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Some things that happen on the spur of the moment become lifetime memories


The place was Puerto Rico. It was 1984. The event was the annual meeting of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS). The morning sessions were completed and we had finished lunch. The weather was warm, but not too hot, and the skies were clear. In a casual conversation with Renee, it was decided we should play tennis.

Renee Richards was a renowned pediatric ophthalmologist from New York City and had undergone gender reassignment from her former life as Richard Raskind. She was smart, pleasant, and a fine doctor. She was also an excellent tennis player who had made an early splash on the women’s professional tennis scene ten years earlier.

My tennis game was OK. My best result was to be runner-up in the club championship at the 3.9 level, on a five-point scale. I considered myself no more than a 3.5 at best. I was no match for a player like Renee, so I decided the best plan was to arrange a doubles match. I would find the two best players I knew in the group and they would compete against Renee and me. That would mean our team would have the best and the weakest player and our opponents would be at least close to Renee’s skill level.

I chose two members both named John. One was a mercurial African American who had played college tennis and the other John was a top-flight amateur originally from South Africa who later became the Canadian National doubles champion in the 65 and over class.

There was a small set of wooden bleachers courtside. As we began to play, I noticed that several curious onlookers were watching. The match soon settled into a pattern. Aware of the relative skill of their opponents, the two Johns avoided hitting the ball to Renee, instead directing every ball they could at me. This strategy wasn’t 100 percent successful because our opponents gave up what would ordinarily be an effective shot in Renee’s court to guide a weaker, less strategic one in my direction. I couldn’t keep track but I feel like I received nearly 90 percent of the ground strokes.

In the first two sets we played, Renee won all of her serves. I don’t remember what my tally was, but I served well enough for us to come out on top with a close 6/4, 6/4 win. At the end of the two sets, I sensed a keen disappointment in one of our opponents, the mercurial John. I suggested we play a third consolation set. Having already won the real match, Renee and I backed off a bit and the two Johns won easily. By the time we finished, a few more people were in the stands, including my wife.

The afternoon was good fun and provided me a fond memory of Puerto Rico, AAPOS, and good friends.

By Savvy Senior

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2 thoughts on “Tennis with Renee

  1. I don’t pretend to know much about tennis, but I do enjoy watching a good game when I have the chance. Once, I took a class to learn more about the game which resulted in causing an injury to my right foot. I’ll spare you the details. By the time I recovered enough to walk and run normally, I lost my desire to be a tennis professional or even a bad amateur. Great story, keep them coming.
    Joe

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