Among Fans, Friends and Foes - The entourage of tennis...

They are the people who surround you when you are a professional 'em or hate 'em, you always find a few of each in your life at any given time.

The Fans

Avid fans, Smart fans, spectator fans, rude fans, passionate fans...Most enjoy or play the game.  Some may not even understand the rules but love to just watch.  In reality though, few of these spectators will ever understand the agnoy of having to scale pro tennis mountain of training and competition on a daily basis.

Fans are out there to be entertained.  They buy their ticket so that they can live vicariously through their heroes on center court. The masses surrounding the world's #1 player. The lazyboy quarterbacks who shout orders as they could do better know only how to project their wishes/fears onto you.

However, in good times there a many, but in bad times those same "fans" who embraced you as their prodigal son with the joys of victory but do not appreciate the difficulty of losing and the recover process it inevitably entails.  Nobody remembers who won the silver medal.

I for one who appreciates all the spoils of Victory: the trophys, the titles, the accodates, lavish accomodations and the fan base that comes to marvel. I too like to peek and watch agasp at great shots when they can be executed. But the reality is in these long, unglamorous and often torturous hours - day after day, week after week that pays the exorborantly cost of that success.  It is a price infused with an inflationary marker, that requires a higher return rate with every year of age.

FriendsYour comrades in arms, your practice partners, your support network. They breathe the same air, hit the same balls, run across the same smoodering asphalt every summer as you. It may be your Davis Cup teammates or simply your neighbor down the street. They motivate and energize you for the next battle. They travel with you from tournament to tournament; they have tennis in their blood as well.

They may one day face you in a tournament, but off the court they will always be your ally and your confidants of battle.  It is important to have many friends, as the road of tennis fraught with many hurdles and land mines - it is important to have a strong core of supporters helping each other during those rough patches.

It is ironic that a clash between such titans as Roger and Rafa, that it seems these two know each other better than anyone else in the world.  Even among his Davis cup teammates who share with him the glory and joys of a nation - how can they Truely understand a Viseral Level; unless they have engaged him for over 5 hours in an epic Wimbledon final.

Only your greatest rival can truely appreciate your pain, your sorrow, your triumphs and your dreams - because it is shared in a glatorial bond. So intertwined are your fates and yet one mans glory must come at the other's destruction.  When we raise a hand to acknowledge: "we who are about to die...salute you".

To play for such high stakes at such slender margins; it taxes a very deep part of your soul. Maintaining that consistency match after match, tournament after tournament, season after season is no easy task.