Hark! It’s another year-end list. This one lends a happy 10-pack of the best quotations in tennis. Now, not all of them were worded as if they’re prose to tattoo on your body—we’ll leave that to Stan Wawrinka and Samuel Beckett—but they wax poetic in that they’re inspirational, thoughtful, and/or droll. With that in mind, let’s get to these well-landed words, strung out like so many holiday cards on a length of garland:
“It’s unbelievable, twice in Roland Garros finals, twice facing Rafa. Now facing Novak here, he’s the king of Australia; so I’m always facing the kings of the Grand Slams in these finals. … I really hope also that I win my maiden Slam when they’re still around because it just counts more.”
“In a few years, it’s going to be every major without them.”
—Thiem again, on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s outages during a US Open event in which he indeed won that “maiden” Slam
“Yeah. I have absolutely no comments on anything with that. But good try. You tried. You did good.”
—Serena Williams, asked about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, separating from their British royal duties; it was Serena’s first Q&A of her first presser in Melbourne
“The message is to focus on their dream and never give up on your life, on everything you want to do and you want to reach.”
—Martina Trevisan, a Roland-Garros quarterfinalist after getting through its qualifying rounds, and who recovered from an eating disorder and its ramifications over four years away from the game; now 27, she finished the year ranked No. 85 in WTA singles
“I’m trying. I mean, quarterfinals for the first time, trying to inspire many young generation back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing. It’s not impossible. I made it. Like I said before, I’ve been practicing in Tunisia from the age of 3 through 16 or 17. I’m 100% Tunisian product.”
—Ons Jabeur, speaking about her historic run to the Aussie Open’s quarterfinal round, as the first Tunisian to do so in any major draw; she is already the highest ranked Arab player in WTA herstory
“Well, yeah, you do hear. It’s like couples, we all want Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston to get back together, right?”
—Conchita Martinez, asked in Australia about potentially reuniting as star coach and star player with Garbine Muguruza; the two would indeed link up again
“I think I have swagger all the time. That never changes.”
—Victoria Azarenka, one who always has verbal chutzpah, but whose proverbial “cracks” began to show a bit in 2020 before she got it sorted, beat Serena at a Slam for the first time, and nearly won another hardcourt major
“Seeing players of different ethnicities, different backgrounds reaching later stages of tournaments like these, I think it’s a really good example for the people watching us, the kids. I was thinking today that you want to send out a good message. You hope that you’re leading by example, that kids, in you, they see belief, that you can reach that whatever city, country, neighborhood you come from. I hope this gives a lot of belief to people, and it’s a good message of love.”
—Felix Auger-Aliassime, speaking at the US Open to the societal conversations and protests revolving around matters of race and ethnicity being discussed stateside and worldwide in 2020; the 20-year-old has quickly asserted his voice in the mix of thoughtful ATP stars of tomorrow-turned-today
In Queens, Naomi Osaka volleyed a not-really-rhetorical question back to Tom Rinaldi, about her seven-masks-for-seven-matches-for-seven-deaths display and the discussions it catalyzed.
Naomi Osaka replies to Tom Rinaldi’s question about the message behind wearing masks with names of Black people killed on them: “Well, what was the message that you got? … I feel like the point is to make people start talking.” pic.twitter.com/SBWGaDJqaJ
— Chris Bumbaca (@BOOMbaca) September 12, 2020
“Tennis can get very frustrating, and nerves get in and it’s not always easy to keep your cool. But at the same time, you have to have the human side where you’ve got to be more intimate and show more respect, show better values as a person towards another person.”
—Stefanos Tsitsipas, addressing in New York what sportsmanship means to him
Bonus: The 22-year-old Greek’s placard signs in the time of COVID-19 (which, notably, isn’t over) made for a visual thinker’s pseudo-diversion early in the year.
At the same time, he gave his readers—982,000 strong on Instagram alone—food for thought during the global pandemic. His messages gave pause.
And it was certainly a year for slowing down and assessing, even checking oneself. With that, here’s to all the improvements 2021 has in store for us all.