Jul 15, 2008

At the Moffet courts, he is the court pro, as it were. There is no official pro. The people who come there every day, the old guard, these old Chinese men and Cullen, who cut and dink and play every point as though it's their last, they don't like him because he seems haughty, because he can humiliate you and after he hits a winner he claps for himself.

He was awaiting a student and motioned to me to come on the court. He is slender, Vietnamese, in his 50s, perhaps. I couldn't say. He wore a white baseball cap and old-fashioned white tennis trousers.

He moves very well back and forth along the baseline and hits the way players did in the 1950s, the likes of Tony Trabert and Pancho Conzales and Hoad and Rosewall. He's from that time. He comes from the old Vietnam I expect. I'll bet you he grew up on a large plantation. He hits a backhand with one arm, not two. He drops the head of his racquet on his forehand but without much topspin. The comes low and hard. You have to be on your back foot to get a good return.

He works the angles as you would expect but never comes to the net. Whenever he hits a shot he grunts and many times yells out, "yea." And so whether you are rallying with him or playing against him every shot feels like a put away. When he hits a winner, he claps for himself, his hand against the strings. We rallied for a few minutes and then he said, in a high voice, nearly a scream, "You want to play." It was not as a question.

We began.

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