Changeover Chat: Tennis Memories

To kick off a “Never Forget” week in which we look back on classic tennis matches and players who aren’t active anymore, we discuss some of our fondest tennis memories in a Changeover Chat, a quick back and forth between the writing staff at The Changeover.

Lindsay: Amy and Juan José…what are some of your first memories of tennis?

Amy: My first tennis-related memory is from when I decided to join my middle school tennis team because all my friends were doing it. I was in 6th grade, and I’d never even picked up a racquet before, but I enjoyed it so much more than I expected.

I played on-and-off throughout my middle school and high school years, never very seriously. But a couple years later, I got sucked into just watching some tennis matches on TV. Even my limited experience playing tennis helped me understand and appreciate the things I saw professional tennis players doing.

Lindsay: That’s funny. My mom gave me some tennis lessons when we were members of a country club in my youth, and I played some at a middle school camp, but that’s the extent of my playing days. I actually remember at camp the summer before 8th grade, the tennis instructor quizzed us on the three tennis surfaces that majors were played on and I didn’t know!

But as far as the professional sport, I remember my mom watching a 60 Minutes piece on the Williams Sisters when they were first breaking through, I think right before Serena won her first Major. I was very inspired by them and interested in the story. I also remember always knowing and loving Lindsay Davenport (same name!) and Jennifer Capriati, though I don’t have any specific memories of watching them play tennis until later on–after I developed a schoolgirl crush on Andy Roddick. I followed that US Open in 2001 when he made the quarterfinals, and I was just hooked on the sport.

Juan José: I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think I have two early memories. The first one that pops into my mind is watching Seles and Graf play at the French Open in the late eighties, early nineties. I remember being hypnotized by the long rallies. The other day, the Tennis Channel was showing their 1992 French Open final (Seles wins 10-8 in the third), and that seemed very familiar to me. Later in the 90s, as men’s tennis became all about the serve and extremely short points, I remember thinking that I much preferred women’s tennis to men’s tennis.

My other memory is about watching match point of the 1990 French open final between my compatriot Andrés Gómez and Andre Agassi over and over again. I didn’t watch that specific French Open – I lived in Los Angeles with my family back then, so I missed it. But we moved back to Ecuador in the summer, and I remember that last point being replayed on TV over and over again.

Lindsay: I’m always amused by how much I roll my eyes at mainstream media coverage of tennis most of the time, but then I realize that without it I wouldn’t have ever found the sport, because my parents aren’t tennis fans at all.

Amy: Good point, Lindsay. As much as the Internet has allowed us to access the sport in other ways, it’s now strange to remember back to when TV used to be the only way to watch these matches.

Another more recent tennis memory for me comes from the beginning of 2011. I had been working on political campaigns for a couple of years after college, and that’s a profession where you work for 14 hours a day, seven days a week, so I wasn’t watching any sports during that time in my life. But then Election Day was over, and I was looking for a new job.

During my many hours of free time, I happened to turn on the TV at the gym to try and distract myself during a painful run on the treadmill, and I got hooked back into tennis just watching a match between Federer and Robredo at the Aussie Open. I was sucked into the day-to-day obsessive tennis lifestyle once I discovered the many amazing resources to follow the smaller tournaments on the Internet. And thanks to YouTube, I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of tennis I missed during college and during my busy campaign days.

Lindsay: Even after I became a huge tennis fan in 2001, I still basically only watched the US Open and Wimbledon. It wasn’t until I read about John Isner’s Legg Mason run in 2007 that I began actively searching for other ways to follow the sport’s smaller tournaments. It turned out the Internet was very good for that.

Amy: It helps if you have a lot of free time to get into it at first.

Lindsay: Indeed it does, Amy. When I was unemployed after graduation in 2008, my tennis obsession kicked to another level – though it actually wasn’t too hard to keep up with things in college. I mainly just lurked on posts on the TennisWorld blog. I didn’t even stream in those days. I was so innocent.

Funny story – I can tell you the exact date of Justine’s retirement announcement in 2008 … May 15th. Why? Because that was NYU graduation day and I checked on my blackberry in Yankee Stadium, listening to some speaker go on and on. I was so shocked to read the news I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I was in a sea of thousands of people decked out in purple caps and gowns and nobody cared about Justine.

Juan José: Before I caught the tennis bug for good, I remember being an Agassi fan, but missing most of his 90’s achievements. I actually remember his over-30 career a lot better. However, two random events come up to mind, for some reason:  the 1998 ATP World Championships (that was the name of the World Tour Finals back then)  final between Moya and Corretja (it was a fantastic match –  both had met in the French Open final that year, with Moya winning, but then Corretja came back from 2 sets down to win 7-5 in the 5th.

The other random event was the 2000 Tennis Masters Cup (that was another old name for the World Tour Finals). I wonder if this event was huge in Latin America because of Guga, but his run to the title there (coupled with clinching the year-end #1) was beyond exciting. He dismantled Agassi in the final.

Lindsay: What was it about tennis that really captivated you guys? Beyond the first memories, can you remember when you knew you were hooked?

Amy: Since everything was so on-and-off for me, I’ll go with something more recent. Last year, after getting hooked on all the smaller ATP and WTA events, I got so excited about Wimbledon, which was a few weeks away, that I decided to start my own tennis website. Those first few days of the site’s existence, watching the grass Wimbledon warmup tournaments and writing up match recaps of Serena and Venus’ first matches back at Eastbourne, were so much fun.

Juan José: I was hooked at some point in 2005. I was a huge Federer fan then, and I remember the Miami final against Nadal, and thinking that he was going to win the French Open. I remember being involved in a short film shoot during that semifinal between Nadal and Federer, and running away from the set to catch the end of the match. It wasn’t worth it, obviously.

I was in Argentina then, and since I went to school at night, I had plenty of free time during the day. I watched more and more tennis, and went online to try and learn more about the sport. That’s where I found Pete Bodo’s blog, and when he allowed comments on his posts at the end of 2005, I was one of the few people who would post there. It was fun – a post would be “blowing up” if it got 25 comments back then.

I still remember getting in my first online argument: I thought Federer openly tanked the second set of his round-robin match with Coria at the 2005 Masters Cup, because he was coming back from injury and needed the matches to improve his fitness. Coria got bageled in the first set, and was acting exactly like someone who is about to retire would: clutching various body parts, wincing, etc.. Federer looked annoyed, and started spraying balls all over the place. Lost the set easily, and then killed Coria in the third, 6-2. People did not take kindly to the idea that Federer would tank a set. And I was a Federer fan! I thought it was a smart idea, actually.

More free mornings and afternoons plus TennisWorld definitely made 2006 the first year I was obsessed about tennis. I started a blog around that time, but it was a mess, so I won’t link it here. It was about all sorts of things, but tennis was included.

It was fun to follow along that specific year – the Federer-Nadal thing was blowing up after their matches in Monte Carlo and Rome, and their inevitable final at the French was HUGE – Federer had a chance to clinch the career Grand Slam for the first time. And in that French Open, Novak Djokovic had his coming out party, making it all the way to the quarterfinals, and that’s when I started following him. I was encouraged by Argentina’s great coverage of men’s tennis: they showed Amersfoort AND Umag that year!

Lindsay: The match that sealed my destiny as a tennis fan was the Hewitt/Roddick US Open quarterfinal in 2001. I remember watching it in my mom’s bedroom for some reason, and just being enamored. Five sets. Powerful tennis. New York crowd. Lights. Tantrums. I stayed up way past my bedtime to experience my first tennis heartache.

But as I mentioned earlier, when I was back in Greensboro in the summer of 2007 I read this article about a local guy beating Tommy Haas at Legg Mason. I began frantically searching for any information I could find on John Isner, and followed his run by live-scores. I found then, and the blogs, and really began following the sport on a daily basis. I was already familiar with most of the names from my obsessive US Open/Wimbledon watching, and I was an Internet addict so it was an easy transition.

Juan José: I find it funny how “free time” is an essential component to all of our stories.

Amy: Well, let’s face it, most people don’t have hours on end to watch every match at a Slam. It can be an all-consuming sport. It’s easy to plan your schedule to watch the top players at the big events, but it can be tough to follow all the lower profile players unless you have an inordinate amount of time on your hands.

Lindsay: Absolutely. Free time is a must, though once you’re familiar with everyone and dialed in it makes it easier to keep up on the go.

Amy: Yeah, you can learn how to squeeze it into a busier schedule.

Juan José: I think the cool thing about tennis is that you inevitably do have some sort of affection for the player as a person. That’s not what happens in soccer, for example. But in tennis, because it’s an individual sport, you inevitably become disappointed by the dumb things these guys/gals do, as if they were some sort of friend you have. And on the other hand, you can’t avoid getting happy for them as individuals when they achieve something big.

Lindsay: I agree, which I think is what drew me to the sport. I was a huge football and basketball fan, but those are such team sports. The individual nature of tennis was like combining the teen dramas I loved with the unpredictability of sports, and it just became addicting.

Juan José: There’s also something interesting about tennis in that while it’s individual-driven, at some point you just become addicted to watching people hitting a tennis ball. You end up loving the sport more than the individuals. That’s how you end up watching horrible early round matches between people who wouldn’t be recognized as professional athletes outside of their family circles or their hometowns. You also become fascinated with trying to figure out who will be the next big thing, or just following the career of some incredibly talented slacker who will probably never get it together.

Amy: As someone who’s stats-obsessed, I appreciate tennis because the stats are more revealing for individuals than for team sports. Then aside from the numbers, you have the added drama of watching mental battles on court. All sports are mental, but tennis puts additional emphasis on that.

Juan José: Yeah – there’s just that fascinating feeling of watching an evolved version of boxing: the ultimate test of wills, the ultimate one-on-one combat.

Amy: There’s no timer, any match can theoretically go on forever. It’s not over until the last point. That’s why I sometimes find it more compelling than football or hockey, though I enjoy both of those sports. It’s never too late to come back. In theory, a player can be down 6-0, 6-0, 5-0, 40-0, and win the match.

Lindsay: Agreed, Amy. So much drama. So, many of our tennis memories have come recently in the grand scheme of the sport. What one player or match or tournament do you wish you could have watched live? What memory do you wish you had?

Amy: I wish I’d been able to watch more tennis before the Big Four era, but I was just too young and not following the sport, so I didn’t get to watch great matches with Agassi and Sampras at the time. Also, I wish I would’ve been able to see Lendl play live. I enjoy his game, having watched a lot of old videos of him playing.

Lindsay: I wish I could have really experienced Steffi Graf.

Juan José: Naturally, I wish I had been able to see an Ecuadorian with the French Open. That would’ve been awesome. I wish I had been able to follow Gómez’ career. I barely caught any of him, and I never really liked Lapentti. Although I did enjoy it when Lapentti made the AO SF in 1999.

Lindsay: I wish I had watched the Federer/Safin Australian Open semi. I’ve since watched it on YouTube, but that would have been phenomenal to watch in real time.

And to go back in time,  it would have been fun to see the emergence of the WTA and to watch Billie Jean King do her thing. And a non-exo Johnny Mac would have been a blast to watch.

Amy: And Rod Laver, of course.

Lindsay: Yes. Any closing thoughts?

Amy: I’m happy I turned to ESPN2 when I was running on that treadmill two years ago. If not, I might never have gotten into the sport as I am. I could’ve turned on college football instead!

Juan José: I think it’s interesting how tennis gets to you. Most things in life work in the same way: right place at the right time, but tennis sure has a way of keeping you hooked in different ways. It grabs you with the individuals, but it keeps you as a fan by altering your brain so that you can’t function properly without watching two random people hit a yellow ball across a net. It doesn’t matter who those people are, or where they’re playing. You just feel the need to watch this odd dynamic play out.

I wish I could remember more details about how I was able to watch tennis when I was younger, or how it was that I became a big Agassi fan. And certainly how I ended up watching the 1998 Masters Cup. I guess I was just curious, had free time, and loved sports.

Lindsay: It’s just the cyclical nature of it that makes it so engaging. The sport itself is so mental and physical and fascinating, but when you know the personalities it takes it to another level. And every week there’s a new draw, new stories, often a whole new country or surface. It keeps things fresh even when that concept seems impossible. It’s just too much fun.

What are your first tennis memories, Changeover readers? Feel free to continue the chat in the comments below!

30 Responses

  1. AmyLu
    AmyLu December 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm |

    Really enjoyed reading this chat! I didn’t become obsessive about tennis until the early to mid 2000s, but I followed the sport in the 1990s. I was a big Agassi fan, and I loved Seles. I’d kind of forgotten how much I disliked Graf, until the Tennis Channel replayed one of their French Open finals. It was amazing how quickly that “dislike” came flooding back as I was watching! Martina Hingis replaced Seles for me as my favorite on the women’s side. I was most decidedly not happy when Serena broke through and won her first slam (at some point, though, Serena replaced Martina as my favorite…I’m not really sure when the switch happened, but I actually was not a big Venus fan, due to the fact that she initially owned Serena. It took me a long time to appreciate Venus — now I root for her over her sister).

    My first tennis heartbreak was definitely in 1995. I was a huge Agassi fan, and his loss to Sampras in the US Open final just crushed me. His subsequent slide didn’t help, either. Nadal replaced Agassi as my favorite male player in 2006. I realized the switch happened at Wimbledon, when the two played each other. I found myself rooting for Nadal during the match. The year before? I rooted for Agassi. I remember being so irritated by the 2005 final in Montreal; I couldn’t for the life of me understand how Agassi was having so much trouble returning Nadal’s serve. I rooted for Nadal against everyone not named Agassi that year, but in 2006, he moved to my “favorite” spot, and so far, no one has dislodged him from it. 🙂

    1. jesna
      jesna December 6, 2012 at 7:15 am |

      Hey, Amy, the same match made a Nadal fan out of me 🙂 I remember him being bossed around the court by Federer and marvelling at his attitude. No discouragement, negativity, just a focus on his game. I found it so inspiring.

      1. AmyLu
        AmyLu December 6, 2012 at 10:41 am |

        It’s funny how certain matches/moments seem to resonate with all sorts of people! I also remember being so impressed with how Nadal handled the on-court stuff after he beat Agassi. He “got it,” in that the moment wasn’t about him, but Agassi. His reaction was very similar to DelPo’s this year at the USO. And those little things stick with me. 🙂

        1. jesna
          jesna December 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

          Yes, it was almost amusing (but endearing) to watch him trying to control the urge to celebrate good shots during that match too. I’d add his muted celebrations after winning RG 2008 and Mone Carlo this year to that list too. There are so many great and respectful players out there now it’s down to little details – deciding whose side we take when a match starts.

    2. Lindsay
      Lindsay December 7, 2012 at 9:40 am |

      That’s so neat Amy…when it’s two players I like, I often don’t know who I will root for until the match starts. But once it does I’m usually surprised by who I’m rooting for. Fandom can sneak up on you! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Master Ace
    Master Ace December 5, 2012 at 8:27 am |

    Interesting revelation about having free time to watch matches which I agree is essential.

  3. Jewell
    Jewell December 5, 2012 at 11:12 am |

    Enjoyed the chat very much.

    I would like to have seen Pancho Gonzales, Suzanne Lenglen and Billie Jean King most of all.

    Not sure when I first got into tennis. The only sport my parents ever watched really was Wimbledon (and a bit of Brit wrestling with Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, maybe some F1.) I remember McEnroe’s late run to the Wimbledon semi-final in 1990. My earliest real tennis memory was probably Novotna vs Graf at Wimbledon in 1993 – I watched it at a friend’s house. She wanted Novotna, I wanted Steffi, and we practically had a stand-up fight over the outcome. 🙂

    Spent a few years laughing at the BBC trying to plug Jeremy Bates as a contender, and then my next most vivid memory was Henman’s upset of Kafelnikov at Wimbledon in 1996. Mostly I didn’t enjoy men’s tennis nearly so much as women’s, though; totally agree what JJ said about big serves and short points. But there was no Sky TV in our house, no internet back then (we didn’t have even have a computer). Apart from Wimbledon, all the tennis we saw was Queens and a bit of Eastbourne, and the French Open finals – and I was lucky in that I had a TV in my bedroom and could watch, despite the rest of my family not being into sports. I loved those FO finals. Rallies & red clay were so different to prim green lawns. I followed Henman’s fortunes or lack of – stupid rain – and didn’t much care about the rest until Federer came along, and then I desperately wanted Federer to win over the dreary big servers. I was very much Anyone But Sampras (how he irritated me!) But now I feel that my attitude was in large part my failure to appreciate some of the good stuff that was going on. I wanted Roger to win everything until 2005, when I was stuck in a dreary Rouen hotel with only one book to read (Jilly Cooper’s Imogen, in case anyone is interested. I highly recommend it.) Flicked around the TV channels and discovered, yay, French Open tennis! Yay, Federer could win on clay, which would be an amazing thing for tennis history. Yay! And by the end of the match, I had deserted Federer’s ship completely for the upstart teenager with silly clothes and a game that looked as if it came from Mars. I’d never seen anyone beat Federer like that before – Fed would hit great shots, and Rafa would be there, sending them back, and back, and eventually coming up with a stinging forehand that left Fed no chance.

    I didn’t get into following tennis online though until 2008. I had the free time (so important, I agree) and not only that, we had broadband internet. Hello modernity. And then we had the most astonishing, amazing, wonderful Wimbledon final, which resonated for so many reasons, and I couldn’t get enough of reading about it. I watched the whole thing twice over on BBC’s I-player, then desperately searched for articles about the match. One that came up was Pete’s Death of Wanting piece. I read it, I read all the comments, I kept reading the comments, I discovered livestreaming, I could watch Rafa vs Gasquet in Toronto at 2am my time. I eventually screwed up the courage to comment, and more importantly, made real, genuine friends, and learned stuff. Some of which I’d rather not know. LOL. I can’t believe I used to think that everyone who liked tennis would like both Federer and Nadal…

    It’s worth noting that for all the flak Pete gets online, many people who have got into tennis fandom, started blogs, found a tennis community on Twitter etc, have done so in some way via his Tennis World blog.

  4. Karen
    Karen December 5, 2012 at 11:15 am |

    Aaah how I fell in love with tennis? Cannot really disclose it but let us just say that it was in 1998/99 during a really bad time in my life. It was the USO final and I was captivated not by what was happening on the court but by the woman in the stands with a hoodie over her head looking so forlorn. Growing up in Jamaica I never really got to see a lot of tennis. It was through my travels to the US that I really got a chance to read the newspapers and watch tennis on tv. It was in 2000 when Venus and Serena met in primetime at the USO that I really got hooked. Just like how you now have FeDal, you really had fans who were either pro-Serena or pro-Venus. I was pro-Venus. Just discussing the match up with my friends was enough to make everyone want to watch. Here you had 2 black women playing a sport usually reserved for the country club set. Jamaicans were in awe of them and our lone tv station broadcasted the match live.

    When I moved to the Cayman Islands in 2002 to live and work I found Jon Wertheim’s Mailbag and I kept up with his column from that time until now. I went through his archives to read all about the history of the sport. My very first love on the men’s side was actually Coria and then Nalbandian. I loved Coria because he used to fight like hell and he was feisty. I loved Nalbandian because of his looks. Can you say cute. My first men’s match that I can recall was seeing Coria playing and just seeing him made my heart leap. It was not until 2005 that I actually discovered Federer and everyone else went by the way side.

    Now I am more a fan of women’s tennis than men. I started my own little blog in 2009 when I was back home in Jamaica mourning. I have found that tennis is my space. It is what keeps me grounded. I have made lots of friends via the internet, most of whom I “met” on Pete Bodo’s blog. It is such a pity that the blog has degenerated to where it has now because it is just not the same anymore.

    1. Karen
      Karen December 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

      Aaah Jewell *stirring. I was thinking the same thing of how Pete with his Tennis World blog really and truly got a lot of folks who now have their own blogs and who are now criticising him, used to post on his blog. I have to say that wtih the advent of Live Fyre I don’t enjoy posting there as much. It has taken away what used to be a really personal type of thing and turned it into a sort of mainstream stuff. No longer can you go back and read all the posts from the night before and LOL at some things people said. I even miss Aussiemarge with her arguments over Rafa and Tim, oh how I miss Tim.

      Oh well

      1. Master Ace
        Master Ace December 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm |

        Agreed about Pete, TW and the effect Lifefyre is having on the site. These days you must get a mind Lifefyre degree as TW and has changed dramatically.

        1. Karen
          Karen December 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

          It just does not make posting there as enjoyable as it used to be. I remember when we had Crisis Centres and we could follow the GS chatter that way. Now, it is just so ugh

          1. Jewell
            Jewell December 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm |

            *waves hello*

            I have a pet theory that blogs have about a five to six year flourishing life, after which they tend to tail off or change. Based on nothing but feeling. 🙂

            I don’t think the problem is Livefyre comment system as much as site changes and redesign. The blogs have been integrated into the site as a whole and have lost a lot of their separate identity, IMO. On the plus side, less cliqueyness and more new people. Which is never likely to be a happy thing for a majority of previous regulars. Even when I first started commenting there, people would complain that “it’s not the same as it used to be when there were just a few of us, it was so much better then.”

  5. Karen
    Karen December 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

    See I miss this jewell who used to turn up and sip her tea and waves hello. Aaah the good ole days. You are right about blogs. Sometimes I think the bloggers just lose interest. Oh well

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 6, 2012 at 3:39 am |

      Thank you Karen and Jewell for those wonderful tales of fandom.

      About TennisWorld…as you might know, I owe that site much more than just being the venue where I started writing about tennis (the first comment on this post might give you a clue).

      I agree with Jewell: blogs and sites are like good TV shows: they can only keep up a decent level for so long (my theory with TV shows is that they can only keep it up for 4 seasons). I think that a site’s own popularity ends up hurting it at some point, since a wave of new people have to be accommodated and the infrastructure has to change to make the whole thing work with the ever-increasing number of visitors. Things inevitably change, and in this day and age, things change so very quickly.

      But back to TW: you guys might find it funny that even though I started posting at the end of 2005, I was ready to be done with posting on the site by the end of 2006. After that I become a more infrequent poster there. At some point it became very difficult to keep track of everything – there were so many comments coming up all the time. That’s a bad thing for a slow reader like me. I remember thinking that it was too bad that the status quo of the early part of 2006 couldn’t be maintained…but I also recognized that it was inevitable.

      Still, it was just so cool to have a place where one could sit down and write hundreds and hundreds of words…or simply joked about something that seemed hilarious. All of this with great people who always gave you a chance to learn or to laugh.

      And I do remember how great it was to follow Slams there! Thankfully we have Twitter now, so some of that spirit has moved there, with the added advantage that you choose who you follow!

      At some point we need to do an oral history (a la Grantland) of TennisWorld.

      Oh, and Karen, I agree with Werheim’s mailbag as the other key resource back then. I always looked forward to it.

      1. harini
        harini December 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm |

        I remember coming to TW because I saw it in Tennis magazine. I posted a few comments but felt a bit out of place because everyone knew everyone else. I stayed away for a few months and then came back during AO 2008 because I needed a place to talk to other people about the tennis. I was hooked, but once the Fed/Rafa thing got INSANE, I left. Twitter was getting to be big, so that became my go-to for tennis posting and discussions.

        I am glad I hung out at TW for quite a bit though. As Jewell said, it was a place for making good tennis friends and it’s nice that some of us transferred over to discuss on other blogs/Twitter. I’m glad to see some TW people here actually – it’s been a while!

        1. Lindsay
          Lindsay December 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

          It is so nice to have so many TWers commenting over here. As most of you know I lurked over there for a long time before finally posting, and then switched to twitter shortly after i began posting because I was working on a film set 6 days a week and twitter was so much easier to follow from my phone. There are so many changes there that I don’t go back too often anymore, but I will always be appreciative to the blog for introducing me to my first tennis friends. I think that the TW bag and Wetheim’s mailbag played such huge parts in making the online tennis community as strong as it is today, which is so vital for a sport that has a strong but spread out fanbase.

          This thread has made my week–thank you all for sharing your stories!!

  6. Jelena
    Jelena December 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm |

    I grew up in the 1980s in communist Serbia, which is only relevant because at that time we only had two state public TV channels, creatively called Channel 1 and Channel 2. There was not that much to watch anyway, but every summer, for about a week, Channel 2 broadcast Wimbledon, from quarterfinals up. I am not a sports person and did not really follow any sports at that time, but I became mesmerized by Wimbledon. It was pristine, and green, and beautiful, and classy, and chic, and you could even spot Princess Diana. I looked forward to it every single year. I planned for it ahead, and was especially pleased when I would come back home from school and the house was empty, and it was just me, and Wimbledon, in silence. It was a totally different world from my life in Belgrade. It didn’t matter one bit that none of the Serbian players were any good (I vaguely remember Zivojinovic making a few rounds, but nobody really cared). That was the whole point – it was for some other people, in some other world, and they were so cool.

    From there on, I started to follow other slams, first the French, then the US, then finally the Australian. Then I moved to the US and, OMG, there was tennis on TV, even the early rounds. And so then this turned into an obsession and I became a hard core fan, and nothing has ever been the same since.

    And although I haven’t lived in Serbia for 13 years and have very little emotional attachment to the place, when Novak won Wimbledon last year, I was overwhelmed. The emotions were strange to me and I didn’t recognize them at first – I mean, I was a Novak fan, but this was somehow different, it was just surreal. I have never felt like that watching any sport event in my life. And then I realized that it was because it was Wimbledon, and because I grew up watching all these great players lift that trophy year after year, and now there was somebody who actually walked the same streets as me, and ate the same food, and also had a crazy family. Yup, I could finally relate.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 6, 2012 at 3:50 am |

      Thank you for that, Jelena. It was really beautiful.

      I can relate to the strange attachment one retains to our strange country of origin. I’ve only been outside of Ecuador for 4.5 years, but that number becomes 10 when I add the time spent in my adolescence in Honduras, and the years in film school in Argentina. Like you, I can only describe my attachment to that little country as tenuous.

      It seems like the strongest emotional connection (outside of dealing with the token crazy family) happens in soccer: as a long-time Manchester United fan, it was thoroughly exciting for me to see an Ecuadorian walk onto the storied pitch at Old Trafford wearing that red shirt I had been cheering on for so long. Even though Antonio Valencia and I don’t share much of anything outside of being Ecuadorian and being men, I had that same feeling you evoked with your tale of watching Djokovic win Wimbledon.

      It became more emotional at the beginning of this season, when Valencia was assigned the #7 shirt. I had that same feeling you had: I had watched all those incredible players wear that historic shirt, and then here was a compatriot of mine, someone who had lived in my city and spoke my language, wearing that same shirt. It still feels bizarre to me.

    2. jesna
      jesna December 6, 2012 at 7:28 am |

      Jelena, my experience was a bit like yours. It was the same in Poland in the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s- two channels, only Wimbledon. We used to have this wonderful tennis magazine though and I would chase down as many copies as I could, mainly to read about my favourite Edberg (I loved his clean game and the air of coolness, plus he was a Swede- we were practically neighbours :)). So experiencing tennis was a celebration too although I never contrasted Wimbledon’s green lawns with Polish reality in those times – there were enough fields and forests around my hometown for us to be happy, I feel we were really lucky that way. “How little we need to be really happy” indeed.
      I must admit Sampras’s and Federer’s dominance made me quit following tennis for a while, but then Nadal came along and things got exciting again. Joyful dancing and minor heartbreaks became a part of the rhythm. The popularity of tennis sites and Twitter only added to the experience, I learn so many things, not only about tennis, thanks to wonderful fans all around the world. Thanks, guys!

  7. marron
    marron December 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

    Wow, great stuff to read. I really love this new blog, guys! My hook to tennis was watching the ’99 French Open finals. I was amazed at how the crowd got after Hingis and she started to cry, happy that Graf won (was not a Hingis fan at all!), and thrilled to see Agassi finally achieve his Career slam. Big fan of Agassi, but I knew I was hooked on Rafa in 2005 when I started cheering for him instead at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. I love watching tennis for those amazing shots you see, the ones that make you shake your head and say ‘how did he do that?’

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 6, 2012 at 3:54 am |

      Thanks for the kind words, Marron! I’m glad you’re liking the Changeover.

      To this day I don’t understand how I missed the 99 French Open, since I was such a big Agassi fan. Then again, catching tennis back then wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today. And who knows if it was broadcast in Honduras, where I lived back then.

  8. Mithi
    Mithi December 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |

    Reaching back is such a lovely experience. Although mine is a little disconnected and haphazard. I was 6 going on 7 (1992-3) when watching tennis became a part of my life. The national channel in India would telecast Grand Slams without fail. This was a huge part of the reason why I could be dedicated fan. My first love? Pete Sampras in SW19 92 when he was losing in the Semi Finals to Ivanisevic. I have this habit of finding my men in their losses. Ivanisevic 92 Finals, Rafa AO 04 R3, JMac in 80 F at SW19. I have no conscious thought process to explain why this appears to be the case. But it has been consistent. Andy/Nole in their respective USO final losses in 07/08. But I found it a tough deal to follow tennis and keep up with college. So from 05-07 I was dependent on Youtube (thank god it was founded in 05) and online video sources. That was when I discovered 80s tennis and had my mind blown. I know that it is unfair to judge an era from their highlights, but the 80s videos make me desperately wish I had been an avid tennis fan then. That is also how my love for JMac really flowered. (which means I am fine with on court tantrums and racquet abuse)

    With the women, I have not been able to follow and keep up but I depend on Youtube a lot. Monica was my first love. (Possibly why I have no issues with grunting to this day as well). Venus became my IT girl for most of the late 90s and the 2000s. Then I had a break of sorts till Amelie Mauresmo. Her run at the USO in 2006 still gives me the shivers. Her match vs Serena in particular. You should forgive me for the excitement I displayed when I learnt that she would be working with Vika (who is my current women’s favorite). Too bad it didn’t last. And as with JMac I discovered my love for Martina N’s game. I still hope that Petra Kvitova will keep her style of tennis alive.

    Here’s another funny thing. Thanks to Pete and Goran, I’ve never been much of a clay fan. I’d only watch it for Monica and maybe Guga. Until Rafa, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a dedicated fan-dom to what I would call a mainly clay court specialist. Even he was discovered on the old HC of AO. I learnt to understand and appreciate clay only because of my fandom of the guy. I have enjoyed my experience of a fan because by the end of the day, I’ve learnt to like all surfaces and all styles of play. I won’t deny that I’d throw every tennis player ever lived under a bus for Pete and I am still enamored by JMac’s style of game. I cherish my journey and love hearing that of others. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to connect to the same player.

    I was glad to hear your individual stories and it amuses me that both Amy and Lindsay are the same age as me but I share more commonality in terms of time period with Juan. I feel old you guys. Yes Juan, I’m calling you old 😛

  9. Karen
    Karen December 6, 2012 at 8:49 am |

    It is so great to read these stories and see that at the very heart of tennis beats fans who truly love the game and who have very fond memories of it.

    Yes Juan I am so looking forward to your piece on TW

  10. harini
    harini December 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm |

    I’m WAY late to the party and I’ve been meaning to come over here forever. I’ve just been really lazy. I really enjoyed reading the post…and there were several things in it that reminded me of the early days of my tennis fandom!

    Linz – the 2001 Hewitt/Roddick USO QF. OMG. At that time, I was the biggest Lleyton Hewitt fan and I went to bed that night around the end of the fourth set or something because I had (high) school the next morning. I don’t even know how I slept, I was so scared. And I was not a Roddick fan at all, so obviously I wanted my guy to win so badly. I woke up the next morning and was getting ready when my mom came in and I asked her, “Who won?” And she told me Lleyton had but I refused to believe it. I had to check ESPN for the scores (you know, when that was the main way to check scores, looking at that scoreline at the bottom of the screen…sigh) to confirm and ahh I was overjoyed.

    Tennis has actually been a part of my life since I was a little kid. My mom is a huge sports fan and I have memories of when I lived in India and I’d get annoyed that my mom was watching the Wimbledon final instead of letting me watch cartoons or something. I vividly remember Jana Novotna sobbing after Steffi Graf beat her in the 1992(???) Wimbledon final. I watched a lot of those matches with Sampras and Agassi in the Wimbledon finals (I think at the time India only broadcast the Wimbledon tournament…). But I didn’t get into it until Roland Garros in 2000. My mom, of course, was watching the tennis as usual and for once I did not beg her to change the channel. Guga was playing and I was hooked. Then came the Wimbledon final in 2000, where I was SO OUTRAGED that Rafter lost to Sampras. OH the pain. And from there on out, that was it. I watched pretty much the entire USO in 2000, and that’s how I became a huge Lleyton and Safin fan. I found a Yahoo Club that catered to ATP tennis and joined a bunch of other crazy tennis fans (who I am sure joined TW and other tennis boards well after Yahoo Groups became a hotbed for spammers) and that was it.

    I’m actually quite sad that I haven’t been as tennis obsessed lately. I blame law school for that and just not having free time, as you guys said above. I am always envious of you guys for always making the time for tennis, despite all your busy schedules. I just haven’t been able to, and I miss being able to watch streams whenever and chat on twitter. I almost completely missed pretty much every Slam and Masters tourney this year, and if it weren’t for your tweets, I’d have been completely oblivious. Hopefully I will get back my tennis mojo come AO next year!

    Hopefully I’ll also hang around here more and that’ll get me back into tennis fandom 🙂

    1. Lindsay
      Lindsay December 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

      Harini! So great to have you here, hope it does help you re-discover your tennis mojo (though I’m sure Rafa coming back will help as well!). Fun hearing about your story, that’s great that your tennis fandom is something you can share with your mom! Thanks for sharing.

    2. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 1:47 am |

      I hope you do get your tennis addiction back! Nice to see you here, Harini. And I get it about law school getting in the way of tennis fandom. I’m not happy about the many tournaments that I missed in the past few years due to work, but at least I was able to catch up somewhat with the DVR. Still, there are tournaments that I feel like I missed almost entirely. And catching up on the DVR is still not the same. Problem is, tennis has to be the most time consuming sport to follow – one could literally watch matches all day.

      1. harini
        harini December 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

        Hi Linz and JJ! I’m glad to be here too…it’s helping my tennis education 🙂 I really miss tweeting about tennis with you guys and sigh…real life sucked so much of my tennis time away! I should definitely have more of it now. I’m itching for the AO to start! Well, the tennis season to start 🙂

        Totally agree about how time consuming tennis is. I am always so amazed and jealous of you guys for making time for the sport.

        Linz – yup, have to thank my mother for pretty much all my sports interests. Thanks to her, I became a tennis fan, an NBA fan, and she’s the reason I even sat down to watch figure skating, the Olympics…everything. The only sport I haven’t been able to get myself into completely is American football, even though my mom loves it.

  11. Michal
    Michal December 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm |

    I started following tennis rather early, at the age of seven (and a half). It was January, Toy Story 2 was about to get released in Poland, and I got ill. As a kid I used to be a morning person, getting up very early for no reason (or maybe there was a reason, if you believe in destiny and such). I couldn’t go to school, ending up with a lot of free time on my hands (apparently a recurring theme). I watched TV, and as you can imagine, the Australian Open was on. I loved it. My days consisted of watching live tennis, watching tennis reruns, and trying to turn my room into an imaginary tennis court so I could play imaginary tennis (I was the bald guy, and I had a fantastic record against Sampras).

    Even though I kept following tennis, my interest waned a little bit. But then came the Australian Open, and the winter holidays (teaming up with another cold) yet again made me completely plunge into the tennis world. That was when I fully accepted the sport into my portfolio of forms of escapism. As I couldn’t read much about the players, I formulated plots of my own. Every match had huge stakes. Every player I didn’t really know got a unique, tailor-made personality. And the Australian Open became the most important slam for me.

    I remained a somewhat-more-than-casual fan of tennis until January 2005. I caught cold (at this point my organism might have subconsciously faked it – the result was the same). I turned on the TV expecting Federer to give Safin a beatdown. Although I’d seen lots of crazy stuff in sports before, I didn’t believe in Safin at all, at any point. That’s one of the reasons this match had a profound impact on me, reaching beyond the sport. And it turned me into a true tennis fan.

    Almost 8 years later, I don’t regret it one bit. And I can’t wait for the Australian Open.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

      Thanks for that, Michal. That was just great. The Australian Open is also special for me – so many great matches have taken place there, particularly in the semis. I’m convinced that there’s something about Rod Laver arena that conspires to create special matches.

      The first one I remember vividly is the SF between Agassi and Safin in 2004. That was one crazy match: Safin seemed well in control of it, then Agassi came back strong and forced a fifth that seemed to signal the end of El Maratski. But instead, that crazy Russian found another gear and somehow escaped. Even though I was a huge Agassi fan, I couldn’t be upset at what I saw – that was quite the match.

      About the classic 05 semi between Safin and Federer, I’ll share that I missed that match because of a mistake in figuring out just when it would take place. I was in Ecuador at the time, so calculating the time was tricky. I remember waking up thinking the match was going to take place that day, and reading in the newspaper that Safin had won a classic five-setter. Such a “D’oh!” moment.

  12. Pat Ray M. Dagapioso
    Pat Ray M. Dagapioso December 9, 2012 at 10:56 am |

    First tennis memory?

    My first tennis memory was the Aussie Finals ’07 between Serena and Maria. I was just amazed how, let’s face it, Serena can run and hit those balls with that type of body. And it made me an instant fan. When Serena cried on the Champion’s speech, I cried too.

    Then a year later, after being connected to the internet, I was now being addicted to following tennis on youtube, blogs, forums and streams. Countless videos of Serena, Venus, Maria, Ana, Novak, Rafa, both highlights and full matches on youtube, I watch them all. Reading blogs then became a norm, from Marija Zivlak’s Women’s Tennis Blog, to Peter Bodo, to Steve Tignor and to SI Tennis Blog, have been my consistent blogroll activity.

    Then TW came in. Found Pete’s blog captivating, though I don’t always agree on his views on women’s tennis, and regularly reading it. It was more captivating that I found people, like-minded people who loves, and worships tennis. Missed people like MasterAce (point-by-point description), AussieMarge and the talk of wine and rafa, then Linz (who helped me in one of my poli.sci. assignments; thanks for that interview before Linz), and Karen, Jewell, Harini, Aube. Fedal wars were exciting for me. The talk of Caro, Dinara, the minimal Novak fans then (we were only 5 or less) and the constant bashing of Serena on TW will be missed. And I’ve missed TW for the intelligent discussions on certain issues: discrimination of women players, grunting, and the dreaded time-outs of Rafa and Novak.

    Missed those days. But a lovely post indeed.

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