One day that I will probably never forget is the day that I had to play Jonathan Walker. He was easily the best table tennis player in our school and he had even been offered to play on the National Junior team. I remember the match as if it was yesterday.
It was the time of year when competition smelled thick in the air and everyone was excited about Inter-House Sports. I was particularly involved in Tennis and Chess but I was really excited about Table Tennis as I had been named Vice-Captain.
It was a grueling school day that had ended with an arduous 120-minute Chemistry practical. The school bell that rang was like sweet music to my ears and the only thought that whisked through my mind was that of going home and sleeping in my big, comfortable bed. Just then, I remembered that the Table Tennis contest between Team C and Team D which also incidentally the finals, was at 4:00 p.m. I sluggishly changed into the clothes that I had in my locker and headed for the Games Room. I was very tired and hoped that I would have an easy opponent. However, this was not to be my lucky day. The captain of our team, Jason, was sick so I had to play the opposing captain, namely, Jonathan. Panic and doom were those thoughts that dominated my mind when I was told this.
However, I was always an optimist and tried to convince myself that I could defeat him (Yeah right!). We approached the table and shook hands. In the few initial minutes, we warmed up, just casually rallying the ball around, but even then he was playing better tennis than I ever had. The coach then blew his whistle which concluded the warm up and signaled the commencement of the match. At this point in time, I tried to swallow all the fear and anxiety that I had and to face my opponent valiantly and courageously. The match began and before I had fully realized, he had won the first game 21-05. He had won it with the utmost ease, returning even my best shots without any struggles or even remote difficulty. I tried not to feel discouraged, saying to myself that he still had two more games to win and that I would not give in without a fight.
The second game was closer but I was still not able to break his rigid backspin defense that he used against all my good serves. I realized here that the key here to me winning the game was to use my brain and not just my table-tennis skills. I started to experiment with a variety of serves until I found one that gave him great difficulty to return. It was a rather simple serve which one would not expect to find in a match of this caliber. I learned at that point in time that sometimes simple things could be better solutions to a problem than complex ones could ever be. I lost the second game 21-17 but was confident now that I had a good chance of defeating this adversary of mine.
Jonathan made a critical mistake in the third game that I believe worked to my advantage. He became over-confident and therefore careless, giving me easy points and hence ‘keeping’ me in the match. The game went to a tie-break. I was tired but somehow I found the strength to play on and won the game 28-26.
With this win, I became even more confident and aggressive in my game-play which I believe intimidated Jonathan and though he tried to discourage me by using his fancy serves to get the crowd on his side, I won the fourth game 21-18.
Jonathan was furious that he had let me win two games and was determined to crush and humiliate me in front of the crowd. He used all his lethal shots against me and I was also becoming worn out. I tried to keep up with him but his better style of playing kept the crowd on his side. The score was now 19-17 in his favor. Here, there was a long rally, gruesomely long, where it was ‘loop’ vs. ‘loop’, ‘chop’ vs. ‘chop’ and ‘smash’ vs. ‘smash’. I realized that whoever won this point, would have psychologically won the match. The point lasted for about 35 seconds but seemed like years. Beads of sweat were trickling down my forehead and I could taste the salty liquid in my mouth but I was determined to win. When his smash somehow found my racket and the ball returned to his side of the table hitting the edge on its way out, I realized that I had won the point. I won the next two points with relative ease and this brought me to match point. I was dizzy from extreme exhaustion, felt great apprehension about what I hoped to be the last point and could hear the crowd in the background cheering for me now. However, Jonathan was as energetic as ever and had not even had a mild sweat. I did not let this discourage me, however, and I gathered all my remaining strength for the task at hand. I served the ball low and it harmlessly hit the net. I had just wasted perhaps the best opportunity for victory and now it was deuce. I was angry with my self for being o careless and made a fatal mistake. I focused on the point that I had lost instead of the points that were ahead of me and by loosing the next two points, I not only lost the game, but the match as well and perhaps the greatest victory of my table tennis career.
A sense of victory did not permeate the air around me and instead of congratulations, I received phrases like, “Better luck next time.” I went home sad and depressed, focusing on my loss. However, at that split second, I realized that this is what had made me lose the match. I learned there that one cannot be perfect and that one cannot always win, but that one must learn to deal with his failures and to learn form them. After all, those who do not learn form history are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes, we gain more from defeat than from victory!
That day was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life, not because I won but because I lost. I learned some invaluable lessons and sincerely believe that I had gained more through defeat than I would have ever gained through victory. The knowledge that I gained there helped me in future situations and I believe that this particular experience has helped me in my process of maturing as a person. I finally learned what the phrase ‘learning from your mistakes’ really meant.
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