As we all know, Japan was recently struck by a tragic earthquake and Tsunami. As a result, Japan is devastated by the events have ensued since the record breaking earthquake.
How does the earthquake relate to tennis? Well a first hand experience as a matter of fact. Tennisthis introduced you to Edward Oueilhe and his pursuit to making it to the grand stage of professional tennis. Edward had traveled to Tokyo, Japan to compete in several tennis tournaments to earn some valuable ATP points, however; the disaster that struck Japan cut his dreams off almost entirely.
We spoke with Edward while he was in Tokyo before the earthquake, “Hey, I just arrived and I’m getting settled in. The country is beautiful and I’m looking forward to winning my matches. Time to go practice.” Edward told us when he arrived. At this point we were confident that Edward would succeed in winning his opening matches (which he did as a matter of fact), though little did we know that the largest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history was on the horizon.
On March 11th, 2011 (Edwards’ 20th birthday), Japan was struck by a devastating 9.0 earthquake, followed by a Tsunami – and large after shocks ranging from 5.0 to 6.5 earthquakes. In a desperate attempt to reach Edward to make sure he was OK, we were able to get in touch with him; “I was on the practice courts hitting some serves when all of the sudden the ground started shaking violently! The shaking continued for what seemed like 4 or 5 minutes and after it stopped all I could hear were car alarms and rescue personnel attending to those in need. The tournament directors told us [the tennis players] to remain calm and to stay at the tournament site just in case .” Edward told us.
Surely the tournament would not continue, however; since there was no immediate severe damage in Tokyo, the tennis tournament carried on without delay. We, at this point, have been following Edward’s progress in the tournament; Edward had won both of his opening matches with ease. Edward was in the finals of the qualifying round, which he did lose, however; he was selected as a lucky loser and entered the main draw of the tournament.
In the days between the end of the qualifying round and the main draw, more tragedy struck Japan, the nuclear reactors began to fall apart. The reactors were threatening to release deadly nuclear radiation in the air which could severely harm anybody within several miles of the toxins. By now, the world was glued to their TV’s or radios, hoping that the reactors would hold together and not explode, releasing deadly toxins into the atmosphere.
In the middle of all the chaos, Edward called, “I made it to the main draw, but the tournament was just cancelled! I have to figure out a way to get home as soon as possible! I can’t find food or water right now, all the stores are completely empty and all I have is 1 jar of peanut butter. I need to get out of here right now before the reactors explode!” Thankfully we were able to get in touch with the airline and we were able to get Edward on the next flight back to the US.
As soon as Edward had a moment to speak with us after his arrival, he told us what his thoughts were on the whole situation in Japan and what his plans are for tennis. “At first I was really upset because the tournaments were cancelled, however; I soon realized that in this situation it’s not fair for me to be selfish. The whole time I was at the airport (20 hours), I prayed for the people of Japan, I prayed for their well being and safety. This wasn’t about me or tennis, this was about people who have had their lives taken away from them. They need help a lot more than I need points.” Edward said. “When I saw all the devastation on the news, all I could do was pray for the families. I didn’t know what else to do.”
We asked Edward what his plans were now that he was back, “Well, this trip to Japan really set me back financially so I need to figure that out first, but there are several tournaments in Morocco and Kyrgyzstan that I want to play in.” he said. Edward continued to say, “I still can’t imagine what the people in Japan are going through, I was lucky to get out of there but I am very sorry for the people of Japan. I continue to pray for their safety and I do hope that the Japanese can restore their lives very soon.”
So where does this leave Edward? To be honest, broke. All the money that he had saved and the contributions that were made are all gone since he had booked all his travel arrangements ahead of time. In a way, it’s a ‘back to the drawing board’ situation. Edward is still very eager to compete, however; he is working on getting some grass roots sponsorships and hopes to travel to additional tournaments in the next few months. Only time will tell.
We here at Tennisthis.com pray for the safety of the Japanese and hope that things turn out for the best. It is truly devastating.