny Little Tennis Player and asked ‘I’m bigger then you! I’m stronger then you! How can you thwart me!?’ The Scrawny Little Tennis Player was hopping around now, side to side in anticipation of another shot and without stopping looked the Big Bad Boxer right in the eye and said ‘Its easy!’ I’m just like YOU!’
Ok, lame ass parable’s aside, if you’re a fan of combat sports you should love tennis. Seriously! Yes, THAT tennis, the white wine and brie (and strawberries) sport of crusty white men with too short (and tight) shorts running around with wooden racquets and bad haircuts batting a little yellow ball back and forth (I’m being a little facetious, but only a little, tennis had its bad boy revolution, but there are still a lot of sports fans that think of it this way, trust me) Yes, that tennis, the affluent elitist sport, part of country clubs and weeklong resort vacations on exotic coasts; not exactly the avenue of the poor and disenfranchised, using one of the very few roadmaps to success in our Plutocracy disguised as Democracy that boxing is.
But I don’t speak to the socioeconomic backdrop of the these respective sports today though, no, only the fundamental essence of them.
All the fundamental elements that exist in battle sports like MMA and World Class Boxing are present in Tennis, umm…but without the possibility of death…moving on.
For starters, its one on one; the same principles are the foundation for each sport; power, speed, intelligence, strategy, technique, agility, stamina, wrapped up in an exchange of blows. They are a battle of will and adjustment, often it’s a match of power vs. speed and finesse, think Nadal v. Federer the classic boxer vs. the puncher; Nadal with his relentless body work as Federer glides around the Ring (court) using guile and perfect form to counter and parry. Djockovic, the all around fighter, the all angle fighter — think a prime Pacquiao. The Knockout exist in both sports, in tennis its more of a figurative knockout to boxing’s literal one. The advantage of tennis is that cumulative head trauma is avoided, which has to be considered a plus, but for a long time the relative length of careers was surprisingly similar; by 30 most tennis players and boxers are considered past their prime and if not done, limping to the finish line; tennis has inched ahead in this regard but only slightly, as Hopkins fought till almost 50 and Pacquiao fights tonight as a matter of fact, at months from 40.
Matchups of the knockout puncher (Tyson-the boxer-Sampras or contemporaneously think Isner or Del Porto the tennis players) against the body puncher in Agassi (if your a millennial, think Djockovic and Nadal) are some of the most dramatic and exciting sporting events in modern history. The body serves standing in for the body punch and the relentless groundstrokes softening the resolve (and legs) of an opponent. The Nadal-Djokovic match in the semi’s of Wimbledon today, an elite heavyweight battle.
Picking your spots to apply pressure, knowing when to rest, lean on the ropes, take a few points off, and when to go for the knockout as Nadal did today against Djockovic; amping it up to set up his serving for the match, a little tweak in intensity similar to Sugar Ray vs. Hearns all those years ago, Djokovic staggering for a bit before adjusting then gathering himself to fight back and eventually win a close decision unlike Hearns who simply, eventually, wilted.
Extreme grace is apparent in both, nobody moves with the effortless ease of Roger Federer or the machine-like precision of Borg or Djokovic, except maybe a young Cassius Clay or Sugar Ray Robinson or Sugar Ray Leonard or the relentless one, Julio Cesar Chaves, gliding around the playing surface, jabbing, slicing, weakening. The stark difference, clearly is the literal risk of life, as it exists in the literalcombat sports, a twisted ankle or blown knee obviously can not compare, but again, I simply speak to the spirit of the two sports, there are times when even the greatest must grind, must find a reservoir to get through a rough fight, through exhaustion and the others will.
There’s a moment that exists in both sports, when you feel your opponent weaken, a bit of give, you feel their resolve wane, their spirit doubt and that’s when you know you’ve got em!
….And the beautiful princess fell in love with the Scrawny, Little Tennis Player and they lived happily ever after.