Sometimes I wonder how I came to like tennis so much, given I’ve barely ever played. People ask me how I got into it, assuming my love, bordering obsession of the sport, is a result of years of personal experience. Was it triggered simply because Andy Murray is Scottish and by doing well, Scotland was being in some way recognised and celebrated? Would I have wanted to do a grand-slam tour if Andy had been English? Welsh? Or if there were no high-profile, successful British players? These are good questions and honestly, I don’t know. But what I’ve learned through this grand slam tour is that I love watching tennis; my appreciation of the sport is not limited to Andy, as wonderful as I think he is.
As anticipated, by the time I came to be travelling to North America, I had accepted and essentially got over the fact that Andy wouldn’t be there. At the end of the day, I was still going on yet another summer holiday, catching up with several friends, exploring cities I’d never been to and, most excitingly, embracing the true time-zone of the US Open. It was definitely a better scenario to be in compared to arriving in Melbourne to find out that Andy had been knocked out, a matter of hours before I’d arrived.
When I look back on my ten-day trip now, I realise how much the time zone really made a difference. Sure, I went to Flushing Meadows twice: a day session on Louis Armstrong/rest of the grounds, a night session on Arthur Ashe on the same day, and I came back on the last day of the tournament to watch the final on the big screens. But it was more than just those two days. That second week of the tournament, I was watching tennis on TV almost every night, post-tourist-fun, pre-sleep. Looking back at my Twitter feed, I realise that I was all over what was going on in the tournament, too. Del Potro coming back from feeling like he was going to throw up, to beating clay mini-king Thiem, and then going on to beat Federer. The excitement of having four US players in the women’s semi-finals of the US home slam. Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis battling through to win their second mixed doubles title together, 2/2! And then the battle of the Brits between Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett in the wheelchair men’s singles semi-final, whilst also competing together in the wheelchair men’s doubles which they went on to win. Sure, I could have followed the tennis to this extent in the UK, but I would have been considerably sleep-deprived to have experienced it in the same fashion!
The highlights though, admittedly, were those matches I saw in real life. I was so chuffed to be able to watch Jamie Murray play in both the men’s doubles and mixed doubles quarterfinals. The doubles matches are hard to plan for – sometimes they are scheduled on consecutive days, sometimes there’s a day’s break – so it was really fortunate to be able to watch both. I’m a particular fan of Jamie’s men’s doubles partner, Bruno Soares, partly because he’s Brazilian and partly because he once liked my tweet! (I’m easily won over). Unfortunately, it wasn’t Jamie and Bruno’s day, but thankfully, that match came first. We ended on a high, watching Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis play a very close match against American Spears and Cabal but eventually coming through to win the match. Claim of the tournament: I filmed match-point, tweeted my video and tagged Jamie, and he liked my tweet, too! These guys! They have my ❤
For my night session at Arthur Ashe, the first match scheduled was Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova. Honestly, I wasn’t that excited ahead of time. I’d seen Venus play at Wimbledon in July, and she’d dominated the match which didn’t make for interesting tennis; I assumed every match featuring a Williams sister would be the same. However, this match was the complete opposite, the momentum kept swinging, and it was impossible to predict the result. Each player won a set before it went to a tie-break in the third, with Venus eventually claiming victory. One of the best aspects of watching the match was simply being inside Arthur Ashe, which has a capacity of almost 24, 000, the biggest capacity of any tennis-specific stadium in the world. You can imagine what an American crowd this size sounds like when watching one of the most celebrated American tennis players of all time: epic. By the time the match had ended, it was almost 10.30pm at night, and there was still a whole match to be played in the men’s quarter finals. I confess, I went home at this point. Sure, I love tennis, but I also love sleep, and staying healthy, especially on holiday. The only players I think I would have stayed to watch at that time of night would be Andy or Jamie. For anyone else, I can watch the highlights!
The last match I watched in real life was the wheelchair singles final between Brit Alfie Hewitt and Frenchman Stephane Houdet. This was the first time I’d ever watched a wheelchair tennis match from start to finish and I really enjoyed it. It’s one thing to manoeuvre yourself and your racket quick enough to hit the ball, but it’s another level of skill to do that and manoeuvre a wheelchair at the same time, even with the rules allowing for two bounces, rather than one. It wasn’t to be for Alfie, but with the match going to the full three sets, it was still an entertaining match to watch. And did I mention Alfie also liked my tweet? 😀
One thing that really struck me about the US Open, which may also be the case across all of the grand-slam tournaments, is the apparent lack of interest in doubles/wheelchair/quads tennis. The grounds at Flushing Meadows are fairly sizeable, definitely bigger than Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and I think the Australian, too. This means that there are loads of places to sit and eat, without being in any court or watching any tennis, and weirdly, that is what a lot of people choose to do. Even though they’ve paid to come and watch tennis! Face palm. I don’t understand. There was hardly anyone on the Grandstand court watching Jamie and Bruno in their quarterfinal match, and it was only half full when we watched Jamie and Martina. Given how little tennis was still going on by the last day of the tournament, I was surprised how few people came to watch the men’s wheelchair singles final on court 17. Anyway, each to their own, but if you want my advice: if there’s tennis being played, watch the tennis!