The conclusion of the U.S. Open, overshadowed overwhelmingly this year by Serena Williams’ retirement, has had me thinking.
It is difficult for me to parse out my relationship with the sport of tennis. Unlike football, basketball or even baseball, I cannot help but feel a little vulnerable when discussing my memorable life encounters with the tennis court.
Being born on Cuyahoga County soil in September 2001 automatically endowed me with rights as a Cleveland Browns, Indians and Cavaliers fan. No one can or would argue that. But did that birth guarantee me any right to be a tennis fan? I suppose that no circumstance of birth could ever take away one’s right to be a tennis fan. Perhaps the better question is: What circumstances of birth impel one to be more likely to exercise his or her right as a tennis fan? In theory, I am American and should be rooting for American tennis players during the four grand slam tournaments, the U.S. Open most of all. Yet, as I came to notice growing up, in practice most people will not exercise their rights as tennis fans unless they are born in particular areas of that county, Cuyahoga, and its composite suburbs.
As my mental topography of my home suburb of Shaker Heights expanded as I grew up, so did my knowledge of the various tennis courts in the city. What were the circumstances of my birth that allow me to remember right now a certain catalogue of tennis courts dispersed around my hometown?
The only locations of tennis courts that I know in Shaker are located at country clubs or schools. I have noticed some tennis courts in homeowners’ backyards on my summer jogs around the
suburb, but I do not know the names of the homeowners. Tennis is exclusive. All the country clubs cost thousands of dollars to belong to and all the schools but one I can think of are private. The one public location that comes to my mind that is free for anyone to play tennis is located at Shaker Heights High School. I have seen how often those courts get used on the summer nights where I have practiced baseball on the high school’s field right across the street. They get busy. I suppose I have seen the tennis courts at the country clubs or private schools grow crowded from time to time. I do not think I have ever seen someone play tennis on a court in the backyard of someone’s private home.
It has been years since I have played a tennis game. Growing up, I used to participate in tennis camps at a local country club my family belonged to.
I remember one year my brother and I decided to get more into the sport. The club’s tennis pro encouraged us to sign up for a tennis tournament. We showed up in our neon Nike athletic gear like we always had at the camps, and we were the only kids not wearing a suit of white. It was one of the most embarrassing days of my young life. That day I did not belong.
The circumstances of my life have blessed with incredible opportunities like the chance to attend the University of Notre Dame. The circumstances of my life have also allowed me to encounter the sport of tennis within an exclusive level. With the Williams sisters fading out of the sport of tennis, what reason do I have to keep up with the sport? Cool tournament names like the Australian Open surely will not be enough.
Contact Peter Breen at email@example.com.