One word describes my time in The Observer newsroom this summer: unexpected.
When I unpacked my AP Stylebook, notepad, click erasers and voice recorder into my blindingly teal desk June 3, I never expected to hunt mushrooms or paint barn quilts — at work.
Most of all, though, I never expected to meet and interview a professional tennis player in DeWitt, Iowa.
I’ve loved tennis since I picked up a racket at 15, and I usually gush about Swiss icon Roger Federer just 10-15 minutes into a chat with someone new. When my managing editor assigned me a feature piece about 18-year-old American pro Madison Keys, who has family in town, I was elated.
As I watched Keys play in the third round of Wimbledon on my laptop, I couldn’t believe I’d meet her in a few days.
As she pounded groundstrokes over the net, I scribbled pages of notes about her — her career record (84-48), her favorite player growing up (Belgium’s Kim Clijsters), her world ranking (No. 52, as of July 7).
Finally, I wrote the kind of questions I before had only dreamed of writing — questions about net play, the demands of the Women’s Tennis Association tour, match superstitions and slice shots.
Despite my meticulous preparation, I walked to Keys’ aunt’s house slowly on Friday, at once timid and eager.
Her warm smile instantly eased any qualms I had, and I couldn’t stop smiling as we delved into the world of aces, rankings, rackets and Grand Slams.
Writing about Madison Keys cemented my goal to work as a tennis writer someday. While I’ll never reach her level in my own game or lace my sneakers at Wimbledon, I get a thrill when I write about tennis.
When I write about tennis, my MacBook Pro is my own Centre Court at Wimbledon — and I always win.