I don't remember where we played. It must have been a public park, with a row of asphalted courts, where a miss-hit ball rolled merrily away. When I had played tennis with other young men, they always made a point of jumping the net or running over several courts to retrieve the errant balls. But Bill didn't! He stood patiently on his side of the net while I retrieved the balls that had gone astray on mine.
My first reaction was annoyance: a gentleman would not expect a young lady to chase balls! But then it suddenly dawned on me that Bill was paying me a compliment; he was treating me as an equal! He thought of me as a worthy opponent in a tennis game, not as a silly female who was only capable of playing patty-cake!
To make a long story short - we got married. That tennis game was the beginning of 60 years of equal teamwork, on and off the tennis court.
The sport has change in my lifetime. The court surfaces are much improved; the rackets are no longer gut-strung wooden weapons; serious players are not expected to appear in spotless white; and balls fly back and forth at incredible speed.
But individuals still face each other across the net as equals, regardless of the country of their origin or the economic status of their parents. The big tournaments are, in a sense, a restatement of what Bill and I found on that public court so many years ago.
I'm only a spectator these days, but tennis is still my sport.
Betty VanNewkirk is the historian for the Frostburg Museum.