Monday, October 13, 2008

A Week of Tennis in Stockholm

As I have mentioned over and over in this blog, I love sports. A lot. And even the sports I don’t know much about I like to check out. Witness the fact that I actually went to a soccer game. And kind of enjoyed it.

But so it was that I found myself at the Stockholm Open quite a bit the past week. The event ran from October 4th with the start of the qualifying rounds, to October 12th. Yesterday. The finals.

Yesterday the Stockholm Open wrapped up with Jonas Björkman and his partner Kevin Ullyett winning the doubles final. During the week Björkman played his 1000th doubles match. He won his 53rd doubles title. And he will not play competitively on Swedish soil again. He is retiring at the end of the season. The win was a fitting ending then to his tennis career in Sweden.

My tennis experience begins and ends with a good friend from high school who played in college and now coaches and an old girlfriend from high school who also played in college. That is to say, my tennis experience is scant. So I was pleasantly surprised by the sport itself. It was fun to see. Exciting. Quick… most of the time at least. And there were some pretty intense moments.

That being said, I was less than pleased with the fanciness that surrounds tennis. There were the stereotypical, fancy-pancy tennis fans. And you’re damn right I just wrote fancy-pancy. Because not only were these the stereotypical tennis fans, but the stereotypical Stockholm tennis fans. All the name brand clothes, hair gel, and sweaters draped across shoulders that being a Stockholmer entails.

But that is something I have learned to deal with since being here in Stockholm. What really got me about watching tennis weren't the fancy fans, but the quiet of the fancy fans. The quiet while the ball was in play. The damn near silence when the ball was being served. It was deafening. And the whole time all I could think about was Todd Helton playing in front of 40,000 screaming fans and hitting a 95 mph fastball with a tiny stick of wood. But tennis players need absolute silence to throw a ball to themselves and hit it with a racket that is several times the size of the ball. Apparently.

And this is absolutely nothing against Stockholm’s tennis fans because I am well aware that this is expected behavior at tennis matches. I was even told that Stockholm is a bit more liberal in terms of their silence policy because they play music during breaks.

But aside from that, I am definitely down for watching a bit more tennis live. Because it was fun, even if it was quiet.

One of the highlights came on Saturday, and wasn’t even tied to a match. Because that’s when I wandered past one of the courts not being played on and saw Björkman and Ullyett having a bit of fun. And working their asses off. And I took some video of it.

In other news, my new favorite player, David Nalbandian, ranked seventh in the world from Argentina, won the singles title. Since I had no favorite player before this tournament it would be easy to assume I chose him because he won. You would be wrong. I chose him for one simple reason. Earlier in the week, after a few of the matches, the winning player played a quick game with various children that had been chosen to compete. And I saw Nalbandian play against an 11 year old boy, followed by playing against a seven year old girl. I don’t think I have ever seen a professional athlete have so much fun. I told this to someone who was standing near me and he informed me that all the players are probably coached in how to interact with kids. Maybe. But I’d much prefer to think that him playing with those two kids gave Nalbandian a bit of unbridled joy that had nothing to do with competition and winning.

Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. move out of stockholm! save yourself!

    btw how old are you? 25ish?

  2. don't worry... Im still a long way from slicking my hair back and wearing a sweater draped across my shoulders

    and Im 24

  3. Damn, I would have liked to be there too! I was kind of paralyzed whole weekend and didn't do much anything. Never played tennis, never saw it live, but it's been nice to watch it on TV. Such a shame to have missed this opportunity.

    BTW, a good clip, well worth sharing!

  4. yeah I was pretty impressed by live tennis. of course it helps when it is played at an elite level also.

  5. elite-schmelite. that too American?? :)

  6. no no that was good. its on par with fancy-pancy.

  7. I hate the snobbery of tennis as well. It's the damn English's fault. Those snobby Englishmen... I like ur example with baseball, it's the same with football here as well. It's harder to control a pretty big ball with your feet than control a small ball with a large racket. Get real Englishmen!

  8. Not sure i get that, does that mean that you hate proffessional ping pong aswell? I mean that audiene isnt directly snooby or noisy.

  9. I disagree with Berg. Football has English origins too. Like boxing, badminton, tennis and cricket, it's thought to be a gentlemen's game. Whereas baseball and American football are more like common men's entertainment. Soccer has already got out of hands in terms of gentleman behavior in the field and audience. Sorry, Berg and Hairy, but does every sport have to be "Americanized"? I don't think so.

  10. @berg - I love it. blame the English.

    @anonymous - is silence expected as ping pong events also?

    @smek - I never said any sport need be americanized. I just wondered why it needed to be silent for a guy to hit a ball that he is throwing to himself.

    there are plenty of sports that are supposed to be gentlemens game, but I dont think that should mean that a little noise should be forbidden. horse racing is the sport of kings, and theres plenty of cheering there. and I feel like a spooked horse could do a lot more damage than a tennis player who didn't hit his serve right.

  11. Of course you're right, but won't it make a serve more precious when a player has everyone's attention? At least it looks that way :) If someone's playing e.g. trumpet or a drum in the audience, doesn't it feel like he wanted to steel some of the attention from the actual game?

  12. I suppose... but in the end people are there to watch the players anyway. they command attention regardless of the silence.

  13. I just have to say - that is one of the coolest video clips I've ever seen. Ever. That's just amazing. Nice work pulling out the camera - I'm just as amazed that you managed to get that on film, as I am their ability. Well, I guess their footwork is maybe more impressive than your filmwork, but still. That's just wicked.

  14. thanks... I suppose their footwork is a bit more impressive.

    I was amazed. I stood there for probably 15 minutes watching. just entranced by what they were doing.

  15. Great video, thanks for sharing the clip with the rest of us tennis geeks!

  16. I still love this video so much.