Tenaciously Tennis

As Roland Garros Play Rolls On, Schnyder Ends Distinguished Career

As the world’s top players on the WTA tour continue to battle it out on the red clay of Roland Garros, one woman who graced the tour with her tricky play will return to the Grand Slam no longer. A personal favorite, the 32-year old Patty Schnyder announced the end of her career on Saturday during a special press conference.

A perennial top-ten player in the world, Schnyder will be missed for her sheer talent and impressive results on tour. But accomplishments aside, there was something about her game that always intrigued me profoundly; I’m talking style and finesse. The spin that Schnyder used no longer exists to the same degree, especially with her left-handedness. That display of tactics made me appreciate the beauty of spin and the aesthetics of the game as Fabrice Santoro did for me on the men’s side.  As the women around her seemingly pound the ball as hard as possible, Schnyder symbolized a true diamond in the rough with a game like no other.

Adding to what personally enamored me besides her game (and similar last names aside) was one specific interaction I had wither. At the US Open a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to approach Schnyder after a doubles loss. Gathering my courage, and almost too late for she was briskly walking to the player’s lounge, I asked for an autograph. Schnyder agreed. Sure, she wasn’t in the best of moods, but she showed true poise in allowing a young fan her signature despite such recent adversity.

Giving her a yellow hat I received at the Grand Slam event the previous year, I fumbled with the marker. She took it, and there was my first signed item from a professional tennis player.

I’ll never forget that moment because I finally interacted with a player — an idol — on a personal level. No longer did these individuals remains just exceptional athletes relegated to on-screen entertainment, or even seem diminished as simply a display of talent. Instead, they became people, not Herculean celebrities. Here was a woman fighting her heart out to advance to the next round in the doubles competition, losing, and still having the decency to sign a nervous kid’s autograph.

I profusely thanked her and whispered good luck in singles. She nodded, left, and on walked away one of my all-time favorite tennis players.

Congratulations to Patty for an excellent career and good luck to her in any future endeavors.

For more on her myriad accomplishments, check out this bittersweet WTA article here.


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