It Doesn’t Add Up

Tennis Anyone?
Tennis Anyone?

It sometimes reminds me of those terrible puzzles that ask “how many triangles/rectangles/squares can you find in this picture?”  The mere thought of them makes me cringe, causing my mind to wander back to the horrors of 10th-grade geometry.  In this case, the shapes in question are rectangles, specifically the boxes that constitute a standard tennis court.  Suffice it to say that there are several, albeit fewer on the rare court without doubles lines.

Tennis is all about lines and angles, both in the structure of the court and in playing strategy.  The baselines, service lines, service boxes, and doubles alleys make up a regulation court.  Players hit the ball cross court or down the line.  They angle serves wide to the left or right of the recipient to make returning the ball more difficult.  Volleys from the net are meant to be crisp, short strokes designed to angle the ball out of the opponent’s reach.  When properly executed, a perfectly arced lob serves as both an offensive and defensive weapon, depending on the circumstance of the shot.

It’s a game that I love and play as often as possible, yet my enthusiasm seems somehow misbegotten.  How can someone who despised geometry be so crazy about tennis?  I never could grasp the concepts of angles, shapes, arcs, and planes.  Or fractals.  What are they, anyway?  Hours of agony trying to understand theorems and then solve problems that were hopelessly beyond my comprehension made for some long days.  Why care about angles and lines that will never have any relevance in real life?

If only I had known.

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