If you caught the US Open’s epic first round matches back in 2013 on ESPN, then you likely saw – and heard – the grand slams of Serena Williams in her first-round match this evening with Francesca Sciavone. It is evident that Ms. Williams came to the blue for business. Yet as points systematically mounted for Ms. Williams, the champion that captured my attention was Ms. Sciavone.
Few sports are more grueling as elite tennis. Matches can last hours. The singles player is a lone gladiator who, wielding only a racket, will battle a relentless onslaught of an opponent’s body slams - sending balls whizzing at speeds sometimes over 100 mph anywhere within 3,600 feet of three-dimensional brutal space This is especially true if your opponent is Serena Williams.
Taking no chances in her bid to hold her title, Ms. Williams was merciless in her match this evening with Sciavone. She pounded balls with a ferocity that it seemed would surely leave craters in the court.
Within minutes of the first set a grim reality was evident from commentators to Ms. Sciavone - the match would go handily to Ms. Williams.
It was going to be ugly.Except that it wasn’t.
It was beautiful. Albeit in a gut-wrenching way.
Ms. Sciavone could have ended her agony by giving up. Just going through the minimal motions. Mid-way through, she unexpectedly reached out for a supportive hug from a ball runner, triggering an empathetic roar of the crowd. But Ms. Sciavone did not give up or give in.
Ms. Sciavone played for honor. She played for her honor. She played for every point (and she indeed pulled out a game).She played for tennis, past and present; and for the Open. Fans who came to see heart and soul on display as much as blood, sweat, and tears got what they came for. The match was unexpectedly thrilling, thanks to Ms. Sciavone’s undefeatable spirit. It’s always thrilling, inspiring and educational to watch a true champion.
It is also uncomfortably challenging. It calls forth the deeper, perhaps ultimate, question to all of us who stand in the hippodrome of life: Am I a true champion? #AHAInsight