I love tennis. I’ve loved watching tennis on t.v. since the mid-1980s. When I first started watching, my favorite players were Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Their rivalry was amazing. Then I fell in love with watching Pete Sampras and Monica Seles. More recently, I enjoy watching Venus Williams, Roger Federer, and, of course, my one true tennis love, Rafael Nadal (Isn’t he lovely? I’m so glad he’s healthy again!).

Spains Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Croatias Marin Cilic during the semi-finals of the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Cilic beat Nadal 6-1, 6-3. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Croatia's Marin Cilic during the semi-finals of the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Cilic beat Nadal 6-1, 6-3. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

While I love watching tennis, I’ve never played it much. I played with my sister a bit when we were young. And PJ and I hit the ball back and forth a little in grad school just for exercise. I wish I could play (and play well). If I thought there was any hope at all, I’d probably be on the court as much as possible.

But finally there is a way for me to play, or at least to imagine that I’m playing — and that I’m playing against the greatest players, past and present: Grand Slam Tennis for Wii.

I’m the first to admit that I spend most of my free times these days playing GST4W. I bought it over the summer, and I love it. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is sit and think about anything; playing GST4W allows me to get the blood pumping a bit and let my mind forget all of the day’s work and just focus on strategy — should I hit a drop shot, cross-court with topspin, or a lob?

GST4W has two modes that I like to play. You can play Grand Slam tournaments as your own avatar. I created both a male player (a cute Italian man) and a female one (an athletic African-German player) so that I can play in both draws. Or you can play exhibition matches. (In the exhibition matches, you can also play doubles.)

The game also has different levels of difficulty. You can set the difficulty at “easy,” “medium,” or “difficult.” But you can also choose not to attach the nunchuk to your Wii remote, which allows the computer to control your player’s move from side to side. (You still have to move forward to the net or back to the service line on your own.) This makes playing somewhat easier, though the “cost” of playing this way is that the computer doesn’t always move you to the most natural, strategic position, costing you a point here and there.

I’m usually let the computer move me, since it’s easier. When I do it myself, it isn’t pretty! This makes tournament play is a little too easy, sp I’ll have to hook up the nunchuk soon to make it more difficult.

In the mean time, I’ve been playing exhibition matches. In this mode, you can play as a professional player against other professionals. The game includes Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Sampras, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Navratilova, Evert, the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, and several other players.

Today I played as Djokovic against McEnroe at the French Open. It was a great match, even though I lost. It went 5 sets, with McEnroe beating me 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 4-6,6-3. Towards the end of the match, I started taking some pictures so that I could try to write about why I love playing this game so much.

This is me as Djokovic serving at 0-1 in the fifth set. The players are cartoony, but I kind of like that. I think it might feel a little too sacrilegious if it were more realistic.

Here I am giving a little fist pump after winning a game:

I think trying to take pictures negatively affected my game, however, since I quickly lost serve and ended up losing the set 6-3, as you can see here:

One of the fun features of GST4W is the list of match statistics you can see at the end of the match. I was surprised to see that I actually had more winners than McEnroe in this match — it’s the unforced errors that did me in:

And finally, the other fun feature is the chart of how many calories you burned playing the game:

As you can see here, I played for just over 90 minutes. I don’t know how accurate the calorie burning chart is, but I did play a vigorous match, one that wore me out by the end. I don’t think GST4W is a substitute for a real workout, but I enjoy the sense of moving my arms about and getting  my blood pumping while I play.

So far, in easy mode I’m almost unbeatable as Nadal or Venus Williams. I’m waiting until I get bored with the easy mode before making it more difficult by changing the setting or attaching the nunchuk. At this rate, I could get years of pleasure from this game!

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