I have a slight confession to make: I have not watched much tennis lately at all. I know, I’m sorry, I feel like a fraud, but things have been pretty crazy over the past few months.
As some of you may know, a couple of months ago I moved from New York City to North Carolina–Greensboro, to be more specific. I’m originally from Greensboro, but I had been in NYC ever since I was 18 years old. (For those of you dying to know my age, that’s almost 10 years. I KNOW.) Moving back home was a decision that I had been stewing over for quite some time, but the timing finally seemed right. A couple of great jobs in NYC were coming to an end, and a new year seemed like a great time for a fresh start.
So, I did that thing that 18-year-old me never EVER thought I would do, and I moved back to Greensboro. It’s a temporary move, a chance to catch my breath and be closer to my family for a while and figure some things out. Needless to say, after 10 years of city living and roommates and public transportation and endless happy hours, it’s been quite a transition. I now live alone in a two- bedroom apartment, I have an office, I drive a car, and, to top things off, I adopted a dog last week. It’s official–I’ve been domesticated. I even DVR The Voice.
I’m in love.
It was weird leaving behind NYC, even if in my heart it’s much more of a “see you later.” I’d lived more than nine lives in NYC. I was a film student, a club leader, a low-scale theater and film producer, a writer/director of short films, a Production Assistant, a coordinator in reality television, a temp, a nanny, an author, and a sports blogger. All phases were peppered by great nights out, even better nights in, bouts of depression, relationships beginning and ending, family drama, bad decisions, miraculous recoveries, never enough money, and six moves–from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens. Perhaps the only constants during those years were extreme self doubt, resilient dreams, amazing friendships, and, of course, tennis fandom.
Where it all began–Memphis, 2011.
For the past two years I had lived in a tiny room in an apartment in Astoria with one of my best friends. There was no living room and barely any common space at all. Since I worked from home for most of that time, I would spend unceasing days in my 12X12 room (I’m guessing, I never measured), occasionally moving my futon from bed to couch, watching sports and writing, working through personal struggles and hiding from them.
I was losing myself in those confines, which was a big reason for the move back down south. I simply wasn’t happy there any more. But at the same time the departure came with a lot of sadness–that room was where I lived when my book was published, when I got my first paid tennis writing gigs, and when we launched The Changeover. Even though I arguably regressed a bit personally, that space was where I took some big steps forward professionally. A part of me was afraid that any momentum I had built in that cage of a room would diminish once I tried to build myself a more well-rounded life.
Change is great–necessary, even–but that doesn’t mean that it’s not scary.
Thankfully, some of my career fears were momentarily eased when my move back to NC coincided with an opportunity to write for full-time for a couple of months covering the Australian Open a little bit and the Olympics (and lead-up to the Olympics) a lot. The job was a great chance to spread my writing wings a little bit, and I really enjoyed it, but it left little time for tennis even during the Australian Open, and absolutely none after Wawrinka’s big victory.
Let Stan have this moment, kayakers.
I must say that it was strange feeling so disconnected from the tennis community for even a short period of time–if you consider five weeks short, which I’m not sure that I do in the ever-evolving tennis soap opera.
In the past few weeks I’ve missed watching Venus Williams win her first title since 2012, in a (scoreline-wise, at least) dominant display in Dubai. On her way to No. 45, the 33-year-old Biggest Inspiration Ever took out Vesnina, Ivanovic, Pennetta, Wozniacki, and Cornet. God, I wish I could have seen all of that unfold in real time.
I also apparently missed the solidification of Grigor Dimitrov as an Actual Thing. Did he really beat Andy Murray in a third-set tiebreaker? Did he really build on his AO quarterfinal to win a 500 title and show consistent glimpses of the player that we all had hoped he would become? Did he really tweet this?
— Grigor Dimitrov (@GrigorDimitrov) February 23, 2014
Did Alize Cornet–like *that* Alize Cornet–really upset Serena Williams–THAT Serena Williams–in a real tennis match by hitting insanely awesome shots like this one? Did the universe really survive Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini winning a title in the same week? Is the eternally adorable Marin Cilic really back playing the tennis that he was before his ban? Did Klara Zakapalova really win a title? I mean, come on guy, this is just getting silly now.
At a certain point, scrolling through the February results makes me feel like a drunk person is playing a big trick on me. This sport just never stops. The tennis world keeps moving, keeps shifting, keeps growing up and regressing in simultaneous waves. You really can’t look away for a second.
Because then this happens.
Focusing so much on the Olympics really made me appreciate this “any given week” world of tennis even more. Nobody is on top of the world for four years because of one good race or two flawless skates. It takes more than that. There’s always another chance to prove yourself, or, on the other hand, to fall back down to earth. Nobody gets to rewrite what happened in the Australian Open–don’t worry, Stan, you’re safe–but already there are new pages being written.
It’s exhausting, it’s infuriating, but it’s also exhilarating.
Don’t they look thrilled?
As weird and bleak as it was to be off the tennis beat for a while, the absence might have indeed made my heart grow fonder. Because, you guys, I AM SO EXCITED FOR INDIAN WELLS.
I’m excited to see Li Na as the No. 1 seed and the inevitable chaos that will ensue. I want to see how Victoria Azarenka is feeling and find out whether Agnieszka Radwanska has recovered from her semifinal meltdown in Oz yet. I want to watch Maria Sharapova back in action and find out whether Dominika Cibulkova is really and truly going to become A THING. I want to see if the younger generation of WTA stars can continue to emerge. Can Sloane Stephens treat Indian Wells like it really is the Fifth Slam that advertisers are trying to make it out to be? Will Genie Bouchard take another step forward or another step backwards? (Standing still is not an option in tennis, but I assume you guys know that.) Will Madison Keys be able to take advantage of a great draw? Can Garbine Muguruza continue her ascent? AND WHAT ABOUT MONICA PUIG? I’d like for her to do something again, please.
This lady has a sponsorship with the Cheesecake Factory. She’s already won.
I’m also excited to see how the tennis community and fans react to Stanislas Wawrinka: Grand Slam Champion. I want to see whether any American men at all will emerge from the rubble to at least make the second week. I want to see whether Dimitrov can Do His Thing on a bigger stage, whether The Boris Becker Experiment will continue, and whether a Murray/Nadal match will FINALLY happen. (I say it doesn’t, by the way. The Tennis Gods will keep trolling.) Will Federer’s Dubai form carry over? Will Delpo’s wrist keep from exploding? Can Nadal defend his title from 2013? WHAT WILL TOMAS BERDYCH TWEET NEXT?
— Tomáš Berdych (@tomasberdych) March 6, 2014
Not all of my many questions will be answered over the next 10 days, and I know that, but no matter what, another chapter will be written in the Great Book of Tennis. It will momentarily be most important one, because the most recent ones always are.
On a personal note, I’m excited to get back to watching and writing about tennis. I’ll have other jobs pulling at my focus, but there will finally be some time for tennis too. In a way I feel like there has to be. My day-in, day-out tennis addiction began about seven years ago (I’d been following the majors for much longer than that), and it’s somehow tied together so many crazy different worlds. I remember checking scores on my BlackBerry as I ran through Times Square delivering theater tickets during a temp job, fully discovering the power of Tennis Twitter when I was on set working on a TV show during the French Open way back in 2009, and looking forward to naps when I was nannying so I could get in some streaming. It’s been an entertaining and steady presence in my life that somehow spurred something that somewhat resembles a career–if you squint and have a shot of tequila or two.
I bet she likes tequila.
It sounds cheesy–let’s face it, it is–but now, with my reimmersion into the tennis scene, my new apartment finally feels like home. For me, it just ties everything together.
Things are, naturally, way different in Greensboro than they were in NYC. There are more coffees than cocktails and more family members than friends. I’ve been too busy to really dig my heels into what my daily life will be down here, but as much as I miss New York and the possibilities that came with it, it still feels like I made the right decision.
Tennis players get a chance to reinvent themselves on a weekly basis. For us mere commoners, the new chapters aren’t nearly as clearly defined. Moves and new jobs certainly help bookend things and give us (or just me?) the motivation to try new things and keep moving forward. But while new things can be inspiring, there’s certainly comfort in the constants.
TLDR? It’s good to be back.