Many know who my top 3 favorite players are. It’s no secret. I’m very public about it. But I wanted to give more of the story of how I became of fan of them, as well as make it known about other players I follow.
I feel like the reasons I pick my favorites is different the way other people do. Most people choose their favorites based solely on what country the player is from, whether they’re a top player, looks, and things along these lines. I’m not saying those things haven’t played a part in determining some of my favorites, but it had nothing to do with why I’m a fan of my top 3. I choose my favorite players based on personality more than anything else.
Many people seem to know exactly what match or moment made them become a fan of a certain player. I’m not that way. I can’t remember the moments. My way of a player becoming a favorite is he or she progresses to that level. It doesn’t just happen with one match. One match might catch my eye, but the player has to keep me following their results.
One other factor in selecting my favorites is I have a hard time rooting for ATP players, other than Novak. I focus a lot on Novak’s legacy and don’t want anyone else to win. On the WTA side, I can root for players more freely. I’m more interested in the WTA than ATP. I have a hard time watching ATP matches that don’t include Novak. I just don’t get interested in them, but that’s not the case on the WTA. There’s many players I like and since my favorites aren’t as consistent, I can appreciate and root for a variety of players.
Let’s look at my favorite player of them all. You all know. He’s who got me to follow the sport each week.
1. Novak Djokovic
I have already written this story in ‘My Path to Tennis Fandom,‘ so I’ll just summarize how I started watching him.
Before I really followed tennis, Rafael Nadal was my favorite player. Once I did start watching tennis full time at the 2011 Australian Open and Nadal lost, the door was open. I’d seen Novak play a few times and enjoyed watching him. He was really good! I liked drop shots and he hit them well. I woke up at three in the morning to watch the final. A telling sign of how much of a favorite Novak had become. I was sure he’d win going into the final. That final was probably the match I truly became a fan of him. I followed his results in Dubai and once he came to America for Indian Wells, I was a big fan. I got emotionally into his matches, especially when he got down a set in the semifinal and final, even though I’d only watched a few of his matches. Novak was my favorite and I knew it, even that early into watching tennis.
I guess I started watching tennis at the right time being that was his best season. I wished I’d have gotten into tennis earlier though, so I could’ve appreciated that year even more and to be with him through all the tougher moments when he wasn’t winning. I’ve had a new sense of appreciation for the 2013 Australian Open and 2014 Wimbledon, seeing how hard it really is to win them.
What do I like about Nole? So many things. His personality is what really drew me in. He’s personable, funny, well spoken, and open to everyone and having a good time. He’s a great role model to have for a person of any age, given that he has these characteristics. He engages his fans and often gives away his shirts, hats, wrist bands, racquets, etc. I’m really impressed how he can slide into his shots. To see it in person is quite something. You often can hear comments of people in awe of it.
The winning is nice too. Following someone you know every week can put their game together and win, gives you a reason to watch and stay interested. You know he’ll produce a high quality level when he steps on the court. As a fan, you need someone to root for that you can experience winning with. Constantly watching your favorite lose gets depressing. Watching your player winning can uplift you and give you motivation to accomplish your own dreams. Don’t get me wrong, if Novak never won another tournament, he’d still be my favorite player. Winning or losing doesn’t change that. He’s really my only favorite that does win at a high rate, so it’s refreshing to have him to be able to watch big matches and have a rooting interest.
2. Sabine Lisicki
How Sabine became my favorite WTA player is a bit of a story. I have to start it by saying Caroline Wozniacki was my favorite player before Sabine. When I didn’t closely follow tennis, Caroline caught my eye, so after I got into tennis in 2011, I followed her. Looking back at her results, Caroline had a stellar season in 2011. She ended the year number one, but I just didn’t like the way she played. I remember being fed up after she lost in the first round at Cincy. That was two straight first round exits for the number one player in the world. My men’s favorite was number one and never losing. I didn’t think she should be losing like that given Novak’s success at number one. As I followed her throughout the year, I didn’t like what I was watching. My favorite player was pushing the ball all around the court and waiting for errors. I didn’t like that style.
My eyes were open after Cincy. At the US Open, Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament with her Sjogren’s condition. I remember watching an interview of who Venus was supposed to play, Sabine Lisicki. I’d seen her around earlier in the year, as I was trying to become knowledgeable about the sport and players. I saw what happened at the French Open. I watched her success at Wimbledon. I liked her. Caroline was my favorite though. As I watched the interview, I knew this was a girl I liked. She caught my eye again. I didn’t really watch tennis the rest of the year though.
At the beginning of 2012, Sabine was having success. I woke up in the middle of the night to watch her play Sharapova at the Australian Open. I was rooting for her. It probably was the match I became a fan of Sabine for real. A telling sign of this happened next. For my Indian Wells bracket, I picked Sabine to make the finals. One match I distinctly remember was Charleston against Serena. I didn’t even realize she was playing. I turned the TV on and there she was! Unexpectedly seeing a favorite!!! She retired after twisting her ankle though and was sobbing. My heart broke.
Sabine wasn’t my favorite player yet really though. It was weird. I had co-favorites. Caroline and Sabine. I can’t even imagine this now. I can’t exactly recall when Sabine passed Caroline. I won’t guess. It was sometime between Charleston and Wimbledon though. The reasons Caroline fell from my favorite player were that I didn’t like her style of play, I didn’t like her boyfriend Rory McIlroy, and she started an underwear collection. I didn’t think it was the place to do something like that, being a professional athlete. Even though Caroline stayed on as a fave after Sabine passed her, I wanted to see her fail. I wanted my decision to be right in changing my favorite player. Caroline has had more success than Sabine since then, but I still wouldn’t change making the switch. I’m quite happy with Sabine.
How did Sabine become my favorite player? She’s an aggressive player. The match is on her racquet whenever she steps on the court. Her power can take over a match. I’d longed for that being a Caroline fan. What I really love about Sabine is how happy she always is. Sabine is always smiling, laughing, and having a good time. She’s a joy to be a fan of. She’s so positive! When she makes a mistake, she just laughs it off. I love that kind of personality.
What I’ve found out is how refreshing it can be to be a fan of a player that’s ranked lower. You appreciate every win even more. You’re taken on the ride of ups and downs. It makes the great moments even more special. You know what it’s like to have to follow a match on live scores, rather than being a fan of a top player and always getting a TV court. It takes a special kind of fan to do that. A devoted one.
What I’ve also found out is Sabine has the best fans in the world. I’ve met many incredible people on Twitter that are big fans of Sabine. I love being apart of this fandom more than any other. Why? Because there’s not as many of us. It makes each one of us even more meaningful for her and each other to have. It makes anything we do for her more special. No offense, but Novak fans are everywhere you look. There’s THOUSANDS of fan accounts. Each one posting pictures, making collages, and things along these lines. But with Sabine, there’s not as much of this. Every collage, video, or message to her, mean that much more. I love being apart of this and feeling like there’s not thousands of replica’s of me.
3. Simona Halep (GOAT)
Simona’s story is probably the most unique of them all. How I first learned of her was that she kept winning all these 280 events in 2013. I named her GOAT for winning all those tournaments, as I wrote in ‘The Naming of the GOAT: Simona Halep.’ I was basically following her results without even knowing who she was or what she looked like, just to see if she’d win again. It became a thing to see how she was doing since she was having so much success.
The first memory I have seeing Simona was when she beat Kvitova in the New Haven final. After the final she did an interview on ESPN. I loved her broken English and the answers she gave. I don’t know why. There was nothing special about anything she said. She gave her typical bland answers. I liked her though. She got my attention for winning all those tournaments and made me want to see her play. I followed her results to the end of 2013, but she never became a fave of mine until 2014.
At the Australian Open I started watching her and I was slowing becoming a fan of her. I particularly recall that she was going to give an interview and I was watching solely to see it. She says the same things in her interviews and I thought that was cute. You know the typical lines about her opponent being a tough player and it being a difficult match, in the same tone every time. There’s something special in how she says it though. I think what it was about Simona’s interviews that drew me in was that I could tell she’s really shy. I’m that way too, so I liked that and I made the connection with her.
I followed Simona more closely after the Australian Open and considered her one of my favorites. Not top three yet. At the French Open I really started following her. Watching every match I could. She was slowing developing into my top 3. When the finals came around, I wanted Simona to win. That was very telling on my feelings towards her because before the season I said I’d root for Maria Sharapova coming off her shoulder injury. That final cemented Simona into my top 3. She got me so emotionally involved in the match. I was devastated she lost.
So she was my third favorite, but there was one more level for Simona to climb. Becoming at the level of Sabine and Novak. Sabine and Novak will always be my favorites, but Simona got to a level where there wasn’t much of a drop off. The match that did it: another Sharapova match. This time I was there in Cincy to see Simona lose another heartbreaker. Before the match I was thinking that she could win and how bad she needed it after losing two tough matches to Sharapova earlier in the year. After she lost I felt really empty. I felt she’d been cheated on a bad call and I was mad that Simona lost leads in the matches. Simona got me deeply emotionally involved in yet another match. At that point I knew how much of a favorite she’d become.
What do I really like about Simona? Most of it I’ve already touched on, but there’s still a few more things. I like how versatile her game is. She’s very similar to Novak in how she plays. When she goes for her shots, she’s a pleasure to watch. Simona is good on all surfaces too! I like the idea of having a WTA player that will be around for the weekends as well. No offense Sabine. It’ll be interesting to see what my feelings are this season. I still feel, for the most part, that Novak and Sabine would be the only players I’d get up in the middle of the night for consistently. If Simona makes the weekends of tournaments that may be her chance. It should be an interesting year for Simona.
4. Urszula (Ula) Radwanska
The first memory I have of Ula was when she was playing Venus Williams at the French Open. It was a long three set match (3 hours and 19 minutes). Ula came out on top. The match got a lot of attention being so good and having Venus be apart of it. The following day Ula even made the front page of the sports section of the newspaper! After this I started following her more closely.
The reason why she’s such a favorite of mine has absolutely nothing to do with tennis though; I hate to admit. I like her because of her looks. Sure that match versus Venus got my attention to her tennis ability, but what I noticed more was how beautiful she is. I think she’s the most attractive WTA player. Yes, even more so than Genie, Ana, or Sabine. I’d take Ula over any of them. People give a bad stipulation to liking a player based solely on appearance, so it’s tough to admit, but it’s the truth. I think everyone is guilty of this though.
After my fourth favorite it gets kind of hazy. There’s no clear order to any of it and it often changes. Before this year, Genie and Maria would’ve been included. So what I’m going to do is give four more players that, for one reason or another, I believe are good enough stories to be included in this piece.
5. Angelique Kerber
This is actually a funny story. The match that made me become a fan of her was when she beat Sabine at Wimbledon in 2012. I never really knew anything about Kerber until this match. She was ranked high, but I never had seen her play. Sabine looked like she’d win the match, but Kerber fought back to beat her. Kerber, at times, looked like she was ready to give up. It seemed to be a possum act, as she was fine and staying in the match. I kind of liked how she did seem out of it then fought her way back into the match.
Kerber was one of the players I wanted to see most when I went to Cincy in 2012, after that match at Wimbledon. I’ve written about the experience before. I got to watch her from up close and it really opened my eyes to tennis. It made me become a bigger tennis fan. Even though she lost the only set I watched of the match, I still went to that court just to see her. Kerber ended up coming back to win that match vs Babos and make the final. I remember we were driving back home the day she played Serena. I was keeping one eye on the score and the other on the road. I wanted her to win so badly and she did.
I guess you could say Wimbledon opened the door and Cincy slammed it shut in making me a fan of Kerber. But I like Kerber for one more reason: she’s German. Since Sabine is German, I root for Germany when Fed Cup comes around. Kerber helps Germany win, so I have to be a fan if it helps Sabine’s success.
6. Elina Svitolina
Eli. I’m not exactly sure where I first saw her play. I knew Genie beat her to win junior Wimbledon, but I didn’t think much of her back then. It might’ve been Baku in 2014, but that seems too quick for me to become a big fan of her. Maybe it was all the tweets Chris Levy has about her. Well I’m not sure, but I remember I was hoping she’d win Baku so I’d be able to see her in Cincy. If she defended the title then she’d have a good chance at a direct entrance. Eli did end up winning Baku and I did get to see her in Cincy! I went to see part of her match against Suarez Navarro, after getting an autograph earlier in the day. I loved the way she played. She’s an aggressive player and can hit the backhand down the line extremely well!
She’s had a lot of success after she won Baku in 2014. Eli made the quarterfinals in Cincy and the semifinals in Wuhan. A Premier 5 and Premier Mandatory event, respectively! Sabine has never gone that far in that level of an event, so that shows what a big deal those results are. She’s got a bright future the way she plays and that’s why I included her as one of my top 8 favorite players. I look forward to seeing how she’ll grow as a player. Her career should be a successful one with what she’s showing right now at only 20 years old.
The one thing I don’t like about Eli is her temper. She can get really negative during a match similar to the way Tommy Haas does. Okay no one could be comparable to Tommy, but I don’t like when she gets so negative at herself on court. Hopefully she’ll find better ways to deal with her emotions on court.
7. Gael Monfils
Who doesn’t like Gael? It’s obvious why he’s included on this list. Gael is so entertaining and talented! It’s hard for me to be a fan of ATP players, outside of Novak, but Gael is a must watch whenever he steps on court. You never know what will happen next.
I found out about Gael right when I became a fan of tennis in 2011. Commentators were mentioning him all the time. I knew I had to watch him play. There’s no match particularly I remember that contributed to me liking him. He had a good French Open that year and I saw some of that. Gael also played Novak a few times in the 2011 US Open series. The Cincy match in particular was phenomenal and probably the match that sticks out the most to contributing to me being a fan of him.
Gael is so good for the sport. His entertainment and shot making abilities can bring non sport fans to be drawn to him. He’s funny and has great dance moves. One of my dreams is for Gael and Novak to play an exhibition match. They’d be perfect for that format. Both have the personalities and game to make it as fun as possible.
8. Laura Robson
I have to admit I didn’t used to like Laura at all. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t like all the attention she got because she was British. She had a good run at the US Open beating Li Na and ended Kim Clijsters career. I wasn’t a fan of Kim, but I didn’t want her career to end so unexpectedly early in the tournament. Robson got a lot of attention for these wins and I didn’t like that either.
She hurt her wrist though early in 2014 and hasn’t played since the Australian Open. Laura commented during a match of Sabine’s at Wimbledon and I enjoyed listening to her. I’ve been following her on Twitter and think she’s hilarious. She has a great personality. I look forward to following her next year. That’s why I put her on the list. Because she’ll be one I’ll be interested to see next season.
Other players I like (in no particular order):
ATP: Jerzy Janowicz, Brian Baker, Janko Tipsarevic, Bryan Brothers, Tommy Robredo, Ivo Karlovic, Martin Klizan, and Lleyton Hewitt
WTA: Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Belinda Bencic, Aga Radwanska, Andrea Petkovic, Lucie Safarova, Casey Dellacqua (we share a name), Lauren Davis, Daniela Hantuchova, and Magdelena Rybarikova.