Dear Tennis,

I know I haven’t been around much for the past few months and you’re probably getting a little worried. Have I fallen for another sport behind your back? Are things getting stale between us? Where’s the intense passion and commitment I brought to our relationship for the past 5 years?

I need you to know you have absolutely nothing to worry about. You are still my first and only love.

In fact, it’s actually because I care about you so much that you haven’t seen me very much.

Let me explain…

Last fall you and I were spending a ton of time together, and even then I just couldn’t get enough. Back then, I was writing regular entries on this blog for you.

In fact, it was around then that I realized I do, in fact, want to spend the rest of my life with you.

So I decided to try to build a kind of living tribute to you that would honor you for all you’ve done for me—and for many of the other hopeless romantics out there who love you too. (Yes, as you know, I’m not the possessive type and realize I do have to share you with others).  Well it’s now built and it’s called the “Tennis Congress”—and basically it’s an excuse to bring together others like me who are infatuated with you to celebrate you, learn more about you from those who know you best, open ourselves up to learn life lessons from you, and improve skills that will help us enjoy each day with you even more.

Working on the Congress has been rewarding and enriching beyond words. In October our first national event brought together an incredible group of 250 of your biggest fans from around the country and as far away as Europe, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. We had a blast. And it was just the beginning—there is so much more we will do in the years ahead to make this living tribute to you even better. Everyone who came has been bringing great ideas to the table for how we can take it to the next level. I’m happier than you can imagine to have found a way to make you part of my professional life.

But ironically, the journey to build the Congress has meant less time alone with you on court.

Up until last June or so, you and I were spending about 4 days a week on court together—along with many long weekends away at camps. I was writing about you regularly on this blog. We had practically moved in together. Since August, we’ve hardly seen each other. My time has been consumed by other urgent matters and I’ve been on the road a lot—but unfortunately not traveling very much on the “Road to 4.5” that inspired this blog.

I miss spending time with you more than you can imagine.

I miss the hard work you push me to do—the sweat, the reaching, the running, the taking my body to the brink to hit 100 balls in a row despite my exhausted legs and racing heart.

I miss the crazy combination of emotions only you bring out in me when I’m on court. I miss the obstacles you throw up in front of me, and the feeling I get when I am strong enough to get past them. I miss having to face inner demons that only you make me confront, which I know only to make me stronger and better as a person.

And I miss spending time on court with others who are similarly obsessed with you. You make us laugh together, scream with frustration together, erupt in victorious cheers together… But most importantly, you provide the inspiration and medium for forging deep friendships together.

Enough is enough.

I need to find a way to see you more.

But I realize that before I do, my first order of business has to be to get back in shape for you. Yeah, I want to look good for you. But I also know if I’m going to keep up with you and not hurt myself. So I’m hitting the gym pretty seriously. And next month I’ll head down to Florida to train at Sanchez-Casal and Saddlebrook for 4 consecutive days, which hopefully will get me fully back into the swing of things—literally and figuratively.

And tonight, for the first time in months, I’m putting aside my crushing work To-Do list for a couple hours to write this love letter to you.

Hopefully it assuages any doubts in your mind: I am still hopelessly crazy about you. It’s just that lately work and life have gotten in the way. I know I’m not the only one among your legions of fans who are in that boat…  In any case, I suspect you understand and have probably been patiently waiting all along.

Because after all, there is no better teacher of patience than you.

Yours faithfully,

P.J.