Thursday, July 27, 2023

My Wimbledon Story

I've been to my fair share of remarkable live sporting events. Not one however has prompted the reaction as what I have gotten from attending the 2023 Wimbledon Championship. Without fail, sharing news of my travel to London for the third Grand Slam of the year has been met with of joy and wonder, questions and comments. I had no idea.

Unlike many fans, Wimbledon was not a "bucket list" item for me. I say that, because I don't subscribe to the Bucket List Theory. I didn't tell many people I was going to Wimbledon. For my own reasons, I kept my purple and green cards close to my chest. It's all part of my Wimbledon story, and I've come to believe other people have their own. So let this post serve as just that...and please know, if you have been—I will ask you your Wimbledon story and for those who go in the future, expect the same.

Starting point. I grew up on Wimbledon Road. I'm not joking. Unlike my last name, I never had to tell anyone how to spell my street. I wore that address: 535 Wimbledon Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598 like it was a badge of honor; it was a point of pride. I fell in love with tennis at the age of 12. Wimbledon was just one reason why. 

Unhappy Christmas. My 2022 holiday season was devoid of much cheer. In light of that sad state, I decided to plan for something big come summer vacation 2023. I wasn't sure if I had already cashed in those chips with an epic golf trip to Ireland—with 13 other women for two weeks. Given my bout with COVID and paying for 12 rounds of golf, only to play 10, I figured why not give it another go (total first world problem, yes but those rounds were not a) refunded or b) cheap!)

Wimbledon wasn't my first choice in terms of summer travel. I was hoping to get to Roland Garros for the French Open. The timing of the French coincided with some obligations I had at Notre Dame for Reunion weekend. I was hoping to get from Chicago to Paris but things just didn't fall into place. Stade Roland Garros awaits!  

But a few weeks later, my former colleague and good friend Bill told me about his summer plans. He was leading a group of Ignatian educators on the Camino de San Ignacio. His wife Mary and son (Mary was also a former colleague and dear friend) were going to meet him in Spain. From there, they decided to visit Paris and London—just in time for the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. Considering that it's better to attend in pairs, I joined to make the odds even. 

At Indian Wells in 2009

InfoHound. When it comes to attending a live sporting event, I love nothing more than sitting next to someone who thoroughly knows and understands the game. In short, I am a total InfoHound. If you can offer both technical and personal insight, I'm your girl.

Bill and I taught together in the Religious Studies Department at St. Ignatius. He was the girls' and boys' tennis coach, I coached cross country. At the advent of each school year is the US Open. I learned to never indicate who won a match from those late night, under the lights contests in NYC unless he had already seen it. I rarely watch what I tape; Bill is different

In 2009, we went to what is known as the "Fifth Grand Slam" at Indian Wells. It was at this tourney that I first declared he should consider a career as an announcer. I knew taking in Wimbledon together would be first rate. Furthermore, I knew his stories from having been in the past. There is something to be said for prior knowledge and experience to navigate ticking at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC). I hope info on this blog will be of some help.

BreakPoint. While people have lauded Full Swing, the Netflix series about professional men's golf, BreakPoint seems to have landed differently. In what is now a two part series on professional men's AND women's tennis, I watched the first five episodes with great anticipation. As much as I really struggle with him, I am a bit of a Krygios fan. I love Nadal and Berrettini. I was excited to learn more about Jabeur and Tomljanović—the woman who took down Serena in the 2022 US Open—but a few of the featured profiles on the show.

Truth be told, it turned me off from today's game—big time. Consequently, I was less excited to go to Wimbledon. I found the players to be one dimensional and super selfish. While they noted self-serving tendencies to be a necessary evil, I couldn't get past how this played out in their lives. With the exception of Matteo Berrettini, who comes from a joyful and loving extended family and Ons—whose husband Karim has put his career at a distant second to hers—I started to question how an individual sport like tennis might be worth following. 

I wasn't as excited as I should have been for my trip. Thanks* BreakPoint
I mean that. Please note the asterisk.

Metanoia. Prior to my flight to London, I downloaded Season 2 of BreakPoint. I decided that watching the show could serve as preparation for what I would see. These episodes made the travel time fly by (pun intended). I found greater depth in each episode. Each profile offered something more. Those who I deemed shallow were much more complex and interesting. Those I loved, emerged as ever more human. I cannot tell you how many times I referenced what I learned in the color commentary between Bill, Mary, Liam and me in our time together. We are supposed to have a Zoom conference call after they watch the series.

Ballots 4013-4016! Mary is taking the photo, ballot in hand ;-) 

The Public Ballot, the queue, and the resale line. While many sports enthusiasts equate the likelihood of attending Wimbledon to The Masters—tradition, exclusivity and more— the ticketing system is far, far different. For those who want to go to in the future, let me be very clear: anyone can go to Wimbledon. Anyone.

If you are remotely interested, enter The Wimbledon Public Ballot. This will allow you the chance to purchase tickets at face value. This is an important place to start because there are three ticketed courts at the AELTC: Court One, Two and Centre Court. This ticket guarantees that you get onto the grounds and can view some of the premiere matches. Tickets are not exorbitant in price—just another appealing aspect of Wimbledon. 

Even if you don't get tickets early on through the Public Ballot, people post theirs for resale through this system. You will have to check and check often, but Bill secured two tickets on Court One this way. That was HUGE. We took turns in the seats while two others were watching the action on the outer courts.

It's worth noting, the culture of the ballot forbids a gross mark-up or as we say in San Francisco, "dynamic pricing." In recent years, I have been discouraged and disillusioned by the cost of professional sports. While getting to London might not be inexpensive, if you are there, Wimbledon is a price-worthy option. 

Because I did not have a ticket from the ballot, I arrived to The Queue with my crew at 6:45 a.m. Sunrise must have been around 6:00 a.m. so it was comfortable and felt safe to take the Tube to South Wimbledon stop, walk 15 minutes and take my queue number. I was 4016. We were able to purchase a grounds ticket at 11:45 for £27. This enabled me to pass through the tennis' heavenly gates. Best $40 US I've spent all summer.

So many Wimbledon attendees have their own queue story—and my sense is though the weather conditions vary, most people have what must be as pleasant an experience as waiting for a ticket can and should be. Bring cards, snacks, a blanket, sunscreen and settle in. This is a hopeful journey—the grass courts of the AELTC await.

And the resale line is magic—truly remarkable. It will open and it will close. I strongly recommend committing to getting into it, because the line DOES move. For £15 you will find yourself on Centre Court.

The Grounds: Alfredo, one of the trainers at my gym, told me about the energy of Wimbledon. It really is something. I would add that the magic and beauty of the grounds surpassed my expectations. Not only were they clean and vibrant, they were characterized by the reality that you might see just about anyone or anything. 

Wimbledon is a bee hive. Players have to walk to their courts from the central locker room. You might brush shoulders with a doubles' team that just won their match. I walked right by PGA golfer, Tommy Fleetwood. On Centre Court, I realized within nanoseconds that the very tall, black man in the suit was none other than the musician Seal. The Grounds at Wimbledon make for an interesting chapter in the Wimbledon story.

What's Wrong with you People? 
It's not surprising to a lot of people, but it was to me. The men and women working at Wimbledon were incredibly polite, accommodating and kind. For example, Centre Court is open for the public to view and take photos until 12:30. Mary and I arrived at 12:27 and were nearly begging to take a moment to behold the sacred ground. The guard and usher said "please come forward. Enjoy. You still have three minutes."

I'm so used to be told "no" and made to feel like my request is a massive imposition or that I am intruding that I had to recalibrate. Part of me wondered, in jest, "What is wrong with you people? You're so civil and accommodating?! And then I realized, treating others as you want to be treated, showing respect, and when people are polite, it's not hard to be polite in return are all much more than skills worth inculcating.

The Fans There should be a joke out there. A Philly fan walked into Wimbledon... punch line please?

Just as the staff was polite, so were the fans....and yet, they were so much more. Although phones are allowed, hardly anyone was on them. In fact, people weren't really talking during the matches. There was no music and very little advertising. The only sounds I heard were from the competition and from the fans as they responded to the match. You wouldn't ask the question: What's wrong with you people? because you can't answer it. The men, women and children in the seats are excellent fans. They clap and watch the match. I think of some of the foul language and lewd terms I've learned at professional sporting events—but not Wimbledon.

One of the more interesting attribute of fandom at Wimbledon however is that they will turn on a player. One person emerges as a crowd favorite. However, as one athlete is pulling away toward victory, the crowd will start cheering—not against that player—but for the other. Why? The crowd wants more tennis. To hear the words "Game. Set. Match" is to know the contest will end. As they say in England, "brilliant."

Mary took this shot from our seats on the Centre Court.

Centre Court: Intimate, striking and hallowed. In this space, it's hard not to understand you are somewhere very special. The Royal Box is up close, front and personal; its presence only adds to the allure (though I find it justifiable to be critical of it! AND to realize we have our own versions of them in the US). 

The only reason I got onto this court is because of Liam. He noticed the the resale line really was moving; he knew we had a chance. I give this 13 year old young man all the credit and props. His vision and desire made all the difference. Thanks, Liam!!

In Conclusion: Going to a place as special at Wimbledon prompts hundreds of emotions—joy, gratitude, awe and inspiration. I couldn't help but wish my parents were there with me or think about taking my nieces in the future. I recalled past championships—the dreams deferred and those that have been denied. I considered how amazing it would have been to see Venus and Serena win a title on a Saturday and return on Sunday for the Double's trophy. I hope to return and I think I will. I don't always feel that way after a great sports event. Yes, this was more than sufficient but the beauty of the grounds, the spirit of competition, the shared experience with a family—my friends, the unique flavor of each year makes for a new Wimbledon story. Consider writing your own...

Photo Credits
Royal Family
Break Point
Seal in the stands

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Lesson from Wimbledon—A Reminder about the Importance of Equal Access

Though Pebble Beach has hosted other women's golf tournaments, the inaugural U.S. Women's Open at the iconic, majestic course took place July 3-6, 2023. So many people asked me if I was there. Others expected I would make the (short) trek to Monterey. Despite the fact I had an alibi, I felt badly I missed out. Why? Just a few weeks earlier, I traveled to Los Angeles for the Men's U.S. Open. I believe our pocketbooks and our calendars reveal what we value. I didn't want anyone to infer that I am not supportive of the women's game. 

My mom thinks men and women should receive the same trophy.
I find beauty in both. Thoughts?

I wasn't at the 78th US Women's Open because 
I was traveling to London for the Wimbledon Championships. This tourney offered me many insights, memorable moments, ideas and observations. And one of the most important is rooted in the fact I was able to see both men and women competing in the same sport. 

Sitting in a ticketed seat on Court One, my friends Bill, Mary, Liam and I saw three matches in a row. Daniil Medvedev won in just two sets because Jiri Lehecka withdrew, due to injury. This match on Court One was followed by Aryana Sabalenka defeating Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 6-0. I saw but one set of the Rune vs. Dimitrov match because Liam and I left to hit the Resale line to purchase a ticket Centre Court. 

Though I checked in on a number of matches on the outer courts throughout the day, the Sabalenaka match was my favorite. I love her game. An incredibly talented and emotional player, her athleticism and style of play speaks to me. Having watched "Break Point," I learned more about her personal story; I can't help but cheer for the Belarusian.

This experience at Wimbledon allowed me to see both the men's and women's game. One was not at the expense of the other. The simultaneous play of both draws extended equal access and visibility of the players/for the fans. NB:
 the semifinal and final matches take place on different days but for the majority of the tournament fans are privy to both. Furthermore, the men's doubles championship follows the women's on Saturday and the women's doubles championship follows the men's on Sunday—allowing for equal visibility as it's a singular ticketed event.

For quite some time, proponents of women's sport have called for much more than equal pay, access, resources and opportunity. Women's sports ought to have equal coverage, publicity and viewing opportunity. Though much has improved for women in sport, coverage remains limited.

In the article The disparity in women’s and men’s sports, Jennifer Bubel writes,

According to a study conducted by Purdue University in March 2021, coverage of women’s sports in the media has barely changed since the 1980s. The study found that in 2019, women’s sports coverage only totaled to 5.4% of airtime, as compared to the 5% in 1989 and 5.1% in 1993 - quite a small percentage of change. The Women’s World Cup accounted for a huge chunk of that percentage, as it drops to 3.5% when removed that year. The study also found that digital media coverage had the same disparity, despite the lack of time constraints.

Coverage and publicity is important because not only does it bring attention and awareness to the feat of women in sport, it affirms the athletes, promotes achievements, celebrates excellence and endears fans to players and teams. To see Ons Jabeur play tennis is to love her. To watch Ajla Tomljanovic defeat Serena Williams at the 2022 U.S. Open proves how valuable a good mentor can be (Chris Evert has stepped into this role for several female tennis players).

I believe one of the most important arguments for exposure to women's sports is that it shapes us—our eye, our understanding and our ears. Women's tennis is indeed different than men's tennis. Women's basketball, golf, gymnastics is too. While all fans have a preference for their favorite sport, team and athlete, I would argue we can all grow in our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of each game. One need not be at the expense of the other. This is not an either/or proposition...I see it as both/and.

Furthermore, I don't need women to hit as far, serve as fast, or jump as high. Maybe you do, but over time I have learned to value to nuances, differences and beauty of each game for what it is and who is playing it. For the record, the average speed for a first serve in men's tennis is 115 mph vs. 105 for women.

Wimbledon is no different than other Grand Slam events in tennis that host both men and women. The timing of this tourney and the U.S. Women's Open (one of the four majors in golf) only reminded me of what I already knew, but it also made me wonder: Why can't things can different? Shouldn't they? Here are a few ideas.

Why not have *some* golf tournaments that feature half the field of male players to include the other half of female golfers. The women and the men can tee off from the appropriate tee box and still play against their own gender. There would still be a male champion and a female champion. The integration of men and women in a tourney would allow for fans to see both. 

Why not have the women and men's March Madness include both teams in the same locations in the early rounds? A fan could see San Diego State men tip off at 5:00 p.m. with the Notre Dame women to follow. 

Please note, I am not in favor of eliminating gender from competition. I do however want to think creatively about how we can celebrate and have access to both. Some people might not want to ever see men's sports. Others might not woman to see women's. While many sports fan will make the argument for a preference of one game vs. the other, my time at Wimbledon only allowed me to engage with two sides of the draw and cheer for my favorite players from each.

If you need a reason or an excuse to go to Wimbledon, this is just one of 100 I am happy to provide. More to come!

Photo Credits
Both Winners
Ajla and Chrissie
Both Leaderboards

Monday, July 17, 2023

In Praise of Tears...Thank you, Ons Jabeur

At one set down and the score of 2-3 in the second set, Ons Jabeur voluntarily put her back against the wall. She stood for what felt like only a tennis player does. I would love to know was said between her mind, body and soul. She emerged from the shadows and won the next game. It wasn't enough. Just four games letter, her nemesis Marketa Vondrousova fell to the ground, triumphant. Game. Set. Match: Vondrousova. The unseeded Czech defeated Jabeur, the two seed in straight sets—6-4, 6.4. 

But a few moments later, the closing ceremony pageantry commenced. The Princess of Wales greeted and thanked the ball boys and girls, lines-people and chair umpire. The crowd came to their feet, clapping and cheering in thanksgiving for a fortnight of great tennis. Jabeur, a crowd favorite, was the first to receive her trophy. She could barely grasp the award—a silver platter for first runner up—she was crying so much. She didn't hold back.

As written in The New Times, "Shortly after, during the on-court ceremony, Jabeur broke down, wiping tears from her pink eyes as she spoke to spectators, and holding the runner-up trophy like a dirty dish. She called it “the most painful loss” of her career.

It was hard to look away. That moment, if frozen in time, only revealed something every human being knows all too well: a dream denied. Again, one need not be a tennis player, an athlete or even a sports fan to have a sense of how Jabeur was feeling. And I loved her even more for letting us in.

Not every player who loses cries, but many do. So what gives? How or why were the tears from Jabeur any different? Maybe it's because—on some level— we get it, and it helps to see others do too. Who hasn't come close and lost? Who hasn't given their all toward a goal and come up short? Who hasn't been the favorite and emerged on the other side? 

Jabeur truly let herself be in the moment. In what felt again, like an eternity, we waited to see her regain her composure and speak. We saw her unable to let go of the pain of defeat. We watched Kate offer consolation and we watched as we saw Ons try to take it in. 

I don't know what it's like to play in the finals of Wimbledon. I don't know what's like to come that close to achieving a high profile, historic dream. But I do know what it's like to let myself be unable to "shake it off (sorry, Taylor)" or be anything but disappointed. Furthermore, I believe it offers a lesson to be learned about spirituality. 

There is no shortage of pain in this world—death, violence and destruction. Disease, divorce, hunger and the list goes on. But this pain is different. I think there's value in recognizing and appreciating that. This pain stems from desire. In "The Holy Longing," Ron Rolheiser writes "This dis-ease is universal.  Desire gives no exemptions.  It does, however, admit of different moods and faces … can show itself as aching pain or delicious hope.  Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire." What a nuanced way to think about spirituality.

In Ons, we see a desire to be the best, and to achieve a goal. Though tennis is an individual sport, I believe one of the reasons she is so popular among the fans is because her desire does not feel totally selfish or solitary. For example, in her loss Jabeur apologized for "letting my fans and my team down."

Furthermore, it's not just Jabeur's desire but who she is along the path toward its progress that draws us in. This journey speaks to her own, unique personality...and her spirituality. David Waldstein writes: 

Jabeur, who appears as genuine as she is talented; one of the many reasons fans are so drawn to her. As the No. 6 seed, she played magnificently here, avenging last year’s devastating loss to No. 3 Rybakina in a quarterfinal and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in their semifinal. Many thought it was Jabeur’s time, making the loss more excruciating and eliciting sympathy even from Vondrousova’s camp.

“When I saw her, I started to cry, too,” said Stepan Simek, Vondrousova’s husband. “Ons is a very lovely human. She has a good heart and is very friendly with opponents, and even to me. I was very sad because she deserves to be a Grand Slam champion. She will make it one day.”

What a delicious hope. 

To be human is to have desire. Yes, some desires are indeed self consuming, while others are beautiful, up-lifting. Most are...human. Many professionals play tennis for selfish desires—the fame, the money and the glory. Others play tennis because it's a beautiful game. They represent their country, their homeland, who and/or what they represent. I would argue all players are probably somewhere in between, but a championship like Wimbledon offers a stage where we are able to question it all.

Rolheiser repeats his claim, but makes a subtle distinction. He writes "Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." 

Djokovic teared up when thanking his family for their support after his loss in the Wimbledon final.

I began this blog posting on Saturday, July 15 but an hour after Jabeur lost the match. Less than 24 hours later, I was surprised to see Novak Djokovic also shedding tears a few minutes into his interview on the court—following his loss to Carlos Alcaraz in the men's final. He handled the pain in a similar way— he was gracious in defeat but honest with his emotions. While he is a very different person and has a different style of play, both athletes share a common desire and conclusion to it for now. 

There's a certain beauty in recognizing what we desire, our path toward it and where it will take us. There is a subtle irony in recognizing that tears are a likely result of either outcome. I stand in praise and appreciation of both.

Photo Credits
Tears and Fist Pump
Djokovic in tears, too
Princess Kate

Friday, July 7, 2023

Questions to Consider for Bitter Rivals. Beloved Friends. Survivors: Another Story of Evert and Navratilova

Have you noticed? Despite living in an age of too much information at our fingertips, when one can easily drown in the sea of social media—some articles emerge triumphant. Certain stories get shared—promoted and passed on among friends and family members. They catch fire and capture our imaginations. And this past weekend—at the advent of Wimbledon and the long 4th of July holiday weekend—one reigned supreme: Bitter Rivals. Beloved Friends. Survivors by Sally Jenkins. I'm glad it did. Maybe you are too.

A good friend who hails from Washington DC was the first to share this lengthy read from the Washington Post. I then saw it posted on a friend's Facebook feed. She mentioned that the firewall was down. I took note, although I didn't have to.... five other friends shared it with me via text. "Wow!" 

My surprise and delight was catapulted by what I saw lying on the desk in my parents' kitchen: a printed copy of it. My sister-in-law brought the WaPo feature with her from our nation's capital. She said "I figured someone in this house would enjoy this read." Sold.

I will admit, I read it with a bit of skepticism. I didn't know if there was a new angle to this story. I thought ESPN's 30 for 30: Unmatched from 2010 said it all. I was wrong....and I love being wrong. These tennis greats have faced new challenges and added inspiring chapters to their tale. Thus, the purpose of this blog is to offer not insight on the article, but questions for you to consider. Please share your own. Enjoy.

Beautiful writing
The introduction to this piece paints a portrait of the sights and sounds of tennis—enveloping the reader. Take a moment of pause and consider the specific sights and sounds of the sport you play or love. What are they?

Isolation in Being the Best
In his autobiography, "Open," Andre Agassi characterizes tennis as a lonely game. The further one advances in a tourney, fewer people remain. Jenkins writes "At first, the locker room is a hive of 128 competitors, milling and chattering, but each day their numbers ebb until just two people are left in that confrontational hush known as the final." 

Not all individual sports are this way. For example, while not all golfers make the final cut, during the final round half of the field remains. And yet I wonder: Does this attribute of tennis reveal a truth about excellence? To what degree is being the best—and the pursuit of it—lonely or isolating?

I love jewelry. It's such a personal and unique way that humanity expresses itself. And, I love talking to other women 
(mostly) about it. 

I love that Evert gave Navratilova a necklace signifying their long friendship for her 60th birthday. And I love that Martina decided to honor her friend by wearing it...but there's a twist.

In January 2022, Evert learned that she had Stage 1C ovarian cancer. As Evert embarked on a grueling six cycles of chemotherapy, Navratilova pulled the Cartier necklace from her jewelry box and put it on, a talisman. “I wore it all the time when I wanted her to get well,” Navratilova says. For months, she never took it off.

Only one thing made her remove it: radiation. In December 2022, Navratilova received her own diagnosis: She had not one but two early-stage cancers, in her throat and breast.

“I finally had to take it off when I got zapped,” Navratilova says.

What jewelry do you wear in honor of another person?
Share the story of a piece of jewelry that someone has given to you. 

BTW: I think Cartier ought to rebrand that necklace and name it "the friendship necklace."


Evert and Navratilova met when they were 18 and 16 years old, respectively. Their first match was played on March 22, 1973 in Akron Ohio. Evert won in straight sets. Jenkins writes,
Evert had never faced anything like it. The curving lefty serve caromed away from her, and so did the charging volleys. “She had weapons that I hadn’t seen in a young player — ever,” Evert says. Two things gave Evert relief: Navratilova’s lack of fitness — she had put on 20 pounds in four weeks on American pancakes — and her emotionalism. “She was almost crying on the court in the match, you know, just moaning,” Evert says. Nevertheless, Evert had never felt such a formidableness from a new opponent and never would again. 
Is it just me, or are you wondering if you can/should ever eat pancakes again?!
In what ways do you seek to improve your fitness and/or emotionalism?

The Brain
A tennis player must be remarkably observant. The greats notice myopic details about their opponent, the game, and the ball to use to their advantage.

Standing just 5'6" and 125 lbs. Navratilova wondered how and why Evert was so dominant, until she watched Evert play against her younger sister, Jeanne (who was also a pro). "By the end of the session Navratilova understood that Evert’s greatest weapon was “her brain.”

Why don't we give athletes more credit for the way they use their mind, for their athletic IQ? How often to you pay attention to "smart players?" Do you/we give athletes enough credit for using their brain?

Competition and Friendship
I did not realize that Evert and Navratilova were much more than just doubles partners early on in their careers. They were close friends. However, that changed in 1976 when Navratilova began to "score more victories over Evert." 

“Chris, by her own admission, could only be close friends with people who never had a chance of beating her,” Navratilova says.

Evert hated to play someone she cared about — hated it. “I thought, ‘God, I can’t be emotional towards these people,’ ” Evert says now. “… It was easier not to even know them.”

Respond....and see earlier question about isolation and loneliness as part of excellence.

Challenge, please?
One of the better rule changes in sports is the line challenge in tennis. The technology that supports it is truly remarkable and it's important. Why? Because as my niece told me "99% out is 100% in." And, it's not easy to get that right.

Challenges are not automatic, a player gets three of the per set, upon request. NB: These three challenges apply to both the tie-break and advantage methods of scoring sets. While a challenge is not charged to a player who is successful in their challenge attempt, a challenge is charged if the player is unsuccessful. It's exciting to watch the review.

The are but a few ideas I would like to challenge in this article and just one I want to put into writing.

Jenkins wrote "Navratilova observes that, in its way, Evert’s childhood was as stifling as her own had been in Czechoslovakia. “We are much more the same than different, really,” she says. “So much of it was imposed on both of us, one way or the other, with her Catholic, proper girl upbringing and me being suppressed by communism.”

While I understand the larger point that Navratilova is trying to make, I struggle with this comparison. While the reader has a sense that Evert's father was controlling and that she was raised a Catholic, I don't see being brought up with a faith tradition or in a "proper" way to be an imposition. At least not in the way that I understand communism is...or was. Challenge, please?!

No, I'm not talking about the Taylor Swift song. I would like to discuss a strategy Navratilova employed at the advice of her coach.

Lieberman told her she had to get “mean” about Evert and showed what she meant by being intentionally rude to Evert in player lounges. Evert would start to greet them, and Lieberman would turn her back or say frostily, “Are you talking to me?” It quietly infuriated Evert. “They weren’t very nice to me,” Evert says. “I mean, Nancy taught her to hate me.”

And, to some degree, it worked. "From 1982 to 1984, it was Navratilova’s turn to be cold. She reached 10 Grand Slam finals — and won eight of them. In that stretch, she beat Evert 14 straight times, with an abbreviating serve-and-volley power that seemed almost dismissive."

Coaches: Have you ever coached an athlete to develop this mentality? Do you think it is necessary? While it isn't THE reason that the tides turned in the Evert v. Navratilova match up—now advantage Navratilova, it might have helped. Is that what being the best requires?!

Caption Necessary
Sometimes words are not necessary. However, this image taken at the 1985 French Open Championship Jenkins' recalls what must be one of the great matches in women's tennis history. Read what she says for yourself;  Martina's words say it all:
The embrace at the net is one of their enduringly favorite pictures. They threw their arms over each other’s shoulders, mutually exhausted yet beaming over the quality of the tennis they had just played. “You can’t tell who won.” That might be the best caption ever.
“You can’t tell who won,”

A Statue for...
The article concludes with an interesting image and the suggestion that—maybe—we can honor these two great athletes for something other than their achievements.

There are statues of Arthur Ashe at the U.S. Open, Fred Perry at Wimbledon, Rod Laver at the Australian Open and Rafael Nadal at the French Open. The blazers who run the major championships have not yet commissioned sculptures of these two women, who so unbound their sport and gave the gift of professional aspiration to so many. Yet who exemplify, perhaps more than any champions in the annals of their sport, the deep internal mutual grace called sportsmanship.

And yet, the entire article is a testimony of the friendship that has sustained both women in profound ways—through many of life's greatest challenges. Does sportsmanship always lead to friendship? Should it? Given its power, is it something we appreciate enough? Ought we create a statue that honors two athletes who became great friends because of.... the game?! 

Thank you, to my friends for sharing this great piece.

Photo Credits
Who Won?
70s tennis