ALL YOU NEED IS ADI
It was 31 degrees, the sun hung in the sky like a tangerine globe through a haze just above trees so green the world felt like it had a filter on it. Sweat ran free dripping in dots on shaded concrete just yards from Court 1 at Midhurst Tennis Club where a 21 year old named ADI BASU gave us a gift that for this tennis coach won't soon, if ever be forgotten.
Adi Basu, who was born in Calcutta and is a student at Laurentian University in Sudbury, drove down HWY 69 on Friday July 23rd in a fully loaded white pick up truck sandwiched between 3 BOYS from THE ROCK.
He had himself a tennis bag and a change of clothes and a mind that trembled with nervous excitement as he anticipated competing in his first tennis tournament since the age of 14 where he grew up competing in the AITA (All India Tennis Association). What unfolded over the course of an incredible weekend is the stuff of legends, and this is his story...
Adi played Dominik Sadowski in the first round. Dominik has a bomb for a serve, He hits it so hard Adi was forced to return from near the back fence. Dominik (a former professional Volleyball Player who stands 6'4") gave Adi every ounce of his explosive power, but Adi who stands a mere 5'7" responded with deep returns and a determination that knew no end. The heat of Friday may have zapped Dominik who admitted 'I am fine with the cold; in fact I don't even own a winter coat. But this heat, it kills me.' but it was just a day in the park for Adi who grew up enduring 44 degree days with humidity that Canadians can't even imagine. Adi took out Dominik 7-5, 6-3 creating the first pulse of chatter at the tournament.
Adi faced the #5 seed Ron Lawrence in the Round of 16 next. After winning a tight first set 7-5, Ron demolished Adi in the second 6-1, but showing a resolve that would soon become the stuff of legends, Adi found a way to win the third set tiebreak 10-2 to find a place in the Quarter Finals.
Some days unfold in a typical fashion, expected and predictable. Others warp in a way that no one could ever anticipate. Saturday July 24 will always be one of those days for Adi Basu. After defeating Ron, the rains fell and play was suspended until 8am Sunday. Adi retired to his hotel room with Chris and Louis Fazekas and David Lam (the 3 BOYS from THE ROCK). The rain fell and Adi was left alone with his thoughts, his excitement of pulling off two back to back improbable upsets, when his entire world suddenly changed.
On Saturday evening Adi was given the news that his 50 year old Uncle, who had given his passion for tennis and nurtured that love with Adi had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away; back in Calcutta.
21 years old. Far away from home. And fate steps in and hands Adi a curve ball of epic proportions. Adi told Chris Fazekas, his mentor, and a tennis legend in Sudbury, a former ST CLASSIC Champion, a man with some of the best hands in the sport, and the man who'd been guiding Adi since he found himself in THE ROCK playing tennis; 'I cannot possibly play tomorrow. This is too devastating.'
I spoke to Chris and Adi alongside Dave Lam and Louis Fazekas after the Final on Sunday and listened to the recounting of Saturday night. The tangerine sun, above jade trees held us all in a moment. Hairs stood up on my neck, a lump arrived in my throat and my eyes glassed as Chris looked at the concrete stained with our sweat and said 'I cried, I haven't done that in a long time. But I told him; you have us right here and right now, so you do what you have to do.' Adi contemplated this, an awkward silence, he said nothing. I was transfixed.
Back to Sunday morning; the rains cleared and play began. The first four at the courts were Chris, David, Louis and Adi. They were sweeping the puddles to prepare the courts for play. Adi defeated Cory Krelove 6-0, 6-1. Midway through the match he spoke to me 'I am really struggling.' Little did I know of the deeper meaning to his comment for at that moment I knew nothing of his uncle's passing.
In the Semi-Final; Adi played 5 time ST CLASSIC CHAMPION Bryson Tye. Think Rafael Nadal at The French OPEN and you get an idea of what THE ST CLASSIC is like for Bryson. Bryson had all the answers in the first set defeating Adi 6-1. The writing was on the wall. The dream run was about to come to an end. It was great, and Adi had already overcome so much to be in this position. After all, he had the courage to play with the knowledge of his uncle's passing thousands of miles away.
Chris, whom I am convinced is a modern day bodhizafa, fueled with a deep wisdom that most of us pretend to understand says 'Adi lost this tournament 2 times already before he played Bryson.' the pause after that sentence is where the magic of it all exists. He holds us all waiting, then says 'So, why not lose again?' and it was then that it dawned on me. Adi lost, and when you lose, like I mean lose in your mind, you're good. You can lose again and again and it doesn't matter.
Adi won the second set 6-4 and the 3rd set tiebreak 10-6 to secure a spot in the final and to beat The Giant of The ST CLASSIC. Chris, Louis and Dave let out a scream that said 'Are you kidding me? Did he just do that?' And he had. Adi Basu, no tennis in 7 years, alone from his family, an unknown had just taken out the #1 seed. Family is a finicky concept isn't it.
In the finals Adi faced his mentor Chris 'he is a god to me.' said Adi. 'I am so lucky he has taken time to teach me.' Chris won the first set 6-4, then Adi found his groove chasing down every ball and winning 6-0. Never has Adi taken a set off of Chris in dozens of attempts before this fateful weekend.
At match point Chris hits a winner into the open court, his body drops, he grabs a ball from his pocket and rockets it into the sky. The ball flies far from the courts, across the road and into a forested area. Chris lets out a scream that says so much, but perhaps most of all what that scream says is; 'giving you my best, and winning is my way of saying I respect you enough to give you my best.'
We wrapped things up. I met the BOYS from THE ROCK after everyone else had left. I find out all this information about Adi that I am telling you; my valued reader, and I hold back tears as I watch this 21 year old kid who is jammed packed with intangible character, find a way to tell me how he has not yet made sense of the past 24 hours when Louis Fazekas; Chris' brother pulls out a tennis ball from his pocket.
As if there had not been enough magic in this weekend already. Louis conjures up one more trick.
'This is the match ball. I went across the road and found it in the bush, maybe you could keep it...' the older brother of the bohdisafa may just be the wisest of us all. And the pause has truly paralyzed me. He went into the ditch to find the ball. And when he passes it to my hands he handles it like it is the hope diamond. This man is treating this ball in a way that causes me to take special notice.
I hit hundreds of balls into the ditches surrounding our tennis club every year. None of them I have ever cared about.
Louis found a ball that matters and he tended to it with care. He knew that ball was special and that ball today is with me and it will remain sacred as a memento of the time that Adi Basu opened his chest and told the world he is a sacred beast.