Serena and Roger have been messing with my heartstrings for a minute now. I’ve invested a lot in them emotionally over the years. Full disclosure – I went through a brief blip of disappointment after meeting Serena in person and experiencing her as kind of dislikable. But I promptly got over it at her next match upon realizing that my disappointment was my problem because Serena really had no reason to give a crap about me or my excess of feelings. In other words, I had to get over myself – and I did. And went right back to an appreciation of the amazingness that she is.
But her recent loss to Garbiñe Muguruza – along with other close calls – have left me wondering if it’s time for me to move on and re-invest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Serena should retire any time soon. I want her to keep playing for as long as she feels healthy and motivated. I’m only wondering if, as a fan, I should continue to expend the amount of emotional energy I have in the past. Is it time for me to hang it up, like I did with Steffi and both Martina’s before and after Steffi? There comes a point in fandom when you need to face facts and find new passion.
In many ways tennis fandom is like a good marriage ending in a healthy divorce. The love will last forever – that’s a given – but passion needs to be expended elsewhere. In many respects, my silence (as a writer) over the past year plus has been a form of anticipatory grief. My faves are getting old. Serena and Roger seem to be on their last wind. And really, I can’t handle it, which is why I want to run away and immerse myself in the bosom (or pants – I’m not gay) of a new tennis love.
Of course some will call me fickle. Go ahead. I disagree naturally. I know because I’ve been through this before, most recently with Steffi Graf. I will always love Steffi, even as I fervently rooted for Serena to oust her record. And I will be disappointed if Serena doesn’t gain 22 Slams. She has it in her to do it, without a doubt.
But it is also starting to look like she never will. Because it doesn’t matter who those lesser players have to play, when they come up against Serena, they all bring their ‘A’ game. It is amazing to watch how Serena continues to inspire brilliance in her opponents. Did you know that Kristina Mladenovic had so much game? Course not. Heck, she herself probably didn’t – until she faced Serena.
So now I find myself looking around for a replacement love. Muguruza is a possibility of course, once I get over what she did to my fave. For a minute I considered Madison Keys who already has Serena’s blessing. Madison has the game but her body continues to be fragile. Instead I find myself jonesing for Naomi Osaka. She is captivating. Already I feel the stirrings of new passion.
As for Roger Federer, my heart is numb with concern. I want him to stay away and get healthy for as long as it takes. Let others take turns breaking down the Djokovic robot so that my Roger has a Slam chance when he returns. And if he doesn't, well I'm increasingly willing to consider transferring my passion to Dominic Thiem. His potential is thrilling. And I’ve actually never met Roger. And really, I plan to keep it that way. I don’t want to risk messing with the pedestal I’ve placed him on all these years.