THIS week I have been playing the best tennis of my life. To be honest, I have been playing the only tennis of my life.
I have been unbeatable, even though I was playing as a girl. It was not on grass or clay. It was on a Wii video game in Donegal.
I am sure purists will insist I have not experienced the real deal but it’s been raining. Besides, I don’t particularly like tennis but Wimbledon fortnight has been on and I thought I should make some kind of effort.
The Wii belongs to my grandsons in Ireland. We bought them it for Christmas but I had never seen it in operation.
For those who don’t know this is a virtual gaming machine with an unfortunate name where you stand in front of a TV screen holding a hand control and pretend to hit a ball. Your contortions are interpreted electronically. According to your skill and effort the ball is smashed by your on-screen persona (or avatar) over the net.
Seven-year-old Lorcan set it up for me and left me alone. I didn’t go straight to tennis. I considered my options as I didn’t want to show myself up and chose golf as my game of initiation.
This is another sport for which I hold no passion. In fact, my apathy for it lifts only during the Ryder Cup. But it is a solitary game and I would be out on the links alone with no-one watching my endeavours. So I played a few holes as a beginner to settle my hand-eye co-ordination.
Sadly, my heart was not in it. I felt self-conscious actually swinging my arms as if I had a club in my hands in an empty living room. Besides, I wasn’t very good. So I moved on to ten pin bowling and was surprisingly excellent.
I was quite chuffed until I worked out that anyone over the age of four could consistently get top marks because the game was so easy.
Then, finally, tennis.
For this, you need a body double – an avatar. I chose a pert blonde called Dolly. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was the rebel in me. An acknowledgement that what I was doing was daft. Perhaps this was the closest I would ever get to Maria Sharapova.
I worked out the controls and, rather self-consciously, took my first serve. Well, there were three other girls on screen as well, watching me. Nobody had warned me it was a doubles match.
But the avatars gazed in amazement as I dominated from start to finish, even as a novice. Before I knew it I had literally got into the swing and was sending rocket serves and powerful backhands across the net with all my power as I danced about the room. I was building up a sweat. It was more exercise than I had undertaken in years.
Then I began to worry in case I had a heart attack. What if I was taken off to hospital on a stretcher by the Irish ambulance service?
“I was pretending to be a girl called Dolly. She’s blonde.”
Even in Ireland they might have thought that was odd, especially as I look nothing like Maria Sharapova.
I also began to feel guilty at using my manly strength against girl opponents and eased up which was when I discovered that a simple lazy flick of the wrist produced the same effect as an overhead smash from over by the book case. The skill factor was negligible. The effort had been wasted.
Perhaps it’s different if you are in competition with a real person, even in a virtual reality game. Perhaps then skill and effort do matter, but not as a solo performer.
Anyway, it had stopped raining so I went into the back garden with the boys to play football. When it comes down to it, I prefer a reality game with real people.