If a picture is taken and nobody sees it, does that mean it never existed?
My love affair with tennis turned 20 this summer. The 1994 Wimbledon Ladies' Final was the first tennis match I ever watched; ten years old, sitting in my living room in Jamaica, I hadn't a clue what to make of Conchita Martinez and Martina Navratilova's three-set battle. But, I was hooked. Now that I live in Canada, the Rogers Cup has become a yearly ritual. Each year I get to alternate between watching tennis' best men and women compete in Toronto. This year, I went in search of pictures and stories. It was the first time I was writing and tweeting about the event, and equipped with a new camera, I was intent on capturing as many pictures as possible. Little did I know that a chance encounter with Judy Murray would trigger such fluctuating emotions and result in the writing of this story.
Prior to the tournament, I made a "treasure hunt" of sorts: a list of things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see during my stay at the Rexall Centre. Chief among these was a photograph with Judy Murray. I placed it so high because I figured the top spot should be reserved for something difficult to achieve, something that in all likelihood wouldn't happen. After all, I had no idea if Judy would even be in Toronto. Sure, Andy and Jamie were competing, but I knew Judy has wide-ranging commitments and interests. Even if she were at the tournament, what were the chances I'd actually be close enough to ask for a picture?
Part of what makes her so intriguing is that she is the mother of one of the biggest tennis stars in the world, yet she has carved out her own niche separate from her role as coach and mother. She went rogue. Who doesn't get a kick out of that dynamic?
The first two days of the Rogers Cup was the "Pizzaville Free Community Weekend." Patrons were granted free entry to the qualifying matches and were gifted the opportunity to watch the top stars practice against each other all around the grounds, including centre court. My first glimpse of Judy came at the main practice courts on day two. It took me some time to even notice her presence, as Andy was practising on the court next to Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov. When you first get to the practice courts, it can be a tad overwhelming as you slowly start to recognize all the players and coaches in front of you scattered across the four courts. I must have been there for at least 10 minutes before I saw Judy, and only when Federer and Dimitrov took a breather and sat down next to her.
With the start of the tournament on day 3, the free-for-all weekend gave way to tight practice schedules; I had to put in the work to complete my treasure hunt. On my way to the event for Monday's play, I paid close attention to Twitter for tournament updates and tips from people who were already on the grounds. On the parking lot shuttle bus, I saw on Twitter that Judy Murray had been spotted walking casually though Rexall Centre.
I thought, "Oh my God, Judy's on the loose!"
The first order of business was to check the practice courts; I assumed that Judy was on her way to have a look in on one of her boys. But, she was nowhere in sight. I took a stroll past the Milos Raonic Grandstand and the outer courts to see if anything interesting was on offer. Lo and behold, I spotted Andy Murray. Being but a few feet away from one of the game's greats sent my mind into overdrive: do I take pictures? Do I just take it all in and store the experience safely in my memory? Who is he even hitting with? Where's Amélie? Somehow, in the midst of all that confusion, I overheard someone say, "she's Andy's mom."
In stealth private detective mode, I left my courtside position to investigate.
I still don't know if she said anything in response; I only recall her nodding graciously, and thus began a span of a few hours that I won't soon forget. I thanked her, secured the services of an older gentleman to take the hallowed photograph, and took my spot to Judy's left. Right, this was actually happening! What couldn't have been more than 15 seconds felt like an eternity as the gentleman struggled with the zoom - it felt as though I was holding her hostage! I thanked Judy profusely and we went our separate ways.
I fired off a tweet or two celebrating the occasion then texted my partner to deliver the wondrous news - I had scored a picture with Judy Murray. I could have run for miles and not missed a breath. Over the next few minutes I walked off the excitement, doing nothing in particular, trying to refocus myself for the rest of the day's tennis. As I made my way back to the practice courts, I decided to review the pictures I had already taken and clear some space on my memory card.
You probably know where this is heading.
There I was, pondering my dilemma, as people galloped by in the nagging drizzle. The giddiness of only 20 minutes prior had vacated, leaving me with a feeling of intense defeat. I looked up to the darkened skies and estimated I had at least an hour before play resumed, which might give me enough time to run home and return without missing too much play. But, would they allow re-entry to the venue? Could I reuse my parking pass? Invigorated by affirmative answers to these questions, I bolted.
I had made 5 one-way trips to the Rogers Cup up to this point, none taking less than 30 minutes. This time, I hit every green light. Twenty minutes later, I was scouring Google for software, reading reviews and hoping for the best. After a handful of failed attempts, I found a program that got the job done in no time. I had almost made peace with the loss of the photo when it magically reappeared on my computer screen. My exuberance and resultant carelessness were to blame for the fiasco, but thankfully I had been given a free pass. The panic and dread of the previous two hours was over.