Petra Martic might not have stood out to the world on Sunday in Istanbul, but the world stood out to her.
Sunday was a huge day in the world of sports and culture. English Premier League football worked toward the climax of its season, eliciting a tidal wave of emotions on my Twitter timeline. Two hugely-anticipated NBA basketball playoff series began, with the Boston Celtics facing the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Houston Rockets trying to knock off the top-seeded Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.
A program called “Line of Duty,” with which I am not familiar, dominates my timeline on Sundays, when it airs in the evening in Great Britain. Last but certainly not least, “Game of Thrones” completely consumed Twitter when it aired Sunday night on HBO.
For those reasons — and because we are in the period preceding the huge two-week journey through Madrid and Rome — it is easy for a lot of tennis stories to get lost in the shuffle.
Fed Cup was exhausting. Monte Carlo for the men was surprising. Concurrent with the WTA Istanbul Open was the always-loaded Stuttgart WTA tournament, won by Petra Kvitova over Anett Kontaveit.
Petra Martic might have gained a very small place in the larger theater of world sport and culture on Sunday, when viewed by the outside world. Yet, through her eyes and her experience, she earned banner headlines. In her own mind, she created the story of her life, the story which will stand above the other stories she has written in her career.
It is one of the most satisfying stories to witness and write about in tennis: A player whose career has been sidetracked and slammed, who has been bruised and broken and beaten up, who has been tossed up and down and dragged all around, and who wondered if it was worth it to continue playing, encountered her moment of supreme triumph at age 28.
Perseverance yet again…
Petra Martic, who thought her career might be done after a back injury, wins her first title in Istanbul. She went 3 sets — and 3:18 in the QF — in all but one of her matches.
— Ravi Ubha (@raviubha) April 28, 2019
The 3-hour, 18-minute win came against Kristina Mladenovic. While it was impressive enough that Martic won that battle, the fact that she was able to regroup for the semifinals and then cool off an in-form Marketa Vondrousova in Sunday’s final represented an equally formidable feat.
Winning a first title at age 28 could be a complete story in itself. Yet, the career-long adversity Martic has faced, combined with the arduous nature of her week in Istanbul — with four three-set wins — makes this victory exponentially sweeter.
The most important cities in global tennis are Melbourne, Paris, London and New York in the top tier, followed by Rome, Madrid, Montreal, Toronto, Indian Wells, Miami, Beijing, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. We naturally remember what happens in those cities the most. It is part of the business and part of the rhythms of each tennis season.
Yet, when we remember 2019 in tennis, carve out a place for Istanbul, too. It is the city Petra Martic will always remember for all the right — and supremely beautiful — reasons.