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.