Tuesday, September 7, 2010

As the ball bounces

"I still like the feeling of the ball off my strings.
I just don't like the feeling of my body on the pavement."

I woke up the other day to an interview on NPR.

Through a haze, I heard the interviewer ask his guest whether he still plays tennis. Answer: His wife occasionally talks him into going out and hitting the ball.

"So you have Steffi Graff for a sparring partner," the interviewer, Steve Inskeep, said.

Oh, it's Andre Aggassi, I realized, waking up a little more. The next thing Agassi said made me laugh (and actually got me out of bed).

It's the quote above, which I'll repeat, because I like it and identify with it so much:

"I still like the feeling of the ball off my strings. I just don't like the feeling of my body on the pavement."

Inskeep was interviewing the tennis star and two-time U.S. Open Champion in connection with the Open, which is taking place now. Agassi, who retired in 2006, was there signing the newly-released paperback edition of his autobiography, "Open."

Having recently been very fall-prone, I so identified with that quote. Even before my most recent spate of balance problems and resulting falls, I'd fallen on the court because I couldn't keep away even though I probably shouldn't have been hitting.

My most "famous" one occurred a few days before I was due to return to the hospital for another round of chemotherapy during my first bout with leukemia. I had been back home gaining strength, and the day before re-admission, I played doubles.

I was aware of the Hickman tucked into my sports bra, so I tried hard not to do anything stupid that might cause me to fall and somehow damage the catheter. One of my opponents (no naming names, and it wasn't his fault) hit a shot just out of my reach, and I lunged for it...and felt myself beginning to fall. I fought the fall (never do that...gotta roll with it) and fell hard on my shoulder.

It hurt like hell. They got me ice and took me to the hospital, where a commotion ensued around me because I wore a mask and gloves and was bald and probably didn't look so great. It turned out I had no broken bones, but my shoulder was separated. They gave me a sling and said it would heal.

Once I was admitted to Brigham and Women's, my doctor shook his head at me. As it turned out, my shoulder hurt more than anything they did to me. For a permanent reminder, a piece of bone juts out from my right shoulder. I can move to make it come and go, which I have sometimes done to make Katie squeal. (Mean Mom.)

In any case, I love that quote from Agassi.

I sure hate the feeling of my body on the pavement.

And it sure feels great to feel the ball off my strings.

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