There’s always love at the Rogers Cup

The U.S. Open is behind us, which means that it’s time for tennis withdrawal to start. This in turns means that today is as good a time as any to for the third annual Rogers Cup recap.

There’s no need for charm the third time around—this Rogers Cup experience post has been a staple of A man must have a code, first starting in 2011 with life on the outside looking in, then moving to life very much on the inside looking out (and in) and now to this year. In 2013, I was once again on the inside for the Rogers Cup, only this time I was in Toronto and reporting live from Rexall Centre.

You’re damn right that I was in Toronto for the Rogers Cup this year. In fact, I spent the entire summer here, but that’s an entirely different story. I was in Toronto for the tournament and I quickly learned that there are a few notable differences between the Montreal and the Toronto editions of the event. Rexall Centre is a nice little location, but no more. It can’t really hold its own against Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium, let’s say. Not only that, but the Toronto public isn’t as gung ho about tennis as the Montreal crowd. Torontonians love men’s tennis, but not so much women’s tennis. For Marion Bartoli’s first match this year, only seven weeks removed after a Wimbledon title by then, Rexall’s Centre Court was maybe 20 per cent full. In 2012, about 150,000 Montrealers attended the Rogers Cup despite bad, bad weather and the tournament being held just a week after the London Olympics while about 136,000 Torontonians did in 2011. Put it this way—Torontonians love men’s tennis. Montrealers love tennis.

I have been going to the Rogers Cup every single summer for as long as I can remember, and it never gets old or boring. I’m pretty good at tennis myself, especially after this summer when I played about thrice every two weeks and remodeled my forehand from a topspin-heavy Djokovic-like stroke, to a flatter weapon reminiscent of Del Potro’s. But even as good as I am now, and it’s probably not all that good but I like to think that it is, I can’t hold my own against the very worst player of the Rogers Cup draw—but I sure like to think that I could! Such is life.

This year, I watched Serena Williams play in what felt like the first time in forever. This is the dirty little secret that no one talks about regarding the great champion—she last played in Montreal in 2000. Why? God knows. It’s not like she doesn’t like the French. She has an apartment in Paris and her coach, with whom she may or may not be romantically involved depending on the rumours, is French. Is it because Williams doesn’t like Montrealers? M’eh. Or maybe she doesn’t like the city? Puh-lease. No one dislikes Montreal in the summertime. But yes, I did see Williams play in person this year, and she’s impressive. There is very little that she can’t do on a tennis court and rarely is her opponent dictating play. It wasn’t a surprise that she won the tournament, especially in such easy fashion. (Drizzy Drake, Toronto’s own prodigal son, was apparently also at the tournament. I only learned this when Williams revealed it after her win in the final, and no doubt long after Drake had left Rexall. I ain’t ish as a reporter, I know.)

By some sheer luck, I also made it on camera. See, because I had a media pass I had access to all courtside seats except on Centre Court—fine by me. I made great use of them. The best match I saw was an excellent battle between Sorana Cirstea and Caroline Wozniacki from one of those seats. Once the tournament had ended, that Sunday, I somehow saw user @MindTheRacket tweet a link to the match and asking his followers if they could spot him on the second match point. My reaction, then, was to ask myself, “Wait, I bet that I can see myself! My oh my!” Sure enough, boom! There I was sitting right behind Wozniacki in a blue polo shirt. God bless you, TennisTV—whatever you are—for showing that match.

This year, I also finally met Nima Naderi. Who would have thought that after 18 or 19 months and about 80 columns for Tennis Connected, I would finally be able to put a face to the voice, emails and text messages? Nima is a good dude, and I love covering this event for the website. I’m still not paid for it, but it’s fine. I don’t mind. I compare what I do to what other reporters do, the ones who are paid to provide coverage of the event for the big Canadian media organizations, and I almost feel fortunate (until I remember that I eat Kraft Dinner probably a little too often than is healthy). That’s not right, obviously. I would love to be paid—welcome to Obvious City. But I definitely have less work than my colleagues. I only file once a day and I attend the event first and foremost as a fan of the sport, and as a columnist second. I have much, much, much more freedom in pursuing the matches and stories that I want to pursue. I doubt that I could find such an arrangement anywhere else than with Tennis Connected. So I’m thankful for it.

My lone regret, this year, was that I couldn’t go for the entire week. Because the gig is not paid, I needed another one that is. And in fact, it was all by sheer luck that I went to the tournament in the first place. I worked for a publication from July 15 to Labour Day and somehow, the publication was off the week of the Rogers Cup. Still though, I had tasks to complete, work to do, so I took a few days off from the Rogers Cup to complete it all. Boy did I hate not going. This year made me realize how much I would like to make a living covering this sport and not—not even close—with the job I had at the time. (I’ve since started an internship elsewhere after the powers that be at the publication and I decided that it was in our mutual benefit to part ways. This new internship appears to be much more promising and to be a much better fit, but I’m still thankful for this first opportunity. It didn’t work out, but that’s fine—rarely do things ever do fully work out.)

All of this is to say that covering the Rogers Cup this summer was bittersweet, because I loved the experience so much yet I also realized that I’m so far from making a living from it.

Who am I kidding, though? I loved every single minute of it—the costly and unsavory hot dogs, the $12 beer, a group in the crowd chanting “Sorana” and another answering with “Serena,” the stores, the media room, meeting new colleagues—I loved it all. And this year motivated me more than ever to work harder and harder. Every summer I go, and every summer I fall in love with tennis all over again. And I don’t say that strictly because it’s women who I’ve watched play for the past two summers. (Though to be fair, ask any man who plays tennis and he will tell you that nothing is sexier in this world than a woman who’s a better tennis player than he is.)

When I cover the Rogers Cup, I’m really just happy to be covering a sport that I love to play and watch. And if I’m still not paid, it doesn’t matter. (Well, you know, ish.)