Thursday, 29 December 2016

So. Farewell Then.

We are all, in our own ways, a fan of something. Yep, even you.

Whether it's a foodstuff, a sports team, or - in the case of Katie Hopkins - thinking up something "controversial" to shout online to get attention, there is something on this planet we enjoy and take an interest in.

I'm a fan of a lot of things. Manchester United. Curry. Bill Bryson. Sussex CCC. Boobs. Those little tubs my mum used to get me every Friday after primary school where you dunk the breadsticks into the chocolate dip.

I am (was?) also a fan of the Serbian (ex) tennis player Ana Ivanovic, who yesterday announced her retirement from the game at the age of 29. Man, that sentence felt weird to write.

Being a fan of an individual sportsperson is, frankly, asking for trouble. They can only let you down - a sentiment I know only too well having been a huge Lance Armstrong fan growing up. Nobody is perfect, and the world isn't made up of "good people and bad people", and that's a life lesson you have to learn as you mature.

When you hold someone up as an idol, however, that common sense approach to life goes out of the window when they fall from perfection. You feel...betrayed. Which is mad, I know, but true.

Being a fan of an individual you don't know, will never know, and will probably never even meet, doesn't make any sense. But yet we do it. I do it.

I first became a fan of Ana Ivanovic in....2009? 2010? No, must be earlier. Late 2008? I can't remember. Certainly after her 2008 triumph at Roland Garros, anyway. Since then, Lord knows how many of her matches I've watched, or, on one particular occasion, listened to on the Australian Open radio station because her match wasn't being televised.

I'm probably going to regret writing this forever, but the reason why I became a fan of hers was mainly because of how nice she is. As I mentioned earlier, this is a problematic attitude fraught with danger, but at least with Ana her crown is, as far as I can tell, thoroughly merited:

As Heather Watson alluded to, it also helped that Ana is staggeringly, bewilderingly, impossibly gorgeous - the kind of woman you'd want to lie down next to and just look at for hours. The nicest person imaginable and one you'd marry in a heartbeat? Yeah, that will do for me - and let's not forget her work for UNICEF either.

But now she's gone - retired, I should point out, not deceased. Let's not be melodramatic. But one minute she was there, the next...she wasn't.

Her retirement still hasn't sunk in, and I doubt it truly will until the draw for the Australian Open comes out early next year and I excitedly search for her name only to find it isn't there.

No more plotting her way to the final, working out who she'd likely play round by round. No more of that blistering forehand. No more of that laughably terrible ball toss. No more taking the train to Birmingham just to see her play in the Wimbledon warm up tournament. No more "ajde" after winning a point.

I was fortunate enough to meet her in 2011 and it remains one of the most memorable days of my life. We had a bit of banter about her not being able to spell my name (picture below, she went with Patrik initially until I had to correct her) and she was every bit as lovely as I had hoped.

So thanks for everything, Ana. I'll miss you.