Everything but the Win for Reynolds at Wimbledon
Bobby Reynolds did not win at Wimbledon on Thursday, or did he?
The scoreboard showed the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Reynolds, 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-1, on Centre Court, and after winning three qualifying matches and a gutsy five-setter in his opening round, Reynolds’s 2013 singles campaign at the championships was over.
He lost to a better player. He won in every other way one could imagine.
Look past Thursday’s won-lost column and focus on Reynolds’s past 10 years. He turned pro in 2003 after his junior season at Vanderbilt and has spent 59 weeks since then ranked in the top 100 in the world. He reached a career high of 63 on Feb. 2, 2009, and has circled the globe more times than most people have had hot breakfasts.
Reynolds, currently ranked 156th in the world, won big-time Thursday.
He got to play on the sport’s greatest court against the sport’s current greatest player. The icing on the cake was the weather. Every other court was suspended because of rain and he played under the roof. The only tennis match that mattered in the world Thursday afternoon was his.
The truth about sport is that you truly win when you do not give up – not when you are ahead on the scoreboard. Reynolds is 30, and the end of his career is rushing hard at him. His wife, Josie, gave birth to their first child, Parker, on May 16, and Reynolds subsequently missed the European clay court season this year.
Priorities change, schedules adjust and opportunities diminish. And then Thursday the sport that he has given his life to said thank you with the greatest gift of all: Novak in the big house at SW19.
His mother, Joyce, and father, Robert, sat in the coaches’ box to see their boy fulfill a lifelong dream. Talk about proud. You can only imagine how much sacrifice goes on over the years in the household of a tennis family. How many matches and practices and car trips and early mornings have they endured? A lifetime of putting everything else second suddenly was paid back in a glorious way.
Reynolds was asked to describe being on the hallowed ground of Centre Court.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve watched so many matches growing up. You don’t ever really think it’s possible, or I didn’t at least think it’s possible to make it.”
His comments spoke to the heart of sport, which is competing for the love of the game. The life of a tennis pro can be a blur from one hotel room and practice court and continent to another. This mattered.
“I got to play on Centre Court against the guy who is No. 1 in the world, maybe the greatest of this era,” he said. “You can’t put a price tag on it.”
Disappointment about the loss is nowhere to be found. Respect and understanding of where this fits in with his lifelong journey resonates.
“I’ll keep so many memories from that match,” he said. “I loved it. You know, once in a lifetime opportunity.”
He lost and he loved it. We love him for it.
The match finished at 7:43 p.m., meaning he was the final American man in the tournament. The loss also meant that for the first time in 101 years, the United States did not have a player in the third round of the tournament. That is quite a story, but that is not his problem.
A magical part of Wimbledon is that players seldom stay in hotels. They stay with families who live near the courts and they form lifelong relationships with them while chasing their dreams. Reynolds has been staying with Andy and Vicky Miller and Andy’s father, Douglas, on Somerset Road since 2007 – only several houses from the courts. They all sat in the coaches’ box Thursday to celebrate Bobby’s biggest match of all. They even left the television on in their house so their dog, Muffin, a Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix, could sit on the couch and watch Bobby as well. That’s family for you.
After the match, Reynolds’s parents and the Millers walked home to find Muffin waiting at the door. Then it was off to the Fire Stables restaurant on Church Road in Wimbledon Village for a burger to celebrate.
Every now and then you get a reminder of what this game is about – even on the biggest stage, the event is greater than the result. One hundred twenty-seven players will lose in the men’s draw at Wimbledon this year. Reynolds will leave England a more fulfilled person than when he arrived. His mother and father will feel as if he almost won the tournament.