I’m texting in my seat near the end of the singles finals being televised live at Newport, RI last Sunday, when a distinguished man in a blue blazer taps me on the shoulder and asks me if I’d like to go on the center court with him as soon as the match is over and meet the players, John Isner and Leighton Hewitt. John is ranked number 11 in the world and defeated Djokovic and Federer this year. He only turned pro in 2007, has one of the fastest consistent serves in the game (130-140 mph) and is 6’9″ tall. Leighton is a former number one making a comeback after major toe surgery just two months ago. Puzzled and surprised, I say “Sure.”
Five minutes later, I am “plucked from anonymity,” (as a friend said), and walking behind shoulder-tapper Chris Clouser, Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with a couple of others right onto the grass court in front of 3700 people to watch the awarding of the trophies and super-sized (3 X 5 feet?) prize checks. The view from right next to the umpire’s high chair is definitely more intimate. And I am definitely a bit self-conscious. But however this is happening, I am enjoying it.
Leighton leaves quickly, but my daughter, Skylar, obtains his signature on a tennis ball, as well as Champion John’s ten minutes later. Chris brings John over to me. As we shake hands, I tell him that at Skylar’s 21st birthday last year at a hotel in New York, she recognized him in the bar. Also that she’d almost caught one of his kick serves that flew over his opponent’s racket, when he won the same tournament in 2011. Small world.
Life is full of surprises, and this was really a good one. Totally upbeat, memorable and captured for posterity.