Sweat poured off my face. The sound of each drop hitting the floor resounded in my ears. All the other sounds around me were just meaningless din. I blinked, more sweat rolled off. I tried to pull myself back together again and focus on the game. I looked at my opponent, the smirk on his face cleared my head a bit. I served.
He smashed the ball back, but it went over the table. The score moved to 4-10. It was his turn now. He went for a fancy serve to finish the match, but only found the net. Two consecutive points. I presently realized I’d been holding my breath for quite sometime. He served again, went for the same serve, and found the net again.
I breathed more freely. I’d scored three on the trot, and he was still unperturbed. I’d lost the previous game at 11-2, and was still reeling from the shock. But I’m nothing if not a fighter. I looked at him, the grin on his face unchanged. I decided then that I wasn’t going down without a fight. Not this time.
I served, he smashed it back with ease, but I managed to return it. That was the first time I’d returned his smash, and was probably why he was so surprised and missed it. I slowly felt the feeling return to my limbs. I served and scored again. Now, he looked worried.
It was his serve again. I don’t know how I did it, but I returned everything he threw at me. I knew precisely where I wanted to hit the ball, and my hands did exactly that. I felt a surge of adrenalin. Somehow I didn’t even realize the importance of the two points he was serving for. It felt so good, just to be able to play right then. It was only when I won the second point did I realize it was deuce. The game was not over yet.
I probably shouldn’t have thought about the score. I felt nervous again, while my opponent relished the pressure. But I had the momentum on my side, and gave it my all to counter his scorching hits. It was a pitched battle. Neither of us gave an inch, and shuttled between advantage and deuce 5 times. He scored again, needing one point to wrap things up. I’d fought my way out of this spot earlier, but this time, even as he was about to serve, I knew it was over. I’ve heard people say your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. As he tossed the ball in the air, the match flashed before mine.
I could feel all his smashes whizzing past me. I could see his grin widen as the difference in points between us increased.
The ball left his racquet.
I felt my increasing helplessness, as my best had not been good enough to return his shots.
The ball crossed the net.
I thought of the scoreline 10-2. He’d needed only one point, which I denied him in the face of tremendous pressure.
The ball was still hurtling towards me.
My hands tensed. I gritted my teeth and lashed out. Despite having come heartbreakingly close to an amazing victory, it strangely didn’t bother me as I saw the ball soar over the table and onto the floor. It was as before, all external sounds had become strangely muted. I saw my opponent- he was laughing uncontrollably, the sweat pouring off him too. I thought of going upto him and shaking his hand, but he now doubled over with laughter. I shook my head. Its hard enough losing to a 10 year old. But when he’s your brother, and is clearly not going to forget it, it does smart a great deal more.