My Path to the Tennis World

I saw someone write about this and it got me to think about how I was introduced to tennis and how I came to know and love my favorite players today. For starters, as far as sports went in my early life, I played baseball all the way until high school and I watched football too so those were the only sports I really knew about. I sucked at basketball and didn’t like it and couldn’t skate so hockey was out of the equation. So I figured baseball and football were all I’d ever know and that’s typical for an American.

I go to Florida once in a while to visit my grandparents and they have a ton of tennis courts right next to them and in 2005 or 06 when I went there was the first time I ever played tennis. It was pretty fun and over a span of a few trips there I found out I wasn’t too bad at it and wanted to know as much about the sport as possible.

So that’s the part about how I first found out about tennis and started to get into it, but I still wondered about the professional level because I figured there had to be pros for this since I knew all of the other sports I watched of course had them. I can’t remember much about it, but I do recall the first ever professional match I watched a big chunk of was in 2007- the Australian Open final between Fernando Gonzalez and Roger Federer. That was my first glimpse at Roger and I just remember he had all these cool shots and I didn’t know how a tennis player could possibly do this. That wasn’t the moment I became a fed fan, but it was a start.

My tennis viewing was kind of sporadic back in the day so I don’t remember watching another match until the next Australian Open which turned out to be my favorite grand slam and still is, probably because I enjoyed getting to stay up late and watch tennis because it usually goes from like 6 pm to 6 am every night where I live. 2008 was the first year I remember setting alarms at 230 am to watch tennis J I only remember a few things about this tournament, and one was seeing Jo Wilfred Tsonga upset Andy Murray in the first round and I was really shocked at that because I knew very little about Tsonga. I was intrigued to see his run continue all the way to the final, even crushing Nadal in the SFs which I was so amazed by because I knew Nadal was really good. I watched the final and was rooting for him to beat Novak because I liked his Cinderella story but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

At this point I still didn’t watch much tennis I’m not sure why. In 2008, besides the AO I only remember watching the Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal and again, there was something about Roger I just liked. The one-handed backhand was new to me because I hadn’t seen many use it. I remember a lot of rain delays in this one, and how dark it was, making it seem more epic to me and this was the first mini disappointment I faced as a tennis fan when he lost.

I’m skipping to 2011 because I honestly can’t remember a whole lot of what happened during the previous span. Yes Roger did some amazing things during that span of 2009-2011 but for some reason it didn’t hook me in. In case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t mentioned anything WTA related yet and that’s because it didn’t appeal to me at all. The only time I knew anything about it was when I watched a little of the slams and took a quick glance at who the champion was and that was it. However, one WTA match I remember pretty well was Petra Kvitova vs Sam Stosur at the 2011 AO. More details of that in the Petra section 😉 Anyway I remember watching Novak win another AO and I was thinking: Why are Novak and Nadal winning all of the AOs and not Roger? (Yes I know he won in 2010 but like I said, I don’t remember much of it) Maybe that’s why it took me a while to become a full time Fed fan because he wasn’t winning the AO every year.

So oddly enough, I went into another tennis hiatus in 2011 after the AO of course. I mean I knew a tiny bit about the slam winners but that was just about it. So now I want to talk about 2012 because that’s the first year I started to watch a lot of tennis outside of the Australian Open, and I officially found the first 2 of my 3 favorites. Now I’m going to make a section for each one so you see their stories individually, if you’re interested.

Roger Federer

So this was my only favorite I had seen a decent amount of before I actually really started to like them. Of course it started with the 2012 AO and I was steadily following his run and remember his match against crowd favorite and up and comer Bernard Tomic and was impressed how easily he won that match. After that, the match that sealed the deal was the SF against Nadal. I already knew these two had played many great matches before and I felt like Nadal had won so many of the recent ones. I was wondering when Roger was gonna get back on top and I surely thought this time was it. This was the first time I was actually heavily invested in a match and it was disappointing to see it end how it did after Roger won the first set.

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However, I still knew after that match I was with Roger for good this time. He was too much of a fighter and too talented for me to think he wouldn’t win at least one more slam in his career and I wanted to be a part of it when he did. Over the years I learned how classy, nice and funny he was and he seemed like a really strong guy determined to silence everyone who thought it was time for him to retire. I loved the passion he had to keep playing despite his age, because it’s harder than it looks.

Petra Kvitova-

Ok so if you read my earlier sections, I mentioned the match she played against Stosur at 2011 AO. That was not the moment I became a fan, but the first time I saw her play. My first impressions of her were that she’s kind of strange? She is making these weird barking noises, and the braces… lol sorry but I didn’t hate her, I just hadn’t seen someone like that yet. But boy could she crush the hell out of a tennis ball, and I was in awe.

However, after that match I never saw her play another match in 2011 despite that being the best year of her career, including a grand slam of course. So back we go to 2012, and again I still hadn’t been too much into WTA but it was the SFs of AO and I thought I’d catch a sneak peek. Guess who was on the screen… Yup Kvitty and she was ranked way higher than last AO and she looked different from what I last remembered. She still possessed that same power and I knew Sharapova was good, but the screaming was always annoying and again I wanted to root for the underdog (even though maybe Petra was a favorite?) This match did not convert me into a full fan either, but I knew I’d be seeing more of her soon.

I watched her again at the French Open and I was impressed with the run she was making there, and during this time is where I started to do a little more research about her and her personality. I started to learn how adorable, funny and shy she was, and her voice was just the cutest thing ever, I’m sorry I can’t help it. Her English still wasn’t the best and she tried pretty hard you could tell and it was sweet. Anyway, during this tournament a fun fact for you: Petra was the first tennis player I ever tweeted to, ATP or WTA. (Yes I checked the archives, she was really the first) Surely that’s some sort of sign right? 😉

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I was even more invested in her rematch with Maria in the FO SF and again I was left disappointed. I still didn’t watch her full-time, mainly the slams and the US tournaments because they were on TV. I remember watching another tough defeat to Serena at Wimbledon, and while all these tough GS losses were not easy to handle, it was still great she was playing like this.

Another great experience was seeing her get her first title with me as a fan, in Montreal. I only saw the title match because ESPN usually only shows SF/Final matches with these kind of tournaments, same with New Haven when she won that week too. But it was really cool to enjoy that moment, you don’t forget your first title as a fan.

2013 was my first year of full-time tennis watching. FANBOY ALERT: (And 2013 was also the year I realized Petra was a total hottie as well. She was still nice before, but I’m not sure what happened, her beauty struck me very hard what can I say. I like every other single thing about her don’t get me wrong, but this girl is smokin all of the time) Ignore me if you didn’t come for that part, I am so sorry. But really… don’t even try to argue it 🙂

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Aaaaanyway… I was hooked and I wasn’t going on any hiatuses. Of course that was the year Petra and Roger had horrible years for the most part; it got better at the very end but it wasn’t that pretty. They only won a combined 3 titles that year and only a combined two slam QFs or better out of 8 tries, but I think this was a good test for me. It showed that no matter how bad things get for my favorites, I will stick with them and getting through that year really helped me handle some of the tough losses this year as well.

Simona Halep-

Ok so this is probably the weirdest story of my favorites. Simona was one of those players who came out of nowhere and started winning all of these titles in 2013. The first time I ever saw her play was against Petra in the New Haven final that year. I had honestly never heard of her before and thought Petra would be able to win kind of easily. Boy was I wrong. Simona crushed Petra and that was really tough for me to see, I was so surprised and confused. Just one of those off days for Petra and Simona took advantage.

Simona Halep of Romania after beating Petra Kvitova in the final of the New Haven Open

This is where it gets interesting. After that win, I literally hated Simona so much… I wanted nothing to do with her. My opinion was, I’m glad I didn’t know you before and now you crushed my favorite player so stay far away from me. And as she kept improving and winning tournaments, I saw her fans keep popping up out of nowhere running their mouth like she was the best to ever play and she was about to take over the world. I couldn’t stand their cockiness, and sadly that’s a lot of the reason why I hated Simona for a while, and it wasn’t even her fault.

Even this year, 2014, when she started the year in Sydney my hate was still strong. I remember how happy I was when Madison Keys beat her in the first round, to silence her fans. The key part of this was because I hated her, I didn’t watch any of her matches, I only followed her results.

She kept advancing in the Australian Open this year and she eventually got through to a R16 matchup with Jelena Jankovic who was pretty good I thought. I decided I’d give her a chance and see what she was all about again. She ended up beating Jelena and I was impressed but not totally thrilled either. But then I won’t ever forget what first lead me on the path to #TeamHalep. Her winning reaction. It sounds a bit odd but it was really awesome and I saw how happy this girl was to make her first QFs of a slam and wondered, how can I hate this girl? She has a nice smile too 🙂  Literally that reaction put a smile on my face. The reaction and some of my tweets to prove it:

GwvOA.St.4

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It took me a little while longer after that to become a full-time Simo fan. It wasn’t really until March where I really became a fan. I barely remember her Doha title; all I know was that I was happy she won because I knew I still liked her. I found out more about her and she is just so lovely and cute and a wonderful smile like I said before. Of course she has a great game style too with a world-class backhand and her defense can be insane. My first great experience with her was of course her wonderful run at the FO and I still can’t believe how close she was to having a slam trophy in her collection right now. The first and only title I experienced as a true fan was a very small one in Bucharest, but I’ve had many other great moments as her fan, and I know she will collect many more trophies down the road.

So that’s my story. I don’t know how much you guys read but I hope you all enjoyed learning about how I first got into tennis and how my favorites became my favorites. Any thoughts or comments are appreciated! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

 

 

 

 

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