Tennis a number

Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi.

Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi.

TENNIS! Tennis a number!

Okay, I’ll see myself off.

No, seriously. I have played badminton before, so I thought this sport, which had, for an amazingly uncomfortable amount of time, fallen under my radar, was going to be an easily acclimated enjoyment. I would understand the sport quickly, and then, at the end, find myself enjoying it to an insane level, of the likes diving, or lawn bowl, would never achieve.

The first events had finished before I and my supervisor arrived, but I was looking forward to the games AFTER the initial ones. It would have meant that the more professional, or at least more enduring, players would be taking their fight to the court. I expected a battlefield of the likes that even badminton player Lee Chong Wei would endorse and go ‘walao, what a crowd’… Does he even use ‘walao’?

Well, let’s just say the venues weren’t considering ‘spectators’.

I mean, is Sukma really that small? I would’ve come to believe it would have been equal to a South East Asian Olympics by now- I mean, the people here who would go on to win the entire thing can become national representatives!- but the turnout was hilariously low, from what I have seen, and the audience seemed to trickle away and back like a dripping tap that can never really be turned off.

In any case, the crowd was at least the liveliest of the three events I have seen. There were people chanting their little oaths for their teams, which was charming and cute, but I came in there without anyone to support. I was someone in a world of awkwardly fun cultists.

The tennis match was confusing in some way or another. (I mean, this is my first time spectating tennis, so what do you expect?) Who were the players? If you didn’t know what court number the court you are watching was, you didn’t know who was playing. If you didn’t look out for which team represented which country, you got lost in telling yourself who to support. The first match I watched at Court 8 had both teams wearing pink! BOTH! PINK!

Who was who? Sabah was easily identifiable in the next matches, because they literally had the word ‘SABAH’ imprinted on their uniforms. So where’s Sarawak? Well, if you squint your eyes really, really tight, you can spot that little Sarawak flag on their chests. I literally had to change sides when I realised the people I had been supporting had, all along, been kicking my home state’s behinds on the field.

And how was the scoring? Well, if you smack the ball far, and the opponents miss, then you score, right? Well, sometimes they scored if they hit it to the side, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, if they hit it dead center through the court, they’d get a point, or the other team gets a point from a foul.

My mind literally exploded when I realised, in the fourth set of games, Sarawak had lost a point that even the audience thought was theirs, and it looked to be their point anyway. They hit the ball to the other side past their opponents- they should have gotten something. 

So, at first, seeing how I had little to no identification of who was playing, I lost interest. If I supported one team, I’d accuse myself of being blind with my support. So, for a few hours, nothing much happened.

I glanced a few times to see the usual success, or the mind-numbingly redundant mistakes the players seemed to continue repeating.

STOP HITTING THE NET! SHOW MY EXPECTATIONS SOMETHING WORTH WATCHING!

Okay, that sounded really mean, but, being a person who would expect these people to have been trained by professionals for this momentous event, I wanted to see better.

When the ‘Sarawak vs Somebody’ events came along to Court 8- the closest, mind you- the games started becoming heated. I started turning back to watch what was happening. At first, I blindly looked at Sabah, whose Mixed Gender team had a humorously active boy being all ‘King of the World’ whenever Sabah scored. The other team? Who were they? White shirts? Uh… Antarctica?

Again, I have to repeat, ‘Well, if you squint your eyes really, really tight, you can spot that little Sarawak flag on their chests’. And how humiliating it was to hear people chanting for Sabah when they scored, while Sarawak’s equivalent was complete dead silence. They literally died out there, and I felt heartbroken to see them literally suffer under both the heat and lack of encouragement. Now that I think of it, all the teams out there at one point seemed like they were dying. It looked horrible.

I never went on to finish the other Sarawak match, but by the looks of it, they had more support and a better chance, with the unfortunate circumstance that nobody had a ‘Sarawak Bagus’ chant going around anywhere.

I guess you can say this was the same thing I felt with the diving events. What was happening? Who was who? Why did something so worthy of points lose the score?

It was an initial sort of thing, where the investment slowly sets in. I don’t even know the players or the teams, but the simple idea of putting imaginary bets on one team kept me invested through parts of the match. I felt disappointment, anger and genuine excitement when the team I was putting my support on scored. I also felt boredom, confusion, a sense of loss over who was who, where was where, what meant what… but overall I was satisfied.

You know what… maybe I should start playing badminton again. Now where’s my racquet?

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