The crowd gasped, held in a collective breath, and finally, roared.
I grew up on this range of emotions, the mental exhaustion of watching a 5-setter Federer/Nadal Wimbledon final, the agony of witnessing your favourite player’s last game before his/her retirement, and the dedication of waking up at 3am to watch the match in Australia.
Last night, Roger Federer lost in 4 sets to Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S Open quarterfinals (a familiar scene), deterring us dreaming fans from seeing a Federer/Nadal match at the U.S Open for the first time. Staying up until just before midnight EDT to watch the culmination of the match, I had to ask myself how much I could withstand. Admittedly, I’m not 16 anymore, and the next morning doesn’t consist of late sleep-ins, but of commuting, and making it into the office on time. So considering that I could easily watch the highlights and find out who won the next morning, why was it worth my time to keep watching the match? I’ll tell you why- because I love every minute of it.
My mother has a special talent with figuring out her children’s physical (or lack thereof) talents from a young age. My sister is a ranked, competitive gymnast thanks to this talent, and while I don’t possess the same achievements, I have her to thank for my tennis background.
Being a lazy 7 year-old who was only concerned with watching Arthur and the Magic School Bus after school, my mom knew that something had to be done. She
grew up respecting and loving the sport of tennis, though she never played it herself. But somehow, she figured that it would be the perfect way to get her daughter active and away from the TV. It took 3 days of being grounded and banned from all electronic devices to finally convince me to give it a try. So on the 4th day, she walked me to a nearby court where a coach by the name of Jacob was willing to let me join in on the beginner class that was being conducted at that time. I was given a racquet, and told to join the line.
This was a generic exercise- stand on the service line while the coach feeds a ball to you- hit it over. In the entire half hour that I participated in this class, how many balls do you predict I was able to hit? If you answered with 0, congratulations! You win absolu
tely nothing- just like I hit absolutely nothing. Not even a mishit off the frame, just nothing but air. Despite the humiliation and desperate failure, I felt something shift inside me. I wasn’t hitting any of the balls, but I wanted to. And the thrill of possibly being able to hit it in the next round got me reluctantly telling my mom that I wanted to come back (I could never outright admit to her that she was right).
Fast forward 18 years later, 2 OFSAA titles, countless regional and club medals, and 6 seasons of coaching experience, you can say that tennis became a part of me. I even built an entire science fair project around finding the sweet spot on a tennis racquet. It came to define me.
Now, I clearly never became a professional, or even got close, and I don’t spend nearly as much time on a court these days as I wish I could. But as long as I have Grand Slam tournaments to look forward to, everything is all right with the world. And nobody can deny the palpable energy of the U.S Open, the collective force that keeps you up well past 1am for those 5-set thrillers, and sways you to cheer for an expected rival.
So with that, I prepare for my Sunday morning couch, coffee in hand, umpire calls out “15”- and I’m in love.