Too controversial? Perhaps. After all, I know a handful of fine tennis players who don’t enjoy playing matches. But I would argue that tennis is really about the battle of a match with stakes attached, even if that’s placing third or fourth in the local league.
Certainly you will never get the adrenalin rush, the sheer joy of winning a match knowing that you’ve played well, from social tennis. It’s Coke vs Diet Coke, pizza vs dough balls, Wimbledon vs an LTA Grade 4 comp.
This thought was hammered home after two recent matches where me and my partners (one mixed, one men’s doubles) both played well and won. The thrill we all felt afterwards carried on for hours, helped perhaps by a pub conversation afterwards, while you’ll forget about social tennis within minutes.
It also answers the question of why someone like Andy Murray, who has done everything, won everything (almost), continues to put his reputation and body on the line when rationality says stop. He loves to play. He loves to win. And he knows that matches are different to practice sets, which is why he managed to beat Zverev despite struggling against the likes of Thiem before the tournament started.
I’m no Andy Murray; I don’t have a fiftieth of his talent. But I can blast a forehand when the timing is right. I do serve the occasional ace and put away easy volleys at the net. And sometimes, me and my doubles partners gel in some weird and wonderful way that makes us horrible to play against.
That’s why I’m not fussed about missing a social night, but I’m now counting down the days until I play in my next match. This, as Andy knows, is what tennis is all about.