I’ve rediscovered tennis over the last week, first in person at the men’s Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto, and then on TV as the men and the women (in Montreal) battled for the championship.
I played tennis long ago and, just like golf, would occasionally hit a great shot that kept my spirits high. But eventually the knees said no to the quick movements needed on the court. My love went underground.
Sitting in the stands a few days ago, I was enthralled with the brilliant strokes … a zooming serve that just caught the line, a thirty-shot rally that exhausted both players, a sweet drop shot that just ticked over the net, and a high lob over the opponent’s head. So cool. It was mano à mano, and womano à womano on TV, each one drawing the best from the other.
Last Monday night, I watched Denis Shapovalov, a 17-year-old Canadian, best Nick Kyrgios, one of the top-20 players in the world. On match point, the energy in the Aviva Centre was astonishing. Transformational.
As stirring as the competition was, another factor emerged for me – the personality of the athlete. Some stoic and strong and tough, almost machine-like. But one player’s humanity caught my attention. I watched a match on TV between Canada’s darling Eugenie Bouchard and Kristina Kucova from Slovakia. Genie was supposed to win but Kristina was tenacious. And as the last stroke was struck, the winning Kristina went down on her knees, overwhelmed with joy. She was ranked 121st in the world and wasn’t supposed to be doing what she was doing.
On Saturday, Kristina played Madison Keys, a hard-hitting American, in the semi-finals. Madison’s serve was so fast, and smacked into corners that Kristina couldn’t touch. Late in the match, as the players rested in their chairs between points, TV showed us a tear rolling down Kristina’s cheek. My heart and soul stopped. I was lost in the beauty of the moment.
In 50 minutes, the contest was over. Madison completely dominated. Kristina walked off the court crying. She later told the press she was sorry that she hadn’t given Madison a better battle, and that she had let down the fans. Not this fan. Give me a full human being any day.
Next summer, the women come to Toronto for the Rogers Cup. I’ll be there … in Kristina’s court.