I watch Justine in slow motion, the transfer of weight from back to front foot, the coiling uncoiling of the legs the hips the shoulders the core. (Is it true she did a thousand sit ups a day?) Justine’s one-handed backhand, “the most beautiful shot in tennis” (John McEnroe). If all life could be as anticipated yet unexpected. If all life could be so powerful yet loose, free flowing. If we could somehow record all the spectators’ sighs in the world’s stadiums the moment after. If we could record all these sighs, apply the Zen of John Cage, the minimalism of Steve Reich, the ensuing music would be as sacred as Palestrina’s a cappella masses, as mysterious as the sound of whales.
Discarded lines, Detritus:
1. When a woman slaps a man, she does not slap him with the back of her hand. The backhanded swing lacks power, is unnatural to the human form.
2. “Pound for pound, Justine the best player of her generation” (Billie Jean King).
3. I never saw Justine’s backhand live, but I remember sighs from 2,000 spectators after every Gasquet one-hander waved its baton to an orchestra of fans on an intimate US Open court.
Currently a Professor of Humanities, David Linebarger’s publications include poetry, creative nonfiction, and scholarship in over thirty journals as well as two short books of poetry. His current book project is entitled Tennis Players as Works of Art.
Read more of David’s work at Tennis Players as Works of Art.
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