Opinion: Fan’s First Live Professional Tennis Experience

ATX ROCKS | ROCKS Audience members in the bleachers watching the ATX Open final hold up signs reading ‘ATX Rocks’ and ‘Women Rule’. The tournament is Austin’s only professional, tour-level tennis tournament and its largest professional women’s sporting event.
ATX ROCKS | ROCKS Audience members in the bleachers watching the ATX Open final hold up signs reading ‘ATX Rocks’ and ‘Women Rule’. The tournament is Austin’s only professional, tour-level tennis tournament and its largest professional women’s sporting event.
Annabel Andre

I have been a tennis fan since before I can remember. I love watching Federer’s smooth strokes and movements that are more akin to dancing. I’ve held my breath countless times while watching Nadal slide through the bright red clay at the French Open. And I paced and yelled as Medvedev lost yet another Grand Slam in the final. Despite this, I had never seen professional tennis in person. That all changed when the ATX Open, a women’s professional tennis tournament, was created in Austin.  

I had been lucky enough to be at the ATX Open in its first year with the rest of LASA’s tennis team and even luckier to be able to come back this year. But this year felt different. As I stepped out of the bus that dropped me off at the Westwood Country Club to watch world-class tennis players in person, I had an added spring in my step because this time I was arriving as an official member of the press.

FINAL | Finalists Yuan Yue (left) and Wang Xiyu (right) pose with the Chinese flag after the ATX Open final. The match was the first all Chinese final in the U.S. in Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) history.

After Sanwi Sarode (former sports co-editor and partner in crime) and I picked up our very official-looking press badges, we went to explore the many colorful and attractive options at the tournament. Upon entering the gates we were thrust into a crowd of fellow tennis fans. I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go first. My mouth watered at the thought of taking a bite of the delicious Amy’s Ice Cream being sold, my eyes caught the bright colors of the huge merch tent, but most of all, I couldn’t ignore the oohing and ahhing of the crowd and the loud distinctive sound of a tennis ball bouncing against concrete. 

Sanwi and I wove in and out of the crowd until we eventually made it to the center court where I was immediately enraptured by the sight in front of me. Finalists Wang Xiyu and Yuan Yue battled it out on the court, whipping forehands back and forth at jaw-dropping speeds. The crowd seemed to collectively be holding its breath as the point went on for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, Wang approached the net, ending the point with a perfectly executed drop shot. I felt like screaming in support of the amazing athleticism I just witnessed like I would at home in front of my TV. Instead, I focused my energy on a reserved and refined clap, one that was replicated all around me.

ATX OPEN | Despite only being the second year of the tournament, the ATX Open has already become America’s third-biggest women’s tennis tournament. This exposure to professional tennis has allowed for a spike in interest in tennis within Austin. (Annabel Andre)

Before I knew it, the first set was over with Yuan winning 6-4. While Sanwi and I waited for the second set to begin, we thought we would try to see if we could sit in the press section. Luckily enough, minutes later we found ourselves merely five feet away from world-class tennis players about to watch a set to remember. 

Like the first set, the two players each won their service games pretty consistently, going to deuce multiple times within the set. But, unlike the first, the second set made it to an exhilarating tiebreaker. At about the hour and a half point in the match, it looked like it was over. Yuan had a championship point, up 40-0 with a game score of 5-3. She needed just one point to win this match, but Wang was a force to be reckoned with. She made an incredible comeback, winning the next 4 points in a row. The game then went to deuce twice before Wang took the game, bringing the score to 5-4 (Yuan). After this game, I knew the rest of the match would be amazing.

AMY’S ICE CREAM | Besides exciting tennis matches, the ATX Open offered other amenities such as local Austin treat Amy’s Ice Cream, a trailer from restaurant Savory Mesa, and a large tent filled with official ATX Open merch for sale. The tournament took place Feb. 24 – March 3 and hosted globally ranked tennis players from all over the world. (Annabel Andre)

The next three games flew by and suddenly, with the score at 6-6, the two were playing a second-set tiebreaker. Before I knew it, yet again, the game was at another championship point with Yuan ahead 6-1 in the tiebreaker. She just needed one more point, but Wang fought hard once again, winning the next three points, bringing the score to 6-4. I could feel the tension rising in the audience as the possibility of a third set loomed. The oohs and ahhs of the crowd grew in volume as the gap in score got smaller until Yuan finally pulled through and won the match, setting off the crowd into an eruption of cheers. 

I loved every second of my time at the ATX Open—seeing the smile that broke out across Yuan’s face after winning her first career title and the many hugs shared between Yuan and Wang, being able to watch an amazing match courtside, and being able to share every second with fellow tennis fans. I can’t wait to keep going back, hopefully, for years to come.

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