Tennis,Jimmy Connors,Björn Borg

What is love? Growing up in a tennis family

January 25, 2017

Special to "Mama, what's 'love'?" "It means 'zero.'" My 4-year-old daughter and I were watching the 2016 French Open women's final on television in her grandparents' house. For the first time, she showed interest in my favorite sport, and I was thrilled. Tennis -- playing it, watching it, obsessing over it -- is a treasured family pastime. Mats, Martina, Ivan, Steffi -- these were the names of my early childhood. My father is a huge tennis fan; he introduced me to the sport and had strong opinions about players. He didn't care for "brash" Jimmy Connors, especially after he won Wimbledon for the second time in 1982 (when I was around my daughter's age). He adored Björn Borg and mourned his retirement from the game. I learned to hit serves and volleys as a tween on the public courts of our nondescript New Jersey township. I had watched my father play on occasion and asked for his old racket. A parks department employee was my first coach. He complimented my graceful footwork. "She's a dancer," my father said. The coach nodded in appreciation, and fed me more backhands to fire down the line. As my interest in the sport grew, my father took me to nearby tournaments -- the A&P Tennis Classic, a WTA tuneup in Mahwah, New Jersey, and the U.S. Open in Queens, New York. In Flushing Meadows, we stood in snaking lines for hours to secure day-of grounds passes on the tournament's first Monday, when the entire draw was still in play. It became a tradition after the first year not to purchase tickets in advance, and I looked forward to our shared test of endurance. In line, we studied...

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