I remember it well.
I was in college when lawn tennis was the rage. My tennis buddies and I played on the courts of the university and these were called shell courts. My heroes were Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert – which says a lot about my age now. Anyway, I had thought that tennis would be the last sport I would play till my twilight years. (Young readers, be informed that I am not talking about vampires and werewolves when I mention “twilight.”)
This changed when my uncle invited me to play badminton with him and his friends. The site was an open-air basketball court near our house. They had drawn the lines on the pavement using chalk. The net was strung between two wooden posts with counterweights placed at both ends of the net’s strings. Mercifully, the wind was almost at a standstill. Everything was set.
This is going to be easy, I thought. I’ll just employ my tennis serve/smash since the strokes are basically the same. This will be a piece of cake.
It was pure hell.
The ball… or should I say, the shuttlecock flew in a trajectory that was unfamiliar to me. The feel, weight and balance of the badminton racket were also a major leap from that of my tennis racket. Timing the stroke so that “bat meets ball” was proving to be an epic task. When they hit the shuttle, there was a crisp sounding “thwap!”; my best sound effect was a feeble “toink.” As if these hardships were not enough, my play was also negatively affected by my tennis footwork and backswing. I was accustomed to wait for the ball at the rear half of the court in tennis (that’s where it lands most of the time, you see.) But our opponents “cheated” because they dropped the shuttle just beyond the net.
No fair! Drop shots are also made in tennis but not like this… and not this frequent. Regarding footwork, my step 1-2-3 then hit ground strokes were not working. By the time I had moved my body to within striking distance of the shuttle, it had already passed by me or had already meet the surface.
When I did manage to hit the shuttle with my stiff arm and upper body pivot, all I got was a whimper of a shot; we flick the wrist in tennis usually in topspin strokes but even this is not the same as the badminton wrist flick or snapping action. The only time I got good results was when I was given lob shots (also called clear in badminton.) Since the smash/serve action in tennis is similar to the smash in badminton, I was able to produce some respectable shots. But then, the sitting ducks I was anticipating to smash came less frequently later on.
And of course, there was the wind versus shuttle flight factor. In tennis, the wind normally doesn’t affect the ball’s bounce that much. In badminton, the wind transforms the shuttle into a living thing. Maybe that’s why it is also called a bird? You’d think you got the trajectory of the incoming shuttle right when suddenly it veers off to another flight path. This is when you have human opponents plus an invisible one. It’s amazing and frustrating at the same time. And yet…
I was hooked.
Maybe it was the challenge of hitting volleys over a net with a ball that flies unlike any other. Or maybe it was the workout and profuse sweating that I got after the game that I didn’t get from other sports. Or was it the split-second strategizing while playing the fastest racket sport? Or maybe it was the camaraderie – I got to play with relatives and friends of mixed ages and gender.
One thing’s for sure. That day I got badminton fever, I never was cured.
Which is a good thing, actually.
How was your first time?