Amelie MauresmoI’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this photo in a post. A lot. Because I love it.  I love it for many reasons: tennis is my sporting passion and Amelie Mauresmo (now retired) represented the pinnacle of women’s tennis for me. Huge skill, power, supreme athleticism, grace, fire, and persistence.  An all-court, attacking game with a huge variety of strokes. She won two grandslam titles: the Aussie Open and Wimbledon. She was gracious and calm in the face of criticism about her personal life, her physique, and her temperament.  When she was 19, she outed herself at the Australian Open after winning the final, when she jumped into the arms of her lover.  She basically shrugged at the backlash, called the detractors “a little stupid” and carried on.  Amelie Mauresmo is forever and always my Number 1 tennis crush. 🙂

Putting aside the sheer enjoyment of watching (and playing) tennis, it’s also one of the few sports where women earn the same as men (more for some of them, once endorsements are factored in), and where the sport receives equal viewing coverage.

There’s many out players too21853_navratilova-martina. In days past, of course, lesbian players remained in the closet for fear of losing sponsorship. Remember when Martina (the goddess) Navratilova called herself bisexual because it somehow seemed less threatening, less different, less wrong to a general tennis watching public?  That was in 1981 and she was outed by a journalist after she had specifically asked him not to do so until she was ready. Martina, of course, is a trailblazer in so many ways, not just in tennis. She stands proudly at the top of the heap of legends, and was still playing competitive doubles in her 50s. She is an activist for many political causes, animal rights, and of course, LGBTQI issues.

The Australian tennis season is in full swing (ha ha) at the moment. I love it. I watch the free to air coverage of Brisbane, Sydney, the snippets of Hobart, and from across the Ditch in Auckland. The first Grand Slam of year–the Australian Open–starts tomorrow.  Two weeks of amazing tennis, heat exhaustion (it can get to 50 degrees on court in the full sun), interviews, runs of incredible play that gets an unseeded player deep into the draw, early hard luck stories and losses. Upsets.  I’ll be cheering for my favourites, of course, but mainly I just hope to see stupendous tennis.

This year too, I have another reason to watch. As if I needed one. Research.

My next novel will be set in the world of professional tennis. It’s outlined, and I’m drafting up character sketches and making sure I have the settings firmly in my head before I start writing.

I can’t wait.

Hmmm, maybe a trip to the Australian Open in Melbourne might be in order.