I was twelve! My parents were club players who did not encourage me or my brothers to try the game at all, but I wanted to play the game "like Dad" more than anything. When I told my mother this at age 10, she said, "You'll never be as good as your father, so why bother?"
Yeah, REAL nice. No "Special Snowflake" childhood for me.
But I'm glad. I took-up the game on summer breaks, showed quick talent for it and had natural athleticism, and by age 15 I was able to enter a club tournament where I met my Dad in the second round and beat him in three sets. AWKWARD but wonderful! He categorically refused to play tennis with me again.
I left home at 17 and took tennis with me as a lifetime sport, through college studies (that I paid-for, THANKS MOM & DAD
), business interactions, club line-ups, and basic "weekend warrior" fights at local parks -- (if you're ever in a town that doesn't have at least ONE public tennis court, you're in the wrong
I joined the USTA in Northern California in the late 1990s as a 4.5 player and was undefeated in my league for the first season ... until the very last match
when I faced the only other guy in the region who was undefeated ... both of us 13-0 for the season, and he beat me 6-4 6-2. I was a big hitter with good movement ... he was a pusher who ran like Michael Chang (and looked like him). Bummer.
But I beat him two weeks later to win my first USTA club event and was bumped up to 5.0.
I won one more regional tournament as a 5.0 player and reached two additional finals before my shoulder went off the boil with chronic tendinitis. I rehabbed it and went back to tennis and won a few more local events and loved my league matches.
Tennis has given me some of the best memories of my life, and it has enabled me to meet some of the nicest people in the world -- friends for life, whether playing competitive matches or late-night doubles get-togethers with lovely people. I value the sport and what it has given to me.
Best Tennis Memory Ever: Meeting a slightly overweight girl who loved tennis but never thought she could play the game, and spending a whole summer teaching her how to really play, and seeing the look on her face when she beat another, SKINNY BLONDE girl in a local tournament. She still plays the game and loves it.
That was worth more to me than winning a couple of local USTA events or league honors.
And all because, at age 10, my own mother said I should never bother to take up the sport.
Tennis is the best and "tennis people" are (usually) the best