Tag Archives: Roger Federer

On tennis, existential crises and unglamorous epiphanies

My lemon-lime-colored fuzzy blanket shields me from the sight of Roger Federer losing. When he’s winning, I wear it like a cape and pace the room, my mug of tea inevitably dripping to the carpet below.

Watching tennis with me is a lively, theatrical experience. A spectacle of erratic emotion, really.

Yet it’s in that nerve-wracking, can’t-sit-still display I find brief moments of contentedness. And by “contentedness,” I mean my prone-to-existential-crises side fades for a moment, giving me a little break from the pressure that’s integral to the female experience, I think.

I like tennis for its innate starkness (and Grigor Dimitrov, let’s be real here). Without the trouble of watching two teams in dizzying motion, I can focus on one player, the precise movements that comprise the perfect hit. Every tiny element is detectable, vital, never hidden behind the other player. It is innately enough.

Distilling the game down to each stroke suspends me in the present, reminding me to commit my energy here, to the immediate and attainable.

A beautiful dichotomy emerges, in which each shot guides me to something tangible in life.

Drop your left hand level with your hip when you hit; be still for five minutes and reflect. Angle your volley; right now, remind yourself it’s fine to feel “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time” (my girl T. Swift gets it).

As I imagine little adjustments echoing in my favorite player’s mind, I confront my own, replacing full-blown existential crises with manageable moments of positive change.

But as long as I'm thinking/writing/rambling about exotic travel destinations, please enjoy this photo of my all-time favorite ancient ruins at Ephesus in Turkey.

But as long as I’m thinking/writing/rambling about exotic travel destinations, please enjoy this photo of my all-time favorite ancient ruins at Ephesus in Turkey.

Per my recent envy of college classmates who got their degrees and promptly jetted off to Europe or some equally cool other continent, I often forget I don’t need a plane ticket or exotic destination to arrive at something worthwhile/life-changing.

Sometimes the important epiphanies happen in a still-blank-walled apartment at 4:36 a.m., wrapped in a blindingly neon fuzzy blanket.

Birthdays provide tangible proof of personal growth

Funfetti cake. Brief peril in the proximity of my crazy hair to birthday candles. The yearly barrage of, “Hey, [@EveryTennisProEver]! It’s my birthday — please tweet at me!”

I love birthdays. There’s something irresistible about their innate tangibility.

Whether I’m flipping my calendar from November 2013 to now or mentally preparing myself for 24 hours of Taylor Swift’s “22,” I crave tangible proof I’ve grown in the past year.

And yet, the tangible things I’ve counted on over the years have lost some of their luster this time. Fear not, I’ll still bake Funfetti cake with blindingly pink frosting, and Roger Federer will tweet at me this year (wishful thinking italicized for dramatic effect). This birthday, though, I’ve reinvented some of the tangible experiences I once clung to for evidence of personal growth.

Like tennis. When I quit playing my junior year of college, courtesy of homework/work/life in general, I felt lost. The physical act of playing tennis was ingrained in my identity. It provided a go-to means of relieving whatever trauma I faced that day.

Thanks to my senior capstone for my English writing degree, I’ve realized newfound complexity in the game of tennis. Though I can’t hit a forehand with the same finesse as my 17-year-old self, I’ve realized I love writing about tennis far more than I ever enjoyed playing it.

Plus, there’s a bizarre dichotomy in tennis. It’s intensely private and public, simultaneously. The player is alone on the court, as fans, coaches, photographers and even the umpire experience the narrative from a different vantage point. A fan-sanctioned form of solitary confinement.

Exploring this complexity in writing has renewed tennis’ purpose in my life.

Birthdays remind me it’s OK to be ridiculous (i.e. fangirl tweeting at Roger Federer while inhaling one-too-many Funfetti cupcakes), but they also remind me that personal growth transcends those 24 hours. It blurs into something more nuanced, in which the tangible and intangible are inextricable.

Landing my dream interview

The unexpected joys of intern life

Me and American professional tennis player Madison Keys

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.