My path to becoming a tennis fan was a long one. On the way there were signs I liked the sport. Nothing made me become a full time fan however. Looking back on the moments when tennis came into my life, before I was a fan, makes me chuckle at the lost time I had in the sport and the symbolization that was going on that I was unaware of. A couple moments in particular get to me because they had to do with Novak before I became a fan of him XD
I’d always been a big sports fan growing up, but mostly for baseball, hockey, NASCAR racing, and American football. Tennis isn’t a big sport in America, so it’s harder to get into. You’re not exposed to it often. Being a fan of other sports is what gets me to look at other sports. If I see a sporting event on television, I will give it a chance. That’s how it all started for me becoming a tennis fan.
The first thing I can remember about myself in relation to tennis was, like many other people, Wimbledon. I can’t remember the year exactly, but it was probably 2000-2003, when I look back at the results of Wimbledon. Anyways, I remember sitting on my couch and watching Venus Williams play there and rooting for her to win. I don’t remember too many details, as I was young, but Venus was my first ever favorite player.
The next portion of my tennis life doesn’t have to do with me watching any tennis at all. From 2003-midway through 2008 the only tennis I saw was highlights on ESPN Sportscenter. I was kind of addicted to this show in these days. I remember seeing Maria Sharapova on there and saying she was my favorite player because I thought she was pretty and she was ranked #1. I said, for the same reasons, that Ana Ivanovic was my favorite after I saw the highlights of her 2008 French Open win. Throughout these years I heard a lot about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I remember saying to someone that when it comes to tennis, you’re either a fan of Federer or Nadal. This makes me laugh today. Anyways, I was sick of Federer always winning everything and I tend to root for underdogs and players who haven’t achieved as much, so Rafael Nadal was my favorite player because I thought he had the best chance of beating Federer and ending his dominance of the sport.
This brings me to the classic 2008 Wimbledon final. I don’t remember why, but for some reason I remember turning on and watching at least the ending. Maybe the last two sets. I was cheering for Nadal and was so happy he won, but even a classic match like that didn’t make me become a full time fan of the sport. Looking back, I’m really glad I watched that match because, being apart of the tennis community now, I realize how great that match really was.
The next tennis moment in my life was the 2009 US Open. I remember watching quite a bit of it. Melaine Oudin in particular. Being an American, I was obviously exposed to her story and loved it. Her run ended in the quarterfinals to Wozniacki. I also had my eye on Caro, so the two players I rooted for ended up playing each other smh. I realized Caro was the better player and deserving winner. I also recall seeing a picture of Wozniacki in the paper during that US Open run to the final. I remember this because I liked the kit she wore. This tournament was my first exposure to Caroline and keep this in mind because it contributed to my becoming a full time fan of the sport.
In 2010, I heard about the Isner-Mahut match. I didn’t realize at the time how unbelievable that scoreline and match really was, until now. That was truly a one of a kind event that we’ll never see again. I don’t recall seeing the very end of the match. I think I missed it in fact, but I did see some of the match…At the US Open that year, again, I remember Caroline. I don’t recall actually watching any of her matches, but the kit she wore is so familiar that I’m sure I did. There’s another story about this tournament, but I’m saving it for the end 😉
So this all brings us to when I became a tennis fan for real: the 2011 Australian Open. The match was Nalbandian vs Hewitt. It was the replay of the match, but since I didn’t follow the sport, I hadn’t a clue. It was live to me. I rooted for Hewitt because he was the home player and I think I’d heard of him before. When the match ended I thought that this sport was pretty cool. I watched whatever I could after that. It didn’t matter who was playing; I watched everyone. Whatever was on. Live or replay. This gave me a better idea of who was out there and who was playing the best at the tournament without any bias to cloud judgement.
After I first watched that Nalbandian-Hewitt match, I thought I’d look for that girl I’d watched at the US Open a couple years back and see what she was doing. I found her! Her name is Caroline Wozniacki. From then on I followed each of Wozniacki’s matches. I watched that classic match between Schiavone and Kuznetsova because that was Caroline’s next opponent. I thought Caroline would just roll right through Schiavone after such a long match, but Frankie gave her all she could handle. The semifinal made me experience my first tennis heartbreak. Match points up and she lost to Li Na. I heard Caro cried after the match too 😥 I was devastated.
On the men’s side, I was rooting for Nadal. He was trying to hold all four majors at the same time and I wanted him to do it. I went to school one day and I looked up the results of the previous night before class. Nadal lost to Ferrer. WHAT?!?! Nadal left the door open and who was there to take it: Novak Djokovic. I watched him throughout the tournament and loved how he played and his personality. He was so funny! I loved drop shots and he was so good at them. Andy Murray played Novak in the final. I’d also been watching Andy. He was quite good at the drop shots too and his personality was much like myself. I found both appealing, but when I set my alarm that night to watch the final at 3 in the morning, I was only doing it to for one reason: to make sure Novak won. I thought he’d been playing the best in the tournament and I was sure he’d win. When he did, I saw him throw all his stuff into the crowd. Shirts, shoes, racquets, etc. I thought that was so cool and wish I could’ve got something….A few weeks later I went on a sports website and I saw a headline that said Novak beat Federer to win Dubai. I thought damn this guy is pretty good. I looked up the his schedule and have been forever hooked.
I’d seen tennis before, but there was something different about it this time. I’d gotten emotionally involved in the matches. I experienced the close matches, where your heart is in your throat. Plus, now I had favorites and players I truly did like, not just superficially liked when I didn’t have any knowledge of them or the sport. I had Novak and Caroline. And wouldn’t you know it, they went to Indian Wells, a tournament that was actually televised in America, and both won it. That remains a special tournament to me. Both faves winning a tournament never happens.
As much of a fan as I was in 2011. I still wasn’t completely hooked, however. I didn’t follow week in and week out. When Novak wasn’t in America, or at a major, I barely paid attention. Outside of America and majors, I only watched snippets of his matches: the end of the 2011 Madrid final and 2011 WTF’s. I do remember Caroline warming up in a Steven Gerrard jersey in Doha, so maybe I paid more attention to her when she played elsewhere, but that faded by the end of the year after some poor results.
So what made me become a fan week in and week out? Going to the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2012. I didn’t follow Novak every week, but there was one thing I was sure of: I needed to see him in person. I put it on my bucket list. There’s three tournaments that are doable from where I live in New York: Rogers Cup in Toronto, Cincinnati, or the US Open. I thought Rogers Cup would be where I would see him, but because of the border issue we decided on Cincinnati. The first day I went, I got to walk right up to players practically. It was a mind blowing experience for someone who’d been to baseball, football, and hockey games. Tennis is different. You can actually get close to your favorite players. Three things happened that day that changed my life as a fan forever. The first was getting a ticket for the W & S booth to get an autograph from Caroline. Sabine was my favorite by this time, so it wasn’t as cool, but getting an autograph from my former favorite player was still amazing. I wasn’t expecting to get a single autograph. The second moment was after I got that autograph. I went to Court 3 to see Kerber. No one was there and I sat so close to the action. Third, of course, was having my dream come true and seeing Novak. I ended up getting an autograph on my Serbia hat after that practice and I was blown away by my experience that day. From then on I was a die hard tennis fan. Each week I’d be watching or looking at results. Tennis was my now my life.
So what were those moments Novak was brought into my life before I really knew about him?
In 2010, I had to write a paper based off a current events article. I chose one where Nadal won the US Open to complete his career slam. Who lost that match? Novak 😛
This one I think is even funnier. In 2008, Novak won his first major at the Australian Open. Wouldn’t you know it, I saw the highlights on Sportscenter of the tournament. I saw this guy Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and thought he was cool and hoped he’d win lol. I specifically remember seeing the highlights of the final and thinking…damn Tsonga lost. It’s funny how you look back on these moments and there was something so symbolic about it and you didn’t think much of it at the time. The winner of the match would end up being my favorite player and an important person in my life. I just didn’t know it yet.