Last Sunday, my parents put me on the train, and I was off to my old town. It was my first time taking and changing trains alone, but I got through it and felt really proud of myself afterwards.
After 7 hours of traveling, I stepped off onto the train platform of my old town and into the heat. I had forgotten how small, and how hot, it was. My tennis coach came and picked me up and we did the bise and started talking like I never left. "It's so bizarre to be here..." I told him. "It's like I've lived another life since."
He took me down to the tennis courts where a tournament was going on. A group of people were at a table, and he pointed to a woman, saying "I think you know her." To be honest, I did not recognize her, but she quickly recognized me. "Oh, it's Janae! The one who changed families and now lives in the mountains," someone said. I was quickly offered a brownie and invited to sit down. Everybody started talking again. They started asking me about my old host family, why I changed, and then they said "Oh, we have to talk slower. She might not understand." I can speak French...and understand it now!" I thought. Her French has tremendously improved!" my coach chimed in. It"s always a little frustratring to get asked the same questions over and over again, but I accept that it's normal.
When we got to my coach's house, he showed me around, including the hallway of tennis racquets. We quickly made our way to the living room for the French Open. It was playing in the background while we chatted and while I texted my host parents.
Around 1:00pm the next day, I saw a few clay courts before quickly finding my way to the central court (Philippe Chatrier) with my coach's family where Djokovic was scheduled to play. I quickly found our seats, which were at the perfect angle. From that point on, I just savored every moment. I looked to my right, where flags from different countries were waving at the top of the court. I looked down onto the court and had time to see the players make their appearances. The match soon got underway. Every few points, Djokovic would tap his racquet on his shoes to get the clay that was stuck off. He won the first set easily but had a little trouble in the second. Shortly after, my coach texted me from the other main court, advising me that Nadal was playing.
|First match of the day for me: Novak Djokovic|
I tried to explain to those I was with that one of us had to stay and the other two could go see Nadal. Due to the noise and all, we had miscommunication, so I found my way over the other court all by myself and found a seat. In that moment, life was as good as it could get. I had my second favorite player (next to Federer) on his favorite surface in front of me. He played so well that I felt that as soon as I got there he finished. What came next was not expected; he did his interview in French. People say that he barely speaks English, but he gave us a few sentences in French, substituting the English word when he didn't know what to say in French.
|Rafael Nadal (the King of Clay) on the Suzanne Lenglen court|
I texted my coach, letting him know Nadal had finished and we could rejoin each other. When he didn't reply, I decided to find my way to Court 17 where another favorite had just kicked off his match: David Ferrer. However, as soon as I had got going in the right direction, he called me.
After talking with my coach and his family for a little bit and walking around with them, I found myself in line to watch David Ferrer. I guess I was the only one who had the patience to wait! English was going on all around me, even the American accent! My host dad always tells me "Be patient!" and if there was one time in my life that I listened to him it was at this time. I heard the grunts and every once in a while I saw Ferrer pass through where I could see to go get a ball.
About an hour later, I found myself a nice seat on the side, and I believe it was the the beginning of the fifth set. I just took in the match. I watched Ferrer as he served, a pretty good one, and how he hit with all his force, just like Nadal. He and his opponent were getting to almost every ball, though many times it seemed it was Ferrer on the offensive. It made me question why he wasn't one of the "Top 4" in the game. It seems he has the game to be in that, and he's hovered around the top ten for years. My coach texted me informing me that the other match on Central Court was beginning. The score at the time was 4-4, so I told my coach I would be right over. That was a joke. The match carried on until Ferrer finally took it 13-11 after about an "extra" 45 minutes or an hour. It was also raining a little bit, so I found myself sweating one moment and putting my sweatshirt on the next. Thankfully, the rain didn't stop the match.
Afterwards, I found my way to the Central Court to watch the last match of the day between Alexander Zverev and Fernando Verdasco. Unfortunately, it didn't last for long because the rain started up again. Besides, the approaching nightfall encouraged the officials and the players to come to an agreement to stop the match.
Seeing a tennis match in person allows you to see everything, good or bad. I did see Djokovic throw his racquet Monday and Ferrer complain that the courts were too wet. Thankfully, I didn't see any injuries or sick players, like I did at the US Open years ago.
I always tell people that I can't choose the best day of my experience, but this one would definitely be in the running. The only thing that could have made it better is my family. I was texting Dad from up in the stands while watching Nadal, but if there is one day I could choose to share with him person this year, that would be it. Tennis also gives me a sense of peace. It was something I loved, for the most part, doing with my dad in the US. Our world stopped when we were at the US Open together. Of course I missed my host family too.
It's interesting to see how a tennis tournament even varies between countries. Unlike the US Open, there are no lights nor roofs at Roland Garros, which makes it a very weather sensible tournament. It's also a lot smaller than New York and there are some tennis rule changes.
Unlike the night before due to my excitement, I slept very soundly the night after Roland Garros. We got back to my coach's house around 12am. The next day I accompanied him in the rainy weather to his tennis classes, and he let me play with his class. Of course, I became the center of attention. One lady told me "I just love your tennis playing!" and proceeded to tell me that I was hitting like Nadal.
It was hard to say goodbye to my tennis coach. He was someone I really enjoyed seeing in my old region. It feels like just yesterday he was translating everything in English, and this Tuesday he was wishing me a good return to the United States as I stepped into the train.
I'm so glad I've been able to do a lot of "things" lately, and I have a pretty busy schedule until my return to the US. The last month is the time to do all you have not done, due to school dying down and your growing independence. It's also a tip a Brazilian exchange student gave to me last year to not think about your return. Just keep yourself busy.