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My Year-Long Rollercoaster Ride with Tennis

I love Tennis.

No, really, I LOVE Tennis.

But this year has been a rollercoaster ride for Tennis and me. We almost had a permanent break-up, the kind you don’t – can’t – ever recover from.

And, believe me, I get it that things happen in relationships and that sometimes you just have to roll with it, forgive and forget, blah blah blah. I’ve been married to my husband for 31 years, so I know whereof I speak. This wasn’t that.

2016 started with a startling announcement from someone close to me. Tennis had failed him. All of his hopes and dreams and expectations had been sullied then slashed. He was done with the game, probably forever, and that broke my heart.

More than that, though, it made me furious at the sport for letting down someone I love. How could Tennis do that? Where were the checks and balances to keep this from happening? Where was the “court of appeal” when we needed it? How could something so beautiful turn into something so vicious?

My anger and disappointment and heartbreak festered for several months. You may have noticed that I took a break from writing about tennis on this site; rather, I was writing about clean eating and publishing tennis pieces written by contributing authors instead. Thank goodness for Eric Butorac, Todd Widom, Ryan Segelke, and some Tennis Parents who asked to remain anonymous; otherwise, I’m not sure what you would’ve been reading on!

More things started happening to compound how I felt. I was denied media credentials to events that had previously welcomed me. News was proliferating in the pro game about illegal betting and doping. I was getting more and more email about dissatisfaction with the way junior tennis tournaments were being run. Tennis was letting me down over and over, and I felt powerless and frustrated.

The biggest heartbreak of all, though, came in March: the unexpected and sudden death of my friend, Sol.

Sol was one of those people who, despite anything else going on in the world, made you feel like everything was going to be okay. I could always call him and know that I would hang up feeling hopeful. He was there to cheer me on and to be my sounding board and to keep me focused on what was truly important. And, just like that, he was gone. No warning, no time to prepare, just gone.

That’s when I think Tennis and I reached rock bottom. I was done. I had worked hard – we both had – but there was nothing left in this relationship worth salvaging. I began to find other interests, to focus my time and energy on activities and issues other than Tennis. I was moving on.

But then some things started happening to rekindle the fire. My loved one called me out of the blue to announce he was coming back to the game. He had come to the realization that his life was better when tennis was part of it. I had some heart-felt conversations with other Tennis Parents and heard their inspiring stories of their players’ success in and out of the game. I went to some college matches and remembered why Sol fought so hard to #SaveCollegeTennis. I found a way to honor Sol by combining forces with some colleagues to put on a fabulous junior tennis event. I met some amazing people doing some amazing work in our sport. I met coaches who work hard every day to inspire their junior players. I met kids who had overcome massive obstacles just so they could keep playing. I met and spent time with college coaches who are devoted to their role of helping good players become great people. I met and watched our young Americans pursuing their professional tennis dreams with passion and dedication. There was still a lot of good going on in this sport, and I still wanted to be on the front lines.

All of these things saved me from spending the rest of my life without the game I love so much. They healed me, inspired me, energized me to keep working at this relationship.

So, I think Tennis and I are going to be okay. I’m excited for what’s ahead in 2017. I’m ready to build on some of the small successes of 2016 and see how far we can go. Yep, I think my relationship is back on solid ground, and I’m prepared to fight for it if it ever goes off-track again.


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