I don’t typically watch sports on TV very often; I get very easily distracted. But plop me down in a stadium, and I could chill and watch sports for hours. That’s what happened with me and tennis as I found myself at the Toray Pan Pacific Open (TPPO) tennis finals this year.
Ariake Tennis Park
The tournament was held at Ariake Tennis Park, one of the venues used for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Not many people were permitted to enjoy the facilities during the actual Olympics, so it’s good to see the venue getting some love post-2020.
This was the big event: Full of VIPs, cameramen crowding the sidelines, and a big turnout from fans. The main players were Qinwen Zheng, a young and promising 19-year-old player from China, and Liudmilla Samsonova, the 23-year-old and 23rd-rank player from Russia. You’ll note that on the website her home nation of Russia is not given its flag. That’s because there have been bans put in place against Russia and Belarus concerning, you know, the whole invasion or Ukraine situation.
The game ended up going to Samsonova, but Zheng really gave her a run for her money in every set. I also learned a bit of Chinese! Jiayou, literally “add oil,” is what you can cheer in Mandarin to encourage your favorite athletes. I thought they were saying “ya yo” at first, which doesn’t have quite the same zing to it, so I’m glad the Internet was there to give me some context!
Winners are given these gorgeous lacquerware plates as their trophies, as well as a nice sum of money from the purse (Samsonova ended up pocketing over $100k for her win).
If I thought the singles competition was pretty intense, I was in for a very startling surprise watching the double game. I’ve never seen doubles tennis, either on TV or in person, so this was a true first for me.
The teams were Nicole Melichar-Martinez (USA) and Ellen Perez (AUS) versus Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) and Guiliana Olmos (MEX). They tend to be lower-ranked players in singles who join forces to do better through collaboration, and these teams really do show that two heads are better than one. All of their rankings for doubles are impressively high, meaning that they know how to make that teamwork, well… work!
The chaos comes in how quickly everything gets returned: The ball can literally be stopped the instant it goes over the net and goes from 100+ mph to a pathetic plop. Or, it can get returned just as fast but travel less than 10 ft before it’s shot back again. Balls go high and slow, low and fast; it’s pandemonium. It looks like it could be a lot of fun or incredibly stressful, depending on the day and disposition.
In the end, we only stayed for the first set because we were pretty worn down from cooking in the sun for several hours. Dabrowski and Olmos were clearly dominating that first set and ended up winning the whole show in two sets. I’m glad we could see these two events, especially since our Olympic tennis dream was put on hold due to Coronavirus.
What do you think? Does seeing something live give you more energy than seeing it broadcast? Let us know in the comments below!