Sometimes, being a manic fan can the most rewarding affliction in the world. Waving the Swiss flag in 2006, cheering on Novak Djokovic in 2011 in mispronounced Serbian, raising a knee and fist in time with Nadal in 2010; all good. At some point, though, things take a turn for the worse. Supporting Federer now without losing your dignity? It’d be easier to show more grace running naked up the street. Vamosing on Nadal can’t be easy either, and yelling for Murray? Well, who said that’s ever been anything but bad news? But heartbreak won’t stop a true fan. These are the people that admit they’re a little obsessive, that take the good times with the bad, and don’t stop being crazy for their player just because times are tough. Chances are, we all have a little mad fan in us. Every week we take a look at one high-profile fan and analyze just how crazy they are...
Today we bring you one of tennis’s most famous fans... Courtney
Courtney Nguyen has a lot to thank tennis for. The sport she fell in love with as a young girl has brought her out from the dark corners of a lawyer’s office into the searing heat that often accompanies tennis tournaments. Through traveling and blogging her way around the globe, she’s made the difficult transition from fan to full-time writer*. But perhaps transition isn’t the right word. Courtney still is, after all, very much a fan.
A little like a fussy woman looking for a date, Courtney has a set criteria that any player wanting to make her favorites list must meet. “My kryptonite when it comes to players I love are (1) they’re genuinely nice, relatively normal people and (2) they have a big forehand. I’m just a sucker for unadulterated power and when that’s coupled with shy, demure personalities, I swoon,” she explains.
One such player is none other than Sam Stosur, a woman Courtney was drawn to before even having laid eyes on her. “I was in L.A in 2009 and one afternoon I had my head down as I headed to the entrance gates when I kept hearing the pop of a racquet that sounded like nothing I had heard before. I followed the sound to the practice courts outside of the Home Depot Center and there was Sam, clocking her forehand with Dave Taylor, hitting with power and spin I had never seen off a woman’s racquet. It was so hot that afternoon, but I stood there against the fence just watching her hit tennis balls. It was mesmerizing and to this day, my favorite thing to do at tennis tournaments is to sit at the practice courts and just watch her hit her forehand.”
Many hours spent leaning on fences ogling forehands has helped Courtney to develop as a fan. “It’s made me more forgiving and understanding of a player’s ups and downs, more patient with their development, and she’s one of the first players I ever became a huge fan of who didn’t win all the time. With Sam it was never about results or titles or wins. I just flat out loved watching her hit a tennis ball.” Talking about her love of Stosur, Courtney touches on what makes tennis such an addictive sport, and why people like herself can become completely immersed in the blue courts and yellow balls. “I genuinely believe that in tennis, as in life, the beauty is in the flaws and the struggle is the story. Sure, it’d be great if she were a bit quicker, had a better backhand, and didn’t get nervous or throw in horrible performances to lose to players she shouldn’t lose to. But honestly, I probably wouldn’t be a fan if that were the case. Where’s the fun in that?”
Courtney admits that supporting Stosur isn’t all roses and cupcakes. Stosur can attract a lot of negative attention from those who are convinced she’s nothing but a one-Slam wonder, and these naysayers inspire fighting words from Courtney. “(To them) I say who the hell cares? Who thought she was going to win one in the first place let alone two? Sam could flame out tomorrow and she’d still have a more successful career than anyone ever thought she would,” she says, betraying her usually calm self. “Not many people can say they stepped on to the biggest tennis stadium in the world and played the match of their life to beat the greatest player of her generation. Sam Stosur can. Everyone else can suck it.”
Courtney could also use a little more Zen when it comes to her own tennis game. She may not rock Sam’s Oakleys, but she does have a nasty habit of hitting and hoping. “I’ve always tried to hit winners off my forehand side and 80% of the time I just close my eyes and swing as hard as I can. I’m not convinced Sam doesn’t do that 80% of the time either. I think she’s emulating me. We both have the ability to miss the court in spectacular fashion,” she laughs.
Stosur may know who Courtney is from the media room, but it’s doubtful she understands the true extent of Courtney’s fandom. Courtney kick started her career as a tennis blogger when she fearlessly quit her job and spent a year traveling around the world watching tennis. Unbeknownst to most, Courtney actually based her itinerary around Stosur’s and as a result she was courtside at the Aussie’s matches more than anyone but Stosur’s own team. “I was on the grounds for every single one of her matches in Sydney, the Australian Open, Fed Cup, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, the French Open, Eastbourne, Wimbledon, Stanford, Cincinnati, the U.S. Open and Istanbul. By my count, that’s 41 matches,” she confesses with a hint of pride.
But perhaps the behavior most fans will relate to is not Courtney’s enviable world travels, but instead the mind games she’s played with herself when Stosur is on court. Courtney’s sensibilities completely fell by the wayside during the French Open 2011, when she took the likeness she sees between her dog and Stosur a little too far. “I played a vigorous game of tug-o-war with him during the third set of Stosur’s match against Serena at the French Open in hopes that as his energy level and feistiness went up so would hers.” Courtney only wishes she were joking, “No, really. That was one hundred percent my logic!”
Courtney found herself acting like a hyperactive child when Stosur claimed the US Open title. A friend accompanied her around Times Square and the pair sung pop songs loudly and reminisced over Sam’s win. At the time, Courtney blamed alcohol for her exuberance but in hindsight admits they wern’t all that intoxicated. “We were just driven to idiocy by the natural high from Sam’s win.”
Having such an emotional investment in tennis could be hard to conceal where Courtney’s job is concerned, but she’s proud of the calm facade she manages to keep when she’s watching Stosur with media credentials around her neck. Her job as a blogger is taken very seriously, and Courtney has no problems keeping it together when Stosur is on court. This isn’t to say her passion is a secret in the media room. “After she lost in the third round of the Australian Open in 2011, I returned to my desk in the media center to find a cold beer sitting on my desk and a note of condolences. Everyone in the media center knows,” she grins. “Heck, Sam knows.”
For all her poker-faced professionalism, Courtney’s love of Stosur is just too great to keep hidden.
* Courtney joined Sports Illustrated in August 2011 (giving her a free pass for her pre-USO fan-related idiocy, or so she thinks)
Courtney's favorite Sam YouTube clip:
How crazy is she?
Courtney’s self-rating: 3
Our rating: 4**
1= Misses the occasional match
2= Has to explain to romantic partners that ‘tennis comes first’
3= Has been known to sacrifice basic life materials (food/water) to watch said player
4= Has drafted a biography on said player
5= Verging on stalker