After two months away from the courts due to holidays, you just received a phone call from the coach of your local club. The time has come to find some yellow balls bits in the pockets of your shorts, feel the felt, reunite with your tennis mates and spend hours training at the gym. You know it's autumn when...
...Your coach calls you to find out if you're coming back this year: in fact, no one saw you at the clubhouse this summer.
...Your club asks you to come to the local clubs fair to work on the stand and take registrations. Your only volunteering work of the year.
...Your coach also asks you if you're going to go up this year. If you don't, you're going to start with three weeks at the gym.
... For the first practice, you don't touch the racquet. You run around the courts, interval and core training. You understand the true meaning of pain.
...You miss the post-beach drinks and the summer barbecues.
... After watching the final of the US Open, you're excited to start your first training session. Two hours later, washed out, you realise that you will have to work even harder than you thought at the gym.
...The world is split into two categories: those who continued to play during the holidays, and those who didn't.
... You honestly thought that playing beach volley in July and August would be enough to maintain your fitness?
...There's always a guy coming back from a summer internship at a prestigious academy. Everyone gather around him to listen to his exploits, but once on the court, his progress is not that obvious.
...You prepare your tennis bag like a schoolboy prepares his backpack for September.
... Except that you only start a day ahead and realise that you have completely forgot to put new strings on your racquet.
...You also forgot some sweaty socks that are now mouldy next to a long forgotten can on the bottom of your bag.
...You try to take full advantage of the last sunny days of the year by playing on the outdoor clay courts of your club.
...You throw your last hopes in the final tournament of the season hoping to get a few more points for your ranking.
...But this year you played poorly, you went down in the rankings and you won't be able to be in the same group than your mates.
...Like at the US Open, you will have your night sessions: workouts from 8 to 10pm on Mondays and Fridays in some indoor courts near your house.
...Like at Flushing Meadows, the courts of your club are very loud: not because of the public, but because of the 40 kids on the courts next to yours.
... You look, nonchalantly, to the new kids, trying to guess if one of them may challenge you for the unofficial title of best player of the club.
...The first hour of training is only approximations, bad services and backhands that fly to the tarps. You wonder how two months of inactivity can waste years of trainings.
...You take your 23rd LTA membership. At the time, it was 5 pounds. Now it's 25 pounds.
...However, your ranking hasn't changed and your new training partners are 13. You feel old. So old.
...Just like Roger, you come back for one more.