Tennis Prose



Defending New York City Marathon champion and Olympic gold medalist Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia “so excited” by tennis

You don’t expect to hear any tennis references at the New York City Marathon press conferences, but today there was a rather memorable one.

It came from the legendary distance runner from Ethiopia, the incomparable Derartu Tulu.

I asked the 38-year-old 2009 New York City Marathon champ Tulu what were here hobbies and interests outside of running and she responded, through an interpreter, “Swimming and horse riding. And I love watching tennis.”

Whoa, what a surprise. The 1992 and 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000 meter event, then named two players as her favorites to watch.

“Martina Hingis and Agassi.”

Hingis was another unexpected answer from the running legend who was born in and still resides in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Why Hingis?

“Very good player. I like it so much how she plays,” said the woman who won the 2001 World Championship in Edmonton, the 2000 IAAF World Cross-Country Championship in Vilamoura, Spain and the London and Tokyo Marathons.

While the joyful and ever-smiling champion runner – she laughs and smiles throughout our ten-minute interview, not unlike her favorite player who was nicknamed ‘The Smiling Assassin’ – Tulu enjoys watching the tennis matches at home on TV, but she says she does not own a racquet or play the sport at all. “I don’t play, just watch. I couldn’t play. I can’t!”

She also has never been to a live professional tennis match.

When asked the appeal of tennis, Tulu, a mother of six children including four adopted, says, “I’m just attracted to it. I don’t know why. But when I watch it, I’m so excited and wrapped up in the game.”

Imagine the excitement Tulu would experience if she had the chance to enjoy live pro grand slam tennis from the front row at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, instead of just watching on TV from her sofa?

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