Corrine Prost

Friendship in Competition

Written by Corinne Prost

Competition is a test of mental strength. There’s the cold sweat, the nervous energy, and above all the thrill of the win. In tennis, you are constantly waging a battle against the chaos of your mind and the match at hand. This is especially the case when I play in singles: I give into my fears, my arms go weak, and my breathing becomes shallow.

I’ve noticed that this nervous energy dissolves when I’m competing with my doubles partner, Katie Bell. When I play matches with Katie, my focus turns away from the mistakes I’ve made to communicating with her and the point at hand. Instead of competing with tense glares and straight faces, we end every point smiling. Even though it’s always fun to beat the other in singles, I like competing more when I’m her doubles partner.

Take our season-opening tournament in Indiana, for instance. All teams had to play three rounds of doubles matches on the first day, and the tournament lasted well past ten o’clock that night. It was grueling. However, the main thing I remember was not how tired I was after playing for so many hours, but how Katie Bell and I competed in every round. Regardless of who we played or how late it got, we went into each point excited and full of energy.

This was true even for our final match. Though we initially had the lead, our opponents—two Russian players with quick serves and overpowering groundstrokes—took advantage of my feeble save to hit an overhead winner. After that, they took the lead in most of the points, leaving Katie and I scrabbling to return their serves or hold our ground at the net. The match became a back and forth struggle for the lead. When we lost the deciding point, both Katie and I were running off such high adrenaline that it didn’t fully register that the match was over.

Ultimately, the game wasn’t about the results. We were more concerned about playing our best tennis and enjoying ourselves while doing so—which rang clear through our communication on the court. Despite the intensity of the game, I couldn’t help but laugh when she would cheer in her Cumbria, England, accent to say something like, “That was brilliant, CP!” or, “Insane shot!”

While I love the thrill of the game, moments like these remind me that the greatest joys in tennis don’t come from victory alone, but from playing alongside others.

Corinne ProstCorinne Prost, ’19, is an American studies major and rhetoric minor. She dreams to one day own a library so extensive that it rivals the one from Beauty and the Beast.

Published in November 2018