Aug 17, 2005

Footprints along the baseline

Behind the restaurant overlooking the town’s artificial lake, there are two clay tennis courts. These belong to the Ifrane Tennis Club. The club is open from May until October. It costs 300 D to join and you need two photographs of yourself and a birth certificate.

All this week there’s been a tournament. The first player to win 9 games wins the match. There were perhaps 20 players. A friend drew me into it. My first round opponent defaulted. In the second round I was matched with a boy in his late teens or early 20s who had only been playing for six months and should have won, and even went ahead 7 games to 4 at one point, I nearly double faulted the match away, but eventually I prevailed. In the third round I didn’t win a game and again double faulted the match away.

They have a strange practice at the club. They brush the courts and carefully sweep the lines and then they water the court. There are several ways to care for clay courts, but the customary way is to soak them in the morning and at night and then you brush the courts before every match. Or, as they do on baseball diamonds, you might lightly sprinkle the base paths after they’ve been swept, although I always thought you wet the ground first, then sweep it. In any case, here they do the brushing and then they heavily water the courts so that every match begins in mud and the court scared with hose marks and mounds. And of course all the lines are hidden.

My last opponent, Driss, has been attending college in America, in Virginia. He described himself as Moroccan American and when we talked about this odd practice of wetting the courts, he said, well this is the Moroccan way. It’s always been done this way. The logic is unimportant. The important thing is to do things the way they’ve always been done. So this is one reason things don’t change much here. But for them, there’s great security in doing it the old way, great security in how it’s always been.

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