Once again with strained necks and sweat dripping down our faces with the blazing sun challenging that of which I thought was the hottest place, my hometown Puerto Rico. I could hear my heart beating out of my chest within every shot and found myself holding my breath every time the ball came back for it was my big sister behind that racket, leaving her soul on the court, dressed in the colors of our flag and it was me behind that fence attempting to withhold the emotions battling inside me.
It doesn’t matter how old she gets we will always be traveling as her biggest fans. This year we traveled for the first time to Panama City. My big sister has played tennis in the name of Puerto Rico numerous times since she was young but this year’s Fed Cup tournament held something special. For the first time in the Puerto Rican team’s history my sister would be teammates with Puerto Rico’s, first Olympic gold medalist and pro tennis player, Monica Puig along with three other girls to the pass to compete next year in Group 1 of the Americas.
With a camera hanging from my neck, the whole trip, I proudly walked like if hired for photography. For three straight days in the suffocating heat of July the Puerto Rican team raised our flag among other countries. Both Monicas, Monica Puig and my sister Monica Matias, played in the top two positions against the best of other countries and everywhere she played, there stood us three filled with utmost pride. It was my big sister, the same girl I grew up with, the same girl I’d return with in a few days yet there she stood; my short sister towering above her opponents in the court, gaining the respect of those that had no choice but to applaud her shots and just like that her first match on July 20th against the #2 player of Honduras started the red, blue, and white streak. Monica Puig also won her match advancing the team to the next round against Trinidad and Tobago.
Like the sun wasn’t enough on the first day, we had two more to go. The second day´s battle threatened the extent of my anxiety with a three set match on my sister side but she came through giving the country its second day streak along with the #1 player’s win, Monica Puig. I was mindset on capturing every moment, every serve, and every shot and the 200 pictures on my camera can prove it.
To top off my weary limbs from just walking around in stress the first two days while taking photos, the finals on the last day, the one that would decide whether Puerto Rico would pass to Group 1 or Ecuador, would be held in the main court, the center of the Panama heat, a court that seemed to oppose the idea of a shade. Even so, no force could make me look away or leave, for even the slightest instant would trigger my silly superstition. “She lost the point because I looked away.”
The stands slowly filled in my sister’s game anticipating the next match, the Olympic Gold Medalist’s and who can blame? I was trying to contain my fangirling excitement as well all through the tournament. Yet the crowd came unto a surprise, they witnessed an incredible match beforehand, my Monica playing the best tennis of her life and being half of the reason why our flag was later raised on that court.
Puerto Rico passed to Group 1 of the Americas by beating Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador on a singles match streak with the two best Monica’s in Puerto Rican Tennis: the Olympic gold medalist and pride of Puerto Rico and my big sis and pride of the three exhausted souls drenched in sweat and joy because behind that girl dressed in our colors with a victory on her head was the girl that raced me to the car every single time for shotgun seat, the one that replayed her current favorite song about 3 times when in the car, and the hardworking big sister that became my biggest role model. For some, their favorite players are seen only across a screen while I have the honor and privilege to have mine as a sister.
Apart from the soul drenching three days that we supported my sister on the courts, we made beautiful memories in the country of Panama so stay tuned for Panama Part II.