can a year have really flown by that quickly!? seems like pat and tina were at the 2008 u.s. open just yesterday! but yesterday they were at the 2009 edition!! as always, i'm very pleased to post pat's write-up of the event :D
Two Sisters at the U.S. Open: Going “Inside Tennis"
There’s nothing like a phone call from my Uncle Bill to remind me that summer’s not really over until my sister Tina and I accept his invitation to make our annual trip to a tennis match at the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens. And that’s exactly what we did last night.
Tina and I met up at Grand Central station around 5:30 and took the #7 subway out to the “USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and Arthur Ashe Stadium,” as it is formally known. When I saw Tina, my first reaction was: Where’s the camera? Tina always brings her great telephoto camera with her and takes some amazing pictures of the players, no matter where our seats are. Alas, she had forgotten it at home and it was too late to go back and get it. That was okay, though, because Tina and I got a chance to chat most of the night, which was really wonderful, since we don’t see each other too often.
We met up with our uncle, Bill Simons, at the stadium. He's the editor and publisher of “Inside Tennis,” a magazine that has been covering regional, national, and international tennis for 28 years. After big hugs hello, Uncle Bill handed us a copy of the latest issue of Inside Tennis, which features, on the cover, a wonderful picture of Serena Williams along with the headline, “The 16 Confessions of Serena Williams.” Although I didn’t get to read the article last night, I found it today in the "archives" section on the Inside Tennis website.
I love the way my uncle writes about tennis, making it so personal and interesting. Here’s a snippet from the article:
"'Love, Lies, Depression, Death and Deliverance: Serena Williams’ Riveting New Autobiography Fills in Huge Gaps in the Compelling Tale of the Most Tumultuous Star in Women’s Sports
We’ve seen it so often: that singular expression, a roar of determination, such ferocity — raw, almost fierce.
Few other athletes drink more of that most empowering of sports tonics — will power. For, as Sue Mott told us, Serena Williams’ 'role model was less Chris Evert than Thor.'
Federer may be tennis’ prevailing icon, but Serena is the fiercest competitor in tennis and maybe even in all of sports. As one fan recently noted, 'That girl has exactly the kind of chi and chutzpah it takes to win.'
So from what deep wells of intention does Serena draw from when she unleashes her often unstoppable fighting spirit?
After reading her new autobiography Serena Williams: On the Line, you would certainly think race and heritage has more than a tad to do with it. In ‘04, Williams set off on a pilgrimage of discovery to Ghana and Senegal. There she journeyed to outback villages with their poignant mix of poverty and generosity — endearing children and wide-eyed teen moms — and then made her way to those harrowing coastal castles which shipped out generations of slaves to servitude or death."
It has occurred to me, over the years, that my mom and her siblings, especially Uncle Bill, have a flair for writing that I simply don’t. Perhaps it was the influence of their parents, both of whom were good storytellers. My parents were a good storytellers - - my mom through her writing, my dad through his talking - - but I guess I was more of a listener. Well, I digress.
The three of us had a quick bite to eat at an outdoor table in the warm late summer air, Indian food for Uncle Bill and ham-and-cheese crepes for me and Tina. We chatted a little about “Inside Tennis” and how the Internet has changed so much of what we do in life. Unfortunately, though, dinner was short, since Uncle Bill had to go back to his computer to cover the match that was to begin in a few short minutes. So we said thanks and hugged him good-bye, and headed into the Arthur Ashe stadium to watch the first night-time match, featuring . . . Serena Williams!
Tina and I found our seats and within minutes the match between Serena (seeded #2) and Flavia Pennetta (#10) began. Although I played a bit of tennis as a kid and a teenager, I never became very good. Tina, on the other hand, went to one or two tennis camps as a teenager and invariably beat me whenever we played games. She has continued to play throughout her adulthood, although less so since she moved to New York, and still really loves the game. So, it was fun listening to her color commentary, albeit delivered in whispers, since she actually knows the names of shots and the strategy behind them. Every once in a while, I’d put in my two cents about how the players were playing. From where I sat, both Serena and Flavia made it look so easy. And every time Flavia won a point, I started getting a little nervous for Serena. But, as I expected, Serena easily won the match, 6-4, 6-3.
Rivaling the thrill of watching Serena Williams play great tennis was the pure enjoyment I had spending a relaxing night talking with Tina, alone. It happens so rarely, but it was really great. As we watched the match, we chatted about Tina’s husband Piers Lawrence, his jazz quartet and the new CD they are making (it sounds like it’s going to be great!). We got caught up on family and work stuff, like all siblings do, and, of course, in between, we talked about tennis.
The tennis highlight of the night was the next match, between Rafael Nadal (#3), from Spain, and Gael Monfils (#13), from France. Tina and I were rooting for Nadal (silently, as one must do when one watches tennis), not simply because he was the favorite (or because he is cute), but also because he comes from Majorca, the island off the coast of Spain where Tina spent quite a bit of time after college. Nonetheless, we tried to stick to our rule of not applauding after Monfils made mistakes that benefited Nadal. It’s a hard rule to follow, in practice.
Monfils started by matching Nadal pretty evenly, baseline hit for baseline hit. After just a few minutes, it felt like we were watching a slugfest between two prizefighters! Some of the rallies were spectacular, making me wonder, as I always do, how athletes can play so consistently well for so long. How exciting it was to see two of the best players in the world “duking it out!”
After a few games, it looked like Monfils might actually win the first set! As it approached 10:00 p.m., the tension in the air was thick and the crowd seemed to be pulling for Monfils. I, who had planned on leaving the stadium at 10:00 to catch a commuter train, could not pull myself out of my seat. Before I knew it, they were playing a tiebreaker. Unbelievably, Monfils won, 7-6!
Shocked and riveted, I stayed to see the start of the second set. Lucky for us, Nadal won that first game, and I felt I could leave with some hope that Nadal would pull it out. Although I needed to go home, Tina decided to move to another part of the stadium and sit with a girlfriend she knew, to watch more of the match.
We got up from our seats and Tina walked me to the stairs that headed down and out of the stadium. We hugged good-bye, smiled, and parted ways. Although I don’t know how late Tina stayed, I do know that Nadal ended up winning the match, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 - - - making me realize that she and I saw the best part of the match! And, of course, I also realized, both last night and again today, that Tina and I have Uncle Bill to thank for giving us a wonderful night together. “Thanks, Uncle Bill!”