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A lifelong passion for tennis

by Alec Brideau January 28, 2020
A lifelong passion for tennis

One of the greatest tennis tournaments in the world is underway in Melbourne, Australia from Jan. 14 to Feb. 2. The best male and female athletes, from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) respectively, will battle for the first of four Grand Slams this season.

For tennis fans like me, the feeling of watching the Australian Open before going to bed, and then waking up early in the morning to see that there are still matches going on is just amazing. That’s one cool thing about professional tennis––it feels like it’s always on. There are tournaments everywhere in the world, every week from January to November.

I started playing tennis nine years ago, when I was 11 years old. I first played hockey until the age of seven, but quickly realized that team sports weren’t for me.

My parents asked me if I wanted to try tennis lessons, knowing it would be impossible for me to not play any sport. As a hyperactive, I simply can’t go through a day without doing any sort of physical activity. Even today, sitting on a chair for a two-hour class is a lot to ask of me.

When I started playing, I knew practically nothing about the sport except we had to hit the ball on the court with our racket in order to win points. With time and practice, I learned a lot and saw how unique tennis was.

I started watching matches on television whenever I could. Current first-ranked player in the world Rafael Nadal became my favourite player, and I started to analyze his style and technique in order to help my own game grow. A funny thing is that I never realized at that time that Nadal plays left-handed, which I also do. I don’t know if that unconsciously influenced my choice, but considering that in the WTA, left-handed Angelique Kerber is my favourite player, we can say it’s quite a coincidence.

I took lessons for about three years, and participated in tournaments. I was lucky to meet a few people of my caliber. We became friends, and then decided to stop taking lessons in order to just play together in the summer.

I’m now playing tennis whenever I can. In the summer, I used to go out and play every day; sometimes two or three times a day. During the winter, those same friends and I practice indoors. For me, playing tennis has become as routine as sleeping or eating.

Last summer, I had the privilege of covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The Rogers Cup is a Masters 1000 tournament in the ATP and WTA. There are nine Masters 1000s, representing the top tournaments in the tennis calendar after the Grand Slams and the ATP and WTA Finals.

Each summer, the Rogers Cup is played in both Montreal and Toronto, with men and women alternating cities every year. I covered the men’s tournament in 2019, and it was simply amazing. It wasn’t my first Rogers Cup experience, as I had gone to the previous five or six editions, but to be there as a journalist was something else.

I was with other journalists all week, analyzing and talking tennis every minute. After every match, we were going to the press room to ask questions to the players, and get their thoughts on different things.

I simply watched during the first few press conferences. I’ll never forget when Nadal had his first press conference of the tournament. Of course, I was there, just like every single media member filling the room.

I’ve never been emotional or expressive in life. I can be extremely happy about something, but I’m that person whose face won’t necessarily express it. I’ve met and seen many professional athletes and stars in my life, Wayne Gretzky being an example, but I never had trouble approaching and talking to them.

However, when I saw Nadal entering the room that day, I just couldn’t believe it. My idol was right there in front of me.

After some press conferences, and after understanding how things were done in the conference press room, I started asking questions to players. I broke the ice with current fourth-ranked player Daniil Medvedev, before asking questions to a few other players. I also decided to ask the first question of Nadal’s conference after his win over Fabio Fognini in the quarter finals.

It’s great to see the popularity of tennis growing in Canada. Canadian stars like Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic are really helping to promote tennis in the country.

Hockey has always been Canada’s most popular sport. Sports like tennis are sometimes unknown, but once people start playing or simply following the game, they discover a new passion for something they never thought they would before.

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