Welcome to Tuesday (fight) night!
Updated: Jul 27
It's brutal. A sport which brings out the worst in its competitors.
There's aggression, petty unsportsmanlike conduct, and downright nastiness. These guys just hate losing, and they'll pretty much do anything to win.
Yes, it's a war out there in Tuesday night mens doubles competition in leafy, suburban Melbourne.
That strange combination of men playing sport, pizza and beer, is one that turns normally placid schoolteachers, accountants (and even tennis coaches who should know a whole lot better), into red-faced, crazed, tantrum throwers. Vampirish, halloween-like transformations taking place on courts 1, 3 and 5.
If you closed your eyes (and listened to the crazed antics) you could be mistaken for thinking that these guys were playing for at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars in prizemoney (after travelling half-way round the world). But no, it's for a spot in the final four of section whatever. Maybe the first rule about night tennis is that you ...well you know the rest.
Yet the night starts so serenely. Pleasantries are exchanged, banter at the net, a relaxed warmup that's all smiles and winks. Even the first couple of games you'll hear 'good shot', 'well done', a laugh at a missed volley maybe. But you know it's only a matter of time.
And, inevitably, there it is.
"I can't believe I missed that *^#@?!+#% backhand"
From then on it's doubtful, late line-calls. There's an ignominious, unforced error met with rapturous applause from some half-drunk team-mates. A brilliant winner from the away team? Nothing but cold, icy silence (a bit like the beer). Or the racquet thrown over the fence mid-match that completely breaks the momentum of the opposition team as the assailant trudges around the back of the court to retrieve it.
Ok it's sport, and for middle-aged men, getting rid of all that tension, anger, frustration and resentment with the rest of the world is a whole lot better than a few other vices I can think of. And a recent study did say that playing tennis (for males especially) will add 9.7 years onto your life - and a lot of that has to do with the socialising part.
All I can say is that one of the best things about night tennis is the fact that most of the antics I'm talking about, aren't committed in this kind of court until well after the juniors have finished.
And thankfully, by the end of the night, things have calmed down a bit. After three sets of doubles it's getting pretty late and even the most vociferous of opponents are able to have a chat. Usually it's pizza, beer, footy and tennis-talk.
And the disgraceful behaviour of junior tennis players.