Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why They Play

by Savannah

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Until yesterday Nicolas Mahut of France was known for a long assed never should've been allowed to go that long match. Then there was the match where the Bryan Twins picked on him throughout the match and Mahut was in tears feeling that any chance he had of ever winning a title was gone.

If there were any tears Saturday they were tears of joy as Mahut, at 31, won his first ever main tour title. Look at the expression on his face. There is nothing there but joy and excitement. I think tennisheads all around the world exulted with him.

It's going to be fun hearing the US announcers who probably don't know that there were tournaments last week try and call him a "journeyman" and laugh about that long assed match until TennisTwitter pulls them up short.

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Simona Halep of Romania has quietly won back to back tournaments, one on (real) clay and one on grass. For a certain segment of tennis fandom she will always be the girl who got a breast reduction and objectified. For the serious fan it's time to sit up and take notice of her. She's not the Romanian player everyone talks about but she's the one who hoisted trophies in the last few weeks while her countrywoman wasn't. I have nothing against her countrywoman but it's funny how the ones everyone goes nuts over aren't the ones who've hoisted trophies of late.

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There are beautiful Russian women. Maria Kirilenko is one. The woman pictured above, Elena Vesnina, is another. They get pushed aside in US coverage of the women from Russia who play tennis because of course there can be only one.

I'm guilty of never taking Vesnina seriously though. I thought of her as more of a doubles player not as a singles player and never paid attention to her game. I got to see just how well she can play yesterday at Eastbourne where she faced American Jamie Hampton in the final. I'm hoping by the end of the summer that I'll have more to write about Jamie. Yesterday was Elena's day to shine though and shine she did. A strong wind blew throughout the match and while it seemed to bother her opponent it didn't bother Elena. She stayed focused and played according to her gameplan and in the end she got to pose with the trophy after winning her second main tour title.

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The joy on Nicolas Mahut's face is nothing compared to the joy on Feliciano Lopez's face when he won the men's title at Eastbourne. It's been a long time between titles for a man considered to be among the best looking in tennis. It wasn't his looks that got him that win in the chilly wind of Eastbourne. It was literally, to use a cliché a matter of him holding his nerve and his serve and staying focused when the going got tough. He was so excited he went out and snatched the trophy from the presenters hands and was gently told that that's not how it's done.

The common denominator for all of the above players is their joy. These are not the players who make headlines around the world when they play a Final. The casual fan will only know them as random names on a draw playing against their better known peers.

There are times during the year when I ask myself how hard it must be to play year round and not even come close to a title. In a week where the big boys and girls are off playing in exhibitions players like Mahut, Vesnina, Halep and Lopez played for the average fan. They did it for love of the game, the excitement of competition, and for the chance to be the one glowing and kissing the trophy.

Congratulations to them all.


oddman said...

Absolutely delightful post, Savannah. I'm so happy for Feli and Nicolas both. Esp Feli, who has a beautiful game and really gets more press for his looks.

Savannah said...

Thank you oddman. With all the shit going on in tennis right now the achievements of these players was getting overlooked. They deserve their day is the sun.

John Gegner said...

Well said, Savannah. I watched the second set of the Mahut match and had to change my post plans on my blog. Nicolas won out over a Wimbledon preview.

b said...

Loved this post. Will you be posting about Wimbledon? Just went to Craig's site and it was empty - sigh