Law(n) tennis and the law

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

It is pure coincidence that the first three (3) letters of my favorite sport happens to be the same letters of the life I’m living.

I started out young – around 9 years old- when I was introduced to lawn tennis. Unfortunately, the tennis courts that were mute witnesses to how I immediately fell in love with the game, worked on its fundamentals, played my heart out, day in and day out, and literally from dusk until dawn, had given way to a now imposing shopping mall in Jaro district in Iloilo City. The courts were demolished sometime in 2011.

Lawn tennis and the law may seem an odd pair. The legal practice is such a demanding job that it is unimaginable how one can be effective in the courtroom yet be able to spend hours and hours on the tennis court and still smash off opponents from opposite the net.

Yet somehow when your passion for something is strong enough, you get to find a way to pursue it despite the obstacles. Given that our whole family played tennis, we found ways to look for other courts where we could hit tennis balls regularly.

And in ones desire to play the game, it reaches a point when a sport becomes a way of life.

Serving and volleying my way through college by being a varsity player for four years, it gave me the opportunity to play against the top tennis players in the country when our team won in the local tournaments which gave us a ticket to play in the National Games.

Being exposed to the best of the best allows one to assess where his/ her game is.  And this was where I picked up the important lessons on how to deal with the challenges of the legal practice and life’s challenges in general.

Serve first, serve strong. In tennis, you get to dictate the tempo of the game when you serve first. The first serve must always be a strong one. In turn, a powerful serve can result in an “ace”, ie., one which your opponent cannot even touch or reach. But just like in life, you cannot always serve an “ace”. In fact, in real life, we often serve “a fault”. Thus, while we must always be aggressive in our law practice, so we can “serve an ace”; yet in the same breath, we must be humble enough to accept the possibility that we could sometimes commit a mistake.

You always have a second serve. Make it count. The beauty of tennis, as they say, is that you always get a “second serve” after a failed first serve. This is also true in the law practice, as in life. A failure only becomes permanent when we don’t try again. But we have to be sure that when we stand up to take our “second serve”, it must count this time. As we cannot keep on committing the same mistake over and over again.

Eyes on the ball. In tennis, as in law practice, we cannot dabble with other concerns. Whether it is the tennis court, or the courtroom, when you enter it, you have to be focused. You cannot have your eyes elsewhere but only on your target: the ball. So your eyes must always be on your goal.

Always play to win. Our intensity can trigger an adrenaline rush that in turn can bring out energy levels we didn’t even know we have. When you play to win, you set the proper mindset to achieve a goal to begin with.  Obstacles come as if they are expected when the desire to reach victory is profound. So we always venture into an activity or work with the aim of finishing and/ or accomplishing it.

Practice makes perfect. Indeed, there is no short-cut to success. We don’t cut corners and expect to not get caught all the time. Just like Martina Navratilova who when asked if what seemed as a “lucky shot” indeed was really a “lucky” shot, she said: “That winning shot may have looked instinctive, but I’ve hit that shot more than a hundred times in practice”. Especially for the law practitioners, the play on words is such that “we are allowed to make mistakes because this is called LAW PRACTICE”.

While it has been years since I have last gripped a tennis racket, I must confess that when I close my eyes, I could still almost feel the soles of my tennis shoes hit the rubberized paint on a flat hard court. I could still smell the whiff of pressurized tennis balls newly popped out from the can. I could feel the hot summer air hitting my face. I could feel the throb of my heart knowing that a worthy opponent is waiting across the net.

Then I open my eyes and say, “I’ll serve first”.

(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor and a book author. His website is