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Craig Cignarelli Checks In From The WTA Ladies Tennis in Charleston

@kikibertens grabs the first set 6-2 over #Stollar #VolvoCarOpen – Photo by @VolvoCarOpen via Twitter.

 

 

Back around the turn of the millennium, a frizzy haired Brazilian won the French Open, drawing a massive heart on the court to express his love for the crowd, the tournament and for tennis in general. They called him “Guga.” And so, when Gustavo Kuerten retired a few years later due to a chronic hip injury, the world lost an ambassador for the sport and a man who defined the word passion.

 

Today, at the WTA event in Charleston, South Carolina, we saw a darker side of tennis. Recently, Japanese phenom, Naomi Osaka has played some inspired tennis. The twenty-year-old went on a run at Indian Wells to capture her first WTA title and then headed to Miami before catching a flight up to Charleston. Becoming a champion means playing more matches, sleeping longer in hotels, eating the same player dining hall food, doing more press conferences, traveling in the same shuttle to and from the tournament, and seeing locker room numbers dwindle to the point where you are alone, very, very alone.

 

Holding the trophy is an incredibly rewarding experience where years of intense work is artistically designed into a golden chalice, which you hoist above your head for about twelve joyful seconds before smiling for a few photos and then heading out to the practice court to prepare for your next event. The glory is acute but fleeting. And so, when Naomi Osaka sat down on a changeover to talk with her coach and said, “I don’t want to be here,” the magnitude of the moment resounded with pain. She is talented and athletic and friendly and a thousand other adjectives that make you admire her. She is also exhausted and trying to understand fierce concepts like expectations and pressure and disappearing exuberance and the solitude of champions. In short, for this moment, her passion is absent.

 

There is little doubt Osaka’s love for the game will return. She has worked too hard and is too good to not find that place in her heart, which compelled her to play as a child. For now though, the young woman needs a well-deserved break.

 

Lesson: There will be moments when you achieve something phenomenal and the achievement feels unfulfilling. When that occurs, its time to look back at the journey, at the minor achievements which brought you to that grand moment. Review the obstacles you overcame, the lessons you learned, the people you befriended, the confidence you developed. There are many petty, unsexy things, which join grand achievement. Some of them may not command your attention, but when you are old and wrinkled and trying to remember the mountains you climbed, it won’t be the summits you remember as much as the paths you forged to get there.

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