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Federer Plays Ping Pong

The other night the top 8 singles and doubles players in the world celebrated the official draw announcement for the season ATP World Tour finale. Guests sipped Moët & Chandon champagne whilst enjoying speeches by Mayor Boris Johnson and ATP Executive Chairman & President Chris Kermode. Toasts were raised ahead of the incredible tennis feats that will take place at The O2 from 15th – 22nd November 2015.

If ever a sport was designed to exacerbate my 16-year old choleric mentality, it was table tennis. At school I was too graceless to dribble a football, too unfit for cross country running and too diminutive to impress at rugby. However I had the build for table tennis. My vivacious cat-like reflexes were perfectly suited for Ping pong. I'd practice with my best friend after school, then at home with my father who had constructed a makeshift table from two bits of MDF. The table was painted green and we bastardized a net by lining VHS cassette tapes across the centre. Everything was in place.

The only trouble was, like every other sport that required a degree of skill, I was rubbish. I had the measure of my father, but my best friend purchased a proper paddle and had gone to table tennis night class and learnt crazy whip-spin serves that bedazzled my primordial defense. Plus I only had a backhand. Quick to expose my weakness my best friend would mercilessly pick away at the forehand court knowing I'd have to maneuver to compensate, of course leaving a whole side of the court exposed. It seemed as if my ping pong skills had plateaued whilst my best friend would perform increased wizardry from the other end.

The frustration was perpetual and I crafted a new vocabulary of profanities to vent my short comings. Unlike the cathartic release you experience slugging away at an opponent or heavy bag in boxing, this sport is diametrically opposed. It's cautious, in need of a deft touch, like constructing a pyramid from playing cards. And when it goes wrong, only can your annoyance be expelled with loud expletives or weaponizing your paddle by launching it across the room in disgust. Needless to say I have mastered my fragile temper since those adolescent days. But then again, I haven't played my best friend at table tennis in nearly 20 years. That's a rematch that no one needs to see happen, or hear. 

Peter Brooker

Peter is a published author on men's style, a huge James Bond fanatic and the host of our very own Menswear Style Podcast. His new book 'From Tailors with Love: An Evolution of Menswear Through the Bond Films' is available now.

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