Serena Williams helped me love tennis again after my ex ruined it for me

  • My first love was a serious tennis player and I supported his passion.
  • However, our relationship left me with PTSD and I was unable to watch the sport for 16 years.
  • Watching Serena Williams at the US Open last week helped bring my love of the game back.

I was 19 when Serena Williams won her first US Open in 1999 at the age of just 17. At the time, I was two years into my first big romance, deeply in love with my high school sweetheart, and full of the naivety that comes with youth and little life experience. Although our relationship lasted eight more years, it peaked early – and with its highs, there were some extreme lows.

When we finally broke up at 25, I felt free. However, my relationship with tennis was collateral damage. It became a trigger, and I never watched – or played – the sport again. However, last week, on the last night of August, Serena’s unexpected, passionate win after what was supposed to be her last match drew me back. For the first time in 16 years, I tuned in to watch the US Open.

Tennis and our relationship were intertwined like strings on a racquet

He was my everything and tennis was his. He was an amazing player whose life revolved around the sport; He excelled on the high school team and earned a college scholarship that nearly turned pro. During our relationship, tennis also became part of my life. I would cheer from the sidelines at his games and argue with his manager mom for the role of biggest fan. I’ve ridden trains and trams, traveled far—mostly alone—just to watch him swing that club. It was magical to see.

But his truthfulness to tennis flowed into our relationship and found its exposure through other outlets. There were emotional outbursts, shouting and other toxic behaviors, the impact of which I would only understand years later. In high school, the principal once called us “fire and fire,” adding that we seemed doomed. I didn’t think much of the remark at the time — I thought it was just a comment on the passion inherent in our relationship — but now I see it for what it was: a warning.

Entering the world of tennis – his world – was like a spectator in a slightly more civilized gladiator ring. All of the typical tennis player clichés were ingrained in his practices and games: young men seething with competitiveness, intensity, unresolved anger and big egos. My ex was one of them and displayed many of these tendencies not only on the pitch but off it as well. Yes, he would throw his racquet throughout the game as many other players have done. Other times, during a fight, he would hit a wall with the same fury.

During our senior year of high school, our love felt at its happiest, but youthful jealousy simmered beneath the surface pattern of verbal violence formed alongside this bliss. I began to normalize those actions and accept how he treated me as something I deserved. Public brawls and verbal disagreements between us littered the last two years of high school.

Our time together in college was even more turbulent. I was desperate for his attention, both for varsity tennis and new women. When he wasn’t ignoring me, I fought off the jealous aggression that accompanied any effort to explore my own independence.

I met him once at a bar when he was said to be homesick – for once, instead of being his excuse, I went to another party. He somehow chased me, found me, and violently dragged me out of the party while my friends looked on in disbelief.

Throughout it all, tennis remained part of the fabric that held our worn-out history together – my support for him never wavered and he always seemed to yearn for it, although he rarely acknowledges it. We played together occasionally, although it mostly ended in tears.

We were together for three more years after college, but at the end there was nothing left. I hardly saw him at that point, and the prime of our high school life was long gone. When we broke up he kept calling me and I’ll admit I didn’t hate it at first. It made me feel wanted. But as soon as I answered, the feeling that he needed me stopped immediately, and so did the calls. It was more about power than love.

Eventually, realizing the traumatic game I was involuntarily involved in, we ended our communication entirely. It was also around that time that I realized that I had never learned to separate my feelings for him from my feelings for tennis.

Serena’s love of the game helped remind me why I loved it too

PTSD developed as a result of my relationship and kept me away from sports for all these years. Tennis and what I had been through were intertwined, and ever since we broke up, the sound of a racquet or hitting a ball on the court brought back strong bad memories. Even the word “love” in the wrong context could give me goosebumps.

But Serena’s shocking loss to No. 2 player Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday night, August 31, captivated me. I felt a surge of excitement for the game’s return, the kind I had before the darkness of my romance clouded my experience with it. to see you play It sparked an interest in tennis I hadn’t felt in almost two decades.

I stopped thinking about the times I was punished for not loving tennis enough, or punished for asking too much of my boyfriend – after all, his dedication to his skill came first, a non-negotiable fact, which I unfortunately accepted. Something new happened while I was watching Serena last week. I wasn’t inundated with bad memories. Every time I’d attempted to watch tennis for the past few years, something as simple as the distinct sound of player shoes shuffling across the court had made me wince, but seeing them on the court finally kindled the excitement, that I used to feel.

Serena Williams played her heart out on Friday night unseeded Australian opponent, Ajla Tomljanovic, in their longest match ever played. Although Tomljanovic came out on top in the end, Serena was the clear star.

Seeing her embody spirit and strength on this screen makes me a different woman than when I first saw Serena on the pitch: happily married, not to my first love but to my true one. As a freelance writer, I’m still finding the full potential of my voice and struggling to become a mother. These themes, such as perseverance and never being too old, resonate deeply.

Serena’s passion Last week has been an inspiration and an important reminder to strive for the things in life you desire most. Despite my hardships and self-doubts, I too can overcome them – because you never know when you will have this unexpected success.

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