Thought Experiment: In Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral,” the narrator tries to describe a Gothic Cathedral to a blind man. Inspired by Carver’s story, I try to describe the tennis game of Carlos Alcaraz to a blind man.
The US Open was on television. The commentators went on and on: “Oh, Stop it,” “Oh, No Way,” “Oh, My God,” “Oh, My Word,” “Oh, Come on,” “Oh, Amazing!”* A blind man sat next to me at the crowded bar. He asked me to describe Carlos Alcaraz. He had watched Rod Laver win his second grand slam in 1969. He was sorry he could no longer see. I motioned to the bartender. “Another vodka and tonic,” I said. “And another whiskey for my friend.” Imagine Rod Laver reincarnated two or three times, his tennis game progressing for half a century of technological developments, unimaginable athleticism. Imagine Laver’s topspin passing shots. Add another 30-40 mph, another 2,000 rpm. Everyone gasps as Alcaraz runs wide for a forehand, “steps on an accelerator that no one else has, leaves a vapor trail behind him (Jim Courier).” Suddenly he torques a winner crosscourt at 111 mph. First his movement, then the movement of the ball he strikes. Two shooting stars, a comet. The longer points he plays like a ride on a roller coaster: speed, thrills, shouts, screams. We close our eyes together, listen to the crowd. Fireworks from everywhere on the court: topspin lobs, angled volleys, drop shots, kick serves, half volleys . . . Irrepressible joy. Fearless risk-taking. The commentators went on and on: “Sublime,” “Exquisite,” “Oh, My Word,” “Oh, My God.” “Hyperbole,” the blind man says. “Hyperbole.”
*All these phrases taken directly from commentator’s reactions to the tennis game of Alcaraz. To see and hear some of them, check out the following video from Big 3 Tennis: Carlos Alcaraz Highlights.
Artist Bio: The artwork of Carlos Alcaraz is by the digital artist, Sam Brannan, from St. Petersburg, Russia. Sam’s beautiful digital artwork on tennis players can be seen on Instagram. You can also follow him and get access to all his digital art on Patreon.
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