God of Tennis - Chapter 12.1
Chapter 12.1: Top Four
It was July 25th and there were some clouds in the sunny sky. Since the clouds were covering up the hot sunlight, the ground wasn’t that hot. Han Woo Jin was happy with today’s cool weather.
He was waiting for the top four matches to start shortly and looked at Song Ki Joon, whom he was up against. Like he said yesterday, Song Ki Joon looked as if he didn’t have any drive to win. It’s difficult to keep going when you can no longer make any more improvements in life. It seemed like what he said was true.
Han Woo Jin had nothing to say to him. He told him that he no longer saw a future in this so he no longer had the will to continue. Thus, he didn’t know what to say to him.
But he felt like he needed to say something to him.
“Mr. Song Ki Joon.”
Not expecting Han Woo Jin to come and talk to him, Song Ki Joon’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I’m not the type of person who gives advice.”
‘Someone once told me I don’t have the talent for that. I also don’t have time to worry about others.’ While others relaxed and played around, Han Woo Jin was always being productive and practicing. Effort cannot overcome talent but you can put more time into it and climb over the wall. That was Han Woo Jin’s philosophy.
Song Ki Joon could have fared much better than Han Woo Jin. With Han Woo Jin’s ‘eyes’, he could see the effort that Song Ki Joon put in his past.
[Song Ki Joon]
Strength 50 / Stamina 53 / Agility 49
HP 2055/2120 SP 360/360
Drop Shot: 4/20
Special Skill: None.
‘If he started a bit younger… he might have been dangerous.’
He told him that he started playing tennis when he was in high school. In order to nurture a player, a lot of people start while they are in elementary school. He started late, but he was still able to become a pro.
Han Woo Jin’s voice was slightly sharp. Although he had gotten a bit better, he still had a small inferiority complex regarding his skills.
“I never got a good score in tennis but I just kept on practicing.”
What Song Ki Joon said to Han Woo Jin was laughable. If he didn’t see the sincerity on his face, he probably would have left the lunchroom immediately.
One person’s complaint could make another person feel like their heart is being cut. Although he tried very hard when he was young, he experienced failure after failure. So what Song Ki Joon was saying was extremely laughable.
“Since I couldn’t live a good life like someone from a wealthy family, I only had tennis to lean on.”
That was what tennis meant to Han Woo Jin. Now that he had come this far, what else could Han Woo Jin do aside from tennis? He couldn’t go back to studying, and if he wanted to try something, he would need to ask his struggling parents for support.
It was no path of return for him. He can either keep moving forward or stumble and fall while walking. Those were the only two paths he could take.
‘I was crazy at that time.’
The Han Woo Jin from the past lived in despair. If he stopped tennis, he was completely useless — which was why he even sold his racket. The present Han Woo Jin didn’t even want to think about his past.
“If you think that I came this far without any struggles, you are wrong.”
That was what Han Woo Jin could say to him with full confidence.
That statement screamed out from the accumulation of all the effort from Han Woo Jin’s past.
“I didn’t even think about my skills to stop improving or whether I should give up tennis. I didn’t have the luxury to think those thoughts.”
‘I started tennis late. I realized that when I reached a cliff.’
Yet he was able to find a way to start again. Song Ki Joon was like a child compared to him who was able to find his path after losing it.
Song Ki Joon blankly listened to Han Woo Jin. Song Ki Joon’s throat tightened, making him unable to speak. He heard his words that felt like they held deep meaning to them.
Before Han Woo Jin’s words could sink in, he was interrupted by a loud sound that signaled the beginning of the match.
The coin toss went Han Woo Jin’s favor to decide on who will serve first. Han Woo Jin immediately chose to serve. He had no intention of going easy on him.
‘I need to conserve my stamina and have a perfect victory.
I don’t need to think about my opponent’s condition. If I concern myself with his condition that would be bad etiquette. It would be humiliating for him if I worried about him.
“Love all! Han Woo Jin serve!”
The referee shouted to start. Han Woo Jin didn’t hesitate and immediately threw up the ball without looking at Song Ki Joon’s condition. That meant he didn’t care about his condition.
It was quick from the beginning. Han Woo Jin’s racket sharply hit the ball. He hit the ball straight — it bounced next to Song Ki Joon’s foot and went past his side. The ball was too fast to receive.
‘You should hurry and come to your senses.’
Han Woo Jin glared at him.
‘It’s up to you on how you choose to act, but because you are a pro, when you come onto the court, you need to at least show your effort. If you are going to play like this, then you should have given up earlier.’
Fortunately, as soon as he lost that first point, he came to his senses. His position showed that he was ready to respond to his serve.
‘You’re not ready yet.’
Song Ki Joon didn’t have any talent to receive his serves. Instead of being in a passive position, he should try to take an aggressive stance and move around. Han Woo Jin threw up the ball with the intention to win one more point.
As soon as the came down he hit it, the ball that barely went over the net suddenly dropped. Topspin.
The ball hit Song Ki Joon’s racket, but it couldn’t go over the net and just bounced on his side of the court.
There was the referee’s voice. Han Woo Jin threw up the ball for his next serve. If the game kept on going at this pace, he would win easily.
That’s only if it went at this pace.
‘Does he want to play seriously now?’
Even if his condition is bad, a pro is a pro. The more points he loses the more his pride will be attacked which will make him fight even harder. Song Ki Joon gripped his racket with a fierce look in his eyes. He got service aced twice in a row his will to play surfaced.
Though he had the will to play, that was not enough to change the situation. The difference in skill between them could not be shortened just by his will. The two previous serves each had a different curve. Song Ki Joon was ready for a flat and topspin from his opponent, but he wasn’t ready for the sudden drop shot. Han Woo Jin very easily won the first game.
“Game Han Woo Jin! Court switch!”
The two switched sides. Han Woo Jin stood at the center of the service line and Song Ki Joon stood at the baseline. The two of them stared at each other.
Song Ki Joon’s eyes were shaking in anger.
The anger of not winning a single point. He even started to get a bit dizzy from his anger which made him slightly confused.
‘Tennis or any kind of sport can make you like that.’
There is nothing that exists that can promise your future. Even the weather forecasts can be wrong and stock expectations can be wrong. However, humans always walk forward expecting a brighter future. If they don’t, then they will always stay at the same spot.
Walking in the same spot is fine. Because as long as you keep walking, you will one day trip up on something which will force you to move forward, and that is better than completely stopping. This was what Han Woo Jin believed while living.
Of course, not all of the people who try get their rewards. If you looked at it from a different point of view, Song Ki Joon could be seen as smart.
He walked and moved forward as much as he could and stopped when he could no longer walk because it wouldn’t exhaust him physically. He just blamed himself on why he didn’t start earlier in life in order to comfort himself.
However, he needed to pay the price.
Because of his easy lifestyle, he cannot beat Han Woo Jin.
Song Ki Joon’s serve was really good. The speed and spin proved that he was really a pro.
However, that serve didn’t reach Han Woo Jin’s eyes.
Rising right away. As soon as the ball hit the ground, he hit it immediately. The ball traveled to the sideline of the other side of the court and passed by him.
The difference in skill was overwhelming. That was what Song Ki Joon realized as the game progressed.
The regret that he should have started when he was younger was what he thought of while playing. Thinking like that was useless. Song Ki Joon was weaker than Han Woo Jin. That’s why he lost. There was no other explanation.
But so what?
‘I don’t want to lose to that man. Why? I know I can’t win either.’
Can a player who already knows that they will lose play to their full potential?
The answer is no. Nobody wants to try to do something when they already know that they will fail.
In fact, in tennis, there were many people who gave up during tournaments if they faced an opponent they knew they couldn’t win against. They would rather give up than play an exhausting game that will drain them physically and mentally. Moreover, they would rather enter another tournament that they could potentially win.
Song Ki Joon realized the desire that was deep within himself.
‘I put in all my effort this far!’
He came this far by trying hard. He hadn’t drunk once throughout his entire tennis career. He even stopped going to clubs and hooking up with girls. Though he couldn’t quit smoking, he was able to stop smoking as much. After meeting tennis, Song Ki Joon’s life changed drastically. That effort was definitely him doing his very best.
Han Woo Jin was only better than Song Ki Joon at one thing, and it was that Han Woo Jin started playing tennis much earlier than him.
He was frustrated — he was carefree in past. Now he was frustrated that he couldn’t beat his opponent. Song Ki Joon grabbed the racket and hit the ball with anger.
The ball was immediately returned. His opponent’s movements were frightening. His footsteps and breathing were consistent which showed that he wasn’t tired yet.
That skill was accomplished by talent.
Song Ki Joon knew. Han Woo Jin’s movements weren’t his reflexes but the muscle memory that he had developed in his body from countless hours of practice. Therefore he was able to see the tremendous amount of effort which allowed him to react quickly to where the ball would land. How much and how long did he put in to get this far?
“Game Han Woo Jin, 2-0!”
But the game still went over to his opponent.
Song Ki Joon forgot about his limits and was solely focused on the match. He reached his limit, but for some reason he wanted to keep on going.
“Game Han Woo Jin! 3-0! Court switch!”
‘What’s his next move? What can I do to make the rally a bit longer?’
Song Ki Joon completely concentrated on Han Woo Jin’s movements. It was enough for him to just be able to read his next move. If it was just his movement, he had some confidence.
But that wasn’t possible.
“Game Han Woo Jin! 4-0!”
The racket in Song Ki Joon’s hand was shaking. He continuously kept losing which made him even more frustrated. He believed that he could win, but the difference in skill wasn’t getting any shorter.
Talent is important, but effort is even more important. In other words, it’s like having a car with one wheel missing. He realized it this late, but even if he changes it’s already too late for him. The amount of accumulated time that one puts into practice definitely will show the difference in skills.
“Game Han Woo Jin! Score 5-0! Court switch!”
He couldn’t reach it.
Song Ki Joon finally admitted it. The several years that they spent differently definitely could be seen in the game today. Yet even if they both spent the same amount of time practicing he still needed the sufficient talent.
‘I have nothing like that.’
His strength was leaving him.
‘Sigh, should I give up? If I no longer have the talent to improve, then I don’t have a future as a player.’
The rally quickly ended as the ball landed on Song Ki Joon’s side of the court.
“Game set! Set won by Han Woo Jin! Score 6-0!”
He completely lost the set. Song Ki Joon drooped his shoulders and looked across the net. Han Woo Jin who looked pretty much the same as when the set first started was standing there.
There was no expression in his eyes. His eyes were clear like a crystal ball.
There was no other way to end it.
Giving up the intention to forfeit, Song Ki Joon gripped his racket. Looking into his eyes, he felt that his opponent didn’t even put him in his eyes, which made him angry and he wanted to prove him wrong.
During the brief moment that the two players made eye contact, the referee had already begun signaling for the start of the next set.