In the last 18 months or so, the sport of tennis has seen match fixing scandals, doping suspensions, untimely injuries and mid-career pregnancies. All of these things have really hurt the game from either a publicity standpoint or just in terms of general fan interest.
This is what happens when the biggest names in any sport are on the sidelines for an extended period of time. This is particularly the case in individual sports.
While most of the stars are still on the sidelines for this French Open, it has given us a few subtle reminders as to why we love this sport and sports in general.
Mattek-Sands embraces Kvitova:
Veteran American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands ended the comeback event of Petra Kvitova in the second round. The two time Wimbledon champion was making her return from stab wounds suffered in an offseason home invasion.
The ladies tour is a lot like high school. A genuine looking handshake is rare. Anything more than that is newsworthy. Given the context, to see a hug and heartfelt verbal exchange between the two was simply a really nice moment.
Del Potro consoles Almagro:
Juan Martin del Potro and Nicolás Almagro have carved out great careers for themselves despite almost always battling injuries. To have them both healthy for a second round encounter in Paris was going to be a real treat, but it did not last.
Almagro badly injured his knee early in the third set and was forced to retire. As the Spaniard slowly came to the realization that he had no other choice, one of the most sportsmanlike things I have ever seen took place.
Del Potro, who was playing his first French Open since 2012 due to his own injury issues, sat right next to his opponent and had a heart-to-heart with him. This is so rare, I cannot recall ever seeing anything like it in any sport. Watch the conversation below thanks to the Roland Garros YouTube channel.
Steve Johnson’s Heavy Heart:
On paper Steve Johnson’s run to the third round might seem ordinary for the 25th seed at a major, but it was anything but for the American.
His namesake, college coach and father unexpectedly passed away about two weeks ago. Prior to his third round exit, the emotions poured out after each hard fought victory for Johnson. See one of his post-match interviews below from the Tennis Channel.
The first week of the 2017 French Open has allowed two simple, yet refreshing conclusions to be drawn. First, sportsmanship is still alive and well. Also, who among us cannot relate to having to go on with life after dealing with adversity and/or losing a loved one? At the end of the day, as amazing as these athletes can be, they are human beings just like the rest of us.