Two Faves, One Winner

sabimona

My favorite WTA player, Sabine Lisicki, met my second favorite WTA player, Simona Halep in the fourth round of the US Open.  I’d been waiting for them to play again, since their meeting last year in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  It was close to happening a few times, but never materialized.  It looked like it’d come up a match short yet again, until Sabine got on a roll and pulled of an improbable comeback from 1-5 down in the third set against Strycova.  I’ll take you through my emotions during the match and how they changed during different points of the match, but first let’s look at the history of this subject with me of faves playing in sport.

In the past I remember not wanting my favorite teams/players to play each other because I wouldn’t want one to lose.  I didn’t want to feel competitive against the other and grow to dislike them.  Most notably, in 2010, my two favorite baseball teams (Yankees and Giants) made the championship series in their leagues.  If they each won four games, then they’d meet in the World Series.  I remember thinking of the possibility of them meeting in the World Series and thinking it’d be cool at first, but then I quickly realized how difficult that would be for me.  The Yankees didn’t end up making it, so I didn’t have to deal with it, but the key point is that in the past, I’ve not wanted my favorites to meet.

So why did I want Sabine and Simona to meet?  I wanted to see them both on the same court.  Usually faves don’t interact with each other, but they have to when they’re on court playing one another.  I was also hoping for a nice picture of them together.  Looks like that’ll have to wait.  I’ll just have to hope they meet in a final (not a major) one day, so they have to take nice pictures together.

Going into the match, I was really excited they’d play.  I’d been waiting for it from the moment Sabine won her match to set up the 4th round meeting.  That’s over a day and a half.  I didn’t have to think about who I’d be rooting for.  That was easy.  Sabine’s my favorite.  The question would be, how I would feel about Simona being on the other side of the net.  As you’ll see, it got tough at times, while at others, I had no consideration for it.  I just wanted Sabine to win.  Let’s turn to the match now.

At the beginning of the match, I was really happy.  It was awesome seeing them come out for the coin toss and being right there next to each.  I watched the first six games, or so, smiling.  There was a lot of nervous laughter too.  I was kind of disappointed that neither started the match well.  Simona was making a lot of uncharacteristic errors and Sabine was making a lot of characteristic errors.  It wasn’t too pretty.  The match started to get competitive though and my feelings changed.  Sabine was having some game points and missing out on them.  Missed chances are one thing I have a tough time with in Sabine matches.  This happens constantly.  She’ll play a few great points to get leads in games then not hit another ball in the court to lose the game.  It drives me crazy.  It got late in the set and I knew how important winning it would be for Sabine.  She couldn’t afford to lose a set in which Simona played as poorly as she did.  You can’t expect Simona to continue to play at that level.  She was only going to get better.  I started to get wholeheartedly behind Sabine.  When I watch a fave play and their opponent is shown on the screen before serving or returning, I always look away.  I don’t want to see them.  I don’t want to gain any remorse for them or begin to like them.  At the end of the first set, it happened.  I wouldn’t even look at Simona.  At that point I was fully behind Sabine.

(Clive Brunskill)

(Clive Brunskill)

When Sabine won the first set, I was very happy and celebrated.  A few seconds later I saw Simona called for the trainer and I started to think about what was happening.  I was being brought back into the reality of the situation of what was happening now that the competitive set was over.  I started to feel bad for Simona.  I didn’t want to see her hurt.  I also started thinking about how Simona has been playing so well and how disappointed she’d be to lose so early.  It’d have been the earliest she’d have lost in a hard court tournament this season.  I also thought about Vika awaiting in the next round.  Sabine has never beat her or even come close.  I wanted to see Simona play Vika because they haven’t played since Simona got to the top of the game.  I wanted to see how that matchup would play out and how competitive Simona would be able to play her.  With all these things flying through my head, it became tough for me to root hard for Sabine. I was surprised by this development because, although I like Simona, there’s a significant gap between her and Sabine for me.  For example, I miss most of Simona’s matches, whereas, I watch every match of Sabine’s I possibly can.  I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, stay up late, or watch replays without knowing the score.  I’ve only ever done that for Simona once.  I’ve invested much more time and attention to Sabine than I have to Simona, so I didn’t think at any time during the match I’d ever have any doubt of rooting for Sabine.

I’d say I was mostly disengaged during the second set from rooting.  It was becoming tough to watch at times though with all the emotions I was going through.  I almost wanted to turn it off.  I just tried to enjoy the tennis and be okay with whatever happened.  Towards the end of the set, I thought Simona seemed compromised with her injury and didn’t think she’d have much of a chance in the next round if she won.  At that point I started rooting for Sabine to win, again.

In my opinion, the momentum of the match changed with one point when Sabine served at 5-6.  It was a game point for Sabine to force a tiebreak.  There was a long rally and Simona went for broke, as she was off the court.  The ball clipped the line and Sabine was unable to lunge enough at it to get it back over the net.  Simona broke soon thereafter and forced a third set.  I expected it, to be honest, and wasn’t mad or anything.  I’ve been through this with Sabine before.  I know to expect disappointment.

(Matthew Stockman)

(Matthew Stockman)

There was a heat break at the beginning of the third and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I think everybody needed a break from the mess of a match it was.  Sabine never seemed to be the same after the break and Simona started to play well.  At 1-2, Sabine showed signs of cramping.  I was just hoping she could get out of the game with a hold, so she’d still be on serve and be able to get treatment on the changeover.  She held, but didn’t get any treatment.  She wouldn’t win another game.  Simona won the match with her heart, as coach Darren Cahill said.  Simona kept up a good enough level for four games longer than Sabine was able to.  I figured that’s how it would play out.  Simona is just too consistent for Sabine.

With all the mixed emotions I had, one thing worth noting was that after Sabine walked off the court, I felt okay with looking at Simona again and listening to her interview.  I actually enjoyed it, in fact.  Brad Gilbert asked her some interesting questions and got some smiles out of her.  It made me forget about Sabine being at the other end of it for a few minutes.

After the match was over, it was tough.  On one hand, Sabine lost a match she shouldn’t have.  It was devastating.  On the other hand, Simona was in the quarterfinals.  I was excited for her matchup with Vika. One thing that made the match hard to digest was that I had both fandoms in my timeline with tweets of opposite reactions.  I was in the middle of it all.  I had no one who shared the same outlook of the match as I did.  The Simona fans were tweeting happy things at Sabine’s expense.  It was painful.  I wasn’t happy with this win, like they all were.  Some Sabine fans were mad and accusing Simona of cheating for the “act” she put on of being hurt.  I didn’t like those either.  It was unfair.  She wasn’t acting.  Why would anyone want to be on the court longer than necessary on a hot day?  Why would anyone choose not play up to their potential in a match and not give their best effort?  Simona would be one of the last people I’d ever expect anything like that from.  I know Sabine fans were just mad at the squandered opportunities, but that doesn’t make it okay to take it out on another player.

I’d say the single hardest part of this match for me was that it was a fourth round match.  I wish it’d have been a quarterfinal or third round match.  Being so close to the milestone of a quarterfinal is difficult when it’s not achieved.  It’d have let me enjoy the match more and not be as sad with the loss, if it didn’t feel so close.  Making the quarterfinals of a major is a HUGE DEAL.  Players get special perks at the tournament in future years for just making one quarterfinal.  In all likelihood, Simona will make another, if not several more, quarterfinals at the US Open.  Sabine may never reach that stage once.  It’d have been her first major quarterfinal outside of Wimbledon.  Meanwhile Simona just completed making quarterfinals at all four majors.  That thought was hard to stomach.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Another reason it was tough was that Sabine needed the ranking points.  Sabine ended up dropping points because her Hong Kong title from the prior year came off.  Had she made the quarterfinals, she wouldn’t have dropped points, but she did because of the loss, and is now on the fringe of not being seeded for the next major, which makes the loss even tougher.

I don’t think Sabine and Simona would mind not playing each other again. Their handshake wasn’t the friendliest.  I guess they’ll probably never be friends or anything close to it.  That’s okay though.  They don’t need to be.  At the end of the day, I’m just happy they finally played each other again.  Hopefully it doesn’t happen too often, so I don’t have to deal with all these constantly changing emotions during the match, but it was interesting to see how I reacted to it all.  I’ll always like both of them, even if they aren’t the fondest of each other.  After this match, I think it’s safe to say, the competitiveness of a match can’t come between my liking for both of them, even if it does come between them 😉

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