I remember the first time I enhanced the size of my racket head. I was playing in a Ladies USTA doubles league and women in their late fifties and early sixties were destroying me. I’ve always been quite good at passing shots from the baseline – I could not understand why I couldn’t get a shot past these seemingly un-athletic, elderly women. Not being particularly observant, it took me a few weeks to understand that these women were playing with rackets the size of small crop circles. This discovery explained not only their amazing net play, but also their ability to send flat, blistering forehands directly at my or my partner’s forehead. When I finally obtained a giant-headed racket of my own, I felt more shame than anything else.
Seeing Roger Federer playing the Wimbledon Final with a larger racket was sort of heartbreaking. Yes, his backhand was more consistent, and yes, he served over twenty aces. But something about it doesn’t feel right. Watching Federer play tennis has always been for me what I would imagine watching Nureyev or Baryshnikov dance would be like for a ballet fan. When I think of beauty, I think of Federer’s one-handed backhand. With my big racket, I raised my USTA ranking and helped my team to our region’s sectional tournament. Not only did I get the biggest racket money could buy, but I began to copy the strategy employed by many of my middle-aged compatriots by inquiring “are you sure?” whenever they made a close call. I finally had to quit playing USTA because I was losing self-respect (and actual respect from people who knew me). So before Roger Federer gets an even bigger racket, I want to reach out and grab his magnificent arm and ask, “are you sure?”