Attend a tennis tournament and you’ll soon discover that along with exciting matches and close-up views of pro players in action, you’ll have a heavy dose of dealing with The Public. While at the Cincinnati Open in 2012, J.D. and I saw and overheard all sorts of interesting, funny, and frighteningly misinformed stuff . We thought we’d share a few of these moments with you.
Of course we acknowledge that not all people attending tennis tourneys are diehard fans. And everyone who remembers their first forays into tennis and/or tennis fandom will admit that they have said some dumb things in their time, too. But the joy of getting more informed is that you then get to be smug about everyone else’s tennis ineptitude.
At the very start, J.D. and I ran into a woman viewing the practice courts who was thoroughly confused. On the first Saturday of the tournament, when qualies were going on, she was looking everywhere for Djokovic.
“He’s on Court 3,” J.D. informed her. “In Toronto.”
Okay, he didn’t really say that, but we were thinking it. After all, Djokovic was still playing his way through the Rogers Cup and couldn’t very well be in two places at once. Luckily for her, she was talking to people far less snarky than us who explained the situation. “Oh,” she said, thoroughly disappointed. “What about Tsonga?”
Well. Tsonga had unfortunately had a run-in with a fire hydrant, and wouldn’t be making the tourney at all. If you’re going to spend money on tournament tickets, perhaps you’d like to do a little research, people. Once you’re there, they even hand out newspapers at the front of the tourney, and draw sheets for $1. There are websites. And apps. Soooo much information available. You know. Just saying.
Throughout the tournament, there were opportunities to meet and greet players. Here we ran across Aga, signing autographs for a lengthy line of fans. As I waited for gaps in the line to get photos, a couple approached us and the following real conversation ensued.
Curious Couple: “Who is that?”
Couple: (Blank looks)
Me: “She’s a Polish player.”
Couple: “Never heard of her.”
J.D.: (Sarcastic tone creeping in…) “Number three in the world? Finalist at Wimbledon?”
Couple: (Finally impressed) “Really?”
Me and J.D.: (synchronized *headdesk*)
And before you say, “Well, of course Americans don’t know anyone other than American players,” we’ve got this one for you. On our way into the Center Court Stadium for a big match, we overheard this exchange:
Man 1: “Who’s playing?”
Man 2: “Federer and some American.”
And which American would that be?
Oh, you know, just Mardy Fish, a Top 10 player and our only rep in the World Tour Finals the year before. Well, at least they know who Federer is, and that he isn’t American. #SmallSteps
Tennis tournaments reveal the best and worst of fans, and that includes kids. At a match between American Vania King and Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, we had an adorable boy in front of us, about four years old, who was excitedly cheering for Vania. Excitedly, but politely, for all of his exclamations were in a sweetly hushed voice. “C’monnnnn King,” he whispered, over and over, tiny fists clenched Masha-style.
When things got a little shaky for Vania, the little boy pouted with heartbreaking worry. “But I don’t want her to looooose,” he implored his parents. Luckily, his concern eventually turned to joy as Vania won the match, 3-6 6-3 7-5. There were happy hugs all around, and we were left cheerfully wondering if we were sitting behind a future ATP tennis star who actually knows the WTA exists.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we had a family with three antsy kids behind us during the Tommy Haas / David Nalbandian match. They endlessly kicked, squirmed, whined, and complained. Only the threat of prosecution, and giving up such a close seat ^^^^ to Tommy prevented me from committing bodily harm.
“C’mon Hayes!” the oldest boy halfheartedly cheered about five times until someone corrected him. But by then he’d had enough, anyway. “I’m bored,” he moaned. “Let’s go. All I care about are the autographs.”
“No, we have to see this,” the obviously tennis-loving mother replied. “It’s an important match.” Two minutes later, she was fast asleep.
This one had us laughing. On a tiny court with limited seating, we were crowded onto a few rows of bleachers to see Stanislas Wawrinka, Jarkko Nieminen, Mikhail Youzhny, and Philipp Kohlschreiber playing doubles. During the match, a woman behind us answered her cell phone, taking a call from a friend who wanted to know where she was and when they could meet up.
“I’m watching doubles,” she explained. “It’s Youzhny and Kohlschreiber, and……Nieminitch and……Warwick.”
The flubbed names were amusing, but the added hilarity was that she had no problem at all with Youzhny and Kohlschreiber. Just flowed right off the tongue. But those other guys, well, who the hell knows what their names are or how to pronounce them? Insert “LOL” here.
Speaking of Stan, you may have read part of this conversation in our Stan Wawrinka: The Other Guy post, but I thought it also belonged here, in its entirety.
During the exciting semifinal match between Stan and Roger Federer, a young girl behind us declared: “I don’t think Federer is good-looking.”
Clearly amused, her mother replied wryly, “I think there are a lot of women here who would disagree with you.”
Ignoring her, the girl leaned forward in her seat, and with obvious interest in her voice, asked “Who’s the other guy?”
And on that note, and in honor of how much Rafa was missed in Cincy, we leave you with proof that there can be Fedal harmony, even between sisters.
Now it’s your turn. Please, do share. What good, bad, or horrifyingly stupid things have you overheard at a tennis tournament?
PHOTOS: Cincinnati Open 2012, photos by Valerie David for TennisInsideOut.com