'Late to the Ball' by Gerald Marzorati
Updated: Feb 13
Around the age of fifty-four, Gerald Marzorati, the longtime editor of New York Times Magazine, decided to learn a sport. A difficult sport to challenge him, to test his physical and mental abilities as well as his determination without repeating his “play history” from his youth. He found such a sport. Tennis.
He says in his book: “Tennis, I believed, is the most difficult sport there is to master, requiring speed and endurance and hand-eye coordination and psychological toughness…to play tennis well, more than the body is involved. There is strategy and judgment. I would need to acquire skills, and that would require practice – which would require self-motivation. And the skills involved in learning to play tennis would require precise perceptual mastery…and exacting coordination among multiple muscles …The muscle that is my brain would have to grow in new ways.” In short, tennis would keep more than just the body in shape.
Gerald has started his tennis introduction with a great deal of concentrated physical activity. While a lot of people of Gerald’s age have not kept their body in the best condition, he began to train for hours, to play matches for hours more, and for two years he worked out in the gym on weekday mornings following his own routine. Then he added interval training twice a week and working out at weight machine stations. He performed daily yoga stretches for ten to fifteen minutes and became a flexitarian – no red meat; grains, greens, beans, eating only one serving a day of chicken, fish, or eggs.
The result? A most admirable waist size of 30 inches, the same as when he was a young college graduate. A special test put him at a “biological” age of forty-six. Compared to a large number of his contemporaries, he has had no health conditions preventing him from being active. To improve further his tennis game, he attended a tennis camp at Green Valley Spa in St. George, Utah and at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.
Although Gerald does not feel yet that he belongs when he plays in the seniors tournaments, he is well on the way to master all the necessary elements. He is in great physical condition and he has a positive attitude while taking an honest look at his technical shortcomings. He knows what to do – take lessons, work on technique, footwork and fitness, and he practices – not just games but drills, serves, and shot placements. Having mastered each element, all that is left is putting it all together – the stroke technique, footwork, and the tactics.
Gerald will belong too. Some day. Maybe even some day soon.
Gerald introduces works by writers who were fascinated by tennis and all its complexities like David Foster Wallace. There are remarks about best tennis players but also a certain wistfulness about passing time and talk about people Gerald has known. The book is very philosophical and all-encompassing, yet personal.
Read his book. And then, don’t delay. Start at any AGE. LEARN to PLAY TENNIS. Then FIGHT to WIN and LOVE to PLAY. Or just…enjoy the game!