WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - May 13, 2021 - 12:00am

Last week the Mandaue Tennis Court came to life. It did not rise from the dead. It has been the bulwark of middle-aged and veteran tennis players, a more polite term for senior citizens, although there is nothing derogatory about being called seniors. In fact, it entitles them to a well-deserved preferential treatment, from food and medicine discounts to inoculation.

But the normally quiet small crowd watched in awe as four junior players exchanged great shots that had them finally reacting, clapping and whistling. Where before they merely nod in approval and admiration for big serve, passing shot or overhead smash, they finally unboxed their reaction to the athleticism and brilliance of four young players who reminded them what it is like to play in their prime.

Norman Joseph Enriquez, Don Vinz Lominoque, Canberra-trained Charles Joshua Kinaadman and international campaigner and eventual winner Arthur Craig Pantino squared off in the invitational tournament and thrilled the crowd with their powerful serves, brutal groundstrokes and long rallies. From the baseline, no serve and volley, but sure they wowed the crowd and got them loud, the kids played beyond their age. But still inaudible compared with the live audience in basketball. Or women’s volleyball. But only when it’s a match between perennial collegiate rivals lady archers and eagles.

Call it drawing power. Or better yet, star power. Tickets sell out when two of the current trivalry in men’s tennis are expected to meet at any stage of a grand slam. At their peak, Serena and Venus Williams widened TV viewership. Tournament organizers paid them appearance money just to participate, win or lose.

A grand slam match between top seeds always gets the crowd loud. Even the traditionally stiff Wimbledon loosened up. The great final between Goran Ivanisevic and Patrick Rafter in 2001 uninhibited the live crowd divided to root for two men who came close to the crown before, a returning wild card from Croatia thrice, or the retiring finalist from Australia twice. In the end, third time is not the charm for Rafter.     

Each time Princess Diana watched Wimbledon live from the royal box, she reacted like a thrilled fan would, with nary a care in the world, to the queen’s chagrin. But it is during those unguarded moments of breaking protocol that unwittingly endeared her to the people. She humanized royalty, even if her beauty and elegance epitomize fairy tale character. But not her sob story, she did not live happily ever after.

But tennis watchers at the local front are not that inexpressive. They can be loud, but only when they banter at a lousy shot. It must be because they know each other too well. The players on court and the watchers off court are players too who played against each other several times over. Familiarity breeds contempt. Whatever. A great shot is a great shot, no matter how the crowd reacts. If they don’t attest to excellence, history will. Just like truth, it is revealed in time, justice is served in due time, and word of honor is tested by time.

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