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From Sweethearts to Jetsetters: How I Became A Tennis Tour Wife
When I first met Kevin Anderson we were both completing our first year of college at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. We lived half a mile apart from campus and from the very beginning it felt like we were inseparable. Flash-forward two years later and Kevin was making the difficult decision whether to complete his final year of collegiate eligibility or to turn pro as a tennis player.
At the time I was new to the sport of tennis, really following only Kevin’s results and the biggest results in tournaments like Wimbledon. However, I did know that tennis players turned pro young and retired early; I understood that making the most of your career in your “prime” was critical. Having gone to college it seemed Kevin was already behind the game a bit. Therefore, I was incredibly supportive of his decision to turn pro after just 2.5 years at University.
All of a sudden our half mile separation became as much as 9,800 miles throughout the year, as Kevin’s pursuit of tennis greatness forged a physical wedge between us. Was coping with the distance hard? Naturally. Even just keeping in touch presented challenges. Often Kevin was competing or sleeping during my waking hours, and I was at class or golf practice during his. Further complicating things were our dismal communication options. At the time, text messages cost $1 to send internationally and calling cards set us back as much as 20 cents a minute; as college kids on a budget, staying in touch cost us a relative fortune. I remember at one point we had a silly rule where Kevin would only text me if he won a match, just to let me know the positive result.
Over time as we weathered our long distance relationship, technology improved and our communication became easier. The introduction of things like Blackberry Messenger and Skype helped tremendously, but it was still difficult. As I began my own professional career as a CPA, I was forced to use all of my measly 15 vacation days annually to track Kevin down at tennis tournaments across the globe. This had its upsides too though; my Dad likened it to being able to take 3 honeymoons every year!
Looking back, it was a whirlwind and in spite of the difficulties, it was fun. I got to go to the Australian Open escaping the dead of winter in my hometown of Chicago; I went to Wimbledon where I spotted celebrities like Justin Timberlake and The Queen of England; I visited small villages such as Bordeaux where I finally was able to use the French I learned in high school. My relationship with Kevin was bringing me into a whole new world of culture and sport that I fell more and more in love with as the years went by.
After a year of marriage and continued separation, Kevin and I made the difficult decision for me to quit my job and begin traveling the tour with him. Although togetherness seems like the obvious choice, it was not such an easy conclusion at the time. We were hesitant to give up my guaranteed income because on tour there is no promise of earnings. Additionally, the added expense of my travel meant a huge increase in Kevin’s weekly tennis expenses. He had previously been sharing hotel rooms with his coach, and even just the additional lodging expense amounted to about twenty six thousand dollars a year. Most importantly, we had doubts about whether I would enjoy being on tour and whether my presence would be a positive one for Kevin’s team. It can be lonely for the tour wives, as teams generally stick to themselves. We had no idea what to expect from the new setup and dynamic, and it was scary.
We ultimately decided to do a 6-month trial run. During this time we were relocating from Chicago to Florida so Kevin could have more opportunities to train with top players in more favorable weather conditions. As we simultaneously began a new life in a new home, I also become a full time tour wife.
All of a sudden, instead of just visiting the glamorous big-name tennis events like Wimbledon and US Open, I was visiting exotic destinations all over the globe. For the first time, I went to places like Casablanca, Auckland, Dubai and Shanghai. Every week presented a new opportunity to sight-see, try different foods and experience different cultures; I quickly fell in love with tennis and the touring lifestyle.
Now, four years later, I am still spend my time supporting my husband as we trek across the world playing tennis. I do a lot for Kevin week in and week out, and my jobs extend well beyond the role of “head cheerleader”. In any given week I am responsible for travel arrangements, accommodations, bookkeeping and taxes, making sure the team is well-fed, doing laundry and coordinating with Kevin’s agents. It is a full time job, and my biggest responsibility is to make sure Kevin has little to worry about beyond showing up at the courts and playing tennis.
Despite the hectic demands of my role on the team, there can still be a lot of down-time and waiting around for matches during tournaments. I usually like to pass the time on social media, and over the years I built a small following of tennis devotees online. I was as shocked as anyone when I began to receive press requests for podcasts and interviews during tournaments last year. Eventually, I was asked by a tennis website to begin writing weekly contributions during tournaments, and my “Tour Wife Tales” blog was born.
It seems funny, but before being asked to do so, I never believed my voice and story was one worth sharing with the tennis community. Before I even realized the level of interest in my little blog, I had been featured by CNN International, BBC Sport and was even commended by some of the best players in tennis like Andy Murray. I was shocked to receive such positive feedback from sharing my behind-the-scenes perspective of life on the tennis circuit. It was inspiring to realize that people have a true hunger to gain a deeper understanding of our lives on the ATP World Tour and quest for tennis greatness.
Inspired by the success of my blog, at the beginning of this year I partnered with my husband and his former coach to form a brand new tennis website called Realife Tennis, featuring in-depth instruction and unprecedented access to life on the tennis tour. In the world of tennis, players are notoriously secretive of things like their training methods, special diets or equipment specifications. Yet, over the years we have amassed so much knowledge in our pursuit of excellence, and we could not be more excited to share it with the world.
Realife Tennis offers everything from health tips to travel suggestions alongside special tennis courses expertly designed to help players reach their full potential. As a place for both die-hard tennis fans and casual sports enthusiasts, our hope is for Realife Tennis to become a valuable resource for athletes across the globe to improve their games and learn about the tennis lifestyle as professional tennis finally gets personal.
Any athlete in love with a sport can attest that it becomes so much more than a game, it is a way of life. Achieving optimal performance requires dedication in all areas of decision-making and lifestyle choices. As the “Sisters In Sports” we share a deep and unspoken connection through the commitment of our partners to their athletic careers. I would love to hear from the Sis community about the sacrifices, lifestyle changes, and ways sport has impacted your way of life. Please share your experiences and wisdom in the comments below or connect with me on social media. (www.twitter.com/kelseyoanderson, www.instagram.com/kelseyoanderson, snapchat: kelseyoanderson)