Nov/19

12

People Who Love Tennis

By Scoop Malinowski

Tennis is a sport that inspires extraordinary devotion from it’s enthusiasts…

Here are some examples of special devotion to tennis I have encountered…

I met a young woman from Japan named Hirono, who recently graduated from college and as a gift to herself, before starting her fledgling career as an English book editor, she took an eight day trip to the Miami Open in Key Biscayne to see her favorite sport live and up close. She just became a fan of the sport a few years ago while watching the Federer-Murray Wimbledon final on TV.

I know of a couple of guys in New Jersey who played tennis outdoors when the winter temperature was FOUR degrees. That’s right, FOUR degrees. We once skied in Lake Placid when it was four degrees and came off the slope and retired for the day after half a run. Four degrees is unbearably cold. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could play tennis in four degrees. You have to love tennis to do that. And be crazy.

One of my tennis buddies named Carlos confided to me that his first marriage broke up, with one of the reasons being because his wife refused to stay for the entire days during US Open qualies. Carlos, a devout lover of tennis, says, he would watch eight hours of professional practicing in Argentina and would also hide in US Open bathrooms in order to stay for night sessions after not seeing enough tennis in the day session.

While walking around the outer courts at the US Open first week about ten years ago, my ears picked up the following random sentence from a young black woman talking to someone: “…I don’t know what I’d do with my life without tennis…”

I became friends with a tournament player from Newport News, Virginia who told me takes a bus every year from Virginia to New York City, to attend the first day of the US Open. He prefers the bus over driving so he can “sleep.” He also takes a bus each year to see one day of the Citi Open in Washington DC.

Christopher Bowers, journalist from England, was overheard saying on the media bus en route to the media Pro-Am at the 2007 Davis Cup final in Portland, that he once played tennis for “44 consecutive hours.”
Hence the nickname, “44 Hours Bowers.”

I used to play with a young guy in his 20’s who loved Pete Sampras so much he bought a surplus of Sampras Nike Wilson gear – ten extra pairs of Nike Oscillates, fifteen Wilson Pro Staff racquets, not to mention the abundant supply of Nike attire and Sampras match videotapes. Oh, I almost forgot to add that this guy named Ken imitated his game after Sampras, complete with serve motion (almost exact but he could never break 90 on the radar gun), shoulder shrugs and that Pete finger wipe of brow sweat. Though he tried like heck to play like Pete, I guess it’s true the old quotation about “imitation is suicide” …Ken never could elevate his game beyond the 4.0 level and his now a competitive cyclist.

There was an extreme Federer fan from Atlanta who used to follow Fed and watch him play live at places like the US Open, China, London, Indian Wells, Cincinnati. He even had a photo of himself, arms aloft, from a major newspaper, attired exactly like Federer, who was on the court in the same celebratory pose after a winning shot. But this gentleman went a little overboard. This overzealous fanatic would dress in all the latest Fed attire and he even seemed to talk and carry himself like Federer, though he was undoubtedly harmless and came from a good family. Friends with another journalist who shall remain nameless, this fan received a media credential as a photographer for Indian Wells in 2010 and apparently spooked Federer to the point that Federer himself asked the tournament to revoke his credential. And a couple of days later Federer, perhaps still flustered by the bizarre incident, lost in the third round to Bagdhatis.

There is a fan/photographer named Michael who has attended every single day of the U.S. Open for almost 30 years. He buys his own tickets and arrives no later than ten AM and stays until the final matches are complete, and all the while he’s documenting everything with his camera. Even on two hours of sleep after an early morning of lates matches, this man will be back the next day to photograph the U.S. Open. No matter how hot, he’ll be out there on the outer courts, watching the action and taking photos – from qualies to final Sunday or Monday. For almost 30 years. Wilander, McEnroe, Vilas, Borg, Connors Edberg, Agassi, Capriati, Sabatini, Federer, you name it, he’s got an inside story on all of them. If anyone could do the most comprehensive book about the U.S. Open it’s Michael…

This year, my two friends from Long Island, Aaron and his brother Jordan, drove from Long Island to Newport to watch about three hours of tennis, then they drove all the way back, a combined nine hours of driving to see three hours of Newport live tennis.

Feel free to add your memories of tennis devotion in the comments.

2 comments

  • Harold · November 16, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Hers a question about people who must love tennis?

    Tour traveling lines people. How do they do it? Scoop, Dan, anyone ever interview a modern day lines person about the lifestyle? SW’s little friend from the US Open, is still traveling all over the world doing matches. Can you really make a good living being a lines person? Do you have to start at low level tournaments and work your way up?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 16, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Harold, good questions. They have a devoted crew, I know several of the linespeople. They get paid a nominal fee and in most cases get hotel room and meals paid for but they must pay their own travel. I believe they have to get permission to be interviewed.

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