What Am I Talking About?
I shared a practice court with Lucas Catarina (pictured left) in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Maybe we talked a bit, I can’t remember. He was just another French guy and I was just another American guy; both trying to see where we could take our games. Both hoping to get out of the minor leagues. Fast forward 6 months and I get a Facebook message from Lucas, asking if I want to share a room during the string of three tournaments in Baku, Azerbaijan that we were both playing. I said ok. I remembered him being a cool guy, had never heard anything bad about him. So myself, Lucas and another player, Ruben Geeraert split the room. Lucas got in late the first night and slept on a cot. He was the highest ranked player of the three of us at the time, probably still outside the world’s Top 1,000 players. Today, two years removed from our time in Baku, Lucas is ranked #365 in the world and received a Wild Card to play in this week’s Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. He drew world #22, Milos Raonic first round and took a set off him. That’s like a high school baseball player going 4 for 4 in his first game for the Yankees.
This match is a non-factor in the life of Milos Raonic. He may be a bit disappointed to have lost a set to a guy like Lucas, but he still won the match and moves on to the next round more or less unscathed. On the flip side though, this was a watershed moment for Lucas. He earned his chance, through years of proving himself in the minor leagues, to be on the sport’s biggest stage, and he performed better than anyone outside his camp expected. Truly a sign for him to keep pushing; this match will be a source of motivation and confidence for him to draw on for who knows how long. No one else I know has gotten a Wild Card into a Masters 1000 event, nor do I know anyone who’s taken a set off a player in the Top 25.
I’m not a tennis journalist; I’m still playing in the minor leagues. Haven’t seen Lucas since Azerbaijan. I didn’t even know Lucas got a Wild Card into the event until I was looking through the day’s results and saw his name. Then I turned on Tennis Channel and heard Tracy Austin say, “Milos Raonic drops a set to a guy ranked like 355 or something.” First of all, he’s ranked 365- just take one second to check the rankings. Secondly, without attacking Tracy too personally, I’ll say that I wish she were more thoughtful. I wish she would take the time to think about how she wants to spread our sport, and then make a conscious decision to do that from the outstanding platform she has at Tennis Channel. How does tennis benefit if our commentators, who are the voice of tennis for the casual fan and recreational player, are making guys like Lucas seem like bums? There are more uplifting storylines in this match than I could shake a stick at: David and Goliath; A journeyman gets his shot at the Big Time; Look how good a guy ranked 365 is!; How can a guy this good not be making money?; Minor League guys, keep going, you’re closer than you think! You get it. Instead, Tracy decided to make Lucas sound like a bum by calling him, “a guy ranked like 355 or something.” Why would we, as a sport, not make Lucas’s surprising and impressive showing headline news? Why put Lucas down by calling him a nobody, while simultaneously putting Milos down for having an off day? This could easily be spun into a success story about hardwork and perseverance. You pick the cliché, it’s there to be written.
After graduating from the University of Nebraska, I had no idea what to expect from Professional Tennis. I wish I could have read about the realities of life on tour, so that's what my blogs are. A description of life on Tour as a guy trying to make it.