Musings from Day 2 of the G12s Hardcourts
It is Day Two of the United States Tennis Association’s U12 Girls Supernationals. Yesterday, sixty four girls lost in their first round matches and the flowing tears were a precursor to the afternoon rainstorm. As players sprinted inside to avoid the weather, card games broke out in front of the big screen television where Rio’s tennis-playing Olympians were on screen. It is impossible to describe the competitive dichotomy between first round winners and losers other than by this example. The top three seeds sat studying the patterns of Serena Williams, while three first-round losers found unyielding joy stuffing the three of hearts inside an adorable four year-old little boy’s shirt and then yelling at him that “he stole their heart.”
Today though, the sun is up and all competitors are back on court. The format here is a compass draw, aptly named because the winners move into the east bracket, the losers move into the west bracket, and then players branch out into all directions as the tournament progresses. Imagine what a windshield looks like after a baseball hits it and you’ll get close.
Got a chance to watch the #2 seed today, Katja Wiersholm’s personality is so big and bright, Billy Shakespeare would struggle for metaphor. Her brother is Henrik Wiersholm, who plays for the University of Virginia, so there are enough genetic markers here to give you confidence the girl will do well. Today she did. After a slightly shaky start, the 5-foot tall redhead fist-pumped and “c’mon’ed” herself to a first set win. This kid’s optimism make Tony Robbins look like Eeyore.
Few seeds have lost here, most pushing into the third round without trouble as they await the pivotal round of 32 where they are likely to face another seed. The quick matches gave me some time to get around the grounds here at Windward Lake Club. The quad in front of the tournament desk has been a fertile battleground for Ping Pong players. At any given hour, one can see young tennis players waging forehead-slappingly good points as other slack-jawed adolescents stand around admiring the war. You’ll hear ooh’s and aah’s and sometimes they’ll get pissed off when someone’s little brother runs under the table and prevents a competitor from executing a kill shot. At least one five year old has been clotheslined in the fray. On that note, the tournament trainer has been kept busy. Twelve year-old athletes tend toward the hypochondriacal and this poor guy who paid 200 grand to cut his teeth at the local Univ. is now placing band-aids on blistered hands and wondering how to trim toenails off pre-pubescent toes.
The Wiersholm kid is done now, routing her opponent 6-2 in the second and bouncing up to the tournament desk with an ear-touching smile. For the most part, the parents have been quiet today. Though the competition is increasing, the first day jitters are gone and no one is in the running for a title shot yet. For now, it’s just a bunch of kids playing their hearts out while nail-biting parentals pop Xanax and watered down margaritas and hope they don’t have to change their plane tickets.
Tomorrow the seeds meet upon the cement rectangle.