Part of the excitement for me of covering a tournament like the National Bank Open is trying to catch as much of what’s going on around the grounds as possible. While co-hosting the official Tennis Canada podcast: Match Point Canada, my job is to be plugged into the behind-the-scenes moments that tennis fans enjoy hearing about.
There’s a time and a place for match recaps, breaking down a player’s tennis strokes and draw analysis, but here are a few random moments that caught my attention so far this week that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Tennis is a sport that often brings families together and that’s no exception for Germany’s Tatjana Maria. The 35-year-old had her family traveling with her here to Toronto as they usually do throughout the long tennis season. I caught her on a secluded practice court one afternoon hitting volley-to-volley with her eight-year-old daughter.
I felt like I was watching a little mini-pro and let me tell you, it was a humbling experience! I struck up a conversation with her husband and expressed my amazement of their daughter’s tennis talents. He said that being around Mom on the tour week in and week out has definitely helped her pick up some skills. Believe it or not she’s already being courted by Nike for a sponsorship!
While taking pictures during qualifying I snapped a nice celebratory one of Australia’s Ellen Perez after she hit the match winning shot against fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon. As you can see below I wrote, “The relief of victory” as she seemed to capture that feeling after a tight 6-4, 7-6 win. Ellen quoted my tweet in her reply and said, “Like you wouldn’t know! I was on a 9-match losing streak. Tennis is such a mental sport and wins like this mean everything even if it wasn’t perfect.”
It really reminded me of how much players put into their sport not just physically but clearly mentally as well. One can’t help but feel encouraged by a player who continues to train hard off the court even during times where they are likely questioning whether or not it will pay off.
Yulia Putintseva plays for Kazakhstan but has been under the tutelage of Canadian tennis coach and former player Rob Steckley this week in Toronto. She arrived nearly a week early in fact to acclimatize to the courts and conditions here which is paying dividends as she is one of three women in the National Bank Open draw to make it to the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles.
There was an odd moment during her singles match on Tuesday against No. 4 seed Paula Badosa where a bird dropped what appeared to be some sort of large shell onto the court just as Putintseva was readying to return serve! She looked up to the sky and then towards the chair umpire with an understandably puzzled look on her face.
Ball kids quickly cleaned up the mess and the umpire even came down to towel the area off before play resumed. Putintseva certainly didn’t lay an egg that day as she went on to upset Badosa to continue her strong run here.
Part of Tennis Canada’s “Mental Timeout” Initiative includes Positivity Cards that fans are encouraged to write while on site here in Toronto that will then be forwarded to the players to support them this week.
American tennis legend Venus Williams flipped the script and addressed her own card “To whom it may concern” and wrote, “Bet on yourself because that’s your best bet!” Gotta love the message and to have that come from someone who definitely followed that advice when she was younger gives it extra weight and meaning.
Who inspired your love of tennis?
For me it was my Dad and my earliest memories of him introducing me to the sport are of watching John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova together on TV back when I was little. When I started covering tennis as a writer in 2008, my Dad (Bob McIntyre!) was my photographer here on site and his background taking aviation pictures perfectly prepared him to catch the fast paced action on court.
Here we are in 2017, the last year we covered the tournament together. Dad’s enjoying catching the action from home this year but I think back fondly to all the years we hustled around the grounds here together!