Dream big

Oh, Emma Raducanu, let’s count the ways we love thee. 

First, the improbability of a tennis player to emerge from qualifying status to win a Grand Slam tournament is a stunning triumph. 

In a matter of months, Emma went from graduating high school, to accomplishing a feat that very few could have predicted. History is in the making, and her rise to fame is nothing short of amazing. Her message? Dream big and focus on the moment. Every now and then, we get to witness greatness. Sports can do that for us. Giving we, the ordinary, a snapshot of what it looks like to be extraordinary.

The sport of tennis has been suffering these past few years. Giants of the game are aging, experiencing career-ending injuries, and then there is the unpleasant display of racket-smashing, screaming behavior. 

Naomi Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam singles champion who is taking a break from tennis due to mental health issues. So along comes Emma, the 18-year-old wonder to become the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam, sending the tennis world into a meltdown. Well, I don’t play tennis anymore, but I am a fan of the sheer enormity of what this teenager achieved. Maybe we all needed a little positivity in a world of unpleasant news.

A few fun facts about tennis. There is a pineapple on top of the Wimbledon Trophy, because apparently it represents the tradition of English sailors putting pineapples on their gateposts when they returned from a long voyage. 

How did tennis become associated with long trips at sea? No one really knows. Tennis balls were originally white until yellow balls were first used in Wimbledon in 1986. And is there a reason why we say “love” for zero in tennis? Another unsolved mystery. 

Did you know that former world No. 1 tennis player, Maria Sharapova’s on-court grunt is louder than an aircraft? Yes, her grunt or shriek when she hits the ball has been officially recorded at a volume as high as 101 decibels. That is louder than a motorcycle or a small aircraft landing. Also, the same volume as an ambulance siren. I do understand the frustration of hearing a loud grunt while playing with tennis balls. 

My old dog, Piper, a massive yellow Labrador, could probably grunt at 110 decibels (loud as a lion’s roar) while we played ball. And Piper was obsessed with tennis balls. He could hold four in his mouth at the same time. Piper was like many tennis champions, because those bright yellow balls were his greatest joy — and obsession. 

The riches from tennis do not necessarily come from the actual game. Experts predict that Emma might become the first billion-dollar sports star in England from endorsement deals. Might be a good thing, but danger always lurks in going from relative obscurity to overnight global exposure. Hopefully, the love of playing will continue for her as she navigates her new celebrity status.

If you don’t enjoy tennis, maybe get a few balls, an old dog, and let the “love” of the game begin. No racket required. Just the racket of a few loud grunts.