I want to share a story that most of you know some parts by now, but I never got a chance to explain it more in detail from my heart on how cool and memorable it was. (And it wasn’t just one day) I didn’t think at the end of my trip i’d be writing a story on a player not named Petra or Simo but here we are and it’s fully deserved. Now, she isn’t my favorite player of course but it may seem like it with the way I think I’m gonna end up fanboying. She certainly did leap way closer to the top after this though. Let me just start by saying if you didn’t already know how special of a human being Barbora Strycova is, this story will prove it to you. I can’t help but describe how awesome she made me feel. That was the most important reason for this is she made me feel like more than just an average tennis fan, but someone who is appreciated at least a little more than usual and made me feel better about myself than any other tennis player has done before. It’s kind of hard to explain the feeling but hopefully this story does it better.
It all started during her first practice of the week which was in the early evening as the sun was beginning to set. I didn’t even know if she’d be out there because this was the day she was flying from Rio to Cincy. She was originally on the practice schedule for 330 and 6 pm but the first one got removed which was expected. The second one was still there though but then a huge downpour of rain came late in the afternoon and halted play for awhile and that can always mess up practice schedules. So I still didn’t know if she’d be there at around 6. I knew she was on the grounds, as she came through the gates just a little bit before then but it doesn’t guarantee the time of practice or anything. Aaaaanyway turns out she came out at her scheduled court 13 at around 6 like scheduled. The only problem was the courts were still soaked from the recent downpour. This was one of the funnier moments of the week as Bara was out there starting to dry the courts with her coach, but she only lasted about 5 minutes and then she was like peace out and left the courts for like 20 minutes while her coach kept drying. She came back to get her headphones it looked like and then left again. She does what she wants and no one tells her otherwise. Finally after her court was dry she was back out there and started to hit. Now, you might be reading this thinking how does this part of the story have any relevance to the later events? You have a right to think this but read the rest and find out!
As I do for a lot of players, I took a bunch of pictures of her hitting and such on both the camera and phone. There was one in particular on my phone that I loved and it’s this one here. She was hitting one of her shots and the sun shined in a perfect position and I just thought it was perfect. This picture was how you say ‘sent in’ to a brilliant Bara fan account on IG @strycovaswarm. Who I give a huge shoutout and thanks to for using it (You know who you are!) because it’s the main reason all of this started because that’s how she saw my picture (follow it, it’s all about Bara as you would expect and there’s no hiding how much she loves it too) to use for the beginning of her journey in Cincy. I will get back to the continuation of this part of the story soon, and there is still so much to say too.
I ended up getting a selfie and an autograph after this practice and it was the first time we came face to face and there was no surprise how nice Bara was at our first meeting. There weren’t many other people waiting for her but I heard one fan kind of softly say as we watched her take pictures with a couple other fans “you don’t see many players giving that kind of a smile every single time” Yup. Just look at all of her selfies. They’re all amazing in every way.
The next day for the first time ever I went to watch her play a singles match live (I saw a couple of her doubles matches in Miami with Makarova earlier in the year and they were pretty good) and it was against Genie Bouchard on grandstand which is a nice court to start on. Although all the courts are great to get a really close look at the players except stadium. The worst part about this match was the rain was a huge factor once again. There was a delay for a bit before it started, and then they played awhile where Bara was doing very well taking a set and pulling away in the second. Then there was another huge delay just before the match seemed it was going to end because Bara was up 4-0 in the second. So by the time they came back on court it was past 9 pm and they originally arrived on court at around 330. So Bara was able to complete the bagel at around 930, so six hours between the start and end to this match it was crazy! I ended up sitting in the pouring rain again to save my good spot up front even though I probably would have gotten it back anyway lol. It was all good and then after she won I got another selfie and this is where the first interesting thing of my experiences happened… There weren’t that many people again waiting for her to sign or take pictures because not many reappeared after the lengthy rain delay. I asked her for the selfie and when she saw me at first she said “oh hey” like she already remembered me from that brief encounter the night before at her practice. Hmm. The selfie was pretty much identical to the first which I had no doubts it would be but it was fun.
The next day she won another match against Sam Stosur this time and it was even a better court to be on than grandstand, court 7. It was small but if you got a seat you were guaranteed to be nice and close it’s awesome. However, I’m gonna skip to the next day and continue my story from earlier about the picture I took at the first practice. This day in a surprising development, Bara and Simo were scheduled to practice together in the morning before their matches. So of course I knew I’d be there. Ok, before I talk about the practice you need the background of what happened even before I arrived to the grounds that day. I woke up and found out that Bara first liked the post on the fan account where my photo was used without her even being tagged in it. (Again, this is a regular thing she’s too good) Then she took the photo and posted it on her own IG account and that was only the third time a player has used one of my photos for social media. Andreea and Simo were the others. Anyway that would’ve been enough for me as I was pretty excited about it, but turns out that was only the beginning…
I got to their practice court early (court 16) and waited and once the time came Bara was the first to arrive. There were very few people there again, at least until Simo showed up after. But the brief time before that when it was just Bara it was empty. I was just sitting on the bleachers and there’s a walkway in front of the bleachers where the players go through to enter the court; she came through and looked my way and said “Hi! You made a really nice picture yesterday!” I mean… how do you respond to that when it comes out of nowhere? I could barely say thank you because of how speechless I was. My heart was racing and so many questions ran through my head. How did she know it was me that took it? I mean I was tagged on the fan account picture, did she go onto my profile to see? She had to of. That’s the only way she could’ve put it together so quickly. Then Simo came through and it gave me no time to recover from what just happened. However she only hit for 15 minutes and then bailed out. As did the rest of the crowd. Like literally every single other person but me was there for solely Simo. So it was just Bara again for a little while longer. Then after she was done she came through one more time and I was like, a selfie won’t do me any good here I have to get a nice regular picture. I can’t lie, I was so tempted to ask her more about how she knew about me, and the fan account and everything, but I don’t want to be someone who takes up too much of her time, I mean she’s got a match to play soon. Knowing Bara she probably wouldn’t have minded since no one else was there, but I’m not the bravest person sorry! Another quick funny thing, I wanted her coach to take the picture but he was walking away. So Bara points to a little girl closer to us who couldn’t have been much older than 3-4 and says “oh she can take it” In my head I’m like no let’s not try that lol. The coach ended up turning around and he took it. Of course the picture did not disappoint either like the person I was standing next to.
Later in the day, she ended up losing her singles match to Kerber in straight sets but she played as well as she could have. Angie was just on a mission for that number one spot she was chasing. I made an IG post about my experience with her earlier in the day and she liked the photo. The last thing I want to talk about from this story is the last practice I got to see her during the week. It was a nice practice. I was on the other side of where she sat, behind a short fence on court 13, the same one where her very first practice was. As she was walking off she looked over and waved at me. I swear I’m not making these things up. I don’t blame you if you think this but it all happened! That’s why I’m writing this because I have never experienced anything like it. I have no reason to ever doubt this woman.
And to cap it all off, she won the doubles title in Cincy with her brand new partner Sania Mirza. I saw a few matches and this team is great. They passed every challenge with flying colors, especially in the final coming back from 1-5 down in the first set to win it 7-5. It was such an incredible week! Now, if you ever wonder why I’m a fan of Bara and why she is in my bio, you can read this. It’s not just this experience either; I have a list saved on why she is cemented into my bio forever.
Thanks to all who read this and I hope you enjoyed it! Have a nice day.