Looking to play college tennis
  | By Tonny van de Pieterman

While going through some personal issues, I was advised to make a gratitude list. It was suggested that making this list is good therapeutic advice for anyone struggling with the challenges of life or for anyone feeling sorry for themselves. Certainly, it is easy to envision people that are much worse off or to think of some crucial aspects of life that we often take for granted from time to time. So after jotting down some of the obvious ones, my health, my friends and family, my fun job … I wrote down, without thinking, that I am grateful for being left-handed … but that was a lie!

My whole life, I hated being left-handed. It is not because of the “scissor problem,” and it is not because my hand moves over fresh ink while writing. I am not one of those artistic lefties that uses a claw grip while holding a pen, I actually have neat handwriting. Perhaps it was my grandmother, (“oma” in German), telling me how the nuns at her school repeatedly hit her hand with a ruler when her lefty gene showed itself. Perhaps it was my right-handed opponents, tennis pros and teachers, constantly reminding me of the great advantage I was blessed with as a left-handed athlete. Like I needed that extra pressure. But it was none of those reasons. I hated being left-handed because I loved tennis and I thought lefties were ‘ugly’ tennis players.

I grew up watching players like Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Anders Gomez, Henri Leconte, and Karsten Braasch. Their ground strokes were crooked, their arms seemed to bend awkwardly and their overall style was just weird to me. Oddly perhaps, my favorite player of all time was Jimmy Connors, a lefty. However, I reasoned that away by pointing out how straight his arms were on both of his groundstrokes, and that his appeal to me was his fighting spirit and showmanship.

My issue with being left-handed went so far that I hated being filmed or photographed on the tennis court, and if I was playing outside in the latter part of a beautiful day, I would avoid looking at my own shadow at all cost.
But then one day I had my personal epiphany. I went to watch a junior player in a tournament match, and somehow, saw a player in the reflection of a window. Wow, beautiful strokes, great style, I remember thinking.

When I turned my head to see the player in action, I was stunned to see he was a lefty. I had to do a double-take. I still cannot suppress a smile when I think about the incident. I called this player a beautiful stylish player when I saw him in the mirror, thus as a righty, but he was really a lefty! Like me! It was very healing for me.
I am thankful for being left-handed and that’s no lie.

My mantra: Lefties are in their right mind, and at least in the mirror, our strokes look great!

Tonny van de Pieterman

Tonny van de Pieterman is a tennis professional at Point Set Indoor Racquet Club in Oceanside, N.Y.. He was recently named USTA Tennis Professional of the Year for the USTA/Eastern-Long Island Region and helped the Eastern Section win this year’s Talbert Cup. He may be reached by phone at (516) 536-2323 or e-mail Tonny@PointSetTennis.com.